CU opponent glance

Opponent: Arizona Wildcats

Game time: Saturday, 8 p.m., at Arizona Stadium in Tucson, Ariz.

Coach: Rich Rodriguez, 5th season (35-27; 155-111-2 career)

Record: 2-7, 0-6 Pac-12

Last week: Lost at Washington State, 69-7

Key players: QB Brandon Dawkins, So. (75-of-137, 1,055 yards, 6 TD, 5 INT; 597 rushing yards, 8 TD); QB Anu Solomon, Jr. (29-of-46, 335 yards, 1 TD, 2 INT); RB Nick Wilson, Jr. (55 carries, 320 yards, 3 TD); WR Shun Brown, So. (25 catches, 406 yards, 3 TD); LB Paul Magloire, Sr. (58 tackles, 2.5 sacks); CB Jace Whittaker, So. (28 tackles, 1 INT, 10 pass breakups).

Notable: The Wildcats come in with a six-game losing streak, their longest since a seven-game skid in 2004. ... With seven losses, Arizona will miss out on a bowl for the first time since 2011. ... Arizona ranks 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring (22.2 points per game) and 10th in scoring defense (allowing 37.1 points per game). ... Arizona is just 5-13 all-time against CU, but 4-1 since the Buffs joined the Pac-12 (including four consecutive wins). ... Arizona has knocked off a ranked opponent at home in November in each of the past three seasons.

Podcast: Go to BuffZone.com to listen to this week's podcast Wednesday.


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Just in case anyone forgot how much talent Isaiah Oliver possesses, the Colorado sophomore provided a reminder on Thursday night.

A newcomer to returning punts, Oliver fielded a UCLA kick at the 32-yard line midway through the fourth quarter, found a seam, juked past a couple of defenders and glided 68 yards to the end zone.

The first punt return for a touchdown by a Buffalo in 11 years, Oliver's score sealed a 20-10 win for the Buffaloes (7-2,5-1 Pac-12), now ranked No. 16 in the Associated Press national rankings.

"I was able to get it outside and no one was there so it all worked out well," Oliver said.

It's safe to say that a lot of things are working out well for Oliver, who is a multi-talented, multi-sport athlete at CU.

A defensive back and returner for the resurgent football team, Oliver is also a decathlete for the Buffs' track and field team. Despite being limited with practice time, because of splitting his time between the sports, he placed seventh in the Pac-12 championships last spring.

This is a young man with a track coach, Lindsey Malone, who raves about his football ability, and a football coach, Mike MacIntyre, who marvels at Oliver's talent in track and field. And, both love coaching the humble Phoenix-area native.

"Isaiah's an excellent athlete," MacIntyre said. "He scored points in the decathlon ... in the Pac-12, which is pretty impressive."

Playing as a third cornerback — behind seniors Chidobe Awuzie and Ahkello Witherspoon — this season, Oliver has been exceptional for a unit that ranks sixth nationally in pass efficiency defense.

"I look at him as a starter back there," MacIntyre said. "He plays a tremendous amount. When he's in there, we don't blink an eye. I've been very pleased with what Isaiah's done. I think he'll keep being an excellent player."

The 6-foot-1, 190-pound Oliver showed flashes of his talent late in the 2015 season, racking up six pass breakups in only 216 snaps. This season, he's playing more, has matched his pass break-up total from last year and got his first career interception against Stanford on Oct. 22.

"He's definitely a high-caliber Pac-12 corner," MacIntyre said. "He's long, athletic; he can judge the ball, he's tough and extremely bright. I'm very, very pleased with Isaiah."

Oliver is pleased, too, as he has taken the lessons taught by CU's veteran defensive backs and applied them to his game.

"I'm definitely feeling a lot more comfortable in comparison to last year," he said. "It's a lot more fun getting out there on the field a lot more. Then, with this older group of guys, the seniors in the secondary, they've been able to bring me along. It's been going really well."

Each game is a learning experience for Oliver, he said, but he continues to come away from games feeling more and more confident.

"I've just learned that I'm able to compete with any receiver that's out there," he said. "It builds confidence each and every week because you get a new receiver, a new type of receiver (to cover). You don't really know if you can measure up, and then after the first couple of plays, you realize, 'OK, I'm just as good or better than him.' Then, it's just fun for the rest of the four quarters."

Seeing Oliver crank up his confidence is huge for CU, which will depend on him a lot more next year when Awuzie, Witherspoon and safety Tedric Thompson graduate.

"We're still going to have me and (Anthony Julmisse) and (safeties Afolabi Laguda and Ryan Moeller)," Oliver said. "We can still come back and play at a high level. It's going to be exciting."

Until then, Oliver is focused on making this year exciting. He's done that with his play on defense, and now on special teams.

The backup to Jay MacIntyre early in the season, Oliver took over when MacIntyre fumbled two punts against Arizona State on Oct. 22. After his big day against UCLA — in addition to his 68-yard touchdown, he had a 42-yard return — Oliver may not give that spot up any time soon.

"He wasn't really good at catching them early," coach MacIntyre said. "We kept working with him and working with him. He has explosion there and we've seen that. We just wanted him to get consistent at catching the ball. He did an excellent job tonight."

Brian Howell: howellb@dailycamera.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.