BOULDER, Co. — Colorado’s senior linebacker is the enforcer in the front seven and the heart and soul of the defense.
When opposing quarterbacks line up behind center they can’t help but notice No. 53 in the middle of the field, staring down their every move. Nate Landman is one of the most experienced defenders in the Pac-12 and has led the Buffaloes in tackles each of the past two seasons.
He got off to a slow start in the season-opening win over UCLA. However, Landman found his mojo against Stanford, with 11 solo tackles, which earned him Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. That shouldn’t come as a surprise to Colorado fans, considering Landman is a two-time, All-Pac-12 performer, with 100-plus stops in each of the past two seasons.
The South African native is trying to build on that momentum as Colorado prepares for a road matchup with USC. The Buffaloes are 0-14 all-time against the Trojans, but last year’s game was a thriller that came down to the waning minutes.
Colorado’s game against Arizona State got cancelled, which gave the team extra time to prepare for its’ divisional foe. Landman believes it was beneficial for the Buffaloes and they’ll be heading to Los Angeles with a chip on their shoulder.
“It gave us two weeks to gameplan for USC, they’re our strongest opponent so far,” Landman said. “We’ve never beat USC, it’s a huge game for us this week and you can kind of feel that energy coursing through the team.”
Coach Karl Dorrell understands the significance. After all, his signature win came against Pete Carroll’s Trojans in 2006 and kept them out of the BCS National Championship Game. Colorado fans are hoping Dorrell still has some old tricks up his sleeve.
USC quarterback Kedon Slovis has has carried his team to two come from behind victories this season. He has 970 passing yards and five touchdown tosses through three games. Not to mention Slovis shredded the Buffaloes secondary for 406 passing yards and four touchdowns last season.
The Buffaloes’ defense has allowed 630 yards through the air and five touchdown tosses through the first two games. Slovis will be the best quarterback Colorado is going to see all season. Still, Landman isn’t intimidated by USC’s passing attack. The Buffaloes are a confident bunch and he believes their defense is the best in the league at stopping the run.
“We understand that this is the biggest game of the season so far, but we’re not going to treat it like anything crazy,” he said. “We’re just going to come in, do our job and try to be 1-0 for this week.”
The last three games between the two schools have had similar results and USC (3-0) has outscored Colorado 104-75 during that span. Landman experienced all three of those losses first hand. Which is why the six-foot-three, 235-pounder and the rest of his teammates want to accomplish something that has never been done in the program.
The winner of Saturday’s game between the two unbeaten teams will have firm control in the South and this is the second time in three years the Buffaloes will play the Trojans undefeated. He’s excited about playing in the legendary Coliseum for the last time of his collegiate career and won’t take anything for granted.
“Emotions are definitely going to be high, these guys have got the best of me three times and I’m going to do everything in my power to not let that happen a fourth time.”