One of the pleasant surprises through Colorado's 5-0 start to the football season was the way defensive coordinator DJ Eliot pushed all the right buttons in terms of second-half adjustments for his unit.
Those impressive flashes were a distant memory Saturday, when the Buffs' defense went from a constant thorn in the side of first-half Oregon State quarterback Jack Colletto to second-half feeding fodder for Jake Luton, who engineered the Beavers' four-touchdown rally in a 41-34 overtime decision at Folsom Field.
In the first half, the Buffs' defense sacked Colletto five times, with Dante Wigley returning a Colletto interception 27 yards for a touchdown and a 17-3 Buffs lead. After halftime, while often utilizing short drops with quick throws, Luton dissected the CU defense for 310 yards and three touchdowns as the Beavers rallied from a 31-3 deficit.
"A lot of things changed. We had a little more trouble getting to (Luton) because of that quick game," said defensive end Mustafa Johnson, who authored one of those first-half sacks. "I think they changed up their blocking schemes too with double-teams and matchups. I know a couple times on film it should have been a one-on-one for me in certain spots, and I ended up getting doubled or hit somewhere I wasn't expecting, so I had to adapt to that. I think their blocking schemes and the quick game really helped them out."
While the Buffs' offense went into cruise control after taking a 28-point lead, CU's defense lost the spark that made it dominant through the game's first 30 minutes. At halftime the Beavers had compiled just 118 total yards on 39 plays, an average of three yards per snap. In the second half and overtime OSU nearly doubled that production, recording 341 yards on 60 plays for an average of 5.7 per snap.
Moreover, the harassment that forced Colletto into a 6-for-14 showing in the first half disappeared when OSU turned to Luton, who finished 28-for-39 while suffering just one sack. CU had allowed just 16 fourth-quarter points all season but surrendered 31 in the second half and overtime to the worst team in the Pac-12.
"We knew one of them was good at running and one was more of a passer," CU linebacker Drew Lewis said. "Their quarterbacks, they had a great day. They were hitting a bunch of their targets. I give them credit for that.
"I think it shocked all of us. None of us expected that to happen, being the fourth quarter team that we were. It might have been because we were getting comfortable. Maybe it was our communication. Obviously we started off pretty hot and I wish we could have finished out the same way. It's definitely disappointing. That's something we're going to have to work on for sure."