Late in the fourth quarter on Saturday, Colorado’s Trevor Woods hit Minnesota backup quarterback Athan Kaliakmanis, turned to the official and dropped his head.
A starting safety for the Buffaloes, Woods had to sit out during the first half because of a targeting foul against him a week earlier. Just a quarter-and-a-half into his return, he was flagged for targeting again.
“I was nervous when it happened for sure,” Woods said.
Luckily for Woods and CU, the targeting call was reversed – although he did get tagged with a late-hit penalty. As Woods and the Buffs (0-3) prepare for the Pac-12 opener against UCLA (3-0) on Saturday at Folsom Field (12 p.m., Pac-12 Network), he said he has to be careful, but can’t worry too much about potential targeting penalties.
“(The plays) were kind of both just weird situations,” he said. “I can’t change how I’m tackling. That’s the last thing you want to do, go in there timid and getting run over and they fall forward. I just have to make sure my head stays up. I can’t change, mentality-wise.”
Woods’ aggressive style contributes to him being one of CU’s better defenders.
He missed nearly four full quarters because of his targeting penalty against Air Force, so he’s played the equivalent of about two games. He has 19 tackles in 100 snaps, a ratio of one tackle per 5.26 snaps, which ranks second on the team to linebacker Quinn Perry (4.72).
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A first-year starter, Woods is making a positive impact, despite the defense struggling as a whole.
“I’m all right with (how I’m playing),” he said. “I’ve just got to fix a couple things and we’ll be good.”
Woods played 139 snaps as a true freshman last year and said he’s enjoying his new role as a starter.
“It’s fun. This is my favorite thing to do, really, so just being out there is everything I’ve really dreamed of,” he said.
Of course, he has to make sure he stays on the field by avoiding the targeting penalties.
Woods is known as a big hitter and while he said he can’t change his mentality, he knows he has to be careful not to lead with the crown of his helmet, as he did on the play that got him ejected from the game against Air Force on Sept. 10.
“I made a joke to a couple of guys like, ‘Oh, I’ve gotta make sure I keep my head up,’” he said. “I can’t get another one. Once you’re out on the field, (worrying about it) kind of all just goes away.”
Perhaps an even bigger priority for Woods is making sure he and his teammates are doing a better job of bringing ball carriers to the ground – especially in the run game.
The Buffs have, by far, the worst run defense in the country, giving up 348.0 yards per game – 99 more than the next worst team, Louisiana Tech (249.0). The Buffs are also last nationally in allowing a whopping 6.87 yards per rushing attempt and New Mexico State is the only team that has allowed more rushing touchdowns than CU’s 13.
Poor tackling has been a major issue for the Buffs.
“We’ve got to really improve our tackling, fundamentals and detail,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “That showed up a lot in the last couple of games. We’ve got to continue to work on those things just to get ourselves to be a better tackling outfit over the course of our preparation going into this UCLA week.”
The struggles with tackling have contributed to CU allowing a nation-worst 14 runs of 20-plus yards and nine runs of 30-plus yards. (The Buffs are tied for last in giving up 29 runs of 10-plus yards).
Woods said the Buffs are often getting to the ball, but not wrapping up ball carriers.
“You’ve got to come with it,” he said. “Mentality wise, that’s really what we’ve got to focus on.”
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