That was obvious Saturday, as the defense kept the offense out of the end zone during most of the 15 drives, a handful of which were goal line stand situations. The first-stringers played against first-stringers, second-teamers vs. second-teamers throughout the day.
Buff linebacker Brian Iwuh was active and ended with six tackles, including one for a loss, and a sack. As many of his defensive teammates have been saying this spring, he likes the new 4-3 defensive scheme.
"It gives me a chance to make more tackles, make more plays and use my abilities more," he said. "It's better for everybody because we get better breaks on the ball and better reads. Plus, it fits our personnel on the defense better.
"It's more of an attacking defense; more aggressive than last year."
Defensive tackle Matt McChesney led the Buffs in their new aggressive look with nine tackles, while linebacker Thaddaeus Washington added eight stops, a pass broken up and the day's only interception, as well as three third-down stops. His backup, Jason Ackermann, also had eight tackles.
Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz was positive, but cautious about the performance Saturday.
"I liked the way we flew around and hit. We made some plays," Hankwitz said. "For the most part, we were able to keep our poise and keep them out of the end zone. Our offense is a little limited right now receiver wise. But I like our spirit; I like the attitude we're developing.
"Now, there's a saying in coaching: Usually things aren't as good as they seem, or as bad as they seem. But I think we've got something we can build on."
Indeed, CU was hampered on offense as four players expected to contribute in the fall — Tyler Littlehales, Blake Mackey, Stephone Robinson and Dusty Sprague — didn't participate due to various ailments.
Still, in some ways, the CU offense looked ahead of where it was last year at this time. And unlike in several games last season, the Colorado running backs had some running lanes. The offense ended up with 179 yards rushing on 57 carries, for a 3.1 yard average. The long run of the day (15 yards) belonged to Lawrence Vickers.
Senior Mike Duren led the receivers with eight catches. Klatt went 17-for-23 for 106 yards.
But with one exception, the defense kept the offense from making any big plays. The biggest gain of the day came on a fluky play that should have been an interception. Instead, Bernard Jackson's pass went in and out of the hands of safety Chris Russell and into the arms of WR Nick Holz for a 43 yard gain. The defense made up for it by stuffing the offense on the next few plays, keeping them out of the end zone.
And offensive coordinator Shawn Watson saw enough to where he was encouraged by the performance.
"I'm really pleased right now with the way our players are coming along," he said. "By no stretch of the imagination are we a done product. But the one thing that we are doing right now we're playing fast and physical. We didn't have that last year. We struggled and were hit and miss. But it's been every day, every play. I'm pleased, but we've just got to keep the hammer down."
Interim head coach Brian Cabral echoed the need to keep pushing for improvement through the next three practices and next Saturday's spring game.
"Two things can happen: We can finish strong or we can fade," he said. "If we fade, we're defeated. We've got to finish strong. They've come so far, they've done so much, to fade would be the worst thing that could happen to us. We've got to find a way to finish strong."
1. Drive 6—Crosby 35 FG
Drive 7—Eberhart 52 FG
Drive 14—Eberly 20 FG
Drive 15—Crosby 25 FG
Drive 16—Caesar 3 run (Eberhart kick)
Drive 17—Purify 9 run (Crosby kick)
Drive 18—Eberly 40 FG
Drive 20—Caesar 3 run (No PAT kick)
4th & Goal Drills:
Drive 21—Purify 3 run (No PAT kick)
Drive 22—Crawford 3 run (No PAT kick)
Bobby Purify, 19-52-2.7-1-9t
Brandon Caesar, 11-42-3.8-0-8
Isaiah Crawford, 12-34-2.8-0-8
Lawrence Vickers 8-27-3.4-0-15
Daniel Jolly 3-13-4.3-0-10
Joel Klatt 2-8-4.0-0-5
Bernard Jackson 2-3-1.5-0-6
(Quarterback Sacks 5 -32)
Joel Klatt 23-17-1-73.9-106-0-16-3/23
Bernard Jackson 8-4-0-50.0-53-0-43-1/ 8
James Cox 12-7-0-58.3-52-0-20-0/ 0
Brian White 4-3-0-75.0-29-0-14-1/1
Erik Greenberg 6-3-0-50.0-11-0-7-0/0
Totals 53-34-1-64.2-251-0-43 -5/32
Mike Duren 8-61-7.6-0-16
Jesse Wallace 4-26-6.5-0-10
Ron Monteilh 4-18-4.5-0-6
Bobby Purify 4-12-3.0-0-6
Nick Holz 3-53-17.7-0-43
Marcus Gonzales 3-29-9.7-0-14
Quinn Sypniewski 3-12-4.0-0-7
Evan Judge 2-24-12.0-0-20
Lawrence Vickers 2-16-8.0-0-11
Isaiah Crawford 1-0-0.0-0-0
No. Yards Avg. TD Long
Thaddaeus Washington 1-16-16.0-0-16
PAT FG-FGA (distances)
Mason Crosby 1- 1 2-3 (50wl, 35 , 25)
J.T. Eberly 0- 0 2- 2 20, 40
Kevin Eberhart 1- 1 1-1 52
UT AT TOT TFL QB Sack 3DStop
Matt McChesney 5 4— 9 2-9 1-6
Thaddaeus Washington 5 3—8 2-9 1-7 3
Jason Ackermann 4 4— 8 1-1 1
Brian Iwuh 5 1—6 1-1 1-1 3
Dominique Brooks 3 3—6 1-2
Tyrone Henderson 2 4— 6
Gerett Burl 4 1—5
Akarika Dawn 4 1—5 1
Vance Washington 4 0—4 1
Chad Cusworth 3 1—4 1- 3
Alex Ligon 2 2—4
Sammy Joseph 2 2—4
Marcus Jones 1 3—4
Tom Hubbard 4 0—4
Lorenzo Sims 3 1—4 2
Chadd Evans 1 3—4 1- 3
Chris Russell 3 0—3 1
Abraham Wright 2 1—3 2-18 2-18 1
James Garee 2 1—3 1-1
Vaka Manupuna 1 2—3 1- 3 1
John Martin 1 1—2 1
McKenzie Tilmon 1 1— 2
Ben Carpenter 0 2—2
Joe Sanders 1 0—1
Nick Clement 0 1—1
J.J. Billingsley 0 0—0 1
FUMBLE RECOVERIES (0) .
FORCED FUMBLES (0) .
PASSES BROKEN UP (6)— Billingsley, Burl, Iwuh, Russell, T.Washington, V.Washington.
HURRIES (8)— Garee 2, McChesney 2, Barrett, Evans, Manupuna, Wright.