Preview of this week’s game
This week’s “T.I.P.S.” takes a look at the Buffs’ offensive lineup – for 2009; quotes the Wichita Eagle, and gives you some great quotes and stats to get you ready for this Saturday’s game against Kansas State ….
Review of this week’s game
True freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen lost his red-shirt, but gained instant fame amongst the CU faithful in leading the Buffs to a 14-13 win over Kansas State. Below is a recap of the game’s highlights, plus notes and quotes about Boulder’s newest celebrity ….
Trivia you Need to Know – Kansas State
- What has Kansas State done as a member of the Big 12 that they never accomplished as a member of the Big Seven or the Big Eight? – What is the reason for the quirky tradition of the KSU band playing the “Wabash Cannonball” after every kickoff following a KSU score? – What area of the NCAA record book finds numerous mentions of the Wildcats (but in a place they would rather not be)? – All this and more is just a click away …..
This Day in History - October 18
Mid-October! What a great time to be a college football fan! There have been a number of great games played on this date in college football history. I have for you just a few, including … A 1980 Kansas/Iowa State game with a bad result for both teams …. Arizona State knocks off USC to set the stage for the Sun Devils first-ever trip to Pasadena (1986).
Plus – two CU games from this date in history – an upset win over 10th-ranked Missouri (1975) and a whitewash of Kansas (1997) …..
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Archive Game of the Week
One of the best finishes in Colorado history took place in the 2004 Colorado/Kansas State game in Boulder. The 2004 Buffs had raced out to a 3-0 record before dropping four of their next five games (sound familiar?). CU had an outside chance at the Big 12 North title, but would have to defeat Kansas State at home to have any chance at a championship.
KSU scored late to tie the score at 31-31. Only seconds remained. Overtime seemed inevitable ……
Kansas State preview
This is it, Buff fans. “Put up or shut up” time for Colorado. The competition the last four weeks has been more talented, and the Buffs have struggled to a 1-3 record over that span. Kansas State has talent on their side of the ball as well, but nothing like what we’ve seen for the last month. If CU is to turn around its season, and have a realistic chance at a winning season and a bowl bid, it must begin this Saturday.
Your “T.I.P.S.” for the Kansas State game:
T – Talent
I’m going to assume that you are familiar with issue of quarterback play at Colorado. I could go on about how Josh Freeman has superior numbers to those of Cody Hawkins, but you already know that. So, for this week only, let’s focus on who is not playing. Below is a list of offensive players on the Colorado roster who will not be seeing any playing time for the remainder of the 2008 season:
QB – Tyler Hansen – (freshman/redshirt)
RB – Ray Polk (freshman/redshirt)
FB – Matt Burgner (transfer/must sit out a year)
WR – Markques Simas (ineligible/academics)
WR – Chance Blackmon (freshman/redshirt)
OT – Ryan Miller (injured)
OG – Mike Iltis (injured)
C – Evan Eastburn (transfer/must sit out a year)
OG – Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner (injured)
OT – Sione Tau (ineligible/academics)
TE – Luke Walters (injured)
You can make an entire starting offensive lineup out of players – some of whom were/could be starting in 2008 – who are not going to be on the playing field for the remainder of this season. Teams in Division 1-A are allotted 85 scholarship players. With only 24 “starters” (including the punter and kicker), it would certainly seem that every team is blessed with a very deep pool of talent from which to draw each season. In truth, for most teams this side of USC and Texas, the line between a strong lineup and a dysfunctional unit is perilously thin.
Much has been made of the injuries which have decimated what was already an inexperienced offensive line. Some of the blame for the Buffs’ offensive inadequacies fall there; some goes to Cody’s decision making; some goes to the play calling. 2009 shows great promise for the Colorado offensive lineup. Only center Daniel Sanders, fullback Maurice Cantrell, and wide receiver Patrick Williams will be lost from the two deep.
All of those players listed above should be available, not to mention other true freshmen who are red-shirting this season, and whatever new talent can recruited in the 2009 freshman class. 2009 could be a breakout season – if we can get the offense there in one piece.
I – Intangibles
The Buffs’ players had a team meeting Sunday after practice, and came out with team unity as the theme. “It’s just us and the coaches,” said senior center (and team captain) Daniel Sanders, “so we’ve got to stick with ourselves, stay on the right path and ignore everything else outside of it.” Sounds good, but can the Buff players put those thoughts into action?
Kansas State, after being dominated by Texas Tech, 58-28, to open the Big 12 conference season, overwhelmed Texas A&M 44-30 to raise their record to 4-2, 1-1 in the Big 12. Which game result tells us more? The A&M Aggies are a mess this season (and hopefully will continue to be for at least another three weeks), and the Wildcats are still not highly regarded. Even though Ron Prince’s 2 ½ year record of 16-15 is much better than Dan Hawkins’ 2 ½ year record of 11-20, the general perception is that Prince has to garner a bowl bid this season in order to secure his job.
An interesting quote from Jeffrey Martin of the Wichita Eagle after the Texas A&M game: “Yesterday meant everything from the administration to the coaching staff, which whooped it up after the game as if they’d just won the Super Bowl. In some ways, it was startling, but then you remember the company line – everybody now – ‘It’s hard to win.’ ”
Compare that quote to Neill Woelk’s column this Wednesday in the Boulder Daily Camera: “Somehow, I expected to see the Dal Ward Center in full panic mode Tuesday afternoon. Coaches scurrying back and forth, players with frantic looks on their faces, a general buzz of alarm … But there was neither panic nor manic surrounding Colorado football on Tuesday. In fact … the best way to describe the mood around the Buffs: business as usual.”
Interesting contrast. One team is 4-2, and is well positioned for a run for a bowl bid. The other is 3-3 and on a three game losing streak. One has a coach with an overall record of 16-15; the other is 11-20. One is on the hot seat; the other just signed a contract extension.
Both have much at stake on Saturday.
P – Preparation / Schedule
After facing the Buffs, Kansas State faces three ranked teams – Oklahoma at home, then on the road at Kansas and at Missouri – and three likely losses. With four wins already in the books, and with home games against Nebraska and Iowa State to close out the season, the Wildcats are in a position similar to that of the Buffs four weeks ago: a tough slate of games over the next month, but win one out of four, and a bowl bid is all but assured. Guess which game in the next four weeks looks easiest to the Wildcats?
In 2007, Kansas State dominated Colorado, 47-20. In 2006, head coach Ron Prince picked up his first road win as coach of the Wildcats in a 34-21 win in Boulder. Those results suggest that Ron Prince has Dan Hawkins’ number. Recall, however, that last season, Kansas State sprinted out to a 5-3 record, including an impressive win over Texas, before losing their final four games to fall out of bowl contention.
Of the two losses to Kansas State, Dan Hawkins said: “Last year it was just turnovers; I thought they really just did a good job of getting after us …. Two years ago they hit a couple of short throws, we missed some tackles, and they took it to the house. They’ve done a great job against us; schematically and emotionally.” With their fourth win in the bank, the Wildcats are in a much better position to be talking about bowl bids than are the Buffs. They can play loose this Saturday. It’s the Buffs burden to have this as a “must win” game. If Colorado is not better prepared – “schematically and emotionally” – this weekend, I don’t know when we ever will be.
S – Stats
Finally, some good numbers to report.
400/500. The Buffs’ offense has yet to generate a 400 yard effort this season. Conversely, the Kansas State defense has given up over 500 yards in each of its last four games. Something will have to give on Saturday.
5/3/12 – 96. The ranks, in rushing defense, of the Buffs’ last three opponents – and the next. Florida State comes in this week with the nation’s fifth ranked rushing defense; Texas is 3rd; Kansas is 12th. Certainly, the Buffs inability to run the ball has contributed to the escalation of these teams’ numbers, but halfway into the season a top national ranking is no longer a fluke. Conversely, Kansas State ranks 96th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 181.7 yards/game. Isn’t it about time for Darrell Scott to be healthy and have a break out game? Or for “Speedy” Stewart to post another 100-yard game?
Think that the Wildcats have poor rush defense numbers because they are shutting down the passing game of their opponents? Guess again. The Kansas State pass defense is even worse than their rushing defense. The Wildcats are giving up 260 yards/game through the air (105th in the nation), with the total defense numbers coming in at 442 yards per game, ranked 111th in the nation. In fact, of the 25 lowest ranked teams in total defense, Kansas State and Maryland are the only two teams represented on the list which are from BCS conferences which have posted winning records (both 4-2).
In three games against BCS schools, Kansas State has given up 38 points (to Louisville), 58 points (to Texas Tech) and 30 points (to Texas A&M). If the Colorado offense is going to make any sort of statement about better play for the remainder of the season, this game is their opportunity.
The game will be at night (5:00 p.m. kickoff), at home, before a home crowd eager to support any sort of offensive success. A win, and the Buffs are 4-3 going into a Missouri game which few will give them much hope (bear in mind, though, that by next weekend the Tigers, after playing Texas in Austin Saturday, could be on a two game losing streak and out of the national title race – but we’re getting ahead of ourselves). Even with a loss at Columbia, a 4-4 Buff team will have momentum going into the “bowl eligibility” portion of the schedule – at Texas A&M and at home against Iowa State. A loss, conversely, gives the Buffs a four game losing streak heading into a road game against a Missouri team with something to prove to the nation – the same team which mauled Colorado in Boulder, 55-10, last season. This would give CU a five game losing streak heading into a desperation “which coach is on the hotter hot seat” game at College Station.
Let’s not go there.
2008 still has promise. Kansas State is not a great team. The Wildcats will score, but they will also give up points. The Buffs need this win.
You know it. I know it.
The Buffs know it.
Kansas State review – 2008
October 18th – Boulder Colorado 14, Kansas State 13
Freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen lost his red-shirt, but gained the adulation of Colorado fans and the respect of his teammates in leading the Buffs to a 14-13 win over Kansas State. Hansen’s passing numbers were modest – 7 of 14 for 71 yards, one touchdown, one interception – but his 98 yards rushing on 19 carries energized a lethargic CU offense, leading the Buffs to their only two scores of the evening.
The game against the Wildcats started with a scenario all too familiar to Buff fans – the opposition scoring on their opening drive. For the fourth time in seven games, the Colorado defense surrendered points the first time they took the field. Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman quickly led the Wildcats down the field after the opening kickoff, needing only seven plays to get KSU into the CU redzone. The drive stalled, however, at the Buff 19-yard line, and the Wildcats had to settle for a 3-0 lead three minutes into the contest.
The Buffs, coming into the game with the Big 12’s worst offense, quickly responded. Freshman running back Rodney Stewart gained 18 yards on the Buffs’ first offensive play, and three plays later was on his way to another long run. Unfortunately for Colorado, Stewart was stripped of the ball near the KSU 30 yard line, and momentum was back with the Wildcats.
The game had the makings of a long night as once again Freeman drove the Wildcats into Buff territory. KSU’s second drive, though, could get no closer than the CU 36. No matter. Kicker Brooks Rossman, who hadn’t missed a field goal attempt all season for K-State, connected on a career long 53-yarder to up the Kansas State lead to 6-0 with 6:57 to play in the first quarter.
A three-and-out by the Buffs and another drive by the Wildcats set up Rossman with a 47 yard attempt a few minutes later. Rossman’s third attempt of the quarter, though, was wide right, and the Buffs were back in business.
A murmur went through the Parents’ Weekend crowd of 52,099 a few moments later, as true freshman Tyler Hansen took the field for the Buffs. Fourth on the depth chart, and expected to red-shirt in 2008, Hansen’s presence gave new energy to the game. The anticipation of more production from the offense, stymied for most of the season, was tempered on Hansen’s first play from scrimmage – a fumble out of bounds and a loss of five yards.
Hansen redeemed himself two plays later, when, on third-and-12, he scrambled for 13 yards and a first down. Buoyed by the success, the Colorado offense kept the ball on the ground for the remainder of the drive. Rodney Stewart, Hansen, and Darrell Scott each had impressive runs, with the drive culminating on a four yard touchdown run by Stewart – the first of his career – in an 11-play, 70-yard march to give the Buffs the lead early in the second quarter.
Two plays later, it was party time in Boulder, as linebacker B.J. Beatty forced a fumble by Aubrey Quarles, recovered by safety Ryan Walters at the KSU 24 yard line. The Buffs’ “drive”, though, lost seven yards, and Aric Goodman’s 41-yard field goal attempt was blocked.
A three-and-out by the KSU offense gave the Buffs the ball back, and Colorado responded with their most impressive drive of the game. Assisted by two 15-yard penalties (one being a personal foul on the Wildcats on the punt), the Buffs marched 65 yards in just six plays. Tyler Hansen showed he could throw the ball as well, hitting Riar Geer and Patrick Williams for 13 yard gains before connecting with Scotty McKnight for a 21-yard score to put the Buffs up 14-6 late in the first half. An interception thrown by Hansen and a missed 42-yard field goal attempt by Wildcat Brooks Rossman kept the score at 14-6 at halftime.
The Buffs started out the second half as poorly as they did the first. Colorado lost 12 yards on their opening possession, setting up the Wildcats in good field position at the CU 46. It took Kansas State only three plays to navigate the yardage, with Josh Freeman going in untouched on a 17 yard run to make the score 14-13 with 10:49 to play in the third quarter.
Little did anyone know at the time, but Freeman’s score would be the last points of the night.
Colorado managed to put together at least two first downs in each of its next three drives, but could not penetrate past the Kansas State 30-yard line. On the Buffs’ third possession after the Freeman score, the Buffs put together a 50-yard drive, only to come up empty when Aric Goodman missed a 47-yard field goal attempt.
Meanwhile, the Colorado defense was making its presence known, forcing punts out of the Kansas State offense on their next three possessions. Taking over with at their own 41 with 5:43 to play, the Wildcats seemed primed to come up with just one more drive and pull out the victory.
A 17-yard gain on the first play of the drive only seemed to confirm that the Buffs’ efforts would be for nought. On the very next play, though, Brad Jones forced a fumble by Brett Alstatt at the Colorado 34 yard line, with safety Ryan Walters collecting his second fumble recovery of the game.
With a one point lead to nurse, and 5:17 still to play, the Buffs called on Cody Hawkins to bring home the win. Two runs by Rodney Stewart lost five yards, and, with 3:48 still left on the clock, it appeared that Colorado was going to give the ball right back to Josh Freeman and the Wildcats.
Instead, Hawkins hit Josh Smith for 22 yards and a crucial first down. Three Rodney Stewart runs netted 12 yards and another first down. The next three plays were also all Stewart runs, but they gained only six yards total. While Stewart, who would rush for 141 yards on the evening, did not garner the final first down to seal the victory, he did force Kansas State to use all of their remaining time outs. When Cody Hawkins failed to connect with Josh Smith on fourth-and-four at the KSU 31, there were only 59 seconds remaining.
Assisted by two Kansas State penalties, including a holding call on fourth-and-one at the KSU 40 yard line, Freeman could not get the Wildcats onto the Colorado side of the field. A fourth-and-11 heave from the KSU 30 yard line fell harmlessly to the ground near the CU 20 as time expired, preserving the 14-13 win for the Buffs.
The Buffs had earned their first Big 12 Conference win of the 2008 season, and were back above .500 with the victory at 4-3, but the only topic of interest after the game was the play of freshman Tyler Hansen.
Asked about when he chose to give significant time to his freshman quarterback, Dan Hawkins responded, “Before we started going on Tuesday. I think we just looked at where we were on offense, and what it is we wanted to do and what we thought we could do. We felt like his athleticism at quarterback was going to give us another dimension, and it did.”
Coach Hawkins had repeatedly stated that he doesn’t like using a two-quarterback system, though that was what was effective against Kansas State. “I hate it,” said Hawkins of shuttling quarterbacks. “But it is what it is. I didn’t like the fact that I was slow and short and not very athletic, either, but I had to deal with it … We’ll deal with it as it goes.”
What of the principles in the drama? For his part, Cody Hawkins said all the right things. “I don’t know, I was just so excited for (Tyler Hansen) to get out there. Tyler is one of my good friends,” said Hawkins after a game in which he completed 6-11 passes for 35 yards (22 of which came on the crucial third down conversion pass to Josh Smith). “No one really tries to stand out as an individual. I think the biggest thing for us is that everyone in this program puts the program first in every way …. I am always going to be a team guy.”
Tyler Hansen, meanwhile, was not displeased with giving up his red-shirt season. “On Sunday, after the Kansas game, (offensive coordinator Mark) Helfrich brought me in and asked me if I would be up for it,” said Hansen. “He said I could really help the team out. After that, I said ‘absolutely’. I miss playing. I miss being out there in the lights. I want to compete.”
On the evening, the Buffs rushed for 247 yards, the most since posting 277 yards against Nebraska in the 2007 regular season finale. Rodney Stewart’s 141 yards gave him 594 yards on the season, well within reach of the freshman rushing record of 830 yards set by Lamont Warren in 1991. Still, with 353 yards of total offense, the 400-yard total offense game had yet to materialize for the 2008 Buffs, and the Colorado offense, for the third consecutive game, generated only 14 total points.
Up next was 5-2 Missouri in Columbia. The Tigers, who two weeks earlier were talking national championship, were reeling after consecutive losses to Oklahoma State and Texas.
Would Missouri be out of sync enough for Colorado to offer a serious challenge, or would the Tigers take out their frustrations on the out-manned Buffs? – More on that Wednesday night.
Here are the highlights of the Kansas State game …
Turning Point for the Defense?
Before we get into the quarterback situation in Boulder, can we first give a shout out to the Colorado defense?
Kansas State came into the game ranked 8th in the nation in scoring offense, posting over 43 points a game, but left with just 13.
KSU’s conversion rate on third downs was 49.3%, but the Wildcats went 3 of 15 against CU.
The Wildcat offense had gone three-and-out only six times all season – there were three Saturday night (four if you count the three-and-out which became a first down after a fake punt).
Quarterback Josh Freeman, ranked 10th in the nation in passing efficiency, completed 20 of 41 passes for 237 yards and no touchdowns.
The Buffs, ranked 85th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 168 yards per game, surrendered only 112 rushing yards, including only 42 to the elusive Freeman.
The Buff defense could have folded early. Three straight drives into Colorado territory, however, netted only six points, as Kansas State was held to two field goals and a missed third attempt. “I think we did pretty good,” said junior cornerback Cha’pelle Brown, who teamed up with Brad Jones to cause a fumble with five minutes left deep in Colorado territory. “We talked about this all week that if we had to hold them to zero, then that’s what we were going to do.”
“Obviously, they scored some points,” said Brown, ” but I think we did our job.”
Now, as for the quarterbacks.
“Obviously”, as Cha’pelle Brown would say, we didn’t see this coming. It was only four days ago that I put Tyler Hansen, not even listed on the three-deep roster, on my “not playing for the remainder of 2008? list. Apparently, this was a well kept secret.
Dan Hawkins acknowledged as much after the game. “I don’t think (Kansas State’s players) were prepared for it; which, by the way, I have got to give the local media mad props,” said Hawkins. “For being out there and watching it everyday and not saying anything, that’s huge right there …. I know we talked a long time ago, when you guys wanted the gates to be open, so you could come in there and watch practice and I said, ‘Hey, if I can trust you, you can trust me.’ That was big, that scored a lot of points with me.”
There will be no such surprise next weekend against Missouri. The Tigers will game plan for a running quarterback. They will put nine players in the box (much as Kansas State did in the second half) and force Colorado to win the game through the air.
What of the quarterback controversy? I really don’t see it. For those who would take the words of Cody Hawkins: “I just have to help the team win any way I can”, and “I’m always going to be a team guy”, and try and put a cynical spin on it, I offer you the following:
First, Cody Hawkins not only talks about being a cheerleader for the team, he acts on it. The first two individuals to meet Tyler Hansen after he connected with Scotty McKnight for his first career touchdown were coach Dan Hawkins and his son, Cody Hawkins.
Second, if you think it’s all for show when the cameras are rolling, I ask you to get a hold of the tape from the West Virginia game. Fast forward to the end, after Aric Goodman makes the winning field goal. The camera shots pan the pandemonium; the fans flooding the field. One camera finds Goodman, being pounded on the back by any number of fans. None of the Colorado players have yet to locate the hero of the moment.
Then one does.
I think we’ll be just fine.
Trivia you Need to Know – Kansas State
- The 2008 Kansas State recruiting class was unusual, at best. No fewer than 19 junior college players were signed by the Wildcats (out of 34 – the entire CU class of ‘08 was 20, with one from a JC). Oklahoma State was a distant second in the conference in signing juco’s, with eight. The remaining ten teams in the Big 12 signed 18 junior college transferees – combined.
- Before Bill Snyder came to Manhattan in 1989, the Wildcats had posted only four winning seasons in 53 years. In over half of those seasons – 27, to be precise – the Wildcats lost at least eight games. Snyder inherited a 27-game winless steak when he came on board, a streak which was stretched to 30 games before the Wildcats won their first game for Snyder, a 20-17 win over North Texas. It would prove to be the Wildcats’ only win in 1989.
- On the all-time list for losing streaks, Kansas State appears four times. The Wildcats hold the third longest streak ever, 28 games (1945-48), but also appear with streaks of 18 games (1961-62), 17 games (1964-66), and 16 games (1987-89). (Colorado tied its longest losing streak ever – 10 games – between the end of the 2005 and the start of the 2006 seasons).
- The Wildcats have a quirky tradition of the band playing “Wabash Cannonball” after every kickoff following a KSU score. The tradition originated in tragedy. In 1969, the KSU music department burned down just before a football game. The only music salvaged was in the band director’s briefcase, where there was sheet music for “Wabash Cannonball” was found. The band played the song early and often the next week, and a tradition was born. -
- KSU players were the “Aggies” in the early years, then the “Farmers”. In 1920, coach Charles Bachman arrived from Northwestern (also named the “Wildcats”), and the new name was applied.
- Kansas State has won three Big 12 North titles, the latest in 2003, the same year the Wildcats won their only league title. KSU never won a Big Seven or Big Eight title in the history of either conference (1948-95), but did win a Big Six crown in 1934.
- Famous alumni – football – The only number retired at KSU is #11, worn by both Lynn Dickey (1968-70) and Steve Grogan (1972-74). KSU has had nine consensus All-Americans, including Gary Spani (1977), Chris Canty (1995-96), and Terence Newman (2002).
- Famous alumni – other – Kirstie Alley (actress); Gordon Jump (actor); Erin Brockovich (activist).
This Day in History – October 18th
1975 – #12 Colorado 31, #10 Missouri 20. Missouri jumped ahead of Colorado, 17-3, in the third quarter, before the Buffs rallied for a 31-20 win. Running back Tony Reed scored two of the Buffs’ four second half touchdowns, including a 42 yard run. After Reed’s first touchdown, CU linebacker Brian Cabral forced a fumble on the kickoff to set up the tying score. The Buffs finished with a 9-3 record and a #16 ranking after falling, 38-21, in the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl.
1980 – Kansas 28, #19 Iowa State 17. Kansas freshmen tailback Kerwin Bell had two touchdowns and freshman quarterback Frank Seuer came off the bench to lead the Jayhawks to a 28-17 win over previously unbeaten Iowa State. The win was notable first due to the Cyclones’ being undefeated this late in the season, and for the fact that Kansas later forfeited the win for using ineligible players. Iowa State fell from the rankings with the loss – and didn’t return for 20 years.
1986 – #9 Arizona State 29, #15 USC 20. Arizona State put itself into prime position for its first-ever Rose Bowl berth with a 29-20 win over USC. The win, coupled with an earlier win by ASU over UCLA, gave the Sun Devils the distinction of becoming the first Pac-10 team to sweep UCLA and USC in Los Angeles. Arizona State finished the season with a 10-1-1 record and a #4 ranking after a 22-15 win over Michigan in the Rose Bowl.
1997 – #7 Florida 24, #6 Auburn 10. Florida played without suspended quarterback Doug Johnson, but the defense didn’t need him in holding Auburn to a minus 28 yards rushing on 27 attempts (including nine sacks). Florida went on to defeat Penn State, 21-6, in the Florida Citrus Bowl, to finish with a #4 final ranking.
2003 – #8 Ohio State 19, #9 Iowa 10. The Buckeyes defeated the Hawkeyes without scoring an offensive touchdown. Ohio State had a punt return touchdown and a blocked punt recovery for a touchdown in claiming the top spot in the Big Ten. A late season loss to Michigan, though, put the Buckeyes into the Fiesta Bowl, where, after a 35-28 win over Kansas State, Ohio State finished with an 11-2 record and a #4 final ranking.
October 18th – Colorado – best game on this date
Colorado 42, Kansas 6 – October 18, 1997
For the first time in 1997, the Colorado Buffaloes played like the 1997 Buffaloes were predicted to play. After falling behind 3-0 early, CU dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage, posting its first easy win of the season. Leveling the season record at 3-3, the Buffs recorded their largest margin of victory since leveling Northeast Louisiana 66-14 early in 1995.
A night game parent’s weekend crowd of 52,097 was treated to the best overall team play of Neuheisel’s third campaign. Embattled quarterback John Hessler, the focus of much of the blame for the Buffs’ failures on the field, silenced many of his critics with a near-flawless performance. Hessler completed 15 of 19 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. The senior quarterback also ran the ball in from 16 yards out for a score to make the contest 35-6 late in the third quarter. Hessler sat out the rest of the game, with sophomore Jeremy Weisinger and freshman Adam Bledsoe receiving some much needed playing time in mop-up duty in the fourth quarter.
The running game also showed signs of life for the first time in 1997. Marlon Barnes became the first CU back to rush for over 100 yards in a game, putting together 129 yards on 16 carries. Included in Barnes’ efforts were touchdown runs of four and two yards, giving Barnes four touchdown carries in the Buffs’ last two games.
The defense and special teams were not to be outdone. Holding the Jayhawks without a score in the second half, the defense contributed a score of its own when junior cornerback Marcus Washington intercepted a Zac Wegner pass in the third quarter, running it back 25 yards untouched for the knockout TD.
Even the much-maligned punting game passed muster, as Nick Pietsch and Andy Mitchell shared the duties. Mitchell’s punt netted 34 yards, while Pietsch’s kick, while listed as a 36 yard kick, did pin Kansas down at its own four yard line.
Coach Rick Neuheisel, understandably, was proud and relieved: “It obviously is a great feeling for those of us involved in the program, and who have had a rough go of it”, said Neuheisel after the game, “If we can play well in the next five games, we can salvage what I think will be a very good season, considering where we started.”
[Not so much … the Buffs did defeat Texas, 47-30, the following week, but would win only one game in the final four, finishing 5-6, the first losing season for Colorado since 1984.]
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