During its 28-0 loss to Washington State last week, Colorado turned to an unfamiliar face on defense in the second half.
Senior outside linebacker Derek McCartney was a bit banged up in the game and was replaced by junior Terran Hasselbach. During the second half, however, it was junior Michael Mathewes getting most of the work at outside linebacker.
Mathewes had played just four snaps all season before being on the field for 40 of 78 defensive plays against the Cougars.
“He’s been doing a good job on pass rush in our practices and our one-one-one practices,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “Excellent technician at it. He caused a few hurries. He plays extremely hard he’s a young that’s been around here for a while, and you’ll probably see him a little bit more.”
The 6-foot-4, 240-pound Mathewes has struggled to find a spot in CU’s defense. He was originally a defensive end in their 4-3 scheme, but after the Buffs switched to a 3-4 in 2015, he’s moved around to different spots, trying to find a home. He now finally has one.
“We kind of found a home at outside linebacker, but mainly in our nickel package where he can pass rush,” MacIntyre said. “He’s just a great young man who works extremely hard and loves being here and has really kept developing his skills. He’s very, very strong and powerful.”
After getting shut out last week, the Buffs are obviously seeking for ways to spark the offense. Most notably, the Buffs have quarterbacks Steven Montez and Sam Noyer competing for the starting job this week.
Co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said that regardless of which quarterback is in the game, the coaches have to be better going forward.
“We have to continue to coach them hard on the field, we have to continue to game plan them better, and put them in situations where they can be successful,” he said. “We have to do better job of getting the ball in the end zone. That’s on us as coaches and we’ll do a better job going forward.”
Last week was frustrating for the offense, but Chiaverini isn’t discouraged.
“I didn’t get to where I got in my life by giving up or saying, ‘Oh, we’re not good enough,'” he said. “You have to find a way to look yourself in the mirror, hold yourself accountable and keep getting better. That’s what I’m doing, that’s what our coaches are doing, that’s what our players are doing.”
As of Thursday afternoon, CU is a 3.5-point favorite for Saturday’s game against Cal. … In the last two games, CU opponents have scored on all 10 trips to the red zone (six touchdowns, four field goals). … Cal is 10-for-11 in the red zone the last two weeks, with nine touchdowns and one field goal.