CU Buffs aim to regroup on defense

Buffs gave up 52 points in Saturday’s loss to Oregon

Colorado's Isaiah Lewis and Marvin Ham make a tackle against Oregon on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021 in Eugene, Ore. (Casey Paul/University of Colorado)
Colorado’s Isaiah Lewis and Marvin Ham make a tackle against Oregon on Saturday, Oct. 30, 2021 in Eugene, Ore. (Casey Paul/University of Colorado)

Chris Wilson walked out of the locker room at Autzen Stadium, grabbed a postgame meal and headed for the bus.

Colorado’s defensive coordinator couldn’t wait to get out of Eugene, Ore., on Saturday and back to his office.

“I’m looking forward to getting back in the building tonight and getting it fixed,” Wilson said after CU’s 52-29 loss to Oregon.

The loss dropped the Buffs to 2-6 (1-4 Pac-12), with a home date against Oregon State (5-3, 3-2) coming up on Saturday at Folsom Field.

During Wilson’s first season as coordinator, the Buffs have been solid on defense, but they got shredded on Saturday by an explosive Oregon offense. CU hadn’t given up 40 points, let alone 50, in a game all season and ranked among the top defenses in the Pac-12.

Oregon, however, racked up 568 yards – 74 more than anyone else has put on the Buffs – and scored on all eight of its possessions with the first-team offense. Seven of those possessions ended with touchdowns.

“First of all, you’ve got to give those guys a lot of credit,” Wilson said of the Ducks. “They did a great job of executing. They won their one-on-one opportunities and we didn’t.”

One obvious difference for the Buffs was the absence of inside linebacker Nate Landman. The All-American candidate was injured in a 26-3 loss to California on Oct. 23 and it’s unclear if he will return this season.

Head coach Karl Dorrell said Landman, a senior, is feeling better, but the future is a consideration, as well. Landman is hoping to get selected in the NFL Draft next spring and may not want to risk further injury by playing in a season that has derailed for the Buffs.

“We want to do what’s best for Nate,” Dorrell said. “He has a potential career beyond here, so I want to make sure that when he’s ready to play, he’s ready to play.”

At some point – whether that’s now or in 2022 – the Buffs will have to learn how to play without him. In the last four years, they’ve played two games without him – the Alamo Bowl in December and Saturday at Oregon – and the results have been ugly. In those two games, the Buffs have given up 107 points and 1,206 yards.

“We’re going to have to grow,” Dorrell said. “We have to grow up and (have) that next man theory. Nate can’t do everything and I don’t think he would have done everything today. It was a number of issues, I think, on the defensive side that we struggled with that I don’t think Nate would have been able to have been the answer either. So we’ve got to get better there.”

CU lined up offsides four times against the Ducks and had three penalties on defense on the opening possession. And, they struggled just as much in the secondary as in the front seven.

“There’s some things that we obviously have to do better from an alignment standpoint,” Wilson said. “They lined up in multiple formations that we saw. We (as coaches) have got to do a better job of getting them prepared for it and we didn’t. We’ll just keep progressing.

“Obviously, it’s one of the most disappointing outings of the year. … What we’ve got to do is we’ve got to go back in and we’ve got to fix our issues. They’re correctable and they have been (correctable this season).”

Wilson said that while the Buffs missed Landman, who made the trip and provided some leadership from the sidelines, he hopes Saturday’s performance is an eye-opener for others in getting the defense back on track.

“Hopefully what it does is it lets everybody know how important their role is and their ownership,” Wilson said. “Hey, you’re only one or two plays away from being a starter.”

Safety Isaiah Lewis said the struggles on defense were simply attributed to players not performing well.

“It came down more to we’ve just got to take on our roles and execute them the way we’re supposed to, no matter who’s out there,” Lewis said.

Whether Landman plays on Saturday against Oregon State or not, Wilson is confident his defense can regroup.

“I believe in those guys and I believe that once they see the tape and they see how we can get these things corrected, we’ll make a point of emphasis throughout the rest of the week,” he said.