Notes: The man in the middle

Josh Tupou's stats do not jump off the page, but in a way, he is the heartbeat of a Colorado defense that ranks No. 1 in the Pac-12 in total defense and No. 2 in rushing defense.

Five of the Buffaloes' defensive players have recorded more tackles than Tupou through nine games. Yet, an argument could be made he has been Colorado's most valuable player. Last season, while Tupou was serving a year-long suspension, the Buffs ranked eight spots lower in the 12-team conference in rushing defense.

“Josh is doing a great job. Like an offensive lineman sometimes, he is the unsung hero,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said when asked about his 325-pound space-eating nose tackle. “He doesn't make as many name plays over the intercom or that type of thing but he clogs up the middle, gets our linebackers being able to run. He has played really, really well.”

Said defensive line coach Jim Jeffcoat: “He is the anchor of our defense and he is a dominant nose and you see it every week. He is so strong and so athletic and he is hard to move. Normally the other team can't block him one-on-one and that makes him so effective.”

Does Tupou ever tell inside linebacker Kenneth Olugbode he owes him about four or five of his tackles per game? (Olugbode leads the Buffs by a wide margin with 93 tackles)

Oh, no, never,” Tupou answered humbly. “Everybody on defense, we're just doing our job. … It always feels good to see others on the team eat, especially the linebackers. 'K.O.' is a senior and has been around for a long time, so it is good to see that. It is a lot of gratification.”

During his absence from campus last year, Tupou said he received constant encouragement from Jeffcoat, his family and “the guys on the team.” He always knew he would return to Boulder, and never entertained any other options.

He missed me the most. Make sure you put that in there because I want him to read that,” Jeffcoat said laughing. “He always wanted to come back and be part of this. He missed the players and he missed playing with these guys.

Throughout that process, I told him, 'Hey, just hang in there and things will work you. You'll have your opportunity.' He did everything right and got back and you see what is happening.”

Additional notes -

*** The Buffs have held six opponents to 16 points or less this season, marking the first time they have accomplished that feat since 1998. And Colorado is one of only six schools nationally that have held five or more opponents to under 300 yards of offense this season.

Defense has played well. You always have to have defense to win championships. I have always believed that and I will never stop believing that,” MacIntyre said.

You have to score points, but there are days when the offense isn't always going to be clicking,” he added. “It is kind of like in basketball... there are going to be days your three-pointers are not going to be falling. You better play defense and you better rebound. It is the exact same thing with defense and football.”

*** Freshman walk-on place kicker Davis Price will be available for the Buffaloes this Saturday after he missed the previous two games with mononucleosis.

He kicked well this week. So did Chris [Graham],” MacIntyre said. “We'll just keep working and see what happens at game time. But I was pleased with Davis's kicking this week.”

*** For just the second time since the 1955 season when Air Force began playing collegiate football, all five Division-1 teams along the Rocky Mountain Front Range have winning records after the first weekend in November: Colorado and Wyoming (7-2), Air Force and New Mexico (6-3), and Colorado State (5-4).

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