With zero sacks in the last two games and only one in four conference games, the Colorado Buffaloes are in desperate need of someone to step up in that area.
True freshman Jacob Callier could be the man to do that, as he has shown flashes this season.
“Jacob has a knack to pass-rush,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “He’s getting better and better every game. He’s playing a little bit more every game. We’re excited about Jacob throughout the rest of this year and his career. He’s a really good pass-rusher, but I think he can end up being an excellent pass-rusher as he keeps getting better and better and improving and understanding how to go against college tackles every day.”
Callier has just one sack – at the end of the first half against Colorado State in the opener – but leads the team with seven quarterback pressures, despite playing just 112 snaps – with ranks 16th on the team.
Tonight, the Buffs (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) will be on the road to face Washington State (6-1, 3-1), which has allowed the most sacks (32) in the country. Callier could be an impact player tonight.
Of course, for Callier and the Buffs to have much luck getting to Wazzu QB Luke Falk, they’ll need to play well on first and second downs – and that means doing a better job stopping the run.
“You have to get them in third and long situations,” defensive coordinator D.J. Eliot said. “You have to get them in passing situations so that comes with the run defense. If you get them in passing situations, you have a chance to get after the quarterback. That’s got to be the emphasis.”
Eliot, in his first year with the Buffs, has taken some heat from fans lately because of the defensive struggles. In the past two games, CU has allowed 78 points and 1,136 yards, with 693 of those on the ground.
Despite those struggles, MacIntrye praised Eliot this week.
“D.J. is an excellent coach,” MacIntyre said. “He knows the system well. He has a great attitude all the time. Just a real team guy. I’ve been very impressed with that and how he works with the staff and how the kids have kept responded to him.”
Junior linebacker Drew Lewis said he believes the Buffs will only get better as they continue working with Eliot.
“He’s going to work with you and help the team get better,” Lewis said. “I really appreciate that. He’s getting better, we’re getting better with playing under him. The chemistry is getting better.”
Eliot is certainly disappointed in the performance the last two weeks, but believes the Buffs can return to playing defense like they did early in the year.
“We did some good things early,” he said. “The last couple of weeks we’ve struggled with our run defense, so we have to improve on that. We have to continue to play hard and play physical and continue to fit things up right. That’s what I’m hoping moving forward is we can get that run defense back where it belongs.”
Ready to roll
Freshman cornerback Trey Udoffia, who started the first five games, is ready to return after missing the last two games with an ankle injury.
“I’m feeling 100 percent,” he said this week.
Udoffia said he was actually ready to play last week against Oregon State if the team needed him, but said, “I knew they probably weren’t going to play me last week and have me sit another week.”
Taking a step back and watching Dante Wigley in his place, Udoffia said it was a “good learning experience, but I’m ready to get back on the field.”
Given how much Washington State throws the ball, it’s a good bet that Isaiah Oliver, Udoffia and Wigley will all be on the field tonight.
A few other notes going into tonight’s game:
- CU sports information director David Plati will miss his second game in a row, as he continues to deal with circulation issues with his legs. Plati had worked 410 consecutive CU games, dating back to 1983, before being unable to travel to Oregon State last week. Plati is still unable to travel and did not make the trip to Pullman.
- Last year, CU, ranked No. 12 at the time, defeated then-No. 20 Washington State, 38-24 in Boulder to snap a 23-game losing streak against ranked teams. Today, as the unranked Buffs face the No.15 Cougars, they are looking to snap a streak of 27 straight road losses to ranked teams. CU’s last win against a ranked team on the road came in 2002 at UCLA.
- The Buffs have converted seven consecutive fourth down attempts, including 4-for-4 against Arizona two weeks ago.
- The Buffs’ Phillip Lindsay needs 5 rushing yards to reach 1,000 for the season. He would become the first player in CU history with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons.
- Lindsay enters this game with 35 career touchdowns (32 rushing, 3 receiving), tied with Bobby Anderson for the second-most in CU history. The only player to score more touchdowns was Eric Bieniemy, who had 42.
- Washington State has forced 15 turnovers already this season, and the Cougars are 18-3 when forcing multiple turnovers since Alex Grinch took over as defensive coordinator in 2015. After forcing just eight turnovers in 2014, the Cougars have had 62 takeaways since Grinch was hired.
- Falk needs 422 passing yards to become the all-time leading passer in Pac-12 history. Former Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion holds the mark, with 13,600 yards in his career. Falk is currently third, with 13,179 yards. He’s 14th in NCAA history.
- CU has rushed for 200 yards or more three times this season. The most allowed by Washington State this season is 164, by Boise State.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at email@example.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.