Secondary Opened 'Pandora's Box'

After watching film from Saturday's game, CU defensive coaches came up with the same conclusion they had directly following the game: There are problems, but they're fixable. Inside, DB coach Craig Bray talks about what's ahead for the secondary.

On Monday, Coach Craig Bray and his defensive backs spent three and a half hours watching film from the Colorado win over Colorado State game. Despite the final play heroics by two of those backs — J.J. Billingsley and Lorenzo Sims, who combined for the game-saving tackle — Bray spent the day pointing out the many places his unit needs to improve.

Allowing a quarterback to throw for 403 yards, as Justin Holland did, will lead to long film sessions.

"I thought we started the game well, and then because of our lack of experience we just got flustered," Bray said of the secondary. "We over emphasized some things. We probably made them play too cautious. And when you play too cautious, you don't do anything."

Saturday's starters —corners Sims and Gerett Burl, and safeties Tyrone Henderson and Dominique Brooks — had a combined 13 games of experience between them. Of course, the lack of an effective pass rush by the CU defense had a lot to do with CSU's success in its passing game. But Bray's focus is on the secondary.

"I told them, ‘You guys opened up Pandora's Box. People are licking their chops when they look at this film. You've got to understand that and you've got to correct it. You've got to pay more attention to film study, pay more attention to practice,'" Bray said.

The good news is that Bray thinks they can close Pandora's Box.

"It's all fixable," Bray said. "We're never going to be a totally denial group at this point, but we can sure be sound and make plays. We were in position to make a lot of plays, and we've just got to do a better job. And we will."

Burl said Saturday's experience defending Holland and the CSU passing attack should help as the season wears on.

"There's a lot of good quarterbacks in the Big 12," he said. "Seeing a good quarterback your first week is just going help us to get better."

One of the things Bray has stressed since the opening of fall camp is the need for the defensive backs to read their keys — watch the first move by key offensive players to analyze where the play is going and react accordingly.

"Players are conditioned to watch the game like we watch it on TV," Bray said. "But that's not how you've got to do it as a football player. You've got keys that you've got to see. They've been conditioned over 15-18 years to watch TV. And they don't focus on those things."

"If they put their eyes in the right place, they will know what to do by what their keys tell them. And then it becomes an easy game," he added.

One player who read his keys on the final play Saturday was Billingsley, who saw the tackle pull and knew the pitch play to the CSU running back was coming. He reacted and made the stop.

For just the second time in 43 years, a CU defense held an opponent without a rushing first down when CSU failed to move the markers on the ground. The other time came in 1999 vs. the Josh Huepel-led Oklahoma Sooners at Folsom.

Bray coached at Washington State, 1987-88, and 1994-99, and is still friends with several coaches on the WSU staff, including fishing buddy Bill Doba, the Cougars' head coach.

Players went through a practice in shorts and pads Monday. But they got a lot done in terms of film study earlier in the day, due to the fact they were out of class because of the holiday.

Asked how the coaches were addressing the possibility of the team letting down after playing an emotional game vs. CSU, Barnett said, "One of the things we tried to stress Saturday is not playing emotionally, but playing passionately. We had a couple guys out of control, but for the most part I think we did that."

He said one piece of evidence of that was through feedback from the CU-CSU referees.

"For the first time since this game's been played, none of the officials came over to me and said, ‘Everybody's out of control, and there's too much trash talking out there,'" Barnett said. "It was a clean, hard fought game between two teams just going about their business. That's usually a sign of people playing passionately, not emotionally."

Safety Dominique Brooks sustained a mild concussion in Saturday's game and was held out of contact Monday. He should be OK for Saturday's game vs. WSU.

Colorado coaches grade their offensive linemen by giving either a positive or negative mark for each player on each play, then divide the plus plays by the total number of plays they participate in. Senior OT Sam Wilder had the highest grades vs. CSU, 88.4 percent. Terrance Barreau, starting at guard for the first time, earned 77.3 percent, but led the squad with five knockdown blocks.

Starting linebackers Akarika Dawn, Jordon Dizon and Brian Iwuh led the team with eight tackles each. Dizon also had two knockdown blocks on special teams, a touchdown saving tackle and a forced interception.

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