Following Nate Landman's second targeting ejection of the season on Nov. 10 against Washington State, it was fair to wonder if it would impact the aggressive nature of the Colorado linebacker.
He answered that question emphatically during Saturday's 30-7 loss to Utes, when he drilled Utes running back Armand Shyne for a 1-yard gain on the first play.
Landman stuff Shyne on the next play, too. Ultimately, the sophomore wound up with a career-high 19 tackles — the most in a game by any CU player since Jordan Dizon's 22-tackle performance against Colorado State in the 2007 season opener.
"I'm just going to keep focusing on playing my game," Landman said this week as the Buffs (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) prepare to face California (6-4, 3-4). "Stuff happens, but I'm not going to take it as a negative, and I'm definitely not going to stop playing the way I know how to play. I'm going to keep playing hard, but I'll definitely have that in the back of my head focusing up when I make tackles in the future."
Being aggressive has helped Landman to a team-high 116 tackles and seven games with at least 10.
"That's the best attribute to my game, my physicality and being downhill," Landman said.
Both of Landman's targeting calls were questionable and not unlike a lot of other plays that go unnoticed by officials through a game.
"It's easy to slow it down on a camera and say, 'Oh this is what he should have done,'" Landman said. "The refs saw what they saw, they made their call. They're professionals at what they do, so I have to respect their call. In my defense, there's no harmful intent in it. I'm just playing football the way I know how — playing hard."
Landman will certainly play hard this week. He grew up in Danville, Calif., which is not far from California Memorial Stadium, and will have quite a few family and friends on hand.
"Being close to home, I love it," he said. "I grew up watching (Cal) in that stadium. I live 25-30 minutes away. It's going to be great going back home and putting on a show for my fans."
Landman was recruited by Cal and said there was some pressure to play for the hometown Bears, but he added, "I chose Colorado for a reason and I wouldn't go back on that choice if I could. I'm a Buff for life."
Cal D racks up INTs
Cal's defense leads the Pac-12 with 14 interceptions, and seven different players have at least one.
CU quarterback Steven Montez has been good at avoiding interceptions this season, with just six, but will have to be sharp against the Bears.
"They do a really good job of mixing coverages and changing it on the quarterback," interim head coach and quarterbacks coach Kurt Roper said. "They do a good job of having guys drop into coverage from spots you won't normally see. That's not as easy to see for a quarterback. It really gets into their system. They have flexibility in the players they put on the field and it gives them flexibility in coverage calls."
Roper said CU players that have been going through concussion protocol — including cornerback Delrick Abrams, offensive lineman Frank Fillip and safety Evan Worthington — have been progressing and could play against Cal. ... CU has been outscored a stunning 68-3 in the fourth quarter (and overtime) over the last five games. During the first six games, the Buffs had a 36-6 advantage in fourth quarter scoring.