Coach Mike MacIntyre has put such an emphasis on tackling during fall camp that earlier this week he ran the same drill three times in a row to make sure the defense got it right.
That extra attention to tackling was on display at the University of Colorado's scrimmage at Folsom Field on Saturday morning. CU did not release full game statistics and prohibited reporters from keeping their own, but on multiple plays Buffs defenders stuffed the offense for no gain and made several tackles for loss.
MacIntyre's standard for tackling perfection in practice paid off, said senior inside linebacker and captain Derrick Webb.
"The other day we did a tackling circuit three times in a row because coach MacIntyre is big on tackling and said we had to become a better tackling team," Webb said. "The first time we went through it, it wasn't good enough for him so we had to go through a second time. I guess that wasn't good enough for him so we did it three times. It was a physical day and a physical practice but I feel like it made us better."
Outside of those drills, Webb said the team hasn't had many chances to make many live-action tackles so far this fall. The 100-play scrimmage gave Webb and his teammates a chance to apply the tackling technique they've been working on to game-like situations, he said.
"Today we actually got to wrap guys up and take them to the ground," he said. "In practice, you don't really know whether you would've made that tackle or not. I had a situation where I had Tony Jones in the hole and I had to leave my feet and grab his ankles. That's the kind of tackle you have to make sometimes. (I'm) just happy we were able to practice that today."
In 2012, even in the pass-happy Pac-12 conference, Colorado allowed 226 rushing yards per game, which ranked 115th out of 120 FBS teams. But so far this fall, MacIntyre said the defensive line and linebackers have been making strides.
"I liked their aggressiveness and I thought they did some good things there," MacIntyre said. "We're getting more physical and we're tackling there and that's something we work on every day."
Colorado ran several kickoff return simulations before officially starting the scrimmage in front of a scattered crowd of around 150 people.
MacIntyre said he achieved several of his coaching goals at the scrimmage, including his team's ability to play through the heat. Temperatures climbed into the 80s and early 90s at Folsom Field, where the sun beat down harshly except for a few brief moments of cloud cover.
"Number one, no injuries," he said. "We had zero. Number two, I wanted to see us execute and do things without coaches on the field and substitutions and all that, and I would say 99 percent of the time, for the most part, it was good."
On offense, quarterback Connor Wood and wide receiver Paul Richardson were noticeably absent for much of the scrimmage. Wood played three series which allowed the other three quarterbacks to split most of the repetitions.
Richardson hauled in a 64-yard touchdown from freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau, but other than that, the junior didn't see much action on the field. Richardson tore a ligament in his knee during spring practice last year, an injury that kept him on the sidelines for the entire 2012 season.
"The coaches are just making sure the guys that are returning from surgery, returning from injury -- keeping our legs fresh, keeping our bodies fresh," he said.
Richardson spending most of the scrimmage on the sidelines made room for junior wide receiver D.D. Goodson to shine. Goodson stretched for a 25-yard pass from sophomore quarterback Jordan Gehrke to score the offense's second touchdown.
After the scrimmage and teaching kids about fitness on the field for Healthy Kids Day on Saturday, Colorado players will take Sunday off, their first break since camp started on Aug. 6. Wood said the mid-camp scrimmage broke up the month of practices and created a sense of game-day excitement for Colorado.
"It gives a game-day mindset for all the guys," he said. "'OK how's my morning routine?' These new coaches have a different routine for us than the last coaches for game day, so we're kind of getting used to what they want to do, stretching and all that stuff, so it's not going to be foreign September 1."