Playing college football was nothing new to Colorado linebacker Nate Landman going into Friday’s season opener against Colorado State.
The true sophomore admitted to a few butterflies going into his first career start, however.
“Oh for sure, but I take that as a sign of strength, kind of getting me prepared for the game,” he said after the 45-13 win against the Rams. “As soon as you get in that first play and hit somebody, that all goes away.”
Landman looked quite comfortable in his new role, with 16 tackles, two tackles for loss and an interception. Coaches will watch film to get official tackle totals, but if that number holds, it’ll set a CU record for tackles in a debut start (three others had 14 tackles in a first start).
“It was a great experience, just proving all hard work has paid off during camp, not only for myself, but for the whole defense,” Landman said. “That was great defensive play the whole game. I have a great D-line, great secondary helping me out.”
Head coach Mike MacIntyre has been impressed with Landman’s nose for the football since he got to Boulder a year ago, and wasn’t too surprised to see the sophomore rack up big numbers Friday.
“I see the Nate Landman that I see every day in practice,” MacIntyre said. “He’s just a football player that arrives in an angry mood and makes plays. He’s gotten bigger and stronger and he can dissect plays really well. He’s an excellent football player.”
Enjoying the view
One of the most enjoyable aspects of the night for the CU defense was watching Buffs receiver Laviska Shenault dominate someone else. The Buffs had seen enough of Shenault in practice.
“As a defense we’re not the biggest fans of tackling him day in and day out,” senior linebacker Rick Gamboa said, “so I think finally being able to see him play a game in a big role, I’m definitely happy to see it.”
Shenault had 11 catches for 211 yards and a touchdown in his first extensive action.
“That dude, he’s a man on the field,” Landman said. “I think people are scared of him. He plays hard, he practices hard, you can definitely see that. Out there, he’s just a playmaker. Once he gets the ball in his hands, it’s something special.”
For years, CU fans have waited to see the Buffs play former Big 12 rival Nebraska. That matchup is finally hear, as the Buffs head to Lincoln, Neb., next Saturday.
“I know a lot of guys are very excited, especially being able to play at Nebraska,” Gamboa said. “We’ve all seen videos of the atmosphere there. We’re all excited. We have a big test for us and we know we have a big week of practice to get ready for this game.”
MacIntyre said he once went to Lincoln when he was an assistant coach at Ole Miss more than 15 years ago. He went there to visit and learn from Nebraska coaches during the Cornhuskers’ Frank Solich era.
“I haven’t ever played there before, but I know it’ll be exciting to go there and play,” he said.
Late in the fourth quarter, redshirt freshman Jake Moretti made his CU debut by playing left guard. It was the first game action for the highly touted prospect since 2015, his junior season at Pomona High School, because of injuries.
“It was awesome,” MacIntyre said. “When I said he was going in, it was exciting to see him go in there and do that and I know it meant a lot to him. He’s going to be really good. He keeps coming on. He’s making strides. We all wish it was faster than it was, but his patience and his persistence and really his mental toughness — his physical toughness too – but his mental toughness is amazing to me.”
Ronnie Blackmon finished Friday with 82 yards on five punt returns. In the last decade, only one CU returner had a better night: Isaiah Oliver’s 124 yards (including a key TD) vs. UCLA in 2016. Blackmon had 96 yards on 12 returns last year. … Senior Jase Franke recorded the third sack of his career. Two of the three have come in season openers.