CU 17, CSU 3
How it happened: The Buffs hit some big plays on offense early to build a 17-0 lead, and then rode its defense to the win from there. The Buffs forced three turnovers and held the Rams out of the end zone for the first time in nearly four years.
Turning point: A fumble recovery by CU senior Afolabi Laguda with 5:09 to play, with the Buffs leading 17-3, was enough to all but end CSU's chances of a comeback.
CU's stars of the game
RB Phillip Lindsay: Rushed for 140 yards, 1 TD; caught two passes for 16 yards. CB Isaiah Oliver: Recorded four pass breakups, three tackles and limited CSU star Michael Gallup to five catches for 67 yards. S Afolabi Laguda: Totaled nine tackles and a fumble recovery.
Bottom line: For the second year in a row, the Buffs opened the season with a victory against the Rams. It may not have been the dominating performance it was a year ago in a 44-7 win, but it was enough to get the Buffs on the right track to start the season.
DENVER — Without eight starters, coordinator Jim Leavitt and two other assistant coaches, the Colorado defense was supposed to be a porous bunch this year.
That was the narrative in the offseason, anyway.
"I don't think anybody thought we'd be able to tackle anybody, from everything that I heard," head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
The perception of the Buffs should be a bit different after Friday's opener, as the new-look defense looked as stingy as the old one in a 17-3 win against rival Colorado State at Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
"I think it does great for our confidence in ourselves, as a defense," junior cornerback Isaiah Oliver said. "Going through the whole offseason and hearing about how many guys we lost and how we're not going to be as good as we were, this and that. To be able to come out here and show the world that we're ready to play every single week I feel is going to do wonders for our confidence."
It was certainly a surprise to see defense dominate a game that was expected to be a shootout between two explosive offenses.
While that never materialized, CU (1-0) did enough on offense and rode its defense to a second consecutive season-opening victory. CSU dropped to 1-1 in front of the announced crowd of 73,932 - the largest for this game since 2003.
Of course, it's just one game, but CU shut down a Rams offense that was rolling in a 58-27 win against Oregon State last Saturday. Going back to last season, CSU had averaged 53.2 points and 553.4 yards in its last five games.
It was reminiscent of the performances CU had on defense a year ago, when it ranked in the top 20 nationally en route to CU's Pac-12 South division championship.
"We've developed the culture of defense," MacIntyre said. "We've recruited well to it. We know what we want.
"That was a heck of a job (by the defense)."
It was the first game for new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, as well as eight new starters and several other key players on that side of the ball.
CSU had 397 yards in total offense, but the Buffs had three turnovers and forced five CSU punts. It was the first time since a 13-0 loss to Utah State on Nov. 23, 2013, that the Rams were held out of the end zone.
The CU offense, meanwhile, struggled much more than anticipated.
With nine starters back and talented sophomore Steven Montez taking over at quarterback, the Buffs are expected to be an offensive juggernaut.
Instead, the Buffs fizzled after a fast start and managed just 345 yards on offense.
Montez completed 21-of-29 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown, but was also picked off twice.
Running back Phillip Lindsay had another great game, with 140 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries, but was limited to just 39 yards after halftime.
"There's still a ton to learn for me, a ton to learn for the offense," Montez said. "
CU's offense looked as good as advertised early, rolling up a 17-0 lead in the first 17 minutes.
CU got on the board first with a 45-yard touchdown run by Lindsay midway through the first quarter. The play was set up by Montez marching the Buffs down the field with short passes. Lindsay then busted through the line nearly untouched and raced to the end zone.
Later in the quarter, freshman kicker James Stefanou hit a 39-yard field goal to make it 10-0. It was the first play ever in a football game for Stefanou, who is from Australia.
Early in the second quarter, the Buffs added to the lead as Montez showed off his improvisational skills.
On second-and-10 from the CSU 31, Montez rolled to his left and had plenty of time to throw, but nobody open. He then waved Fields to go to the right corner and Montez unleashed a bomb across the field, hitting Fields in the end zone for a 31-yard touchdown and a 17-0 lead.
From that point on, the offense struggled, but the defense picked up the slack.
Second half interceptions by Evan Worthington and Trey Udoffia and an Afolabi Laguda fumble recovery helped the Buffs walk away with the Centennial Cup for the third year in a row.
Colorado 17, Colorado St. 3Colorado 10 7 0 0—17
Colorado State 0 3 0 0—0
First quarter: COL — Lindsay 45 run (Graham kick), 7:11 COL — FG Stefanou 39, 1:38Second quarter: COL — Fields 31 pass from Montez (Stefanou kick), 13:36 CSU — FG Bryan 31, 9:56
First downs 19 23
Rushes-yards 38-143 33-88
Return Yards 0 0
Punts-Avg. 5-41.0 5-38.8
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Penalties-Yards 8-74 9-105
Time of Possession28:4331:17
RUSHING — Colorado, Lindsay 19-140, Adkins 4-10, Bisharat 1-2, (Team) 2-(minus 2), Montez 12-(minus 7). Colorado St., Dawkins 14-43, Matthews 10-31, Boddie 4-27, Clark 1-0, Stevens 4-(minus 13).
PASSING — Colorado, Montez 21-29-2-202. Colorado St., Stevens 24-47-2-309.
RECEIVING — Colorado, Bobo 8-49, Fields 6-78, Ross 2-20, Lindsay 2-16, MacIntyre 1-28, Bounds 1-6, Winfree 1-5. Colorado St., O.Johnson 6-71, Clark 5-72, Gallup 5-67, Dawkins 3-31, W.Jackson 2-47, Butler 2-5, Fackrell 1-16.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Colorado, Stefanou 38.