Cliff Grassmick/Daily Camera
Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie, right, hits an Idaho State receiver during a game on Sept. 10 at Folsom Field in Boulder. All season, Awuzie has been wearing a green mouthpiece to honor his Nigerian heritage.

On game day, Chidobe Awuzie stands out among the crowd because he’s usually one of the best players on the field.

That’s not the only reason the Colorado senior stands out, though.

This season, the star cornerback has been wearing a bright green mouthpiece, which can be seen from high up in the stands. Turns out, there’s a specific reason for it.

“The green mouthpiece was basically an idea from me to represent my country,” said Awuzie, who was born in San Jose, Calif., but has family roots in Nigeria. The flag of Nigeria is green and white.

“As players, we can’t really wear a lot of different colors outside of our team colors. I heard with the mouthpiece we could change the colors and I said, ‘OK this is a good way to show people I’m Nigerian and give Nigerian people some pride.'”

On top of that, the green worked well with the nickname that Awuzie and his fellow defensive backs have for their position group.

“Then, it came up with Money Gang for the DBs, and green is the color of money, so it just really fit in perfect,” Awuzie said.

First and foremost, the green mouthpiece came about because of his Nigerian heritage, however, and he’s not alone. Safety Afolabi Laguda is also of Nigerian descent and he, too, has started to wear a green mouthpiece.

“We’re really just trying to rep our country,” Awuzie said. “It actually means a lot to me. If I don’t have my green mouthpiece during game day – I don’t think I had it at Oregon – I feel pretty out of place. It’s kind of become a necessity.”

Making a stand

CU’s defense has been great all season, but particularly in the last two games.

With the offense struggling, the defense has had to play exceptional, especially late in games to preserve a 10-5 win against Stanford and a 20-10 win against UCLA.

Instead of buckling under the pressure, the defense has risen to the challenge. The Buffs have allowed zero points and a combined total of 240 yards after intermission in the last two games.

“We look for that; we want that, actually, at the end of the games,” cornerback Isaiah Oliver said of the late game pressure on the defense. “We want the game to be on our shoulders and the game is on our line, because we always feel like we’re going to be able to measure up to any team in the Pac-12 and win the game.”

In the Pac-12 opener on Sept. 24, Oregon scored three touchdowns in the third quarter, but in five games since then, the Buffs have yielded just one second-half touchdown. The defense has given up just 10 fourth-quarter points during their six Pac-12 games.

Front Range success

CU is enjoying a breakout season, but the Buffs aren’t the only team in the region enjoying success.

Air Force (6-3) is bowl eligible once again, while Wyoming (7-2) has rebounded from last year’s 2-10 finish to achieve bowl eligibility for the first time since 2011.

Colorado State (5-4) is a win away from bowl eligibility. The Rams have a tough three-game stretch to end the season, though, at Air Force, home against New Mexico (6-3) and at San Diego State (8-1). If the Rams can find a win, they’d become bowl eligible for the fourth year in a row.

The only time all four teams played in a bowl game in the same season was in 1990.

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or