The beginning game jitters lasted about five minutes for the Colorado State defense, Saturday at Invesco Field at Mile High Stadium. They looked pretty comfortable after that.
After surrendering a 65-yard touchdown drive to open the game, the defense settled down and dominated the Colorado Buffalo’s offense. The Buffs moved the ball 38 total yards in the second half.
“Our defense is playing like studs right now,” said senior offensive lineman Clint Oldenburg. “It’s giving us a lot of confidence.”
Buff fans had plenty to cheer about in the opening minutes of the game. On the opening kickoff kicker Jason Smith kicked the ball so far out of bounds it landed in the stands, giving the Buffs great field position for their opening drive. Before five minutes had passed, quarterback Bernard Jackson was in the end zone after a 3-yard run.
“It was just first series jitters,” said defensive end Bob Vomhoff. “We had to adjust from practice speed to game speed. Once we did we were fine.”
Part of the reason the Rams may have been caught off guard at first was the surprise move by CU head coach Dan Haskins to start Jackson, who wasn’t even listed as second string on the offensive depth chart coming into this game.
“They came out and shocked us (by starting Jackson at quarterback),” said CSU head coach Sonny Lubick. “It surprised us, which was smart.”
Jackson is a former running back and played like one. He attempted only 13 passes on the day, while running the ball 18 times. He was the Buffs leading rusher with 30 yards.
“We were surprised when No. 7 came out on the field,” said safety Klint Kubiak. “We had practiced for No. 10 (James Cox). That just shows you the kind of guys we have on this defense though that we were able to adjust to it.”
The biggest contributor on defense was safety Mike Pagnotta, who finished the day with five tackles, four for loss, and two sacks despite not getting the start.
“I like being up there next to the line of scrimmage,” said Pagnotta. “I had never gotten a sack before, not in high school or anything, so that was pretty exciting.”
Although the CSU offense got the job done, it appeared only half of it showed up on Saturday.
Quarterback Caleb Hanie 14 consecutive passes, not throwing a single incomplete until eight seconds remained in the third quarter. His favorite target was wide receiver Johnny Walker, who finished the day with 10 catches for 158 yards.
“Johnny is the big time receiver on this team,” said H-back Kory Sperry, who was on the receiving end of a touchdown pass in the second quarter. “We’re not afraid to go to him in these types of games.”
The running side of the ball struggled for its second consecutive game, combining for only 15 rushing yards the entire game.
“We’ve had injuries to our front line, it’s more of a chemistry thing right now,” said running back Gartrell Johnson. “I’m not worried about the running game, we have great coaches to fix it. As long as we keep winning right now, I’m happy with that.”
Some wins mean more than others and it appeared that this was one of them when after the game several of the CSU players were found dancing with the fans in the CSU section.
There was no better gift the players could give after losing to the rival Buffs three years in a row prior to Saturday’s meeting.
“This win was for CSU,” said Lubick. “All the guys who wore the green and gold, the student body, for (their) support all this time.”
After the game senior safety Ben Stratton could be heard chanting, “Our year, our year.”
With more games like this, he could be right.