Buffs Notes: Defense Solid In Opening Win Over Northern Colorado
BOULDER — While Colorado's offense struggled to find a rhythm early Friday night, the Buffaloes' defense made sure Northern Colorado didn't find the end zone until the game was firmly in hand.
The Buffs shut the Bears out until the end of the third quarter, coming up with some key stops along the way and giving the CU offense plenty of opportunities to find its footing.
It all added up to a 35-7 CU win at Folsom Field in the season opener for both teams.
CU's defense was outstanding against the run, holding UNC to just 20 yards rushing. Colorado forced the Bears to punt on their first five possessions of the night, sacked UNC quarterback Dylan McCaffrey three times and also came up with a big Mekhi Blackmon interception in the end zone near the end of the first half to protect a 14-0 CU lead going into intermission.
"It was a decent game for our first game," said junior defensive back Chris Miller, who played his first complete game since the 2019 season. "We had great energy."
Miller, who has been plagued by injuries for much of his career, was in on four tackles, tying for the team lead with linebacker Nate Landman and Blackmon. Guy Thomas, Na'im Rodman and Jalen Sami all recorded sacks, and the Buffs added three other tackles for loss.
CU also limited UNC to just 3-for-13 on third-down conversion tries and 0-for-2 on fourth down conversion attempts.
SPREADING THE WEALTH: Four different CU backs — Jarek Broussard, Alex Fontenot, Ashaad Clayton and Deion Smith — scored a touchdown Friday. It was the first career score for Smith, who missed all of last season with a knee injury.
Clayton finished with a career-best 51 yards on eight carries, including a 35-yard jaunt, the longest CU play of the night.
And, while he didn't get a carry, freshman back Jayle Stacks is proving to be a valuable red zone player, throwing some key blocks on a couple of touchdowns from the fullback spot.
In the passing game, eight different Buffs caught passes. Freshman Montana Lemonious-Craig caught two passes for 23 yards, including a 17-yard touchdown for the first score of his career. Tight end Alec Pell and wide receiver Chase Penry also notched the first receptions of their collegiate careers.
SPECIAL TEAMS SOLID: Freshman kicker Cole Becker just missed connecting on a 53-yard field goal, hitting the crossbar. But he was perfect on five extra point tries.
Colorado also had a good night in the return game. Dimitri Stanley returned three punts for 68 yards, giving CU good field position each time, and Brenden Rice had a 44-yard kick return.
Punter Josh Watts kicked three times for a 40.0-yard average, and dropped one inside the 20-yard line.
BUFFS BITS: CU's student section was raucous from the beginning, providing a big boost for new CU mascot Ralphie VI, who made her debut … The announced crowd was 44,153 … Transfer linebacker Jack Lamb made his debut, getting into the game in a relief role and collecting one tackle … True freshman quarterback Drew Carter made an appearance late, his debut as a Buff … Freshman DB Kaylin Moore had a pass breakup in his first appearance for CU … Jamar Montgomery had a pair of quarterback hurries.