Midway through the first quarter of Colorado’s opener on Aug. 31, the Buffaloes got a bit of a scare when senior safety Evan Worthington was slow to get up after a big hit against Colorado State receiver Warren Jackson.
Worthington missed a large chunk of spring practices with a concussion, and then missed some time during preseason camp with another concussion.
This week, however, Worthington said he simply had to get used to hitting again. Although he had been in on a couple of tackles before the hit on Jackson, that was his first big, open-field hit in a while.
“I just hit the guy and I haven’t really hit anybody in camp because I was sitting out for most of it,” He said. “I just got shocked from hitting so hard. It was just one of the first pops of the year for me. It was a little scary, but I didn’t feel anything in my head, so I was like, ‘It can’t be a concussion.’ I felt fine; it was just a little shocking.”
Worthington missed the rest of that CSU series, but returned and played most of the night. He was on the field for 62 of CSU’s 76 offensive snaps, finishing with five tackles.
“Yeah, it felt good, playing and getting back to what I’m supposed to be doing,” he said. “I felt weird for a good minute (after the hit on Jackson) and after that I came back to my senses and I was good.”
Worthington was part of a great performance by the CU defense, and it got him excited for what that unit can do this season.
“It was real fun, especially when we’re up like that,” he said. “It’s just like everybody is out there doing their thing, having fun and talking to each other. It’s a great experience.”
Of course, last year, the Buffs started strong on defense – allowing just six points in the first two games combined – and wound up not being very good on that side of the ball. But, as the Buffs (1-0) visit Nebraska (0-0) today, Worthington believes this is more sustainable.
“There were definitely some signs,” he said. “I could tell our front seven was playing great. Last year that’s something we struggled with, so having them play like that it really changes our whole game.
“There’s definitely a different feel to it. We feel we’re more connected as a whole defensive unit. The way we’re flying around and doing things the correct ways, messing up a little less than before, it definitely feels better than it did last year.”
One of the reasons Worthington and the Buffs are excited about their defense is junior Buff back Davion Taylor. A transfer from Coahoma (Miss.) Community College, Taylor made his CU and Division I football debut against CSU last week.
“I was nervous, but it was very exciting,” Taylor said. “It was what I expected: a lot of people, a lot of energy. Now since I’ve got that first game out of the way, I’m ready for the next one.”
Taylor was on the field for 30 plays against the Rams, totaling three tackles, including one for loss. He said he was encouraged by his individual performance.
“I didn’t make that many mistakes,” he said. “I was nervous, and I was thinking too much when I got in, but I think my mistakes were lower than I really expected.
“Mostly my technique, I need to work on that a little bit better. Running to the ball more. I kind of got tired on the field, but I tried to push through it. The game here at D-I is faster than JUCO. You have to read faster, you have to think faster. You can’t mostly react. You have to know what you’re doing and then react.”
Versatility a key to CU offense
Against CSU, we saw the Buffs do some new things offense, including lining up receiver Laviska Shenault in various spots – receiver, H-back, in the backfield and even wildcat QB.
Watching the Buffs put 45 points and 596 yards on the board was exciting, but there’s still a lot more to this offense.
“We obviously didn’t run very much of the offense; I thought that was fairly obvious,” QB Steven Montez said. “We ran a few plays that we had practiced a lot, and we ran them at a very high level. I think that is why we were able to run so few plays. We were executing the plays we were running at a very high level.”
The Buffs, of course, didn’t want to reveal what might be in store for today at Nebraska, but there’s no question there’s more to show, and it could actually be better.
“I think we just have to be a little more disciplined in the second half,” co-offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini said. “We got a lead and I thought we got a little bit content with having the lead. We have to finish people in the second half and keep pushing tempo, keep pressing the defense.
“(But), I was excited to see all the hard work in fall camp; it showed up in that game.”
Experiencing the rivalry
Worthington is one a few Buffs that grew up understandingly the CU vs. Nebraska rivalry. Born in Denver, Worthington followed the Buffs growing up, especially when his cousin, J.J. Billingsley, played for them from 2002-06.
“It was one of the biggest rivalries as a child growing up,” he said. “I had family from Nebraska and some of them like Nebraska, and I did have some family that went to Colorado; I had a cousin that played here (JJ Billingsley), so it was a big rivalry to us.
“We all knew it was one of the biggest games of the year and whenever we got out of the Big 12, it was just real shocking that they wouldn’t play this game anymore.”
CU hasn’t played the Cornhuskers since 2010, of course, but Worthington is glad he gets a chance to play them before his college career comes to a close.
“Yeah, I’m definitely excited because Nebraska is just right around the corner for us and it’s still a big rivalry to me,” he said.
- CU kicker James Stefanou is close to setting a record. The sophomore has made each of his first 41 extra points – just two shy of the CU record for most consecutive made PAT kicks to start a career. Neil Voskeritchian made his first 43 in 1994.
- Montez needs just 90 yards to reach 5,000 yards of total offense for his career. He comes into today with 4,910 – 4,330 passing, 580 rushing.
- Since 1983, Nebraska is 23-9 against the Pac-12. That does not include games against CU when the Buffs were in the Big 12.
- Since 1962, Nebraska coaches are 5-1 in their debut. The only loss came from Mike Riley to BYU in 2015. That snapped a streak of 29 consecutive wins in season openers for the Cornhuskers.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at email@example.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.