Buffs Notes: LBs Come Up Big For Buffs
BOULDER — All season long, takeaways had been elusive for the Colorado Buffaloes' defense.
In 10 games, CU had forced just eight turnovers — six interceptions and two fumble recoveries. While takeaways had no doubt been a point of emphasis for Chris Wilson's defense every week, the work had produced minimal results.
Until Saturday. That's when CU's defense, which had produced multiple turnovers in just one game this year, stepped up in a big way in the Buffaloes' home finale, collecting two fumble recoveries and two interceptions to make the difference in a 20-17 Colorado victory over Washington in CU's home finale.
While the ball no doubt finally bounced Colorado's way, head coach Karl Dorrell bristled at a suggestion that the Buffs were the benefactors of some "lucky" breaks.
"I don't consider that lucky," he said. "Those are things that we talked about. We have to be opportunistic. We're around the football and there was a very strong sign of that today. You know Jack (Lamb) was ready to pick up a fumble that was left out on the field in the first quarter. He picked it up and ran. How about Nikko Reed on a great defense on a go ball in the endzone? He makes a great play for an interception … We're trying to preach that, that's how we play defense. For the turnover factor to work you have to look for opportunities. The ball doesn't just fall to you. It has got to be generated."
Colorado's offense struggled to find any rhythm for much of the game. But the Buffs also did not have a single turnover on offense, and the 4-0 differential was just enough to make up for an otherwise statistically dominant game for the Huskies.
Every CU takeaway was critical, but none more so than the first, as two transfers, Jack Lamb (Notre Dame) and Robert Barnes (Oklahoma), came up with big plays, along with a true freshman.
Late in the first quarter, Washington marched deep into CU territory to gain a first-and-goal at the CU three. But following a timeout, UW quarterback Dylan Morris lost the snap and Colorado linebacker Jack Lamb scooped up the ball and didn't stop running until he'd covered 88 yards to the end zone.
That gave CU a 10-0 lead.
Then came a Robert Barnes interception on a tipped ball in Colorado territory to end a UW drive early in the third quarter; a Barnes fumble recovery deep in Washington territory that led to a CU field goal and 13-10 lead early in the fourth quarter; and a big interception from freshman Nikko Reed in the end zone that ended a UW bid for a go-ahead touchdown in the fourth quarter.
Reed's interception, which gave the Buffs the ball at their own 10-yard line following a penalty on the interception, opened the door for a 90-yard CU touchdown drive and 20-10 lead. Washington answered with a quick touchdown drive of its own and, following a CU punt on the ensuing possession, the Huskies had one more chance with the ball with two minutes remaining.
CU made sure the Huskies didn't have another drive in their pocket. After a short completion on first down, CU forced three straight incompletions to regain possession and assume victory formation.
LANDMAN PLAYS: Linebacker Nate Landman, who missed CU's last three games with an injury, spent the vast majority of Saturday's game on the sideline in street clothes. While Landman wanted to play, CU's staff continued to err on the side of caution.
But when CU lined up for its last series of the game and the victory clearly in hand, Landman jogged onto the field in uniform and lined up in the backfield. The move allowed one of CU's all-time great linebackers to get at least a few snaps in his final game at Folsom Field.
"I teared up," said fellow defender and roommate Carson Wells. "There was no better way to end the game."
With one game remaining, Landman is the sixth player in CU history to be in on 400 tackles, currently with 409. His 285 unassisted stops are second on CU's all-time list, his nine fourth-down stops are the most in CU history, as are his 53 third-down stops. His 112 solo tackles in 2019 are second on the single-season list, trailing only Jordon Dizon's 120 in 2007.
"It's a huge honor," Landman said of his last home game. "I love the school and they've done so much for me. I try to repeat and repay that favor on the football field. It was crazy to experience running out there in front of the crowd one last time. Hugging my family, seeing my family and then going through the crazy emotional game and coming out with the win. I'm super thankful for Coach Dorrell, for letting me go on for those last couple of snaps. That's a great experience and I wouldn't change how it all went down. It was amazing."
"QUIET" BIG GAME FOR WELLS: Defensive end/outside linebacker Carson Wells very quietly had a huge impact Saturday in his final game at Folsom (he has one year eligibility left but won't be returning).
Wells had two quarterback sacks on third down to stop two Washington drives, then forced an errant throw on fourth down on UW's last possession to clinch Colorado's win.
"We just kept playing the whole time," Wells said. "It was bend but don't break. We kept fighting the whole game."
Wells was credited with three tackle, including his two sacks and another stop for a loss.
"Carson's been doing that since he's been here with me," Landman said. "I don't think Carson gets enough attention. He's an amazing player and obviously, you could see that by the way he played today."
NOSE FOR END ZONE: Quarterback Brendon Lewis' dive for the end zone pylon late in the fourth quarter gave CU a 20-10 lead. Lewis rolled to his right on the play, but when he couldn't find an open receiver, he put his head down and headed for the goal line.
"It felt really good," Lewis said. "It was really fun. Brou (Jarek Broussard) told me what he was going to do before the play … I just took it in and seeing my teammates get happy and seeing the fans jump up and down, it's just really, really fun just knowing that that sealed the game to get a win for the seniors."
BUFFS BITS: The Buffs did not have a turnover in the game, their sixth such game this season, adding to their school record for turnover-free games. CU's seven turnovers for the year are the second-fewest in the NCAA, trailing only Toledo's six … LB Devin Grant made his first career start … CU averaged 46,484 per game in attendance, and the Buffs finished with a 4-2 record at Folsom this season … Lamb's 88-yard TD fumble return was the third-longest fumble return in CU history, trailing only a 96-yarder by Ben Kelly against Kansas in 1999 and a 95-yarder by Ryan Walters against Kansas in 2006 … UW gained more yards on third down (188) then CU had in total offense for the game (183).