By halftime, the Colorado defense had suddenly found itself without two of its most consistent playmakers.

One was a surprising pregame injury announcement that the Buffs no longer will have the services of linebacker Jacob Callier for the remainder of the season due to a shoulder injury that will require surgery.

The other personnel setback was even more sudden and was a potential back-breaker for Colorado on Saturday, as inside linebacker Nate Landman, one of the breakout stars of the Buffs' undefeated start, was sent to the locker room due to a targeting penalty and ejection midway through the second quarter.

No matter. The next-man-up mentality carried the day once again for the Buffs, who finished strong to remain undefeated in a 28-21 win against Arizona State.

Landman's exit prompted senior Drew Lewis to take over at inside linebacker, a position he played throughout 2017 before moving to outside linebacker during the preseason. In turn, redshirt freshman Carson Wells took on an expanded role at outside linebacker.

"I think it's pretty much just that next-man-up," inside linebacker Rick Gamboa said. "We moved Drew back inside, and he played inside all last year so it wasn't a big adjustment for us. Carson Wells had to play more outside linebacker taking the place of Drew, but just having that next-man-up, knowing we can trust everyone on our defense and having that trust and love for one another, once you're on the field we all have that belief that we're going to make a play."


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Without Landman, Lewis finished with a team-leading 10 tackles but might have made his most significant hit on a special teams play, as he recovered from being blocked out of bounds to crush ASU standout receiver N'Keal Harry on a punt return. Harry briefly returned to the action before remaining on the sideline the rest of the afternoon.

Wells finished with three tackles and two hits on ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins, including a hit that forced an incompletion on the Sun Devils' final third-down attempt that left Wilkins limping. ASU was forced to punt the ball away in a seven-point game and never got it back.

Colorado’s Nate Landman tries to stop Arizona State’s Eno Benjamin on Saturday.
Colorado's Nate Landman tries to stop Arizona State's Eno Benjamin on Saturday. (Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer)

"Nate is a huge part of our defense. He makes the checks and brings the emotional attitude you have to have to play defense," Wells said. "When he went down I knew I had to step up and fill that role. I just tried to come in and fill my role and do my job. Huge shoes to fill. Playing on defense, you have to have swagger. Your main job is to hit someone in the mouth on every play, and we're just trying to do that."

Pat Rooney: rooneyp@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/prooney07