EZ Mortgages

Kansas – Buffs’ Offense Offensive … (Ryan) Miller Time

// Oct 28 - 2006

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October 28th – at Kansas           Kansas 20, Colorado 15

Colorado built a 9-0 halftime lead, but couldn’t make it stand up, as freshman quarterback Todd Reesing rallied Kansas to a 20-15 victory. Reesing tore off his red-shirt, throwing for two touchdowns and running for another as Kansas won its first game over Colorado since 2000.

Colorado controlled the first half, but was unable to built a sizeable lead. The Buffs were able to drive the ball, but could not get into the end zone, settling for field goals from Mason Crosby of 37, 26, and 32 yards and a 9-0 lead at the break.

The turning point in the contest came early in the second half. Lionel Harris intercepted Reesing at the Kansas 40 on the Jayhawks’ first possession. The Buffs had a 9-0 lead, momentum, and the ball in Kansas territory. On fourth-and-one at the KU 14-yard line, however, Bernard Jackson was stopped for no gain, ending the threat.

Kansas got on the board shortly thereafter, with Reesing hitting Jake Sharp for 42 yards before connecting with Jon Cornish for a 22-yard score to make it 9-7 with 4:35 left in the third quarter.

The Buffs appeared poised to answer, but Bernard Jackson was intercepted by Aqib Talib, who returned the pick 59 yards to the CU 24-yard line. Four plays later, Reesing did the honors, taking it in from four yards out to give Kansas a 14-9 lead less than a minute into the fourth quarter.

The Jayhawks scored again on their next drive, making it a 20-9 game (Kansas, for no apparent reason, went for a two-point conversion after the score, but failed).

Looking for the knockout blow, the Kansas offense again mounted a drive on its next possession. At the CU seven yard line, though, Reesing was hit by Brandon Nicholas, with the forced fumble picked up and run back 95 yards for a score by Ryan Walters.

Suddenly, with 3:17 remaining, it was a game again, at 20-15 (CU’s two-point conversion attempt also failed). An onsides kick attempt failed, but the Buff defense did force a three-and-out, giving the Buffs one last chance with 59 seconds to play. The Colorado offense, though, could not produce even a first down. A 61-yard pass play at the end was called back as Jackson was over the line of scrimmage when he threw a desperation pass, giving the Jayhawks a 20-15 victory.

 

Truly Offensive

It wasn’t supposed to be this way.

Yes, we all knew that the Colorado offense would struggle in the formative stages of the Hawkins’ regime. We knew that Joel Klatt, a record setting three-year starter at quarterback, was to be replaced by the best of three not-so-great options.

We also knew that Dan Hawkins had the reputation as an offensive genius.

We knew that in five years at Boise State, the Broncos averaged 41.6 points per game. We knew (because the media guide told us), that no Dan Hawkins team (116 games overall), had never been shut out and his teams had scored at least one touchdown in every game he had ever been the head coach.

The reality in the first nine games in Boulder?

Not 40 points a game … try 14.

Far from averaging 40 points per game, the Buffs had yet to score 40 points in any game (the closest being the 31 in the three overtime loss to Baylor, a game which was tied 17-all at the end of regulation). Colorado had only one touchdown in losses to Montana State, Colorado State, Georgia, Missouri, and Kansas (that one being defensive), and no touchdowns at all in losses to Arizona State and Oklahoma.

Translation: in seven of Colorado’s eight losses, the Buffs had scored one touchdown or less. In 64 games at Boise State, the Hawkins led Broncos were held below 16 points only five times. In his first nine games at Colorado, the Hawkins led Buffs had already been held below 16 points seven times.

The expectations were that the Buffs would be setting offensive records under Dan Hawkins. The reality was that the Buffs were setting offensive records – just all the wrong kind.

After posting all of 15 points against Kansas, Colorado had put up 128 points for the season. With just three games to play, the Buffs were all but destined to score under 200 points on the year. The last time the CU offense was so inept was in 1984 (the 1-10 season), when the Buffs scored 172 points.

In 2005, for the sake of comparison, the Buffs scored 295 points, almost double the projected output for the 2006 team. A more dominant team, the 2001 Buffs, had 396 points. That 10-3 squad averaged 33.0 points per game, but even that Big 12 champion was still a touchdown/game shy of what Boise State averaged over five years under Dan Hawkins.

The 2006 Colorado offense was truly offensive.

 

(Ryan) Miller Time

Was there anything out there in the futility of the 2006 season for the Buff fans to hang their hats upon?

Were there any rays of hope for the future, something to get the Buff faithful through the long winter to come?

One piece of good news did come in the week of the Kansas game. Five star recruit Ryan Miller, an offensive tackle from Columbine high school in Denver, orally committed to the Buffs. Miller was ranked as the No. 3 offensive lineman in the entire country, and the top-rated high school player in Colorado. Miller had offers from all of the major players in the college football world – USC, Texas, Michigan, and all the Florida schools. By October, Miller had narrowed his choices down to Colorado and Notre Dame. Miller took his official visit to Colorado during the Baylor game, and watched Notre Dame come from behind to beat UCLA just days before his announcement.

Despite the glamour of the top ten Irish, and the allure of South Bend, Miller decided to stay home.

How significant was this?

Miller was the first five star recruit for Colorado since 2002. What was even more important was the apparent ability of Dan Hawkins and his assistant coaches to keep the best player in Colorado at home, even in the midst of a horrific season.

While there remained much jockeying for position before the official February signing date, it appeared that Hawkins was well on his way to a good recruiting class. Hawkins had lined up 17 recruits by the end of October, several of which of the four-star variety. In Rivals.com, the Buffs were rated as the 21st best class in the country as of October 26th. This was a marked improvement from the Buffs’ 48th ranked class in 2006 (part Barnett, part Hawkins), 43rd ranked class in 2005, and the 49th ranked class in 2004.

Granted, the grade of a high school player is highly subjective. In the 2002 class, rated as one of Colorado’s best in recent memory (22nd overall, on the heels of the Big 12 title run), the Buffs had one five-star recruit (offensive lineman Clint Werth), and seven four-star recruits. Some worked out, some did not. Werth, a junior college transfer, was beset by injury, and played all of three downs as a Buff. Joe Klopfenstein was one of the four-star recruits, and he went on to be a record setter at Colorado. Just as highly ranked, though, was four-star linebacker Chris Hollis, who saw action in all of 15 games as a Buff, recording 28 tackles over three seasons.

Would Ryan Miller turn out to be another Clint Werth, a name destined to be remembered only by his family and a few recruiting websites, or a star who would lead a resurgence in the Buffs’ anemic offense?

Only time would tell.

Faced with a 1-8 record as October came to a close, a hopeful look towards the future was about all that the Buff fans had left.

 

Game Notes …

– The Kansas game marked just the 15th time since 1976 (but the second time in 2006) in which the Buffs held a two-score lead during a game (219 such games) … and lost;

– Senior quarterback James Cox, who was 1-5 against Kansas, saw his career come to a premature end when he broke his thumb in the second quarter of the Kansas game;

– The Buffs attempted a season-high 28 passes against Kansas, but completed only nine (for 83 yards), with two interceptions;

– The Colorado defense tied a season high with three interceptions, with Brad Jones, Lionel Harris and Terrence Wheatley each coming up with a pick;

– Red-shirt freshman offensive lineman Paul Backowski earned his only career start against Kansas, subbing for the injured Edwin Harrison;

– The Jayhawks had come into the game against the Buffs with a four-game losing streak. The win, though, set off a three-game winning streak, with Kansas going on to defeat Iowa State and Kansas State. A 42-17 season-ending loss to Missouri left Kansas with a 6-6 overall record, 3-5 in Big 12 play (good enough for fourth place).

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