It might have been a short week for the Colorado football team, but it likely still was a long one for true freshman cornerback KJ Trujillo.
Trujillo was a young man on an island last week at Washington State. The potent Cougars offense clearly saw the rookie corner as the most vulnerable spot on a vulnerable defense, as Trujillo was picked on repeatedly by WSU quarterback Anthony Gordon on a night that saw the Cougars roll up 497 yards of total offense in a 41-10 Buffs defeat.
Trujillo probably will continue to have his fair share of ups and downs as a freshman playing a difficult position. Yet on Friday night, just six days after his long night on The Palouse, Trujillo was able to turn it around against USC despite a late rally by the Trojans that sent the Buffs to their fourth straight loss in a back-and-forth 35-31 decision.
In the early going it still looked as if Trujillo would be alone on an island. He was victimized several times on USC’s opening drive, which lasted just three plays and 75 yards before the Trojans put the first points on the board just 45 seconds after kickoff, as well as the Trojans’ second drive, which looked as it would end in points as well.
That’s when Trujillo stepped up and made a play, turning the momentum the Buffs way that CU, for the most part, held onto the rest of the way. With USC facing a 1st-and-10 at the Colorado 34-yard line, Trujillo stepped in front of a Kedon Slovis pass to record the first interception of his career.
Trujillo wasn’t done providing a few highlights. On USC’s next drive the 6-foot, 165-pound Trujillo recorded his first career sack on Slovis on a third-down play. Trujillo did it again on the following drive, getting credit for a pass broken up on third down.
“I think the main thing with KJ is that he’s a really mature guy,” CU safety Mikial Onu said. “Probably one of the most mature 18-year olds I’ve ever seen. Much more mature than I was at his age. He comes in every day, he works, he asks questions, he’s really smart. He’s not a guy who’s going to have a lot of busts. I’m proud of him, I’m proud of the way he played. He’ll tell you he can be better. I can be better, we all can be better. For a young guy coming out there like that he had a really impressive game. It’s just the beginning for him. He has a bright future.”
Trujillo briefly left the game late in the first half for what appeared to be a knee injury, but he soon returned to the action. While the Buffs’ defense struggled to stop USC when it mattered most, the rookie cornerback no longer was picked on repeatedly. Trujillo ultimately finished with six tackles (all solo), one interception, one sack, and a team-best two passes broken up.
“I think in the first half we executed really well. We had a lot of three and outs. A turnover. just a lot of big plays all around,” Trujillo said. “Our D line and linebackers were putting a lot of pressure on the quarterback, allowing the secondary to execute our jobs make it easier first. In the first half I think we executed really well.
“They rushed the quarterback (on the interception); our D-line and linebackers rushed the quarterback and put a lot of pressure on him. I saw the receiver break on the outcut, so that I was able to break an undercut it.”