As one of four captains on Saturday, Colorado linebacker Nate Landman went to midfield for the coin toss while wearing a sweatshirt and a hat.
For the second consecutive week, Landman was unavailable to play, leaving the Buffaloes’ defense without its top player.
This time, however, the Buffs figured out how to play some solid defense without him in a 37-34 overtime win against Oregon State at Folsom Field.
“I think it gave us a lot of confidence because those guys stepped up and made some plays and not that their play was perfect but they played better than it was last week, so I’m really thinking that they’re going to build off of that,” CU head coach Karl Dorrell said.
Landman, an All-American candidate and Butkus Award semifinalist, was injured late in a 26-3 loss at California on Oct. 23. Coming into Saturday, the Buffs had played 10 quarters without him over the past year and it was ugly. In those 10 quarters, the defense allowed 135 points (54.0 per game) and 7.2 yards per rushing attempt.
A week ago, Oregon piled up 52 points and 568 yards. Oregon State came into Saturday with the top rushing attack in the Pac-12, averaging 231.0 yards per game.
OSU scored 34 points and rushed for 220 yards, but it was a positive step for the CU defense. Through the first 59 minutes, 59 seconds of the game, the Buffs had allowed just 24 points.
“I kind of took it upon myself to fill that role (Landman usually fills),” linebacker Quinn Perry said. “Me and Nate have talked about it a bunch. It’s a big game for me to seize the opportunity.”
Perry led the Buffs with nine tackles against the Beavers, including a tackle for loss. Fellow inside linebacker Robert Barnes had his best game as a Buff, with seven tackles. Marvin Ham II and Jack Lamb added a combined five tackles.
Aside from the inside linebackers, there were others who stepped up, too. Outside linebacker Carson Wells had seven tackles, a sack and two QB hurries; safety Isaiah Lewis picked off a pass and had five tackles; safety Mark Perry added four tackles, a tackle for loss and pass breakup; and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson added a tackle for loss.
“The defense, we just played a collective game,” Quinn Perry said. “Everyone did their job; 11 hats to the ball. Obviously, they made good plays that they earned, but I feel like as a collective unit, we really just locked into our assignments more than usual. And especially this last week of practice, we had a big emphasis on stopping the run because that’s their MO.”
CU didn’t stop the run, as the Beavers still got plenty of yards, but the Buffs got enough stops to win a game. More importantly, they gained some confidence without Landman on the field.
“Are they perfect? No, but they are making plays in some moments that I think is going to help build their confidence to play even better as we move forward,” Dorrell said. “I really do feel good about that.”