Daniel Munyer
Daniel Munyer ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

It didn't take much for Colorado offensive line coach Steve Marshall to get his players' attention after they were allowed 24 hours to celebrate their first win of the season.

Marshall said the Buffs will face a defensive front this week against UCLA that is as good as any they will see all season.

"They present a big challenge," Marshall said. "Their front seven, talent-wise, is really as good as we're going to see in our league, including Oregon and USC. I'm really excited about it. I want to kind of see where our guys are at and go from there, but they're physical, they get after folks and they do a great job up front."

Official NCAA statistics don't necessarily backup that assertion. The Bruins rank 85th nationally in total defense, 82nd in rushing defense and 89th against the pass. But they have proven to be a bend-but-don't-break unit. They're only allowing 22 points per game, and they're tied at 15th in the nation with 13 sacks through four games.

Marshall said UCLA senior Datone Jones is one of the best around.

"Two years ago when he was an outside linebacker when they had him and Akeem Ayers, he was every bit the guy Akeem Ayers was," Marshall said. "This guy is a good player. Their outside linebackers are long and athletic."

Ayers is in his second season in the NFL with the Tennessee Titans.

The CU offensive line is coming off its best performance of the season, albeit one with plenty of room for improvement still. The Buffs did allow six more sacks. No team in the nation with four games under its belt has given up as many sacks as the Buffs' 18.

Marshall said his players have proven to be resilient and are determined to improve in every area.

"Their resolve has been good all along," Marshall said. "They've never backed off an inch. That's what I've been saying all along. I really like this group. We've got our limitations and we've got a lot of things to get better at, but they're a good group."

Marshall said sophomore Daniel Munyer played well against Washington State when he was asked to move from guard to center in place of Gus Handler. Marshall said he is uncertain if Handler will be back this week.

"I really was pleased with Daniel," Marshall said. "He probably had his best game since he's been here."

Redshirt freshman Stephane Nembot made the first start of his career at right tackle last week and didn't disappoint.

Nembot was called for a personal foul in the second quarter when he hit a defender after a play appeared to have ended. He was flagged for hitting a defenseless player, a new rule being emphasized this season. On Monday Nembot explained that he never heard a whistle and he is coached to play until he hears a whistle.

Marshall, who called Nembot "a full-effort kid," said he couldn't fault Nembot and that it was an experience from which he will learn.

"Honestly I was very happy he did that," Marshall said.

The Buffs came from behind to beat the Cougars with a big fourth quarter. The offensive line seemed to be playing its best ball of the season down the stretch at WSU. CU had 255 yards of total offense in the fourth quarter alone.

Marshall and his players weren't willing to call it a turning point, but they do feel like it's something on which they can build.

"I would say we came together as a team more and trusted each other and we fought shoulder to shoulder," sophomore guard Alexander Lewis said. "The whole thing of turning the corner, we haven't really proven it yet and we'll see by next week."

Huddles helping

Colorado spent the entire offseason practicing the no-huddle offense and unveiled their version in the season opener. The no-huddle approach hasn't worked as well as coaches hoped so far this season and the Buffs have reverted to huddling at times, including during their rally at Washington State.

Lewis said he likes the no-huddle and believes the Buffs will get better with it over time, but huddling has its benefits.

"I wouldn't say that's the only thing helping us, but definitely, that is a factor," Lewis said. "Huddling lets you focus on that one play. It gives you that extra second you walk up to the line to think of your assignment. That's what was killing us in the first three games. It wasn't physically getting beat. It was mentally breaking down."

Rippy returning

Senior linebacker Doug Rippy says he feels close to 100 percent healthy and expects to play this week against the Bruins. Rippy hasn't played since he suffered a sprained knee in the second quarter on Sept. 8 against Sacramento State.

"It's been really hard, but at the same time, I trust the guys that are out there," Rippy said.

Notable

Coach Jon Embree said after Monday's practice that quarterback Connor Wood will be the backup quarterback again this week. Embree said Wood did not play last week because of a shoulder/chest injury. Embree said coaches will decide this week whether to work Wood into the game at times or if he will only be used if Jordan Webb is injured. ... Embree said he expects center Gus Handler to be able to play this week as well as other injured players, but he will wait to see how they practice. "It's not the league where you can just not practice and then all of a sudden be ready to play," he said.

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