Throughout the 2012 season, the Colorado defense proved to be easy pickings for the opposition.

Two games into this season, the Buffaloes have turned the tables.

Colorado's defense has come up with game-changing plays in both games this year, helping the Buffaloes to a 2-0 start.

"They're focused," head coach Mike MacIntyre said of his defense. "Our coaching staff does a great job of preparing them. Our saying is, 'Knowledge equals confidence equals playing fast.' That gives you an ability to go make plays and jump things and do things that you see. They've taken advantage of that."

In the season opener against Colorado State on Sept. 1, defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe caused a fumble that cornerback Greg Henderson picked up and returned 53 yards for a touchdown. That turned a two-point CU lead into a 33-24 advantage, sparking CU to a 41-27 victory.

Saturday against Central Arkansas, Henderson and Jered Bell both had interceptions that they returned for touchdowns in a 38-24 win.

"The coaches are really emphasizing turnovers, because turnovers and ball security will win the game," Henderson said. "We're just trying to be ball hawks and just make plays. Nobody said the defense can't score, too, so we're just trying to help the team get the victory."


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Through the first two games, CU has caused six turnovers. The Buffs caused just 15 all of last year and didn't intercept a pass in any of the final eight games of 2012.

It's not just the turnovers that have made a difference for CU. So far, the Buffs have been more sound as a whole than they were a year ago.

"Every day we're working on turnovers, we're working on tackling and we're working on all the fundamentals of defense," defensive tackle Nate Bonsu said. "It's just good to see that translate. It's just exciting to se us putting everything together."

Colorado cornerback Greg Henderson has scored two defensive touchdowns in the Buffs’ first two games.
Colorado cornerback Greg Henderson has scored two defensive touchdowns in the Buffs' first two games. ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Opposing quarterbacks have competed just 58.5 percent of their passes, averaging just 5.12 yards per attempt.

The run defense -- which ranked 118th in the country last year by allowing 226.0 yards per game -- has allowed just 154 yards in the first two games (77.0 per game). Central Arkansas had just 60 yards on 26 rushes on Saturday.

"Stopping the run was real low for us last year and through the first two games, it's been a high, so we want to keep it that way," Bonsu said.

Bonsu said the other difference for the defense is how it has played late in games. The Buffs have allowed just 10 fourth-quarter points, with seven of those coming as a result of a 1-yard touchdown run on the first play of the fourth quarter on Saturday.

Together, CSU and Central Arkansas have had nine fourth-quarter possessions and five have ended in turnovers.

"That's a testament of (strength coach Dave Forman's) workouts in the summer and in the spring and just our work every day, all the reps we do in practice," Bonsu said.

Henderson and Bonsu both acknowledge that the Buffs have tougher opponents coming up. Stopping CSU and Central Arkansas is one thing; finding success against Oregon, Arizona State, UCLA, or even this week's opponent, Fresno State, is another. But, both said they're seeing things that make them believe the Buffs can keep this up. The Buffs are being more aggressive, tackling better, communicating more and knowing their assignments.

"We knew we had the guys to be a good defense," Bonsu said. "We had growing pains before. We're going to have way harder teams to play as the season goes, but it's good that we're building that foundation now."

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.