Defensive rally

The Colorado defense started this season with big problems giving up 77 points and 1,000 total yards in its first two outings. But the Buffs have turned things around at the same time the level of competition has kicked up a notch or two over the past month, giving fans hope as the team begins play in the Big 12 North Division.

CU defenders held the nation's top scoring offense to 17 points last week at Texas. The Longhorns came into that game averaging more than 300 passing yards per game and more than 200 rushing yards. They finished the contest with 313 total yards, but the CU defense saw that effort wasted when offensive and special teams blunders gave the Longhorns three additional touchdowns.

"It's definitely frustrating, but I bet it was frustrating for our offense when we gave up so many points against Toledo," safety Ben Burney said. "I mean, it goes back to back like that. Defense and offense, we work together. The same side of the same coin. You got to be able to play well as a team and not just say the defense did well and the offense did bad. It has to be both of us doing the same thing."

After allowing 624 total yards and 54 points at Toledo in Week 2, coaches simplified their approach to defense and trimmed down the number of players rotating into the game prior to playing Wyoming on Sept. 19. The Buffs responded by shutting out the Cowboys at Folsom Field.

Many assumed that performance had more to do with the Wyoming offense's struggles than anything the Buffs had done, but after following up with further improvement at West Virginia and against Texas, it is clear, the Buffs are no longer the same defense that gave up those ugly numbers earlier this season.

CU also has cut down the number of big plays it is giving up.

The Buffs surrendered 19 plays of 20 yards or more in the first three games, but have added just seven more of those "gashers" in the past two weeks.

"I think everyone just finally realized what we had to do, and we're now building up a lot of confidence and "moxy" as coach Hawkins likes to say," Burney said. "That's what happened. Everyone knows their assignments now."

Colorado secondary coach Greg Brown explained the defensive turnaround this way.

"Young guys growing up on the defensive line in particular," he said. "You`ve got some young guys in there playing well and doing well.

"There has been some continuity and chemistry developing between the secondary and the linebackers. And before we played Wyoming we decided to move Ben (Burney) over to safety, and, in effect, play with four corners and one safety in there which helps us on substitution. When they go between three and four receivers, we don`t have to scramble nearly as much."

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