Game at a glance
Matchup: Texas State Bobcats (1-0) at Colorado Buffaloes (1-0)
Kickoff: 12:01 p.m. MDT
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder. Capacity: 50,183; Turf: Grass
TV: Pac-12 Network Radio: KOA (850 AM & 94.1 FM)
Odds: Colorado by 36
Coaches: Colorado — Mike MacIntyre (21-31, 5th season; 37-52 career); Texas State — Everett Withers (2nd season, 3-10; 28-23 career)
Series: First meeting
This past offseason was filled with growing pains for the Colorado defense.
After all, it's nearly impossible to lose the defensive coordinator, two other assistant coaches, eight starters and two other significant contributors and experience a smooth transition.
There were some communication breakdowns at times. Several players were new to the team. Others were new to their expanded roles.
Yet, as everybody outside of the CU locker room kept focusing on what the Buffs lost, they kept working with what they had.
In their debut performance last week, the new look CU defense was prepared, in sync, physical and, at times, nasty in a 17-3 win against CSU.
"I was pleased," new defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. "I was pleased with their effort, their communication, their execution. We weren't perfect. There's some things we need to get better at, but for the first game I was pleased with those things."
No, it wasn't perfect, and there's no question that the Buffs' were aided by a trio of questionable pass interference penalties against CSU receivers. Still, it was an impressive debut for a defense loaded with question marks.
Perhaps the biggest question of all was about Eliot, who led Kentucky's defense the previous four years. Kentucky wasn't exactly a dominating defense, so how was Eliot going to do in replacing the wildly popular Jim Leavitt, who left for Oregon in December?
To answer that, the Buffs have stuck with their mantra of "knowledge equals confidence equals playing fast."
The Buffs couldn't do anything about their lack of experience going into the CSU game, but they could control their level of preparation, and they were spot-on in that regard.
"We were very prepared," junior cornerback Isaiah Oliver said. "We put a lot of trust in coach Eliot and everything he knows about the game of football and everything he knows about this defense, as well.
"He was spending countless hours in the film room, all those coaches were. We felt like we knew off of any formation what plays we could get, when we would get those plays. I know that we all felt like that as a whole 11 on that defensive field. That's something that's pretty rare, I feel, when the whole 11 is on the same page every single play."
Eliot, first-year secondary coach ShaDon Brown, first-year linebackers coach Ross Els and defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat — the only returning member of last year's defensive staff — made sure the Buffs were ready to play.
That preparation provided the confidence, and the Buffs took that to the field, where they played fast throughout the night.
"That's critical," Eliot said of being prepared. "The game of football is won or lost sometimes between the ears, so it's important that these guys know exactly what they're doing, what to expect and how to execute."
Part of the preparation was to simplify the defense a bit. Eliot and the coaches developed a game plan without putting too much on the mental plate of the players.
"Every opponent, you want to have enough bullets to attack an offense, but you don't want to run anything the players can't execute," Eliot said. "That was what the game plan was for these guys. We felt like we had enough bullets, but yet everything we called we felt like the players could execute."
Eliot said the staff harped on fundamentals and each player knowing their assignments. From there, it was up to the players.
"Hats off to the players," Eliot said. "They're the ones who went out there and did it."
For the players, one of the keys was their pre-snap communication, which kept them on the same page throughout the night.
"As a defense, we communicated extremely well, so we were almost ready for any type of things they threw at us," said linebacker Drew Lewis, who has 12 tackles in his first start with the Buffs.
Of course, it's just one game, but it was the type of game that CU's defense needed. Whether or not this group is as good as the one that ranked among the top 20 in the country last year remains to be seen, but they proved against CSU that the bar has not been lowered.
"It definitely builds our confidence just knowing that we're capable of playing at a high level," Oliver said. "If eel like all of the guys believe in themselves and we believe in ourselves as a defensive unit and we believe in the coaches."
Whether it was veterans such as linebacker Rick Gamboa and Oliver or newcomers like Lewis and cornerback Trey Udoffia, the Buffs took the field with an attitude against CSU.
It's an attitude they hope to carry with them all year.
"All offseason, basically since last season we've just been hearing about the offense, and all the guys defensively that we lost and I think that's one thing that pushed us in the offseason," Gamboa said. "Knowing that if we wanted to win, we knew the defense would have to play good in games, and that's kind of something we've preached throughout the off season."