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CU Buffs defense gets boost of confidence

Colorado defense holds San Diego State offense to 155 yards, three points

BOULDER, CO - Nov. 28, 2020: ...
BOULDER, CO – November 28, 2020: Colorado’s Akil Jones tackles Kaegun Williams, of SDSU, during the Colorado San Diego State game at Folsom Field in Boulder on November 28, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
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Nate Landman felt pretty good after the Colorado Buffaloes gave up just 10 points in a win on Saturday night, but he was quick to point out a technicality.

“We actually only gave up three points,” the senior linebacker said.

Colorado remained undefeated with a 20-10 win against San Diego State at Folsom Field and all 10 points by the Aztecs will get tagged to the Buffs’ defense, but Landman is right: only three of those points were scored with the defense on the field.

BOULDER, CO - Nov. 28, 2020: ...
BOULDER, CO – November 28, 2020: SDSU’s QB, Jordon Brookshire, is sacked by Derrion Rakestraw, of CU, during the Colorado San Diego State game at Folsom Field in Boulder on November 28, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Take out the interception return for touchdown by the Aztecs and their offense managed just a field goal against CU.

“It’s a huge step for this defense,” Landman said.

CU (3-0) gave up an average of 37.0 points and 437.5 yards in the first two games, but was simply dominant against the Aztecs. In addition to keeping them out of the end zone, CU held the Aztecs to just 155 yards.

Sure, San Diego State doesn’t have an elite offense. Yeah, the Aztecs played without their leading rusher and their top quarterback – playing most of the game with their third-stringer.

Regardless, this was an impressive effort by the Buffs’ defense.

CU hadn’t kept an opposing offense out of the end zone since a 37-3 win against Texas State on Sept. 9, 2017. SDSU’s 155 yards were the fewest by a CU opponent since Idaho State (96 yards) on Sept. 10, 2016; and the fewest by an FBS team since Miami-Ohio (139) on Sept. 22, 2007.

“We wanted to set that standard,” safety Derrion Rakestraw said. “We want to create that identity for ourselves that we can go out there and shut teams out. We believe we could do it for the first two weeks, too. It’s just those little adjustments. Once we get those things fixed, we’re a better team.”

San Diego State did bust a couple of big plays, but never got much going. The Aztecs ran 59 plays, with 30 of them going for zero or negative yards.

The Buffs recorded 11 tackles for loss, including four by Carson Wells and 3.5 by Landman. Coming into the game, Landman had six sacks in his career, but he added three against the Aztecs.

“It was fun to see,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “That was a beautiful thing seeing those guys (Landman and Wells) in the backfield half the night. I like that.”

San Diego State came in ranking 12th nationally with 246.0 rushing yards per game, but managed just 79 on 31 carries against the Buffs. It’s SDSU’s lowest single-game total since getting 64 rushing yards at Fresno State on Nov. 17, 2018.

“Going into this, we knew we had to stop the run,” Rakestraw said. “They’ve got some really good running backs. We didn’t have too much time to prepare but we went out there and got it done, we believed in each other, believed in the coaches and their game plan that we could put together, and we got it done. It’s huge for us. It’s a confidence booster.”

CU has been gaining confidence on defense each week, improving its numbers every game.

“I thought our defense played inspired. I thought they did a great job,” Dorrell said. “We’re gonna hopefully keep that trend going. They made a great number of improvements from what it’s been in the first two games to this third game, so I’m very excited about what our defense looks like.”