On a day when the Colorado football team honored its seniors, one of its promising freshmen made his presence known.
Nate Landman, a true freshman linebacker from Danville, Calif., blocked a punt and got his first significant playing time on defense in the Buffaloes' 38-24 loss to Southern California at Folsom Field on Saturday.
The 6-foot-3, 215-pound Landman, who will turn 19 on Sunday, has been on special teams all year, but has now made big plays on defense in consecutive games, as well, for the Buffs (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12).
"He has a nose for the football," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He did that all during fall camp. He'd always flash in there on a short-yardage play and make a tackle. He has that unique way of finding the football. We're excited about his future."
Landman had played just 18 total snaps on defense in the first nine games, with all of those plays coming late in lopsided contests.
On Nov. 4 at Arizona State, Landman played just two snaps, but on one of them, he burst into the ASU backfield and tackled running back Demario Richard for no gain on fourth-and-1 near midfield. CU led 10-0 in the second quarter at the time and kept the momentum going with that stop.
Against USC, Landman helped to momentarily shift momentum to the Buffs.
With the Trojans leading 27-7 in the third quarter, Landman made a tackle that dropped USC a yard short of the first down on a third-and-15 play.
On the next snap, Landman charged through the middle of the Trojans to block a punt that CU recovered at the 1, setting up a touchdown.
"I just saw my opportunity and I took it," Landman said. "(Director of quality control Daniel DaPrato) on special teams, he gives us a great plan every week and I was able to execute it. It felt great. Coach always talks about doing (your individual job on each play) and playing for the team and by doing that, I felt like I gave my team a shot."
Landman said the Buffs were aiming to get as many rushers as possible on USC's three-man protection shield and did that.
"If we get guys on the shield, good things will happen," he said. "We watched a lot of film on them and we noticed some tendencies and we were able to take advantage of that."
Later in the game, Landman tackled USC running back Ronald Jones for a 1-yard loss on a third-and-5 play.
Juniors Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis have played nearly every snap at inside linebacker this season, but Landman played 19 snaps on defense against the Trojans, sometimes with Lewis on the sidelines. He finished with three tackles, including two third-down stops.
"We weren't doing as good against the run, so we stuck Nate in there to see if he could do better against it there," MacIntyre said. "He made some good plays."
Although Gamboa and Lewis figure to start on Nov. 25 at Utah and possibly next year, as well, it may be tough to keep Landman's play-making ability off the field.
"I credit that to definitely coach (Ross) Els, my position coach," Landman said of his development and increased playing time of late. "Also playing behind Rick Gamboa and Drew Lewis, they're great guys. They show me how to play the game right and that really helped me step up my game."
CU-Utah game time
On Monday, the Pac-12 announced that CU's regular season finale, on Nov. 25 at Utah, will be slated for an 8 p.m. kickoff. It will be broadcast nationally on Fox Sports 1.
The game against the Utes will be CU's second in a row on the Fox networks, and third this season. The Buffs have played twice on the ESPN networks and seven times on the Pac-12 Network.
Players of the week
Stanford running back Bryce Love and Washington State's Hercules Mata'afa and Erik Powell earned Pac-12 player of the week honors.
Love ran for 166 yards and three touchdowns in a 30-22 upset of Washington, earning offensive player of the week honors for the third time this year.
Mata'afa earned defensive player of the week honors for the first time after recording eight tackles, five tackles for loss, three sacks and a fumble recovery in a 33-25 win against Utah.
Powell was four-for-five on field goals and scored 15 points against the Utes. He was honored for the third time this season.
Going into Week 12 of the college football season, there are 59 teams that are bowl eligible for 80 spots. CU is one of 20 teams that are a win away from bowl eligibility. The Buffs, however are the only one of those teams with six losses. That means the other 19 all have at least two chances for win No. 6, while CU has one. ... Of the 20 teams with five wins, six are in the Pac-12: CU, Utah, California, Oregon, Arizona State and UCLA.