Redshirt-freshman Joe Sanders came off the bench at buff linebacker after starter Brian Iwuh went down with a high ankle sprain. The former tight end's interception return for a touchdown marked the second week in a row a Colorado player as taken a pick for six (Iwuh did it vs. CSU). And he's the 11th CU player in the past 13 years to return his first career interception for a TD.
Question: IS YOUR SWITCH TO DEFENSE MAKING MORE SENSE NOW?
Joe Sanders: It all makes perfect sense right now. Some people, when they switch sides of the ball, it's a terrible thing – they don't know what to do. But I think I was more recruited for defense out of high school than I was for offense. I guess Coach Wristen saw something in me for offense, so I came out here as a tight end, and then we needed a little help on defense so I switched over. It was something I was prepared to do when I first got here – I knew that they might need me on either side of the ball. I'm on defense now and that's what I'm doing.
Q: HOW MUCH DID YOU PLAY BEFORE IWUH GOT HURT?
JS: I played the last five snaps of the CSU game. He bruised his biceps or something like that and I had to come in on those last five plays on the goal line against CSU. But, at the same time, our coaches always tell us to be ready. I guess Darian Hagan, he always talks about his first game experience – he wasn't a starter, and the kid who was a starter went down and he was sort of messing around, and he had to come in and perform. Now look at him – he's probably the best player to ever play for Colorado. He always tells us to be ready because you never know when your number is going to be called.
Mike Hankwitz tells me the same thing. Just like last week – it came down to the last five plays, but I was following them around the whole game ready to get in.
Q: TAKE US THROUGH THE INTERCEPTION.
JS: There were two wide receivers to my side, the quarterback had a little three step drop, and in his drop he was looking in my direction the whole time before he even finished his drop. Both receivers did little out routes – it was a double out – and I saw it coming in his drop and I just jumped the route and he threw it right at me.
Q: WERE YOU WORRIED ABOUT DROPPING IT?
JS: I've got great hands. I'm confident in my ability. It's no thing. I was in the right place at the right time, and I did what I was supposed to do. After that interception, I went home.
For the second week in a row, Mike Hankwitz's defense came up with a big play to preserve the win. And this week, the Buffs put a lot of pressure on the opposing quarterback, as well as playing well against the run.
Mike Hankwitz: I thought we played the run awfully strong, and I'm proud of that, and I believed that we could pressure the quarterback and it came to fruition. We're still young, we still made some mistakes, but we'll get better. I'm just proud of their fight – you do it two weeks in a row and it shows a lot of character.
Q: DID YOU FIND YOURSELVES PRESSURING MORE THROUGHOUT THIS GAME BECAUSE OF THE SUCCESS YOU WERE HAVING?
MH: Our plan going in was to pressure more and we just tried to keep mixing it and mixing it. But, obviously, when you're having success with it, you certainly have to keep doing it.
Q: ARE THINGS COMING TOGETHER FASTER THAN YOU THOUGHT?
MH: I don't know how to put a timetable on that. Some things have hurt us, like we got hurt in the spring and not practice at all, practice very little in two-a-days. J.J. Billingsley missing a significant amount of time, and our front seven, the guys that have been at it week after week, they've gotten better and better. We need the young guys to get the reps and benefit from the experience.
But I am pleased with the way improved from last week to this week. There were a couple plays that I don't think we should've allowed, but we did and we overcame it.
Q: DO YOU THINK HAVING PAC-10 EXPERIENCE HELPED AT ALL?
MH: I think it did because, playing them a year ago, at least you have a feel for what they like to do. I could relate a little to that after watching the video. It certainly was more of a benefit playing them than it was playing CSU because I'd never coached against Coach Lubick's staff.
Q: HOW DID YOU SHUT DOWN THE DEEP PASSING GAME?
MH: They got a couple on us (laughing). They threw the trick play early, that we practiced, but we're still young and we just got a little anxious and bit on it. They did a nice job with that. And then they hit that little quick bubble screen and we didn't get in the right position, and the guy went a long way. And then at the end on the jump ball, we didn't get it. But we tried to protect ourselves deep, mix the coverages into man and zone so that we didn't give a steady diet of anything.
Q: DID YOU FIND YOURSELVES DICTATION THE TEMPO THIS WEEK?
MH: We tried to, because I felt a little more comfortable having an idea of what we were going to see, as opposed to last week in the opening game, never coaching against ‘em. They changed some protections and did things to really minimize it. We could at least anticipate a little of that this week.
Q: HOW MUCH DOES IT HELP YOUR CONFIDENCE TO HAVE THE DEFENSE CARRY THE TEAM LIKE IT DID TODAY?
MH: I hope our guys build on it, but that's how football is. There will be games where the offense is going to carry us. You just don't know. We're just danged happy to win. It's still a team effort. I'm obviously proud that we came through in the end.
Freshman Jordon Dizon had another solid outing, playing in just his second collegiate ballgame.
Dizon: I made a lot of mistakes, probably more than last week, but I figure I grew a little bit more. Every game I'm progressing. There's still a long ways to go for me to meet Coach Cabral's expectations – he has high expectations for me.
Q: DESCRIBE THE PLAY AT THE END.
JD: The d-line did a great job. They put the rush on the quarterback. They MADE him scramble, and I got a good look on the DBs, and then saw him try to scramble so I came up. I knew I could make a stand, so I just tried to put a lick on him.
I didn't know the ball came out, and they were saying "Colorado's ball, Colorado's ball" but I was like, I have the quarterback and he has the ball, it can't be our ball. It was exciting; it's really exciting.
Wilder: We did struggle offensively today. It was just one of those games where we couldn't get into a rhythm, couldn't get things going, but we gotta come in on Monday, look at the film, and fix it.
The game plan was the same – we wanted to run the football, and get some passes. We just never got into that rhythm. The holding call on that run by Bobby, I don't know how that affected us, but weren't the same o-line or offense after that play.
Q: ANY WORRIES?
SW: No, no, no. We can't worry about it. Our defense stepped up today, we won the football game, we're 2-and-0.
This offense is a special group and we can come back and fix this. We'll be ready for North Texas.
Q: WAS TODAY FRUSTRATING?
SW: Oh yeah. It's got to be. I mean, we got shut out today. We only had two field goals. It wasn't good offensively and it's going to be tough for everyone to swallow when we sit down and look at it on Monday because we just missed opportunities.
Position Switch: Bernard Jackson experimented at wide receiver on Monday and now it looks as though the move is permanent for the former quarterback. The redshirt freshman played one play at receiver vs. Washington State — a reverse in which it looked as though Jackson was going to pass, but tucked it and ran.
SackFest: Sophomore DE Alex Ligon had three sacks Saturday. It's the first time a Colorado player has recorded three sacks in a game since LB Drew Wahlroos did it vs. Missouri Nov. 4, 2000. CU's eight sacks against Washington State was also the most recorded by the Buffs since the 2000 Missouri game.
Ty-ing Two On: Redshirt freshman safety Tyrone Henderson started and played the whole game in place of J.J. Billingsley. He also made a big impact on special teams, blocking two punts, one of which Lawrence Vickers recovered in the end zone for a CU touchdown. The two blocks marked the first time in CU history a player has blocked two in one game.
Crosby's Leg: With Saturday's 52-yarder, PK Mason Crosby now has two 50-plus field goals on the season. It's the first time since 1992 (Pat Blottiaux) that a CU kicker has two 50-plus yarders in a season.