CU opponent glance
Opponent: Northern Colorado Bears
Game time: Saturday, Noon, at Folsom Field in Boulder
Coach: Earnest Collins Jr., 7th season (22-45; 30-57 career)
Last week: Bye; game at Florida cancelled
Key players (Week 1 stats): WR Hakeem Deggs, Sr. (4 catches, 65 yards); QB Jacob Knipp, Jr. (17-of-27, 238 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT); LB Luke Nelson, So. (5 tackles, 1 INT); LB James Riddle, Sr. (6 tackles); RB Trae Riek, Jr. (18 att., 71 yards, 3 TD); DB Isaiah Swopes, Jr. (5 tackles, 1 sack, 1 INT); WR Alex Wesley, Jr. (7 catches, 95 yards)
Notable: The Bears beat College of Idaho, 41-14, in the opener on Sept. 2. … This is the first meeting between CU and UNC since Oct. 12, 1934. UNC won that game, 13-7, in Greeley. … CU leads the all-time series 9-2. … The Bears are coming off back-to-back 6-5 seasons – their first winning seasons since 2003. … For UNC, this will be just the second game against a current member of the Pac-12 since 1941. The Bears lost 41-0 at Utah in 2012. … Freshman kicker Collin Root hit a school-record 56-yard field goal in the Bears’ opener. … In 16 career games, Riek has rushed for 1,603 yards and 13 touchdowns.
While it’s only been two games, and they have yet to face a great team, the Colorado Buffaloes are playing some serious defense on the gridiron.
In fact, it’s been historically good to this point.
CU (2-0) has outscored Colorado State and Texas State by a combined 54-6, allowing just a field goal to each team.
This is the first time since 1958 that CU has played the first two games of a season without allowing a touchdown. And in the post-World War II era, CU’s only had three better starts defensively. In 1958, the Buffs allowed three points in the first two games, and they pitched consecutive shutouts to open the 1954 and 1955 seasons.
“That defense is nasty,” said quarterback Steven Montez, who faces that defense every day in practice. “I like our defense to do big things as the year goes on. I think they’re very, very, very good. I think they were very underrated before the season started.”
It’s been well documented that the Buffs were expected to struggle a bit on defense after losing so many stars to the NFL and losing three coaches from last year’s defensive staff.
After the 37-3 win against Texas State on Saturday, running back Phillip Lindsay said all the negative talk in the preseason got the defense a bit upset.
“You guys (in the media) don’t understand the caliber of players and talent we have in there,” Lindsay of the defense.
Under the direction of new coordinator D.J Eliot, the Buffs are showing off that talent so far this season, though.
Junior linebacker Drew Lewis, who is a first-year starter, has been one of the best players on the field the first two weeks. So has junior safety Evan Worthington, who played sparingly his first two seasons and then was dismissed from the team in 2016.
Senior Leo Jackson III already has four sacks (three on Saturday), and other veterans — such as linebackers Rick Gamboa and Derek McCartney and safeties Ryan Moeller and Afolabi Laguda — are playing well.
Then, of course, there’s Isaiah Oliver, the sensational junior cornerback who continues to impress. Head coach Mike MacIntyre was asked Saturday if he’s worried Oliver is so good that he will leave after this season and declare for the NFL draft.
“Isaiah is a great, great player,” MacIntyre said. “I’m pretty sure (NFL scouts) will be looking at him. We’ll see what happens with that. Hopefully he’ll stay and run track and play another year. He is a great player.”
Of course, CU’s schedule only gets tougher. The Buffs still have to face No. 4 USC, No. 6 Washington, No. 21 Washington State and No. 25 UCLA, as well as Utah, which is essentially at No. 26 in the latest Associated Press poll.
For now, however, the Buffs are enjoying this start on defense.
CU is one of just three Football Bowl Subdivision teams that have yet to give up a touchdown this season. The others are defending national champion Clemson, and Air Force, which has only played once (beating VMI, 62-0).
Air Force is the only team that’s allowed fewer points than CU.
“Just trying to prove to everyone what we’re capable of,” Oliver said. “Trying to prove to ourselves, as well. To be able to go through these first two games and only give up six points, it builds our confidence moving forward.”
Just the beginning
Redshirt freshman quarterback Sam Noyer figures to make an impact at CU at some point in his career, if not this season.
First, he had to get some experience, which he finally got during the fourth quarter on Saturday. Noyer completed four of his five passes for 40 yards.
“It was awesome,” Noyer said. “It’s just great getting my feet wet a little bit and getting used to the speed of the game.
“Obviously there’s going to be some jitters, but I think overall it was just more excitement. It was great being out there. I haven’t played in a real game in two years now. Being out there, I think it was a lot of fun.”
Noyer’s last game experience came as a senior at Beaverton (Ore.) High School in 2015, when he threw for 2,801 yards and 28 touchdowns.
The Buffs remained unranked in the latest polls released Sunday, but did move up a bit in the AP. The Buffs are now the third team listed under “others receiving votes,” basically putting them at No. 28. That’s one spot higher than a week ago. In the Amway Coaches’ poll, the Buffs remained at second among others receiving votes. … CU had just 91 rushing yards against Texas State. The Buffs had lost 14 in a row when rushing for less than 100 yards, dating back to a Sept. 7, 2013, win against Central Arkansas.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.