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Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Colorado's defense had been rocked and knocked back on its collective heels early in its most recent game against Eastern Washington.
Despite those struggles against an FCS opponent, Colorado DT George Hypolite's confidence never wavered. He knew his unit would come back, loudly proclaiming to anyone who would listen that the Buffaloes' defense would eventually provide the difference in the game.
"Even after those early struggles, we had to have a short memory," Hypolite said. "I told everybody on the bench that we were coming back and making a play to win us the game. Fortunately, Cha'pelle was listening."
Undersized CB Cha'pelle Brown made Hypolite sound like a prophet. His 27-yard interception return for a touchdown with 1:44 left enabled the Buffaloes to escape with a 31-24 victory over the plucky Eagles, allowing Colorado to avoid the ignominy of losing two straight games against FCS opponents in three seasons.
Those struggles against the Eagles wouldn't appear to bode well before Colorado's game Thursday night against West Virginia and talented multi-faceted QB Pat White. But Hypolite is ready for the challenge and excited about improvements the Colorado defense has made during a bye week to prepare for the Mountaineers.
"This is one of those games you dream about playing," Hypolite said. "Everybody in the country will be watching. It's the only game on. If you make big plays, you're going to be getting text messages from your friends around the country for the next few days. I'm excited about it."
White has his own struggles. The Mountaineers managed only 251 yards and converted only three of 12 third-down plays in a loss to East Carolina two weeks ago. And the Mountaineers will be matched against a Colorado defense that is permitting only 59 yards rushing per game (11th nationally) and hasn't allowed an opposing back to rush for 100 yards since 2004.
The Mountaineers will be running the same spread-option attack that has helped them to three straight bowl victories and a combined 34-6 record in the last three-plus seasons. The Mountaineers have ranked fourth, second and 18th nationally in rushing from 2005-07.
"It's not really the offense, but just the players they have," Hypolite said. "Pat White and Noel Devine really make it difficult on a defense. You can do a great job on them for most of a game and then they can jump on you for three or four plays. And it's really difficult because we don't see a lot of spread option offenses in this part of the country."
Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said that containing White will rank among the most difficult challenges his team will face this season.
"He's as fast, if not faster than anybody in our conference," Hawkins said. "He can throw it and he's definitely a dual-threat guy. If you look at their game against Oklahoma last year, he had some huge throwing plays. I don't know if we've seen anybody who runs like him. You're talking about him being one of the best players in the country."
The challenge in the secondary will fall to Brown, who has been tested by bigger competitors most of his career.
"People have always questioned me because of my height," the 5-foot-7 Brown said. "But that doesn't matter -- as a defensive back we want to prove ourselves. I've played with a chip on my shoulder my entire career because of that."
That attitude has permeated the Colorado defense, which has similarly disproved naysayers in the first two games of the season.
"We knew going into the season that we were inexperienced and didn't have much depth," Hypolite said. "We knew we would play like a young team at times. But against Eastern Washington, we dug deep and exhibited a lot of resiliency. That shows a lot about this team and our character."