Buffs Defense Solid Against High-Powered Aggies
BOULDER — Colorado head coach Karl Dorrell received even more reassurance Saturday that he has a defense he can rely on following a 10-7 loss to No. 5 Texas A&M at Empower Field in Denver.
A week after allowing just seven points to FCS foe Northern Colorado, the Colorado defense proved to be ready for the challenge presented by the Aggies. The TAMU offense did not get a first down until its final possession of the first half and was held out of the end zone until a late score in the fourth quarter. The Aggies finished with just 97 yards rushing and were forced to punt eight times.
"Defensively, I felt (our players) played their butts off," an emotional Dorrell said after the game. "I'm very proud of that."
With an offense failing to put up points after a touchdown from Jarek Broussard in the first quarter, the defense knew they had to step up to stay in the game.
"Those are our brothers," said linebacker Carson Wells. "At the end of the day we got to pick them up. We know that if they're having a rough day, we'll pick them up, and same thing with us. If we're having a rough day they'll pick us up the same way."
Following an early injury to A&M's starting quarterback Haynes King, head coach Jimbo Fisher called on backup quarterback Zach Calzada. The Buffs stifling front seven did all they could to make the sophomore uncomfortable, pressuring the quarterback four times and sacking him once thanks to a tackle behind the line of scrimmage by Na'im Rodman. CU also held the A&M run game at bay for most of the afternoon, limiting Isaiah Spiller and Devon Achane to just 72 total yards a week after the two ran for 237 yards in a 41-10 win over Kent State.
Senior linebacker Nate Landman led the Buffs with 10 solo tackles and two pass breakups. Junior safety Isaiah Lewis tacked on six of his own tackles with freshman cornerback Christian Gonzalez following with five. The Buffs also got quality defensive contributions across the board. Defensive ends Guy Thomas and Terrance Lang were great with providing pressure to Calzada and stopping the run. The secondary was key, limiting yards after catch with some important tackles and preventing the Aggies talented receivers from getting free. Although the visitors from the SEC had a pair of long fourth quarter drives, Dorrell was still encouraged by how the secondary performed, allowing just 78 yards through the air in the first three periods of play.
"I thought it was great," said Dorrell about covering A&M's passing offense. "Their best receiver was a running back today. We had great coverage most of the day."
In the fourth quarter, the Buffs were still holding on to a slight 7-3 lead. A&M's offense was picking up momentum and when Calzada kept the ball on a 13-yard rush toward the end zone, it looked like the Aggies had finally broken through. Initially called a touchdown, further review revealed that the ball came loose as Calzada was reaching across the plane. Freshman linebacker Joshka Gustav punched it into the end zone where cornerback Mekhi Blackmon was there to pick it up for his second turnover of the season. With 8:45 left in the game, it was a monumental moment that looked like it could have saved the win for the Buffs.
Bt aufter not moving the chains on the ensuing drive, CU gave the Aggies the ball back. Calzada connected with Spiller on a pass into the left side of the end zone and gave A&M the lead for good, 10-7. It was a heartbreaking way to lose a game, especially after many outside of Boulder were not giving the Buffs a chance to win. But that does not take away from the optimism the defensive unit has for the future.
"That's a significant offense," said Wells. "They got a lot of weapons all over the field. We did a good job limiting them. Let's do a better job moving forward."