CU Buffs defense rallies in second half against Cornhuskers

  • Steven Branscombe / Getty Images North America

    Colorado linebacker Davion Taylor recovers a fumble on Saturday against Nebraska at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Neb.

  • Steven Branscombe / Getty Images North America

    Colorado defensive back Delrick Abrams Jr. celebrates a turnover on Saturday against Nebraska.



LINCOLN, Neb. — During the second quarter on Saturday, the Colorado defense was having flashbacks to 2017.

A year ago, the Buffs ranked 109th in the country in rushing defense, getting run over by Arizona State, Oregon State, Utah and others.

During Saturday’s 33-28 win at Nebraska, it was the Cornhuskers tearing them up.

Led by freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez and tailback Greg Bell, the Cornhuskers shredded CU’s defense for 243 yards on the ground in the first half, turning a 14-0 CU lead into 21-17 Nebraska advantage.

“We were missing a lot of tackles, especially a lot of their big plays,” senior linebacker Rick Gamboa said. “We knew we needed to tackle better.”

In the second half, the defense came to play.

CU held Nebraska to 86 yards on 19 carries after intermission, and that played a big part in keeping the Buffs in the game, setting them up for the win.

While Nebraska finished with 565 yards in total offense, the Buffs held the Cornhuskers to seven points in the second half. Nebraska did miss a field goal in the fourth quarter, but the Buffs also forced two second-half punts, twice stuffed the Cornhuskers on fourth down and got an interception.

“We had a great talk at halftime in the locker room,” said linebacker Nate Landman, who had the interception and a team-high 13 tackles. “Coach went back to our base rules. We worked on a couple of things that we hadn’t seen during the week, got those things fixed and once that happened, we were able to stop the run.”

Safety Evan Worthington said there was no secret to what the Buffs had to do better.

“All it came down to was just wrapping up and making the right tackles,” he said. “There was a lot of missed tackles by all of us.”

Those missed tackles made life a lot easier on Martinez and the Cornhuskers.

In the end, the CU defense rose to the occasion, shutting out Nebraska during the final 20 minutes.

“It was huge,” Gamboa said of the defense rallying. “You could definitely tell in the locker room when we came in for halftime that there was no doubt in anybody’s mind.

“They can get all the yards, but as long as we don’t allow them to score, and hold them to field goals or hold them to no points, that’s the biggest thing for us as a team.”

Landman, Worthington and Gamboa were among the Buffs on defense to play well in the second half. Lineman Mustafa Johnson had a big game, too, with two sacks and seven total tackles.

The performance was made sweeter by the fact that CU forced three straight Nebraska incompletions to end the game. The last one was especially satisfying to Gamboa.

“It was a little hectic (on the last play),” he said. “We practice that situation a lot in practice, but we haven’t actually done it in a game. This was the first time we’ve ever got in that situation in an real, live game. I think that practice paid off. When it finally happens and it pays off for us, it definitely helps.”

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