EZ Mortgages

Eastern Washington – Undefeated; Untied; and Unimproved

// Sep 6 - 2008

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September 6th – Boulder           Colorado 31, Eastern Washington 24

Colorado overcame a 14-point halftime deficit, rallying for two touchdowns in the final 2:05 to pull off a 31-24 win over Eastern Washington. Junior cornerback Cha’pelle Brown picked off Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols with 1:44 to play, returning the interception 27 yards for a score to give the Buffs their first lead of the game. A second interception of Nichols preserved the win a few minutes later, as senior safety D.J. Dykes pulled in a Nichols’ offering in the Colorado endzone with just three seconds on the game clock.

The game was not supposed to come down to the final play, as Colorado was heavily favored to defeat the Eastern Washington Eagles from the Big Sky Conference. Reminded all week by the coaches and the media of their implosion against Montana State in the 2006 opener, the Buffs’ players, to a man, said that they were not overlooking Eastern Washington, ranked 7th in the FCS polls.

It was the Eagles, though, who came out ready to play. A methodical, nine-play, 84-yard drive to open the game gave Eastern Washington a lead it would hold almost the entire afternoon. As 46,417 Buff fans looked on in disbelief, the Eagles converted three consecutive third down opportunities (Colorado State converted only two of 12 third down chances in the 2008 opener), culminating in a 43-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Brynsen Brown to give EWU a 7-0 lead.

After an exchange of punts, Colorado strung together a drive which seemed to right the Buffs’ ship. Putting together a 12-play drive of their own, highlighted by a 22-yard pass from Cody Hawkins to Patrick Williams, CU got on the board early in the second quarter when Hawkins hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Josh Smith on a nine-yard pass to tie the score at 7-7.

The Buffs’ defense forced a punt in the Eagles’ next possession, and it appeared that CU would have the ball with a chance to take the lead for the first time all afternoon. Colorado gave the ball right back, however, as Josh Smith fumbled the punt at the CU 27 yard line. Six plays later, the Buffs were behind again. A one yard touchdown run by Toke Kefu (no, I didn’t make that up) gave Eastern Washington a 14-7 lead with 10:20 to play in the second quarter. A few minutes later, it was 21-7, as Cody Hawkins was picked off by J.C. Sherritt of the Eagles on CU’s next possession. Sherritt took the ball back 48 yards for an Eastern Washington touchdown, and the Buffs were suddenly down two scores. A missed field goal by Aric Goodman late in the second quarter left the score at 21-7 at the half.

The second half began ominously for the Buffs as well. If there were fire and brimstone speeches given in the CU locker room at halftime, they were lost on the Colorado offensive unit. The Buffs first drive of the third quarter actually went backwards. Three plays lost a total of seven yards (including two penalties), and the Buffs gave the ball right back to the Eagles.

Fortunately for the Buffs, the Colorado defense rose to the occasion. The next four Eastern Washington possessions all concluded with punts. The second of these was returned 51 yards by Josh Smith, setting up the Buffs at the Eastern Washington four yard line. On third-and-goal at the one, Hawkins hit true freshman tight end Ryan Deehan for a score. The Buffs were back in it at 21-14, with 5:30 still to play in the third quarter.

After the Eagles’ third punt of the second half, the Buffs put together one of their better drives of the day. Starting at their own 14, Colorado mustered an 11-play, 71-yard drive. However, CU could not push the ball over the end line, settling for a 32-yard field goal by Aric Goodman. 21-17, with 13:46 left to play in the game.

The Buffs were unable to capitalize on the Eagles’ fourth consecutive punt, turning the ball over on downs on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-three at the Eastern Washington 22-yard line. The Eagles took advantage of the shift in momentum, mounting their only real drive of the second half, pushing the ball to the CU 35 before Felipe Macias hit a 52-yard field goal to give Eastern Washington a 24-17 lead with 3:52 left to play.

Gut check time.

With the game, and perhaps the season, in the balance, the Buffs took only 1:43 of game clock to tie the score. Colorado covered 57 yards in only five plays, with Cody Hawkins hitting junior fullback Jake Behrens from two yards out on third-and-goal to tie the score for the first time since early in the second quarter.

Only 1:57 remained when the offense for Eastern Washington took the field.

Overtime seemed imminent.

On the second play from scrimmage, though, Matt Nichols, who would connect on 32 of 51 passes for 303 yards on the day, made his first mistake. Nichols thought the Buffs were in man coverage; his receiver saw the Buffs were in a zone. Nichols threw to the spot where he thought his receiver would be, but instead found CU’s Cha’pelle Brown, who intercepted the ball at the EWU 27 yard line, then made some nice moves on his way to the endzone, giving the Buffs their first lead of the contest.

Down 31-24 with just over a minute to play, Eastern Washington mounted a final rally. The Eagles made it to the Colorado 30-yard line before CU safety D.J. Dykes picked off Nichols’ desperation toss in the endzone to end the threat with three seconds to play.

The Buffs had their second win of the season, opening up 2-0 for the first time since 2005. The win, however, was certainly not as easy as had been forecast. “I told you guys (in the pressroom) that they were a good football team, and they are” said Dan Hawkins of the Eagles. “We always try to tell our guys not to get caught up with the decal on the side of the helmet. It’s hard a lot of the time when you have young guys.”

For the second straight week, Josh Smith had the chance of being the goat, but, for the second straight week, came out as one of the heroes. Against Colorado State, Smith fumbled the first punt of the game, but then redeemed himself with a 93-yard kickoff return. Against Eastern Washington, Smith fumbled again, this time giving the opposition a short field in the second quarter, allowing the Eagles to take a 14-7 lead. Smith again redeemed himself, however, with a nine-yard touchdown reception for CU’s first touchdown, and a 51-yard punt return which set up the Buffs’ second score. “Once I start seeing color the ball gets away from my chest and that’s not good,” said Smith of his fumbles. “I just have to keep the ball high and tight. It was a big learning experience.”

The entire game was a learning experience for the Buffs. The stats sheet showed an even game. The Eagles had one more first down (18-17),while the Buffs had a one yard advantage in total offense (351-350). Cody Hawkins hit on 28-38 for 261 yards and three touchdowns to offset his interception. The running game was anemic, with Colorado only rushing for 90 total yards on 33 carries (a 2.7 yards/carry average). Darrell Scott chipped in 39 yards on 11 carries, while Rodney Stewart, receiving his first start as a Buff, had 38 yards on nine touches.

There would be much to work on during the upcoming bye week. In addition to the two costly turnovers, both of which resulted in Eastern Washington touchdowns, the Buffs committed ten penalties (for seventy yards). Such numbers would not bode well with the upcoming slate of opponents.

Up next was West Virginia, one of the preseason picks to contend for the national championship. Led by a Heisman trophy candidate in quarterback Patrick White, the Mountaineers, coming off of an 11-2 campaign, were the consensus pick to take the Big East title and a BCS bid. At Greenville, North Carolina, though, West Virginia met its Waterloo against East Carolina, falling hard, 24-3. The loss dropped West Virginia out of the top ten in the polls.

The good news? The Mountaineers had been exposed, and were certainly not invincible.

The bad news? They would be coming to Boulder with an attitude and a chip on their shoulders.

Undefeated, Untied, and Unimproved

The first drives of each half were just as you would script them:

Opening drive of the game – a nine-play, 84-yard drive finished off with a touchdown.

Opening drive for the opposition in the second half – three-and-out, with a couple of penalties and increased frustration thrown in just for fun.

Yes, the first two drives of each half were exactly the way the Buffs and their fans would have wanted them to be ….

except ….

It was Eastern Washington who took the opening kickoff and marched smartly down the field to take the early lead, and it was Colorado who looked inept and unprepared to open the second half.

What in the name of the Big Sky Conference was going on here?

I must admit, for much of the first half, I had the same attitude I did during the Montana State game in 2006. It wasn’t so much, “I can’t believe this is happening” as it was, “okay, the little kids have had their fun, now it’s time to take control and assert ourselves”.

Only against Montana State, the assertion never came, and against Eastern Washington, it almost came too late.

What do we take from this game? In scanning the message boards on the internet after the game, Buff fans seemed to fall into two camps. There were the “This team is going nowhere / We can’t run the ball / The offensive line is a joke / The play-calling is not utilizing our talent / Cody hasn’t matured / The defense plays too soft” posts – you get the idea.

There were also the defenders: “2-0 is 2-0 / The team showed poise in coming back / The defense stepped up in the second half / The young players are maturing each week / Good thing we have a bye week to correct the errors / Thank God West Virginia got creamed.”

So, where are the Buffs in 2008? I will admit to being shaken by the Buffs’ struggles against the “easiest” opponent on the calendar. After West Virginia, which will be coming to Boulder with something to prove to a national audience, take a look at the next five opponents for Colorado. They won their games on September 6th by a combined total of 261-26, or, if you prefer, by an average score of 52-5. Yes, three of the five wins were over lower division opponents, but wasn’t that what the Buffs were supposed to be playing in Eastern Washington? If the Buffs can’t take charge against an Eastern Washington, how will they pull it all together against more talented competition?

I don’t know.

I do know that the Buffs are 2-0.

I do know that “the Plan” for a winning season mandated that Colorado get through the first two games undefeated, and they have done so.

I do know that West Virginia is now vulnerable, and over the next ten days some questions may start to arise about the prudence of hiring nice guy and player favorite Bill Stewart as head coach, which could get into the heads of the Mountaineer players.

I do know that the Buffs only really need one win in the next three or four weeks to stay on track for a winning campaign.

And, I know that many of these same Buffs were on the field for the Oklahoma game from last season.

Hang tough, Buff fans. With all of this youth (four of the five starting on the offensive line this week were freshmen or sophomores), there will be some trying times, and perhaps some bad losses.

True. The Buffs are an ugly 2-0.

It beats the snot out of being an ugly 1-1.

Bye Week Extras:

YouTube Buffs and “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend”

While you wait patiently for the West Virginia preview (to be posted Sunday), here are a few Buff highlights for you. Embedded in the Archived Season section to your left, you can find the following:

1990 – The final touchdown drive against Missouri. See for yourself how the “Fifth Down” controversy came about.

1994 – Keith Jackson’s call of “The Catch” against Michigan.

2007 – Highlights of both the CSU game and the 27-24 win over #3 Oklahoma.

Don’t want to click on Archived games? Well, here are some bonus links to other You-Tube videos:

A great highlight reel covering the past 20 seasons (including the 1991 Orange Bowl):

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZJUJ8avYkFA&NR=1

Highlights from Colorado 62, Nebraska 36. ‘Nuff said!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OpwWcwc3oLA

BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! Normally, the weekly “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend” segment is reserved for those on the email update list (to participate, drop me a note at stuart@cuatthegame.com -it’ free!), but since it’ s a bye week, I’m feeling generous. This week’s edition:

Last week, the game of the week was West Virginia v. East Carolina. As you know, the Pirates shut down the Mountaineers, 24-3, and West Virginia fell to 25th in the AP poll. Was the WVU loss a good thing or a bad thing for the Buffs? My argument is that it is a good thing. Imagine, if you will, if the score had been reversed, and the 8th-ranked Mountaineers were heading to Boulder undefeated and on a roll. Would anyone give the Buffs, fresh off a come from behind win over a 1-AA team, a chance at victory? The fans, the media – and perhaps even the players – would be looking for a blowout. Now, the fans, the media – and perhaps even the players – are unsure as to what to expect at kickoff next Thursday. Don’t believe me? Check out how pessimistic the West Virginia fans are on this WVU blog site:

http://mbd.scout.com/mb.aspx?s=159&f=2508&t=2952152

I will grant you that no one expected the Buffs to stay with Oklahoma last year, and no one expected Montana State to beat Colorado in 2006 (hopefully, this will be my last mention of MSU for awhile), so there are no givens in college football. Still, I want every advantage I can get. If our 19 and 20 year olds are infused with a new sense of optimism because the bloom has fallen off the rose of the opposition, I’m all for it. West Virginia can go on to have a good season, but I want them to be lousy on September 18th.

Toward that end, what games are there for Buff fans to keep an eye on this weekend?

#13 Kansas at #19 South Florida.

There was an article this week on ESPN’s website about those teams with the cushiest non-conference schedules over the past ten seasons. Three Big 12 teams, including Kansas (Texas Tech and Oklahoma State were the others), were on the list. The Jayhawks miscalculated, though, in scheduling South Florida (I guess the NCAA wouldn’t allow the Jayhawks to play Florida International twice). The Bulls are a good team, one which rose to #2 in the nation before imploding for three straight losses toward the end of the 2007 season. After South Florida, the only games between the Jayhawks and their game against the Buffs are games against Sam Houston State (quick, what is the nickname for Sam Houston State?), and Iowa State. A win by the Jayhawks this Friday all but guarantees a road game against a top ten for the Buffs. No thanks. Go Bulls!

(By the way, Sam Houston State’s nickname is the BearKats. No, I did not make that up!).

Iowa State at Iowa

Last fall, traveling down I-25 on our way to the CU/Florida State game, my friend Randy and I listened to the Iowa/Iowa State game. Unbelievably, the Cyclones, 24-13 victims to 1-AA Northern Iowa the weekend before, beat the Hawkeyes, 15-13. While it is true that Iowa State thereafter embarked on a six game losing streak, it would be nice to see some team in the Big 12 North fall this weekend (to date, the North is 12-0; the South 10-2). The Buffs need at least one more sure win in their pockets as we hit the tough stretch of the schedule (Kansas State and Oklahoma State, the two teams which present the best remaining opportunities for 2008 victories, have been impressive so far). In light of how much the Buffs struggled against the “easiest” team on the schedule, it would be nice to have a breather to look forward to in November.

Go Hawkeyes!

The West Virginia preview will be posted Sunday. For now, feed your inner Buff with a few choice highlights!

Go Buffs! Stuart

Preview of this week’s game

Below are this week’s T.I.P.S. for the Eastern Washington game. No surprise that Colorado has the edge in Talent, but what about the Intangibles (the ghosts of MSU still lingering?), Preparation, and the always important Stats? See for yourself ….

Read The Entire Preview!…

Review of this week’s game

WHEW! A come from behind 31-24 win over Eastern Washington gives Colorado a 2-0 for the first time since 2005. So why aren’t we celebrating? Read the notes and quotes from the game, as well as “Undefeated, Untied, and Unimproved” …..

Read The Entire Review!…

Trivia you’ll want to remember – Eastern Washington

What do you know about the Eastern Washington Eagles? Okay, now you know their nickname. What else? Two numbers: 10,000 and 8,600. Which is the enrollment, and which is the capacity of Cheney Stadium, where the Eagles play their home games? Stuff your friends will be asking you about as you play the role of the resident expert on all things CU …

Read Trivia…

“This Day in History” – September 6th

There were plenty of famous names who had big games on September 6th. How’s about Herchel Walker’s freshman debut for Georgia (9/6/1980)? Nebraska’s first-ever night game (9/6/1986)?; Tennessee’s Peyton Manning dominating the UCLA Bruins (9/6/1997)?

As for the Buffs? September 6th was good to the Buffs in 1997, as the #8 Buffs rallied from a 14-7 halftime deficit to defeat the #24 Colorado State Rams, 31-21.

Read On…

Email Updates – Don’t miss a single post!

Like what you see? If so, you need to be on the email update list. You will never miss a posting on this site. Plus, you will get inside information (and inside jokes) not available on the website (Also – each week those on the email update list get two additional benefits: “The Enemy of My Enemy is My Friend” – who to cheer for each weekend, which comes with each preview email; and “Going Down in History”, a review of CU records set the previous weekend, which comes with each post-game update). Best of all – IT’S FREE! No obligation, and your email address will not be used for any other purpose. Just send me an email at stuart@cuatthegame.com, and you’ll be set for the season!

More Information…

Archive Game of the Week

Okay, so the Buffs have never played Eastern Washington. But Colorado has played the Eagles’ neighbor just down the highway, Washington State, six times (winning four). The first CU win over the Cougars, one of the most historic in Buff history, came on September 18, 1982. Not only was it a road win (a rarity for the Buffs in the early 1980’s). Not only was it a shutout. It also just happened to be the first career win for one Bill McCartney ……

Go To The Archived Game of The Week…


Pregame Preview

On paper, Eastern Washington is the easiest game on the Buffs’ 2008 schedule. As the Buffs discovered in 2006, however, the games are never played on paper.

Without further adieu, then, the T.I.P.S. for this weekend:

T – Talent.

Fine. This is an easy one (enjoy it, Buff fans, this category will not be as flattering the next few games), but perhaps not as clear cut as it may first appear. Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols is the real deal. As a sophomore last season, Nichols was the Big Sky Conference Offensive Player of the Year, setting five school season records, including touchdown passes (34), pass completions (280), and – keep an eye on this one – rushing yards for a quarterback (392). Against Texas Tech in the opener, Nichols completed 36 of 61 passes for 335 yards in a 49-24 loss. The Eagles were in the game, at 35-24, at the end of the third quarter.

But will it be enough? No. While it is true that the Eagles never gave up (a lesson to keep in mind if and when the Buffs get up by a score or two), it is also true that the Red Raiders were up 21-0 before Eastern Washington had a yard of offense (116-0 near the end of the first quarter). Had the Eagles not intercepted Tech quarterback Graham Harrell, subsequently scoring after a drive of a mere seven yards early in the second quarter, the game could have gotten completely out of hand. Eastern Washington had only 23 yards rushing against Texas Tech, and gave up 639 yards of total offense. The Buffs’ offense should be able to move with ease against Eastern Washington. Cut out the penalties, and the Colorado offensive talent will shine in Folsom this Saturday.

I – Intangibles.

Will the ghost of Montana State ever go away? The loss to MSU in the 2006 opener was harder on me than almost any other loss in my 28+ years with the Buffs. Being a lifelong resident of Bozeman, Montana, home of the MSU Bobcats, I am constantly reminded by Bobcat fans of the 19-10 loss handed to the Buffs by the Cats to open the Hawkins’ era in 2006. The first game Colorado ever played against an FCS team (1-AA to most of us), and the Buffs lost?

Apparently, rehashing the MSU loss is a common theme. A Denver Post headline this week: “Montana State memories still fresh for Buffs”. The Boulder Daily Camera: “Buffs have learned lesson from Montana State loss”.

How will the memory of that game affect the Colorado/Eastern Washington game?

An argument that it will be a plus for the Buffs:

There is NO WAY that the Buffs’ players will look past the Eagles. The majority of the players suiting up this Saturday were on the team in 2006, and there is absolutely no chance that the Buffs will take this game lightly. “It’s almost surreal when you look back and you think about it,” said senior defensive tackle George Hypolite of the loss to MSU. “The thing that really sticks out to me is the preparation. We didn’t prepare to beat them. We prepared just to play.” If the players start to lose focus and slack off in practice this week? Here’s guessing that the coaching staff is not overlooking the Eagles, either.

An argument that the memory of the CU/MSU game will be a plus for the Eagles:

The Buffs can be beaten, at home, by a Big Sky Conference team. The Bobcats proved that, and the Eagles have more talent that the Cats (EWU thumped MSU, 35-13, last season). If it can happen once, it can happen again.

Will it? No. The Buffs should come out focused, prepared, and determined to bury not only the Eagles, but the memory of the loss to the Bobcats as well.

P – Preparation / Schedule.

Eastern Washington played on Saturday, giving the Eagles an extra day to prepare for the Buffs. That being said, the Eagles had to travel back to Cheney after their game in Lubbock, and will travel again on Friday to get to Boulder. The Eagles’ extra day to prepare, especially this early in the season, with the Buffs not having to travel, has to be considered insignificant.

Both teams have a bye week upcoming, so there is no reason for either team to be looking ahead (though the Buffs players may be more likely to do so. The Buffs’ next game is September 18th against West Virginia, while the Eagles return home to face the mighty Western Washington Vikings).

The Buffs suffered no significant injuries against Colorado State, but still managed to lose two offensive linemen. Reserve offensive tackle Ethan Adkins, a red-shirt freshman, was suspended indefinitely after his arrest for DUI, while starting left guard Devin Head, a junior, was suspended for one game due to an undisclosed violation of team rules. “This is disappointing to all of us,” said Dan Hawkins, “but we are going to continue our philosophy of excellence with class and we will uphold our standards.”

Good thing the Buffs recruiting a platoon of offensive linemen the past two seasons ….

S – Stats.

When I saw the score of the Texas Tech/Eastern Washington game, 49-24, my first reaction was that the score was about right, though I was surprised to see that the Eagles had put up 24 points on a top 15 team. My surprise turned to concern when I noticed that the score was only 35-24 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Then I started to dig a little deeper. Yes, the Eagles had played well, but only after digging themselves into a 21-0 hole. Yes, the Eagles had 341 yards passing, but that stat was offset by the fact that the Eagles had only 23 yards rushing. Yes, Matt Nichols had completed 36 passes, but it took him 61 attempts to do it, and Nichols had only one touchdown pass to his three interceptions.

Then, there it was. The stat of the game.

Texas Tech had a school record 18 penalties for a total of 169 yards against Eastern Washington. Let that one sink in. Against CSU, the Buffs had eight penalties for 58 yards. If you were like me, you were muttering under your breath as the Buffs seemed to be their own worst enemies at times on Sunday. What if the penalties had been doubled, and the penalty yardage almost tripled? CU could have been in real trouble.

Imagine what score the Red Raiders might have posted if not for all of those penalties!

One more stat to keep in the back of your mind at kickoff this Saturday. Eastern Washington’s offense is not unlike that of Texas Tech. All pass; little run. What is the Buffs’ record under Dan Hawkins against Texas Tech? Yup. 2-0.

Granted, Eastern Washington is a good team – one of the best in Division 1-AA. If the Buffs hadn’t lost to Montana State in 2006; if Michigan hadn’t lost last season to Appalachian State – I might give the Eagles a puncher’s chance at the upset.

Not this time. I just don’t see it. Buffs dominate early and late (with a few scary moments in between). CU 42-21.

[comment… ]

Postgame Review

September 6th – Boulder Colorado 31, Eastern Washington 24

Colorado overcame a 14-point halftime deficit, rallying for two touchdowns in the final 2:05 to pull off a 31-24 win over Eastern Washington. Junior cornerback Cha’pelle Brown picked off Eagle quarterback Matt Nichols with 1:44 to play, returning the interception 27 yards for a score to give the Buffs their first lead of the game. A second interception of Nichols preserved the win a few minutes later, as senior safety D.J. Dykes pulled in a Nichols’ offering in the Colorado endzone with just three seconds on the game clock.

The game was not supposed to come down to the final play, as Colorado was heavily favored to defeat the Eastern Washington Eagles from the Big Sky Conference. Reminded all week by the coaches and the media of their implosion against Montana State in the 2006 opener, the Buffs’ players, to a man, said that they were not overlooking Eastern Washington, ranked 7th in the FCS polls.

It was the Eagles, though, who came out ready to play. A methodical, nine-play, 84-yard drive to open the game gave Eastern Washington a lead it would hold almost the entire afternoon. As 46,417 Buff fans looked on in disbelief, the Eagles converted three consecutive third down opportunities (Colorado State converted only two of 12 third down chances in the 2008 opener), culminating in a 43-yard touchdown pass from Nichols to Brynsen Brown to give EWU a 7-0 lead.

After an exchange of punts, Colorado strung together a drive which seemed to right the Buffs’ ship. Putting together a 12-play drive of their own, highlighted by a 22-yard pass from Cody Hawkins to Patrick Williams, CU got on the board early in the second quarter when Hawkins hooked up with sophomore wide receiver Josh Smith on a nine-yard pass to tie the score at 7-7.

The Buffs’ defense forced a punt in the Eagles’ next possession, and it appeared that CU would have the ball with a chance to take the lead for the first time all afternoon. Colorado gave the ball right back, however, as Josh Smith fumbled the punt at the CU 27 yard line. Six plays later, the Buffs were behind again. A one yard touchdown run by Toke Kefu (no, I didn’t make that up) gave Eastern Washington a 14-7 lead with 10:20 to play in the second quarter. A few minutes later, it was 21-7, as Cody Hawkins was picked off by J.C. Sherritt of the Eagles on CU’s next possession. Sherritt took the ball back 48 yards for an Eastern Washington touchdown, and the Buffs were suddenly down two scores. A missed field goal by Aric Goodman late in the second quarter left the score at 21-7 at the half.

The second half began ominously for the Buffs as well. If there were fire and brimstone speeches given in the CU locker room at halftime, they were lost on the Colorado offensive unit. The Buffs first drive of the third quarter actually went backwards. Three plays lost a total of seven yards (including two penalties), and the Buffs gave the ball right back to the Eagles.

Fortunately for the Buffs, the Colorado defense rose to the occasion. The next four Eastern Washington possessions all concluded with punts. The second of these was returned 51 yards by Josh Smith, setting up the Buffs at the Eastern Washington four yard line. On third-and-goal at the one, Hawkins hit true freshman tight end Ryan Deehan for a score. The Buffs were back in it at 21-14, with 5:30 still to play in the third quarter.

After the Eagles’ third punt of the second half, the Buffs put together one of their better drives of the day. Starting at their own 14, Colorado mustered an 11-play, 71-yard drive. However, CU could not push the ball over the end line, settling for a 32-yard field goal by Aric Goodman. 21-17, with 13:46 left to play in the game.

The Buffs were unable to capitalize on the Eagles’ fourth consecutive punt, turning the ball over on downs on an incomplete pass on fourth-and-three at the Eastern Washington 22-yard line. The Eagles took advantage of the shift in momentum, mounting their only real drive of the second half, pushing the ball to the CU 35 before Felipe Macias hit a 52-yard field goal to give Eastern Washington a 24-17 lead with 3:52 left to play.

Gut check time.

With the game, and perhaps the season, in the balance, the Buffs took only 1:43 of game clock to tie the score. Colorado covered 57 yards in only five plays, with Cody Hawkins hitting junior fullback Jake Behrens from two yards out on third-and-goal to tie the score for the first time since early in the second quarter.

Only 1:57 remained when the offense for Eastern Washington took the field.

Overtime seemed imminent.

On the second play from scrimmage, though, Matt Nichols, who would connect on 32 of 51 passes for 303 yards on the day, made his first mistake. Nichols thought the Buffs were in man coverage; his receiver saw the Buffs were in a zone. Nichols threw to the spot where he thought his receiver would be, but instead found CU’s Cha’pelle Brown, who intercepted the ball at the EWU 27 yard line, then made some nice moves on his way to the endzone, giving the Buffs their first lead of the contest.

Down 31-24 with just over a minute to play, Eastern Washington mounted a final rally. The Eagles made it to the Colorado 30-yard line before CU safety D.J. Dykes picked off Nichols’ desperation toss in the endzone to end the threat with three seconds to play.

The Buffs had their second win of the season, opening up 2-0 for the first time since 2005. The win, however, was certainly not as easy as had been forecast. “I told you guys (in the pressroom) that they were a good football team, and they are” said Dan Hawkins of the Eagles. “We always try to tell our guys not to get caught up with the decal on the side of the helmet. It’s hard a lot of the time when you have young guys.”

For the second straight week, Josh Smith had the chance of being the goat, but, for the second straight week, came out as one of the heroes. Against Colorado State, Smith fumbled the first punt of the game, but then redeemed himself with a 93-yard kickoff return. Against Eastern Washington, Smith fumbled again, this time giving the opposition a short field in the second quarter, allowing the Eagles to take a 14-7 lead. Smith again redeemed himself, however, with a nine-yard touchdown reception for CU’s first touchdown, and a 51-yard punt return which set up the Buffs’ second score. “Once I start seeing color the ball gets away from my chest and that’s not good,” said Smith of his fumbles. “I just have to keep the ball high and tight. It was a big learning experience.”

The entire game was a learning experience for the Buffs. The stats sheet showed an even game. The Eagles had one more first down (18-17),while the Buffs had a one yard advantage in total offense (351-350). Cody Hawkins hit on 28-38 for 261 yards and three touchdowns to offset his interception. The running game was anemic, with Colorado only rushing for 90 total yards on 33 carries (a 2.7 yards/carry average). Darrell Scott chipped in 39 yards on 11 carries, while Rodney Stewart, receiving his first start as a Buff, had 38 yards on nine touches.

There would be much to work on during the upcoming bye week. In addition to the two costly turnovers, both of which resulted in Eastern Washington touchdowns, the Buffs committed ten penalties (for seventy yards). Such numbers would not bode well with the upcoming slate of opponents.

Up next was West Virginia, one of the preseason picks to contend for the national championship. Led by a Heisman trophy candidate in quarterback Patrick White, the Mountaineers, coming off of an 11-2 campaign, were the consensus pick to take the Big East title and a BCS bid. At Greenville, North Carolina, though, West Virginia met its Waterloo against East Carolina, falling hard, 24-3. The loss dropped West Virginia out of the top ten in the polls.

The good news? The Mountaineers had been exposed, and were certainly not invincible.

The bad news? They would be coming to Boulder with an attitude and a chip on their shoulders.

Undefeated, Untied, and Unimproved

The first drives of each half were just as you would script them:

Opening drive of the game – a nine-play, 84-yard drive finished off with a touchdown.

Opening drive for the opposition in the second half – three-and-out, with a couple of penalties and increased frustration thrown in just for fun.

Yes, the first two drives of each half were exactly the way the Buffs and their fans would have wanted them to be ….

except ….

It was Eastern Washington who took the opening kickoff and marched smartly down the field to take the early lead, and it was Colorado who looked inept and unprepared to open the second half.

What in the name of the Big Sky Conference was going on here?

I must admit, for much of the first half, I had the same attitude I did during the Montana State game in 2006. It wasn’t so much, “I can’t believe this is happening” as it was, “okay, the little kids have had their fun, now it’s time to take control and assert ourselves”.

Only against Montana State, the assertion never came, and against Eastern Washington, it almost came too late.

What do we take from this game? In scanning the message boards on the internet after the game, Buff fans seemed to fall into two camps. There were the “This team is going nowhere / We can’t run the ball / The offensive line is a joke / The play-calling is not utilizing our talent / Cody hasn’t matured / The defense plays too soft” posts – you get the idea.

There were also the defenders: “2-0 is 2-0 / The team showed poise in coming back / The defense stepped up in the second half / The young players are maturing each week / Good thing we have a bye week to correct the errors / Thank God West Virginia got creamed.”

So, where are the Buffs in 2008? I will admit to being shaken by the Buffs’ struggles against the “easiest” opponent on the calendar. After West Virginia, which will be coming to Boulder with something to prove to a national audience, take a look at the next five opponents for Colorado. They won their games on September 6th by a combined total of 261-26, or, if you prefer, by an average score of 52-5. Yes, three of the five wins were over lower division opponents, but wasn’t that what the Buffs were supposed to be playing in Eastern Washington? If the Buffs can’t take charge against an Eastern Washington, how will they pull it all together against more talented competition?

I don’t know.

I do know that the Buffs are 2-0.

I do know that “the Plan” for a winning season mandated that Colorado get through the first two games undefeated, and they have done so.

I do know that West Virginia is now vulnerable, and over the next ten days some questions may start to arise about the prudence of hiring nice guy and player favorite Bill Stewart as head coach, which could get into the heads of the Mountaineer players.

I do know that the Buffs only really need one win in the next three or four weeks to stay on track for a winning campaign.

And, I know that many of these same Buffs were on the field for the Oklahoma game from last season.

Hang tough, Buff fans. With all of this youth (four of the five starting on the offensive line this week were freshmen or sophomores), there will be some trying times, and perhaps some bad losses.

True. The Buffs are an ugly 2-0.

It beats the snot out of being an ugly 1-1.

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Trivia you’ll want to remember

Eastern Washington

– Eastern Washington, as you know, from many references to the Montana State loss in 2006, is a member of the Big Sky Conference. The campus is located at Cheney, Washington, near Spokane in the eastern part of the state. Enrollment is just over 10,000.

– The Eagles have played in the Division 1-AA playoffs six times, including last season. Eastern Washington has won or shared the Big Sky Conference title four times, including back-to-back titles in 2004 and 2005.

– Formed in 1963, the Big Sky Conference has played with as few as six members, and as many as nine. Past members include Boise State (1970-95) and Gonzaga (1963-78). Four of the six charter members (Montana, Montana State, Idaho State, and Weber State) remain. Northern Colorado became the newest member of the conference when the Bears joined in 2006.

– The Eagles play their home games at Cheney Stadium, capacity 8,600.

– Eastern Washington has been in the Big Sky Conference since 1987. Prior to 1987, the Eagles competed as an NAIA school.

– Famous alumni – football – Erik Meyer (quarterback, won the Walter Payton Award in 2005 as the top player in Division 1-AA).

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“This Day in History” – September 6th

1980 – #16 Georgia 16, Tennessee 15. In his debut, freshman running back Herschel Walker scored both Bulldog touchdowns in leading Georgia to a win over Tennessee. Walker ran for 84 yards on 24 carries as Georgia overcame a 15-0 deficit. Walker, as a freshman, would finish third in the Heisman balloting in 1980, then second in 1981, finally winning the trophy in 1982. Georgia would use the early season win over Tennessee as a springboard for the Bulldogs’ first national championship, defeating Notre Dame, 17-10, in the Sugar Bowl.

1986 – #1 Oklahoma 38, #4 UCLA 3. The top-ranked Sooners completely dominated the 4th-ranked Bruins, rushing for 470 yards against a defense which had surrendered only 855 yards rushing in all of 1985. Later that night, #8 Nebraska defeated #11 Florida State, 34-17, in the first-ever night game in Lincoln. Of the four teams mentioned, all made it to bowls, with each winning their games. Oklahoma came in at #3 nationally on the heels of a 42-8 thrashing of Arkansas in the Orange Bowl. Nebraska wound up 6th after defeating LSU, 30-15, in the Sugar Bowl. UCLA utilized a 31-10 win over BYU to finish 15th. Only Florida State was unranked at season’s end. The Seminoles won their bowl game, 27-13, over Indiana in the now-defunct All-American Bowl, but the win only gave FSU a 7-4-1 final record.

1997 – #3 Tennessee 30, UCLA 24. Tennessee quarterback Peyton Manning led the Volunteers to a win over the Bruins, throwing for 341 yards and two touchdowns. Manning would go on to finish 2nd in the Heisman balloting in ‘97, finishing behind Michigan cornerback/kick returner Charles Woodson (Notorious – infamous – Washington State quarterback Ryan Leaf finished third). Peyton Manning’s final season would not end gracefully, as the Volunteers lost in the Orange Bowl to Nebraska, 42-17, completing an 11-1 season with a #7 final ranking.

2003 – #3 Miami 38, #21 Florida 33. Third-ranked Miami rallied from a 23-point deficit to defeat the 21st-ranked Gators. Hurricane quarterback Brock Berlin passed for 340 yards, including a streak of 12 consecutive completions, as Miami rallied from a 33-10 Florida advantage. Both schools completed the 2003 season ranked, with Miami 10th and Florida 17th.

September 6th – Colorado – best game on this date

#8 Colorado 31, #24 Colorado State 21 – September 6, 1997.

The 8th-ranked Buffs rallied from a 14-7 halftime deficit to defeat the 24th-ranked Rams in Boulder, 31-21.

On the third play of the second half, CSU quarterback Moses Moreno was picked off, with the interception by CU linebacker Rashidi Barnes returned 26 yards for a Colorado touchdown.

Deficit erased. 14-14.

On the fifth play of the next series, the Colorado secondary again rose to the occasion. Cornerback Marcus Washington this time did the honors, picking off Moreno and returning the ball to the CSU 32 yard line. With the sold-out crowd of 53,416 in full voice, the Buffs’ offense (despite a fifteen yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty after the interception) quickly drove 47 yards for the go-ahead score. Quarterback John Hessler, having shaken off an inconsistent start, hit receiver Phil Savoy in the back of the end zone with a four yard completion.

21-14, Buffs. The tide had turned, and the momentum carried the Buffs to another score (a 43 yard bomb from Hessler to Savoy) a few minutes later. The Rams did not score again until garbage time, collecting a consolation touchdown with four minutes left to make the final 31-21 Buffs. The win was the 7th straight for CU in the series.

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Did you forget to sign up for the email updates? C’mon …. if you’ve made it this far, you must be a Buff fan! Drop me a note at stuart@cuatthegame.com to get free updates all season long!

 

4 Responses to “Eastern Washington – Undefeated; Untied; and Unimproved”

  1. Oh ya, 58-0. Thanks again Dan for breaking the cniotnuous game scoring record by going for at TD instead of a field goal. And I remember your comment about why you did it which is interesting now in that it flies in the direct face of why you took down McCartney’s sign, “The pride and tradition of the Colorado Buffaloes will not be entrusted to the timid or the weak.” Some day you will look back and realize how your words ran so contrary to your actions and how your actions tore down this program.

  2. cuzach

    Great review. Thanks.

  3. Ken

    I believe your analysis of the Eastern Washington game is right on. Your frequent references to the MSU loss are well-taken. For my part, prior to college, college, grad school, and since I estimate I have attended or seen over 400 CU games. I was at the MSU mess. It was absolutley the worst performance ever by CU including the Blockbuster Bowl giveaway. I see 55-21.

  4. Phil Boice

    Stuart,

    Thanks for the great insight into the next enemy. I am pretty nervous about this game. I think it is because of the MSU debacle. I don’t worry too much about a let down after the big game Sunday. By the way, I did not see your tent anywhere. Sorry, I would have loved to have met you. It was great to be back at a college game though. Anyway, I don’t think our players get up for the CSU game as much as CSU so I think they should be fine in that respect. I just hope they have the stomp on their throat attitude they seemed to have late against the Rams.

    Thanks for the updates. I look forward to having them each week when I deploy to Asia here in a couple of weeks.

    Thanks and GO BUFFS!

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