CU opponent glance
Opponent: Idaho State Bengals
Game time: Saturday, 3:37 p.m., at Folsom Field
Coach: Mike Kramer, 5th season (17-41; 94-116 career)
Last week: Beat Simon Fraser, 47-3, at home
Key players (Week 1 stats): QB Tanner Gueller, So. (24-of-36, 338 yards, 3 TD); WR KW Williams, Sr. (4 catches, 121 yards, 2 TD); RB Jakori Ford, Sr. (12 carries, 68 yards, 1 TD); LB Joe Martin, So. (9 tackles, 1 INT); LB Hayden Stout, Sr. (5 tackles, 1 sack, 2 pass breakups).
Notable: ISU held Simon Fraser to minus-22 rushing yards, racking up 13 tackles for loss and four sacks. ... Nine different receivers caught passes for the Bengals on Saturday. ... ISU went 2-9 last season, finishing last in the Big Sky Conference. ... Idaho State is 0-17 all-time against Power 5 conference teams and 28-105 against all FBS teams (with 17 wins coming against either Boise State or Idaho). The Bengals' last FBS win came in 2000 against Utah State.
On his second quarter interception of a Colorado State pass on Friday night, Chidobe Awuzie made a nice read of the quarterback and followed it with a great play to step in front of the receiver and catch the ball.
After the game, the Colorado senior credited his teammates for helping to make it happen.
"(Linebacker Kenneth Olugbode) got a tip on it and we had great pressure, so it was really a team effort play," Awuzie said.
It's the type of play the Buffs are now expecting to make, as their defense looks to take another step forward this season. In Friday's 44-7 win against CSU, the Buffs signaled that they must be ready to take that step.
"They were playing faster than us," CSU head coach Mike Bobo said. "They were tackling, a lot of hats to the ball. You have to give their defense a lot of credit."
For years, the CU defense struggled to stop anybody, allowing at least 30.8 points per game in five consecutive seasons from 2010-14. In 2014, the Buffs gave up 39.0 points per game.
Under the direction of first-year coordinator Jim Leavitt in 2015, the Buffs sliced that number to 27.5 points per game, and their pass defense was one of the best in the Pac-12.
All offseason, the Buffs have expressed confidence they'll be even better this year, believing they now have the linemen and linebackers to go with their talented secondary.
"It was a lot of fun (to watch)," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "I've been seeing that all along. I believe we're a top echelon Pac-12 defense. We'll find out when we start playing Pac-12 teams. I think we can be a dominant defense."
CSU may not be the most explosive team around, but the Rams do feature a quarterback (Nick Stevens) who earned second-team all-Mountain West honors last year, a running back (Dalyn Dawkins) who torched the Buffs for 118 yards a year ago, and an offensive line that returned four starters.
Despite that, the Buffs forced CSU in six consecutive three-and-outs to start the game, preventing the Rams from getting their initial first down until five minutes into the second quarter. By then, CU had a 24-0 lead.
"The defense did a phenomenal job tonight," said quarterback Sefo Liufau, whose offense was able to stay in rhythm because of the strong play of the defense.
The secondary, led by Awuzie, is one of the best in the Pac-12. Awuzie, safeties Tedric Thompson and Afolabi Laguda and cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon were sensational against the Rams, making Stevens, a junior, look like a wide-eyed freshman.
Led by that secondary, the Buffs generated four turnovers. It's the 14th game in a row in which CU has had at least one takeaway.
"Two years ago, we only had three picks," Awuzie said. "I think we got two interceptions today and two forced fumbles (on Friday). It's really good to see that going on. (All the coaches) really emphasize turnovers every day in practice. Going into the game and being able to actually execute that catch the ball and get the ball out of the quarterbacks hands and running backs hands really meant a lot to us."
As good as the secondary was on Friday, Awuzie was impressed with the Buffs' front seven. It was a group that struggled last season, but played well Friday. They slowed down Dawkins the CSU run game and put pressure on the quarterbacks.
"I think our front seven got after them," Awuzie said. "We got some guys back and last year our run defense wasn't that good. I think this game they really showed a glimpse of what they can do, and how great they can be."
It also gave the Buffs a glimpse of how good their entire defense could be this season, but they aren't getting too excited yet.
"We haven't even made a statement yet," Laguda said. "We made plenty of mistakes. We just want to set the bar high. We're chasing that Pac-12 championship. Nothing less. We don't want to just go to some random 6-6 bowl game. We want to get to that championships, but we have to play that high level championship football, so we're just looking to improve every week."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.