After playing fairly well for the first five weeks of the season, the Colorado defense took a hit last Saturday against Arizona.
“Took a hit? We took an explosion,” head coach Mike MacIntyre joked after practice on Wednesday.
That’s probably a more accurate description of CU’s 45-42 loss to Arizona, during which quarterback Khalil Tate set an FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback, with 327.
Tate ran all over the Buffs, who couldn’t figure out how to tackle him or slow down the Arizona attack, which racked up 567 yards and scored on five consecutive possessions at one point.
“We’re not proud of how we played as a team defensively last week,” senior linebacker Derek McCartney said.
This week, the Buffs (3-3, 0-3 Pac-12) are hoping to regain some of their pride when they visit Oregon State (1-5, 0-3). Riding a three-game losing streak, the Buffs need a win, but also need their defense to bounce back.
“It’s big,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. “We have to get fired up, get our mindset back, go on another road game and try to get a W. It’s a big time week for us.”
The host Beavers, who parted ways with head coach Gary Andersen on Monday, have struggled mightily this season, ranking last in the Pac-12 in scoring (19.3 points per game) and total offense (321.2 yards per game).
Statistically, this appears to be a great opportunity for CU’s defense to bounce back, and MacIntyre said it’s important for that group to play well.
“They need to get that taste out of their mouth,” MacIntyre said.
Inside linebacker Drew Lewis said he likes the way the defense has responded in practice this week.
“We’re coming together,” he said. “We’ve got each other’s backs. This is a very close-knit group of people.
“That’s what we’re trying to do, get back on tempo of where we want to be.”
While Oregon State has struggled this season, the Buffs’ defense faces a unique challenge because of the coaching change in Corvallis.
Cornerbacks coach Cory Hall has taken over as the interim head coach, and the Buffs aren’t really sure what to expect from the Beavers.
“We don’t know if they’re going to try some new stuff,” Lewis said. “We have to be ready for everything.”
Regardless of what the Beavers do offensively, the Buffs know they need to play well on defense this week.
“We definitely need to get better and we will get better,” McCartney said. “Our guys are playing hard and that’s why I’m proud of my team. We’re playing hard and that’s one thing about our defense. We will come at you and we will play hard.”