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CU Buffs’ Isaiah Lewis making most of opportunity

Safety played all 79 defensive snaps against Stanford

University of Colorado athletics
Safety Isaiah Lewis has a team-high five pass breakups for the Colorado Buffaloes.

Opportunities to play on defense didn’t come often for Isaiah Lewis during his first three years with the Colorado Buffaloes.

Two games into his fourth season, Lewis is not only playing, but he’s arguably been the best member of the secondary for the Buffaloes (2-0), who are slated to visit 19th-ranked Southern California (3-0) on Saturday.

“I follow the model to just trust the journey and stay true to the process,” Lewis said. “I know that some guys get on the field immediately and some guys have to work their way in.”

A 6-foot, 205-pound safety from Granite Bay, Calif., Lewis redshirted in 2017 and made just five appearances on defense from 2018-19, playing a total of 29 snaps. He also played every game in 2019 on special teams.

“I think just kind of staying loyal to special teams and making sure that I’m staying in the playbook and keying in on details, it was a difference maker,” he said. “Continuing to follow details was what I stuck to and I think it worked out for the best.”

Lewis didn’t win a starting job in preseason camp, but played 41 snaps off the bench in the opener against UCLA. An injury to junior Chris Miller in that game opened the door even more. Lewis played all 79 defensive snaps against Stanford on Nov. 14.

He’s recorded seven tackles and a team-high five pass breakups so far this season.

“Here’s a guy that’s been under the radar,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “He had a really good training camp for us and he plays a number of positions in our secondary, and particularly our safety position. Then when Chris went down, prior to the Stanford game, he had to show in that role that Chris was not able to do. He played well but I’m not surprised by that. He had a really good camp.”

Defensive coordinator Tyson Summers has coached Lewis for two years and has seen a different player this year.

“He’s grown so much, and he’s so much more mature, a better player and with that a lot of times comes confidence,” Summers said. “I think what you see a lot of guys doing is playing with a pretty high level of confidence in what we’re doing.”

Lewis is gaining confidence, and the Buffs are gaining confidence in him.

“He’s been huge,” senior safety Derrion Rakestraw said. “One of the guys that had probably one of the best camps. He’s kind of been flying under the radar, but he’s a guy we know we can put him in any position and he can play it. He has experience, has been here pretty long, so he knows the system. It’s just a matter of him just going out there and doing it and he’s been doing that for us.”

Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
Colorado’s Jamar Montgomery pressures Southern California’s Kedon Slovis during their matchup at Folsom Field on Oct. 25, 2019. The Buffs will visit the Trojans on Saturday in Los Angeles.

USC game time

On Sunday, it was announced that the game at USC will kick off at 1:30 p.m. MST (12:30 p.m. PST). It will be televised nationally by ABC.

The Pac-12 also announced Friday’s game between Washington and Washington State will not be played because of COVID-19 issues at WSU. The Cougars also canceled their game at Stanford this past weekend.

Utah’s game at Arizona State will move to Sunday, with the kickoff time to be announced later. ASU has had two consecutive games canceled, including this past weekend at CU, because of COVID-19 issues within its program. Utah has also had two games canceled.

Other matchups this week in the Pac-12 include Arizona at UCLA (6 p.m., Fox) on Saturday; and two Friday matchups: Stanford at California (2:30 p.m., Fox); and Oregon at Oregon State (5 p.m., ESPN).

Team focus

Running back Jarek Broussard has rushed for 187 and 121 yards in the Buffs’ first two games. He’s joined Charlie Davis (1971) and Marcus Houston (2000) as the only players to rush for 100 yards in their first two games at CU.

This week, Broussard will have a chance to join Davis with three consecutive 100-yard games to start a career.

“I’m not really focused on breaking records or anything,” he said. “I’m just trying to help the team win. If that’s what it takes, I’ll do it.”

To get to 308 yards through two games, Broussard has already carried the ball 58 times. He’s not worried about the heavy workload.

“I think I’m pretty good,” he said of his health. “I’m doing a good job doing my recovery considering I’ve had two knee surgeries, so I kind of know what I’ve got to do to stay right and stay on the course.”


Although this is a delayed and shortened season, it’s only the second time since 1937 that CU will take an unbeaten record into Thanksgiving Day. The only other time it happened was 1989, when the Buffs were 11-0. … CU is 0-14 all-time against USC, including 0-9 since joining the Pac-12. … The Buffs have lost their last nine trips to Los Angeles, dating back to a 31-17 win at UCLA on Sept. 21, 2002.

CU opponent glance

Opponent: No. 19 Southern California Trojans

Game time: Saturday, 1:30 p.m. MST at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum


Coach: Clay Helton, 6th season (43-22)

Record: 3-0, 3-0 Pac-12

Last week: Won at Utah, 33-17

Notable: USC took advantage of five turnovers to knock off Utah on Saturday night and set up a battle for first place in the South division with the Buffs. … The Trojans have won six consecutive Pac-12 games and eight of their last nine. … Sophomore quarterback Kedon Slovis has completed 70.7 percent of his passes for 970 yards, five touchdowns and two interceptions. As a freshman last year, he was third in the country in completion percentage (71.9), for 3,502 yards and 30 touchdowns. … USC is scheduled to play the rest of its regular season in Los Angeles, with two consecutive at the Coliseum and a date at cross-town rival UCLA.

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