PASADENA, Calif. — Dante Wigley wasn’t expecting to get a lot of playing time against UCLA on Saturday.
When his name was called, however, the sophomore cornerback was ready.
Wigley replaced injured starter Trey Udoffia late in the first half of the Buffaloes’ 27-23 loss at the Rose Bowl and played nearly the entire second half.
“I thought he did great from what I saw,” starting corner Isaiah Oliver said. “To be able to come off the bench randomly like that off an injury and play as well as he did, I thought that was really good for his confidence and really good for this defense.”
Udoffia, a redshirt freshman, has been playing well in his first season as a starter. After the game, head coach Mike MacIntyre said he didn’t know the extent of Udoffia’s injury.
A junior college transfer who came to Boulder in January, Wigley provided a smooth transition, filling in nicely for Udoffia.
“Coach Mac and (secondary coach ShaDon) Brown, they prepared us,” Wigley said. “We’re all ready to step up. We do our role. He preaches that every time. Everybody is ready to step in if their number is called. I was ready and I feel like I did pretty good. I could have made more plays, but I feel like I played well.”
Coming into the game, Udoffia was second on the team in defensive snaps played, with 262 (one less than linebacker Drew Lewis). Wigley had been on the field for just 21 plays, mostly late in games with the outcome decided.
Thrust into the action against the Bruins, and star quarterback Josh Rosen, Wigley held his own.
“Honestly, it was a lot of fun,” he said. “(Rosen) is a great quarterback. He played really well; they have some really good, talented receivers. I just battled and it was a lot of fun.”
Without reviewing the film, MacIntyre had a positive first impression of Wigley’s performance.
“He’s been working hard in practice and getting better and better and better,” MacIntyre said. “He’s a really good athlete and a really good player and we’re glad we have him. He’s been getting ready for his role, and he’ll get ready out there this week.”
In addition to losing Udoffia, the Buffs played for a bit without safety Afolabi Laguda, who was shaken up after a late hit by the Bruins in the second half.
Without two starters, the Buffs had to adjust, but starting safety Evan Worthington was pleased with how the defense responded.
“It wasn’t a challenge,” he said. “It was that we needed them to step up and that’s what they did. When someone comes into the game, we expect them to play 100 percent just like the other dudes.”
After the game, Laguda did not disclose how he was injured, but he was healthy enough to return to the field.
“I didn’t want to let my team down,” he said quietly as he slowly walked out of the stadium. “I feel like it was needed for me to be on the field. I’ll bounce back. I’ll be alright.”
Buffs kicker James Stefanou, a true freshman from Australia, is still new to American football, but he looks rather comfortable so far.
Stefanou went 3-for-3 on his field goals against the Bruins — all of them from 33 yards.
He has now made 10 of 11 field goals this season, and he’s hit his last nine in a row.
While Stefanou hasn’t been asked to kick many long field goals — his two longest were from 40 and 49 yards — he’s been on the money thus far.
In fact, his streak of nine consecutive field goals ties Will Oliver (in 2014) for the second-longest streak in school history, and he’s on the verge of matching or breaking the standard. Mason Crosby holds the school record with 10 in a row, a streak that began in 2004 and extended into 2005.
Stefanou is here because the previous two years were rough for CU’s kickers. From 2015-16, four different kickers combined to go 34-for-56 (60.7 percent). … At one point last year, the Buffs were just 9-for-18 on field goals (50 percent). Since then, however, they are 17-for-20 (85 percent). Chris Graham made seven of his last nine last year. … Receiver Shay Fields had just one catch for 5 yards against UCLA. That snapped a streak of 18 consecutive games with two or more receptions. He had caught at least five passes in each of the Buffs’ first four games. … Nose tackle Javier Edwards, a junior college transfer, had his first career sack on Saturday. It was the only sack for either team.