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Colorado defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, right, was proud of his group for holding Oregon State to a field goal attempt late in Saturday's game in Corvallis, Ore. The Buffaloes won 36-33.
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Colorado defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot, right, was proud of his group for holding Oregon State to a field goal attempt late in Saturday’s game in Corvallis, Ore. The Buffaloes won 36-33.

CU opponent glance

Opponent: No. 15 Washington State Cougars

Game time: Saturday, 8:45 p.m. MT, at Martin Stadium in Pullman, Wash.

Coach: Mike Leach, 6th season (35-35; 119-78 career)

Record: 6-1, 3-1 Pac-12

Last week: Lost at California, 37-3

Key players: QB Luke Falk, Sr. (216-of-305, 2,286 yards, 19 TD, 7 INT); WR Isaiah Johnson-Mack, So. (39 catches, 375 yards, 3 TD); LB Frankie Luvu, Sr. (26 tackles, 6.5 TFL, 3.5 sacks; 2 fumble recoveries); WR Tavares Martin, Jr. (37 catches, 502 yards, 7 TD); LB Hercules Mata’afa, Jr. (22 tackles, 12 TFL, 6.5 sacks); RB Jamal Morrow, Sr. (45 att., 339 yards, 2 TD; 27 catches, 223 yards, 5 TD); S Jalen Thompson, So. (39 catches, 3 TFL, 3 INT); RB Gerard Wicks, Sr. (23 att., 119 yards, 1 TD; 13 catches, 65 yards); RB James Williams, So. (63 att., 249 yards, 1 TD; 46 catches, 312 yards, 3 TD).

Notable: Washington State was ranked No. 8 before its stunning loss to Cal on Friday night. Falk was picked off a career-high five times and sacked nine times in the loss. In all, Washington State had seven turnovers. … The Cougars are 23-10 over the past three seasons, including 16-6 in Pac-12 play. … Wazzu is 10-2 at home since the start of the 2016 season, including 5-0 this year. … CU is 6-4 all-time against the Cougars, including 1-1 in Pullman. … Prior to the loss to Cal, the Cougars had scored at least 30 points in every game this season. … Falk has thrown for 13,174 yards and 108 touchdowns in his career, while completing 69.2 percent of his passes.

CORVALLIS, Ore. — As he walked out of the locker room on Saturday afternoon, Colorado defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot flashed a smile that featured more than a touch of relief.

Eliot’s defense finished strong in Saturday’s 36-33 win at Oregon State, stopping the Beavers on three straight plays to force a long field goal attempt that missed the mark and gave CU the victory.

“They kept fighting,” Eliot said of his defense. “We needed a stop there and they got it. The guys didn’t give up and I’m proud of them for that. We needed that stop.”

Did they ever.

CU (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) snapped its three-game losing streak and created some positive vibes going forward, but that stop at the end of the game was one of the few the defense has had over the past couple of weeks.

Even in a win, Eliot’s crew displayed some serious issues.

Oregon State came into the game ranking among the nation’s worst teams in scoring (19.3 per game), yards (321.2 per game) and rushing (128.8 per game).

Facing CU, the Beavers had a season high in total yards (by 113 yards), scored more than 27 against a FBS team for the first time in six tries this season and finished with 280 yards on the ground. Their previous best rushing total this season: 154, against Portland State, from the Football Championship Subdivision.

“We struggled when it came to doing all of our individual assignments,” inside linebacker Drew Lewis said. “There’d be times where one person would mess up and it would cause the whole team to feel that.”

Early in the season, the defense was arguably the better side of the ball for CU, and the Buffs were solid in a 27-23 loss to UCLA on Sept. 30. On that night, the Buffs held the Bruins — who rank 18th nationally in scoring — to their lowest point total of the season.

In the two games since, however, the Buffs have been shredded, especially on the ground.

Arizona ran for 413 yards and five touchdowns against the Buffs, led by Khalil Tate, who set an NCAA record for rushing yards by a quarterback, with 327.

Oregon State didn’t set any records, but the Buffs made the Beavers look like one of the more powerful running teams in the conference. Ryan Nall, the Beavers’ 6-foot-2, 237-pound workhorse, finished with 172 yards and three touchdowns.

“He’s a really good player for them,” MacIntyre said. “When they’ve won their games, he’s run really well. He’s the key to them; the whole key.”

While that’s true, there’s only so many times the Buffs can watch an opposing player rack up big yards and then pat him on the back for a great game.

“We have to start playing better run defense, and we have to start getting off blocks and making plays, and I have to make sure I have them in the best positions they can to make them,” Eliot said. “We have to improve our run defense tremendously and then our shots. We can’t give up big, long passes. That comes with not only coverage but with better pass rush, too.”

That’s a lot of issues, and it won’t be easy to fix them this season.

Against the run, the Buffs are not only giving up yards, they aren’t creating negative plays. On the penultimate play of Saturday’s game, the Buffs stuffed Nall for a 3-yard loss. That was one of just two times in the past two games (86 rushing attempts combined) that the Buffs have tackled a runner behind the line of scrimmage.

CU has allowed just one passing touchdown in the past two weeks, but Arizona was 12-for-14 on its passes, with both incompletions being drops. OSU’s Darell Garretson, a backup playing as an injury replacement, threw for 289 yards and repeatedly stung the Buffs on third down passes. On third downs, Garretson was 7-for-11, with all seven completions going for first downs.

Of course, it would help if the Buffs had a pass rush, but lately, they’ve had none. In four Pac-12 games, the Buffs have generated two sacks, with none in the last two games. Of the two sacks, one was for no gain and not recognized as a sack by the NCAA (but CU counts it in its statistics). The other sack was for a 1-yard loss.

With no pass rush and the inability to stop the run, the Buffs aren’t offering much resistance to the opposition.

“It’s a combination of fundamentals and also making sure we’re getting each player with whatever his talent is in the best position to make plays,” Eliot said.

The Buffs believe they can fix their issues. For now, however, they’re stuck breathing a sigh of relief with any kind of positive plays on that side of the ball.

“It’s part of college football,” Eliot said. “You have to overcome obstacles and right now we have to find a way to play better run defense. I know the kids are going to be positive and work at it and do everything they can to be better.”

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at or

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