“Ten Wins – No Excuses” – Dan Hawkins
Post-Season – 2008
A unit by unit look back at how the Buffs fared in 2008, and a first look ahead at what CU fans can expect from each unit in 2009.
Recruiting Update – January 24th
There are 17 known verbal commits for the CU recruiting class of 2009. Assuming we keep the commits we have so far, the class breaks down as follows:
offense (8): one quarterback (Clark Evans), three receivers (Jarrod Darden, Diante Jackson, Andre Simmons), one tight end (DaVaughn Thornton), and three offensive linemen (Jack Harris, Gus Handler, David Bakhtiari),
defense (8): four defensive linemen (Nick Kasa, Edward Nuckols, Nate Bonsu, J. Forrest West), two linebackers (Derrick Webb, Liloa Nobriga), two defensive backs (Ayodeji Olatoye, Parker Orms), and one kicker (Zach Grossnickle)
While there will much time and energy devoted to these players in the upcoming days and weeks, there remains much speculation as to who is left on the Buffs’ recruiting boards. There may only be 4-6 spots left in this class – where will they come from? Assuming we keep the commitments we have (program note: that is a huge issue when it comes to wide receivers. Look for a full story tomorrow just on receiver commits and prospects), where will the remainder of the class come from?
quarterback: Josh Moten is visiting this weekend; may also be recruited as an “athlete”; wide receiver: Terdema Ussery and Emory Blake – much discussed, but no verbals yet;
offensive line: Chris Freeman seemed like a lock; perhaps Evan Finkenberg from this weekend’s visits, Shaun Simon or Eddie Williams
defensive line: Justin Brown (still has trips to Oregon and Nebraska)
defensive backs: several big names still out there (Byron Moore; Bradley McDougald), but Buffs seem to be long-shots for both
The fun part? There may be some other verbal commits to other schools who are wavering, and are not yet even on the radar of most Buff fans.
Keep checking in. There will be a great deal of material posted on Sunday (wide receiver updates; an essay on recruiting rankings – my “G.U.E.S.S.” plan for evaluating recruits), but, as always, I will put up new information, including any new commits, as soon as they become finalized.
January 23rd -
Colorado picks up commitment #17 ….
Liloa Nobriga, from Palo Verde, Nevada, Friday became the Buffs’ 17th verbal commit. Nobriga is a 6’1: 220-pound linebacker who is considered a three-star player. “The coaches are very excited”, Nobriga told NevadaPrepReport.com. “They have told me I can come in and play any of the linebacker positions. I can even play rush linebacker as an edge rusher.”
Nobriga was an Hawaii commit, but took an official visit to Boulder last weekend. Rated as one of the top 15 players in Nevada, and one of the top 100 linebacker prospects in the nation, Nobriga had offers from Utah and UNLV as well as Hawaii.
No “Safety” in verbal commits ….
Two top safety prospects, both of whom were verbal commitments to other schools, are back on the Buffs’ radar today.
Way back when (that would be yesterday) there was an article posted on Rivals.com indicating that three-star safety prospect Bradley McDougald had committed to play for Kansas. McDougald, from Dublin, Ohio, had nothing but nice things to say about his future in Lawrence, and there was nothing tenuous about his commitment in the report. Today, however, that article has been deleted by Rivals, and McDougald, who last summer verbally committed to play at Ohio State (his offer was later rescinded by the Buckeyes), is now apparently back on the market. Colorado is in the mix along with Kansas, with McDougald also holding offers from a number of Big Ten schools, including Wisconsin, Indiana, and Michigan State.
Another highly sought after safety is also back in play. Four star defensive back Byron Moore from Harbor City, California, who committed to play for USC last June, is once again available. Moore, ranked as the #6 safety prospect in the nation, originally committed to UCLA in April, but had a change of heart after attending a camp at USC last summer. Rivals.com is reporting that Moore’s father has indicated that his son has narrowed his choices down to Notre Dame, LSU, and Colorado. Of the three, the only official visit taken by Moore was to Notre Dame, though Moore told SCPlaybook.com today that he may be taking an official visit to LSU next weekend. One possible advantage for Colorado in the chase for Moore? Moore’s teammate at Narbonne High in Harbor City, quarterback Josh Moten, is taking his official visit to Boulder this weekend. Anyone up for a Harbor City duet?
Another visitor …. BuffStampede.com is reporting another official visitor (that makes five) for this weekend. Preston King, from Tesero High School in Rancho Santa Margarita, California, is an unranked wide receiver prospect on Rivals.com, but a two-star safety prospect on Scout.com. If there is something in the last sentence which sounds vaguely familiar, give yourself a high five … it’s King’s high school. That’s the same school sending Evan Finkenberg, the two-star offensive tackle prospect, to Boulder this weekend – there’s your connection. As of today, King does not have a scholarship offer from Colorado.
January 22nd -
Offensive tackle David Bakhtiari became Colorado’s 16th verbal commitment Thursday. The 6’4, 266-pounder from San Mateo, California, took his official visit to Boulder last weekend. “Those three guys – Coach Hawkins, (offensive coordinator) Mark Helfrich, and (interim offensive line coach) Brad Bedell – they are the main reasons why I chose to go to Colorado,” Bakhtiari told Rivals.com. “I want to be coached by them for the next five years of my life.”Bakhtiari is shown as only a one-star recruit by Scout.com, and is not rated by Rivals.While no explanations are given as to why Bakhtiari is rated so low, there are other indications that those who are actually in the profession thought of him highly. Bakhtiari visited Utah the weekend before last, and was also offered by UTEP and Washington. Ironically, it was when he was talking with coaches from Washington that Bakhtiari decided to cast his lot with the Buffs. While looking up the Washington campus online Wednesday, Bakhtiari said, it hit him, “Why am I thinking about Colorado when I am looking at Washington? It kind of just told me that this is where I am supposed to be.” Bakhtiari was recruited as a tackle, but could also fit in at the guard position. “I’m 266, but I want to be up to 275,” Bakhtiari told Scout.com, “and I want it all to be good weight.”
Bakhtiari is the third offensive lineman to give his verbal commitment to Colorado, joining OG Gus Handler from Barrington, Illinois, and OT Jack Harris from Parker, Colorado.
Program Note – for those who may be wringing their hands over the lack of star power in the Buffs’ latest recruit, I ask you to check back here at www.cuatthegame.com on Sunday. This week’s essay is entitled: Stuart’s Guide to Understanding Evaluation Scores and Systems, or, as I like to call it, G.U.E.S.S. Also this Sunday, there will also be a complete review of the wide receiver recruiting situation. We’ll take a look at the status of the current recruits on the board (Jarrod Darden, Andre Simmons, and Diante Jackson), as well as an update as to the status of those players still on the Buffs’ radar, including Terdema Ussery, Emory Blake, and the two JC receivers from Compton, California, Markish Jones and Jewel Hardy. Of course, there will still be updates (late afternoon) on Friday and Saturday, plus anytime there is breaking news worthy of your time and interest! Go Buffs!
Shameless Self Promotion – February 4th is signing day. You are good about checking in with CU at the Game for new information about your Buffs now, but will you remember to check for new updates when the Buffs are not making daily headlines? Didn’t think so. The only way to ensure that you never miss an update (and I am planning for at least two between signing day and the beginning of Spring practice March 31st – CU at the Game does not hibernate!), you need to be on the email update list. It’s easy, confidential, and free. Just drop me a note at email@example.com and you will be placed on the list. You will never miss an update, and you will receive bonus information not posted on the website. Drop me a note right now while you’re thinking about it! Go Buffs!
Below (just click on the “Entire Update” icon), in the full Recruiting update, you will find: Bios on the four January 18th commits: kicker/punter Zach Grossnickle, tight end DaVaughn Thornton, linebacker Derrick Webb, and defensive end J. Forrest West. Plus, the latest on the resignation of offensive line / assistant head coach Jeff Grimes. Plus, “The Week that Was – January 11th -17th”; as well as an update as to What’s Next? and Who’s Left? – a look at which recruits are have visits scheduled for next weekend ……
Essay: “Just in the Nick (Kasa) of Time”
It started as an internet rumor that few believed. It was just too good to be anywhere close to the truth. Then, last Sunday, just when it looked as if it might be another bleak weekend for Buff fans, it happened. Nick Kasa’s high school head coach confirmed that the five-star defensive end had de-committed from Florida, and had committed to play at Colorado.It was a great day for Buff fans, and not just because Dan Hawkins had, for the third straight year, nabbed the top prep player in the state. No. Kasa’s commitment means soooo much more. Read “Just in the Nick (Kasa) of Time” below, then tell me if I’m wrong in saying that January 11, 2009, was one of the biggest days of the Dan Hawkins’ era …..
Recruiting Spotlight – Jack Harris
For the third year in a row, Dan Hawkins has landed the top offensive lineman in the state of Colorado. You remember Ryan Miller, don’t you? The one who spurned Notre Dame to play for a 2-10 team? How about last year’s top lineman, Bryce Givens, who was ranked up with linebacker Jon Major as the two best players in Colorado?
Well, let me introduce you to Jack Harris from Parker, who just happens to not only be the top prep lineman in the state this year, but also the 2nd-best player in the state overall (unless the loss of OL coach Jeff Grimes causes Harris to waiver. I’ll keep an eye on this for you) ……
This area reserved for Guest Archivist Games – as soon as I get some more submissions!! In the meantime, I have posted my stories from two of the most infamous games in Colorado history. In back-to-back games, the Buffs lost in record-setting fashion to Oklahoma, 82-42, then set the bar even lower by losing the following week to the mightly Bulldogs of …. well …. Drake University.
Want to feel better about your present-day Buffs? Take a few minutes to reflect on how bad it once was with these two entertaining recollections.
[Afterwards, send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org , and we’ll get your story posted!]
Just for Fun – Test your Knowledge!
How many of the 34 bowl games can you name …. in just three minutes!
How many of the 120 Division 1-A schools can you name …. in only five minutes!
Not as easy as it sounds! Good luck!
Post-Season – 2008
On paper, the Buffs were only a half game worse in 2008 than they were in 2007. On paper, 5-7 doesn’t seem that much worse than 6-7. On paper, the Buffs lost a great deal of talent due to injuries, and were just a freakishly long field goal away from post-season.
We know better, don’t we?
For the Buff loyalists – and I know you are one, since you are reading this – 2008 was a disappointing season. After rising from the depths of a 2-10 season in 2006 to a bowl bid in 2007, Colorado fans were hoping – make that expecting – bigger and better in 2008. A 3-0 start put the Buffs on the cusp of a national ranking. From there, things went from bad to worse. The offensive line lost 40% of its starters the week of the Florida State game. The offense overall went from average to awful. The kicking game …. well, you know the rest. Only two wins in the final nine games, and both of those wins were nail-biters against very mediocre teams from Kansas State and Iowa State.
Time to shelve the CU jacket? Of course not. Below is a position by position look at how the Buffs fared in 2008, and a first look at what we can expect to see take the field on September 5th against Colorado State.
2008 Results – D-plus
Cody Hawkins was the incumbent coming into the 2008 season, but Nick Nelson and Matt Ballenger were given the opportunity in spring practice to try and unseat the sophomore. Hawkins won the job, but was inconsistent and ineffective. Instead of turning to the senior Nelson or the red-shirt freshman Ballenger, the Buffs instead turned to true freshman Tyler Hansen. Hansen provided a scrambling element to the CU quarterback position, but was no more effective than Hawkins at producing victories. The result? A scoring offense which was ranked 99th in the country. When Oklahoma was scoring at the rate of a point per minute, and other schools routinely racked up 40+ points per game, Colorado fans were left hoping the Buff offense could muster a score in the 20’s. While the lack of points cannot be laid entirely at the feet of the quarterbacks, it is the field general, as coach Dan Hawkins likes to say, which gets more credit than they deserve, and more blame than they deserve. The bottom line? The offense didn’t produce because the quarterbacks didn’t produce.
2009 – First look
Cody Hawkins will be a junior, with the better part of two full seasons under his belt. Tyler Hansen will be a sophomore, and will have a full off-season of film study and workouts to bolster his status. And what of Matt Ballenger? A year ago at this time, Buff fans were salivating at the prospect of the 6′ 4? red-shirt freshman prospect, but somehow between spring ball and the start of conference play, Ballenger fell behind true freshman Hansen. Which of the three will step up and demonstrate the ability to post scores in the 30’s and 40’s next season? That’s hard to say right now, but will certainly be an area of focus come spring practice.
[The Buffs have a verbal commitment from three star prospect Clark Evans, but the last thing fans want to see on the field in 2009 is another true freshman struggling with the Buff offense.]
2008 Results – C
The Buffs’ running back savior to be, Darrell Scott, was hampered by injuries almost the entire season. The absence of a passing game, coupled with an offensive line decimated by injury, makes it difficult to assess what the future holds for CU’s glamour signing of the 2008 recruiting class. On the season, Scott carried the ball only 87 times, netting 343 yards. The CU running game did receive, though, an unexpected boost from an unlikely source. Signing day throw in Rodney Scott, a lightly regarded prospect from Columbus, Ohio, led the team in rushing, posting 622 yards before a season-ending injury in game nine against Texas A&M. Sophomore Demetrius Sumler only had 63 opportunities to carry the ball all season, but he made the most of them, leading the team with four rushing touchdowns. If anything, this group deserves a grade of “incomplete”.
2009 – First look
If the Buffs had not ended the season on such a sour note, the 2009 CU backfield would be touted as being one of the best in the Big 12. Stewart is making significant strides on his rehabilitation, and every other back in the rotation returns. “Healthy” will be the watch word for ‘09, as a “healthy” Darrell Scott, combined with a “healthy” Rodney Stewart, combined with a “healthy” offensive line – (and don’t forget Ray Polk, Demetrius Sumler, and Kevin Moyd!) and the Buffs could have a dominant running attack next season.
Wide Receivers / Tight Ends
2008 Results – C-minus
Not much was expected from the CU receiving corps in 2008, and, well, they delivered. The passing offense was actually a little better statistically than the rushing offense (81st nationally, compared to 87th for the rushing offense), but there was little to be excited about. Markques Simas, who was supposed to join Josh Smith as the speed burners on the offense, failed to qualify academically. Smith, for his part, had only 29 catches for 387 yards. The unit was led by sophomore Scotty McKnight, who had 519 yards receiving on the season. The tight ends were led by junior Patrick Devenny and Riar Geer, who had 14 and 13 catches, respectively. The most telling statistic? Until Geer’s 68-yard touchdown catch in the final game of the season, the longest pass play for Colorado the entire season was a 40-yard pass from Cody Hawkins to Demetrius Sumler against Texas A&M in game nine – and that was on a screen pass.
2009 – First look
On the two deep roster, only Cody Crawford (31 catches in 2008) and Patrick Williams (30 catches), will be lost. Williams and Crawford were 2nd and 3rd on the catch list for the Buffs in 2008, but both are replaceable. If Markques Simas can pass enough classes to become academically eligible, a lineup with Smith, Simas, and Scotty McKnight will be a step up for Colorado. The tight ends should also be set, with Geer and Devenny playing as seniors, with sophomore to be Ryan Deehan getting into the mix after seeing playing in 2008 as a true freshman.
[There is also much to be excited about in the recruiting class of ‘09 in the wide receiver area. One or more 2009 recruits could see playing time this fall.]
2008 Results – C-minus
While there was great potential for this unit in 2008, the C- grade is not based on potential, but on results. The sad reality is that after week four of the season, when starting guard Max Tuioti-Mariner (knee) and starting tackle Ryan Miller (leg) were lost for the remainder of the year, the Buffs’ offense started to unravel. Red-shirt freshmen Blake Behrens and Matthew Bahr stepped in for the starters, and did improve over the course of the season. The fact remains, though, that the CU offense ranked 94th in the nation in 2008, and that statistic is largely attributable to the lack of consistent production from the offensive line. After scoring more than 30 points in each of the first two games of the season, the Buffs did not break the 30 point barrier again until the season finale.
2009 – First look
Only senior starting center Daniel Sanders is lost from the two deep roster. MTM and Miller should both return (with both likely to receive a medical red-shirt season as a result of being lost so early in the 2008 campaign). If junior-to-be Keenan Stevens or transfer Evan Eastburn (a Boulder (Fairview) product who sat out a season after transferring from Virginia) can fill the void left by Sanders, the future is bright indeed for the Colorado offensive line. There should be talent on hand (senior to be Devin Head will return as starter at guard, and former tight end Nate Solder, who will be a junior, will have a full off-season to master his position at tackle, joining MTM and Miller as starters), with quality depth which has seen significant playing time. This is not to mention 2008 freshman prospect Bryce Givens, one of the top two recruits from the state of Colorado last season (linebacker Jon Major being the other), who red-shirted in 2008, and Mike Iltis (knee), another August casualty who will be back in 2009.
2008 Offense Overall – D-plus
When the rankings posted by your offense rank from a high of 81st (passing offense) to a low of 99th (scoring offense), it is hard to give the unit a passing grade. Quite simply, the reason the Buffs are home for the holidays is a lack of consistency from the offense. The line could not produce holes for the running game, and the backs were not strong enough or fast enough to create their own holes. The wide receivers were not skilled enough to get open, and the quarterbacks not talented enough to thread needles or agile enough to escape the pass rush. The 2008 Buff offense, to emphasize its ineptitude, committed the cardinal sin of suffering the first shut out for CU in twenty seasons.
2009 Offense – First look
For all of the doom and gloom stated above, there is reason for optimism in the Buff Nation. The offensive line will be back stronger than ever, the running backs will be at full strength, and the wide receiver corps will be flush with new talent and speed. The real question mark remains at quarterback. Can Cody Hawkins improve as the talent around him improves? Will Tyler Hansen step up and take over the top spot?
At Boise State, Dan Hawkins’ teams averaged over 40 points per game. Such a standard is becoming the norm in college football, especially in the hurry up spread offenses being adopted around the Big 12. Will 2009 be the season that the Buffs’ offense finally clicks?
2008 Results – C-Minus
Senior defensive tackle George Hypolite was supposed to be an All-American candidate in 2008. As it turned out, Hypolite efforts were only good enough to be named second team in the All Big 12 voting. Fellow seniors Brandon Nicholas (tackle) and Maurice Lucas (end) were not the run stopping force envisioned back in August. The Buffs, ranked 31st in the nation in rushing defense in 2007, fell to 87th in 2008. The most senior-laden unit on the team did not live up to its advanced billing, and that hurt the Buffs this season.
2009 – First look
Along with the kicking game, the defensive line is the area of greatest concern for 2009. The loss of the three seniors, along with the loss of junior Jason Brace (concussions), leaves the Buffs short on bodies and experience all along the defensive line. Junior-to-be Marquez Herrod and sophomore-to-be Conrad Obi are the leading defensive end candidates (Drew Hudgins, lost to a knee injury in 2008, may also be back), with Curtis Cunningham, Eugene Goree, and Taj Kaynor likely to see the most playing time at defensive tackle. It is also a fair assumption that you will be seeing more 3-4 looks from the CU defense in 2009, as the Buffs try and get its plethora of linebacking talent on the field to supplement the lack of depth along the defensive front.
2008 Results – C
Just like the offensive line, the results from the linebackers was more of what could have been, rather than what was. Lynn Katoa (suspension) and Jon Major (knee) were supposed to be significant contributors this season, but neither saw the field of play. Junior Jeff Smart was named to the second team All Big 12 team, while fellow linebackers Shaun Mohler and Brad Jones were given honorable mention. With the team’s three starters all receiving post-season accolades, it would seem proper to give out a higher grade, but with the team’s lack of success, and lack of big plays at crucial times, CU fans are left with a feeling of missed opportunity. The linebackers were to be the unit which led the Buffs to a winning season, and the unit, like the team, came up just short.
2009 – First look
The only lost player from this unit in 2009 is senior Brad Jones. Smart and Mohler will be back, along with Michael Sipili, Marcus Burton, and B.J. Beatty, all of whom saw significant playing time in 2008. When supplemented with the additions of 2008 star recruits Jon Major and Lynn Katoa, the linebacking crew should be formidable in 2009. This will have to be the case, as the defensive front, as noted above, will be young and inexperienced. There will likely be four of these talented players on the field most of next fall.
2008 Results – B-plus
What a pleasant surprise this unit turned out to be! Billed as the Achilles’ heel of the Colorado defense, the defensive backfield more than held its own in 2008. A final ranking of 73rd in the nation does not seem to be much reason for joy, until you consider that the same unit (with Terrence Wheatley) was ranked 103rd in 2007. What’s more, the Colorado secondary, while mediocre by national standards, was the best in the Big 12 this past season (the next highest ranked Big 12 team in pass defense was Nebraska, in at 90th. Seven Big 12 teams were ranked 100th or lower). Junior cornerback Cha’pelle Brown and senior safety Ryan Walters (despite missing the final two games of the season) were Big 12 honorable mentions at their positions.
Defensive back coach Greg Brown, along with Defensive Technical Intern Ashley Ambrose (he of the 13 seasons in the NFL) deserve a great deal of credit for what this unit accomplished in 2008.
2009 – First look
Both safeties, Ryan Walters and D.J. Dykes, will be lost. However, neither played in the last two games of the season due to injury, and were ably replaced by freshmen, Anthony Perkins and Patrick Mahnke. Senior cornerback Gardner McKay will also be lost, but the Buffs have Cha’pelle Brown and sophomore Jimmy Smith returning. Also in the mix will be Jalil Brown, a sophomore in 2008, who started most of the season on the field as a nickel back, and senior Benjamin Burney, who will be returning in 2009 after a series of surgeries this past season. There seems to be an adequate mix of returning and new talent to make the next few seasons positive ones for this unit (retaining Ashley Ambrose may be the key to their continued improvement, however).
2008 Results – D-minus
The only reason this grade is not an “F” is that Josh Smith had a record-setting season in 2008. Smith, a sophomore, had 1,276 yards returning kickoffs, another 292 returning punts. Smith’s 1,987 all-purpose yards (including 32 yards rushing and 387 yards receiving) is second only in CU history to Rashaan Salaam’s 2,349 yards in 1994.
The rest of the kicking game? Abysmal. Awful. Atrocious. You know the story. Aric Goodman finished the season making only 5 of 14 attempts, with a school record eight misses in a row after making the game winner against West Virginia. Jameson Davis made one of his three attempts despite being injured.
The punting game fared little better. Matt DiLallo was the two year incumbent starter, was so ineffective and inconsistent that he was replaced by senior Tom Suazo by the end of the season. What was thought to be a strength, the punting game, ended up a weakness, as the Buffs finished 82nd in the nation in net punting.
2009 – First Look
Josh Smith was not happy concentrating on kick returns, despite his record-setting numbers. If Smith focuses more on being a wide receiver, Jason Espinoza, who broke his collarbone twice this season, may take his place. Matt DiLallo will be a senior, and is the best bet to return to his status as starting punter.
The kicking game is anyone’s guess. Will Aric Goodman shake off his slump? Will a healthy Jameson Davis be the answer? Or will a recruit (Denver East prospect Zach Grossnickle makes his official visit to CU in mid-January) have to take over the reins?
That’s a high number of questions for such a vital part of the Colorado plan for success. The Buffs and their fans went six weeks without a successful field goal in the middle of the season, and cringed the remainder of the year when the field goal unit took the field. Obviously, if the Buffs are to be taken seriously as a contender in the Big 12 North in 2008, this unit will need dramatic improvement.
2008 Defense – Overall – C
The Colorado defense was not awful in 2008; nor was it good. The rankings range from 79th (scoring defense) to 87th (rushing defense). The defensive line was a disappointment, the linebackers merely adequate, and the defensive backfield’s improvement only brought it into the mediocre range. Still, the defense, outside of meltdowns against Florida State and Missouri, kept the Buffs in most of their games this season. With a little help from the offense and special teams, the Buffs would have been bowl worthy in 2008. At times, the “young and inexperienced” Buffs nonetheless fielded seven seniors on defense. More was expected from this side of the ball than was delivered this past season.
2009 Defense – First look
With the aforementioned seven seniors lost, there is reason for consternation when it comes to the Colorado defense in 2009. Holes will need to be filled along the defensive line, as well as at the safety positions. Still, there is reason for optimism. The linebacker unit can easily run out four quality starters to supplement the lack of depth along the defensive line. The defensive backfield has a good combination of talent and youth, and looks to only get better with time. If CU can get consistent production from its new defensive tackles and safeties, there is reason to believe the overall numbers for the Colorado defense will continue to improve.
As for the kicking game in 2009, your guess is as good as mine. Josh Smith, should he embrace the role, will set all of the return and all-purpose yardage records at Colorado. There is every reason to hope that punter Matt DiLallo’s senior season will be more along the lines of his freshman and sophomore campaigns instead of his junior year. The kickers? Two halves don’t make a whole. Goodman or Davis will have to win the job, or surrender it to a newcomer come September.
There will be much to add in the coming months, as the recruiting class analysis gives way to spring practice, which paves the way to August drills. Is “Ten wins; no excuses” over-reaching for this team in 2009? Perhaps.
To use another sports metaphor, though – You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.
Recruiting Update – January 19th
Four new verbal commitments received January 18th. It’s time to get to know them:
Of the four recruits who gave their verbal commitments to the University of Colorado on Sunday, the name most familiar to Buff fans was that of kicker/punter Zach Grossnickle. With the struggles in the kicking game an obvious problem throughout the 2008 season, it was not a huge surprise that the Buffs went looking for additional help, even though CU already has three kickers on scholarship.
It didn’t hurt that one of the best kickers in the nation was plying his trade just down the turnpike at Denver East High. Grossnickle was recently moved into the top ten in the kicker rankings by Scout.com. The kicker/punter/soccer star was offered first by Kansas, though other schools expressed an interest in Grossnickle after his season (12-of-13, the only miss coming from 58 yards out).
Grossnickle committed about an hour after returning home from his official visit on Sunday. “I just needed that extra hour after my visit to go over my options,” Grossnickle told BuffStampede.com. “I had to think about it. It was a little hard, but now I just feel like I made the right decision.”
Will Grossnickle be asked to compete for a job as a true freshman? For his part, the 6’3?, 175 pound senior was non-committal. “They kind of want to keep that on the down low right now,” said Grossnickle. “But they told me how they felt I would be used and how I would help make CU better.” Read into that what you will, Buff fans. My take? Davis and Goodman (and DiLallo, for that matter) have the spring and into the fall to convince coaches that they are ready to be Big 12 kickers. If they can’t do the job, Mr. Grossnickle should be prepared to tear off his red-shirt and contribute.
Zach Grossnickle’s teammate at Denver East was actually the first of the two to commit on Sunday. The 6’5?, 217-pound tight end prospect contacted BuffStampede.com on his way home Sunday afternoon. “I am driving home now,” he said. “It was a lot of fun. We got to go up to the top of the mountains and look down on the campus … The coaches were nice, the facilities were nice, and the weight room is awesome.”
Considered only a two-star prospect, DaVaughn Thornton did make the Denver Post All-Colorado team, with 44 catches for 786 yards and 11 touchdowns last season. Thornton is also quite the basketball player, helping the Angels of Denver East earn back-to-back state championships (Thornton is averaging 19 ppg this season).
In front of him on the depth chart at tight end will be seniors Riar Geer and Patrick Devenny, as well as sophomore Ryan Deehan. Thornton, though, is undeterred. “When the offensive coordinator said I can come in and do some things right now with where I’m at right now,” Thornton told Scout.com, “it was just the place I see myself being and fitting in right away and having a good career.”
Thornton, who had offers from CSU, San Diego State, and Wyoming, cancelled plans to visit Arizona State and Cal. “I’m not planning any other trips,” said Thornton. “I’m done. I am just going to focus on basketball now.”
Derrick Webb is a 6-foot, 225-pound linebacker prospect from Memphis, Tennessee. Webb is rated as the 23rd-best weakside linebacker in the nation, and the 16th-best prospect overall from the state of Tennessee. In his senior season, Webb, seen as a three-star prospect, recorded 130 tackles.
It may have been fortuitous that Boulder had a beautiful weekend waiting for Webb. Fearing the worst, Webb brought his heaviest coats, only to be met with 60 degree weather this past weekend. “I was expecting it to be freezing but they had some good weather,” Webb told BuffStampede.com after his visit. “I heard about the scenery and about the mountains and how nice it is. It lived up to the hype.”
Still, it may not be over for the Buffs with this recruit. In September, Webb told Scout.com, “It’s been a dream of mine to play in the SEC”. Webb does have offers from Mississippi and Kentucky, and did have plans to make official visits to Kentucky this weekend and Tennessee next weekend. We’ll see if he cancels those visits. If he does, then what Webb told BuffStampede.com will be music to Buff fans’ ears: “I was impressed with how everyone gels at Colorado and I gelled with everyone that I met in the two days I was out there …. I feel like it would be a good place for me.”
J. Forrest West
Perhaps the most obscure commit of the 2009 class to date is J. Forrest West, a 6’2?, 230-pound two-star defensive end commit from Salisbury, Connecticut. West had fallen so far off the radar that Scout.com did not even list him as a prospect prior to his visit this past weekend.
A reach for the Buffs? The CU coaching staff doesn’t think so. West was a standout as a sophomore in high school, but was injured his entire junior season when schools do much of their evaluations. Fully recovered, West made the transition from defensive end to linebacker this past season. “(My senior season) started off kind of slow because I played linebacker and I was used to playing defensive end,” West told BuffStampede.com. “I got used to it around the third game of the season and then it was fun.”
How did the Buffs find this obscure potential star? Easy. The Buffs invited West to a one-day, invite only camp last June, and West made an impression. West was also impressed. “I have really liked Colorado ever since I went out to that camp,” said West. “I kept in contact with them.”
West is projected to play defensive end for the Buffs, but, at 230 pounds, West may be looking at a red-shirt season (all of the Buffs’ defensive ends this past season were in the 260- to 270-pound range). West was looking at other schools back east, including Penn State and Uconn, before committing to play in Boulder.
And what of the loss of Jeff Grimes?
It was announced Sunday morning that CU offensive line / assistant head coach Jeff Grimes was leaving Colorado, accepting a similar position at Auburn.
“It was very hard,” Grimes told the Boulder Daily Camera. “I’ll be honest with you, I cried like a baby when I told Hawk, and I cried like a baby when I talked to my players.” Still, the decision was made to move on by the 40-year old coach. “The bottom line is both for my career and my family I had a gut feeling that this is the right thing for me.”
The bottom line usually is associated with money, and that may have been a factor here. Despite the fact that Grimes was the third-highest paid assistant coach on the Colorado staff, it would not be a stretch to assume he will make more at Auburn.
Who will replace Grimes? Three names associated with Colorado football have already been mentioned. Brad Bedell, an All-American offensive lineman at CU in 1999, has served as the offensive technical intern the past two seasons under Grimes. Bedell, however, has no major college coaching experience. Another possibility is Stan Brock, the former head coach at Army, who played for the Buffs in the 1970’s.
Then there is Dave Logan, who seems to get mentioned every time there is any opening at Colorado. Logan is a Denver prep head coach who played at Colorado as well as for the Cleveland Browns and the Denver Broncos.
For me? I would go with none of the above. The Buffs have, in the past three seasons, put together a fine pool of young and talented linemen. CU needs an experienced college coach to come in and make this line a dominant force in the Big 12. It could be a hungry young coach from a non-BCS school (not Boise State, please. We have enough “nepotism” jokes going around as it is), or an experienced coach who lost his job recently due to the multiple coaching changes in the past two months.
Stay tuned. It shouldn’t take long for the Buffs to find a replacement. Spring practice is less than two months away.
The week that was – January 11th – 17th.
Of course, the important news of the week came on Sunday, when both Nick Kasa and Edward Nuckols committed to play for the Buffs. Kasa, the former Florida Gator commit, is a five-star defensive end who is rated as the top player in the state of Colorado, and the 4th-best defensive lineman in the country. Nuckols, a four-star defensive tackle from San Marcos, California, is ranked in the top 25 amongst defensive linemen by Rivals.com, and is rated 32nd-best by Scout.com
There were no other commits to Colorado during the week, but several players the Buffs were interested in did pull the trigger and decide to play elsewhere. Amongst those most highly sought after by the Buffs were: Michael Clay, a linebacker out of San Jose, California, who opted to play for Oregon; Tracy Moore, a tight end prospect who gave his verbal commitment to Oklahoma State; and cornerback Desmond Trufant, from Tacoma, Washington, who committed to stay home and play for the Huskies.
There were at least 11 prospects who made their official visits to Boulder the weekend of January 16th – 18th (some reports had the number as high as 16, but some of those players may have been on unofficial visits – or the reports were mistaken). Of the 11, two had already given at least soft verbal commitments to other schools (OL Eddie Williams, UCLA; LB Liloa Nobriga, Hawaii). Other still have official visits to other schools left to make, like LB Derrick Webb (Kentucky, Tennessee) and OL Chris Freeman (Wisconsin, Tennessee).
We may hear from a several of those in Boulder this past weekend as early as today (Sunday), but most may wait a few more days or weeks, as the February 4th signing day looms ever closer.
January 16th – January 18th was the biggest official visit weekend of the 2009 recruiting cycle – but that does not mean that the Buffs are done hosting recruits. There are at least three players making visits this upcoming weekend. One is three-star quarterback prospect Josh Moten, who is choosing between CU and Washington. Moten, a dual-threat quarterback from Harbor City, California, took his official visit to Seattle this past weekend. Also in an enemy camp this past weekend was three-star cornerback prospect Thomas Ferguson. Ferguson, from Grand Prairie, Texas, visited Kansas State. The final prospect we know about who is traveling to Boulder next weekend is two-star wide receiver Alante Wright. Wright, from Chandler, Arizona, is not highly regarded, though, being ranked as the 299th receiver prospect in the nation by Scout.com. Wright, to this point, does not have offers from any other Division 1-A schools.
Diante Jackson – update. All is quiet on the western front. The four-star wide receiver commit from Walnut Creek, California, who de-committed from Oregon on January 1st, and committed to play for Colorado, remains on the board for the Buffs at both Scout.com and Rivals.com. It was widely reported last week – including on this site – that Jackson had reversed his field once again, and would be back on the Oregon commit list by week’s end. So far, that has not happened. No new stories have been posted on Jackson this week, and, as noted, he remains listed as a CU commit. Stay tuned.
Five-star defensive tackle prospect Nick Kasa from Broomfield has re-considered his commitment to Florida. Kasa said during the first week of January that the Colorado coaches had kept in touch despite his commitment to the Gators, and that, according to Rivals.com, “I’m not sure right now where I’m at”. Kasa went on to say, “I’m still committed to Florida and that’s how it is right now”. Then, on Sunday, January 11th, BuffStampede.com broke the story that, according to Kasa’s high school coach, Wayne Voorhees, Kasa called Florida coach Urban Meyer to de-commit, then called Dan Hawkins to let him know that he will be a Buff in 2009!
“I don’t know exactly why he changed his mind, but I knew he was wavering,” Voorhees was quoted as saying to BuffStampede.com. “I think that a lot of it is that CU is closer to home and he feels like he can go on to CU and play right away.”
After the Nick Kasa announcement, Buff fans were happy campers. The defensive line, thought to be a significant area of concern, all of the sudden was an area of potential strength. A few hours later, Buff fans had even more reason to be excited about the future of the defensive line, as defensive tackle Edward Nuckols from San Marcos, California, committed to play as a Buff. “It was a tough choice,” said Nuckols to Rivals.com about CU v. Arizona. “Both schools have a wonderful campus, both teams are coming up in their conferences, and both are bringing in top notch recruits.”
Nuckols stands 6’2?, and weighs in at 295 lbs. He is ranked amongst the top 25 defensive tackle prospects in the nation by Rivals.com, and the 32nd best defensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com.
I will be posting updates throughout the week as warranted, with another full update next Sunday.
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Essay: “Just in the Nick (Kasa) of Time”
The news on January 11th that five-star defensive end prospect Nick Kasa had de-committed from Florida and had committed to play in Boulder next fall was like a breath of fresh air. In one day, the prospects for the Buffs’ 2009 recruiting class, the image of the program, and the prognosis for the team’s chances of success all improved dramatically on one glorious Sunday.
Player of Need
One of the top priorities for the Colorado coaching staff this recruiting season was the defensive line. Three seniors – tackles George Hypolite and Brandon Nicholas, along with defensive end Maurice Lucas, all are graduating (not to mention the loss of junior Jason Brace, who has ended his football career due to repeated concussions). Behind these players, the coaches knew, there was little depth and little playing experience. An influx of talent on the defensive line was imperative this recruiting cycle.
Prior to January 11th, the Buffs had only one verbal commitment from a defensive lineman. Nate Bonsu, a three-star lineman from Allen, Texas, committed back in November. Bonsu had over a dozen other scholarship offers from BCS teams, including Kansas and Iowa State, so he is a quality prospect for the Buffs – but not exactly a headliner. Bonsu is rated as only a two-star prospect by Scout.com, and, even though his high school team won the Texas 5A high school title, Bonsu did not attract offers from any Texas schools other than TCU.
Enter Nick Kasa.
Kasa is rated as the 42nd best player in the nation by Rivals.com – at any position. Kasa ranks in the top three nationally in such categories as “Best Against the Run” and “Strongest Defensive Ends”. At 6′ 7?, 245 pounds, Kasa is one of the best players in the country at a position where the Buffs needed to land a great player.
Will Kasa change his mind back again? It doesn’t seem likely. While Kasa acknowledged that he felt bad about de-committing to Florida, it doesn’t sound as if he will re-consider. “I’m not going to waiver in my decision,” Kasa told GatorBait.net on January 15th. “I de-committed from one, I don’t think I should de-commit again. That would just look really bad for me. I think CU is where I am going to be the most comfortable.”
Upgrading the Recruiting Class
How much of an impact Kasa will ultimately have on the 2009 recruiting class has yet to be determined. Did Kasa’s committing to play in Boulder have any impact on the decision of fellow defensive lineman Edward Nuckols to commit later that same day? Nuckols is a four-star defensive tackle prospect from San Marcos, California. For Nuckols, it came down to Arizona and Colorado. “It was a tough choice,” said Nuckols last Sunday. “Both schools have a wonderful campus, both teams are coming up in their conferences, and both are bringing in top notch recruits.” (emphasis added).
At the time Nuckols made his comment, neither the Buffs nor the Wildcats were burning up the recruiting rankings. Both were outside the top 50, so the “top notch recruits” reference may well have been directed toward the news about Nick Kasa.
The addition of the two top-rated defensive lineman certainly did not hurt the Buffs in the eyes of the recruiting websites. At Rivals.com, the Buffs moved out of the 60’s and into 46th place by week’s end (the Buffs will likely continue to move up as the remainder of the class is filled).
Improving the Perception
Three straight losing seasons. A mediocre quarterback who couldn’t be replaced because he is the coach’s son. A kicking game which was rated R last season so that small children wouldn’t be allowed to watch. The non-BCS coach unable to coach in a BCS conference.
You’ve heard it all before. You’ve heard it since Nebraska dramatically ended the Buffs’ season last Thanksgiving. You’ve read it on the internet for the past month and a half because, well, there was little else to talk about.
With the Buffs out of the post-season, there was little for the CU faithful to concentrate on except recruiting. Unfortunately, the well was running dry. Two commitments since November – and two de-commitments. The lack of good news only served to foster the pessimism about the future of the program.
Oh, and did we mention the reoccurring story in the chat room that Dan Hawkins, after landing the best recruit in the state the last two seasons, had failed to obtain a commitment from a desperately needed defensive lineman who just happened to live nine miles down the turnpike?
Kasa’s change of heart turned all of those frowns upside down. The recruiting websites have been abuzz about the future of the program all week – and it’s almost all positive. Now, instead of dwelling on the negative, fans are seeing the team in an entirely new light. Kasa’s commitment means that Hawkins has not only kept the best players in the state home to play for the Buffs each of the past three seasons (Ryan Miller in ‘07; Jon Major in ‘08), but for the past two, he has obtained commitments from the top two players in the state – Major and Bryce Givens last season; Kasa and offensive tackle Jack Harris this season (for more on Harris, check out this week’s Recruiting Spotlight).
While certainly far from being a scientific poll, I can tell you what the signing of Nick Kasa has meant to CU At the Game. The hits on the website, down significantly after the end of the season (not surprising), have increased dramatically since last Sunday. The numbers are now rivaling the hits received back in September, when the Buffs opened the season with a 3-0 record.
Thank you, Mr. Kasa. Thank you for the past week. Thank you for what you mean to the perceptions about the program, both by other recruits and by the general public.
And thanks especially for the eight tackles (including three sacks) in the dominating 2009 win over Nebraska.
Oops. Did I give away the ending?
Recruiting Spotlight – Jack Harris
Most CU fans are quick to note that, with the commitment of Nick Kasa to play for the Buffs, Colorado (read: Dan Hawkins) has now signed, for three years running, the best player in the state. In 2007, Hawkins was able to persuade offensive tackle Ryan Miller to stay home rather than head off to the glittering dome at Notre Dame. Last season, it was linebacker Jon Major, who had offers from all over the country, including Oklahoma, Michigan, and Tennessee, who decided to cast his lot with the Buffs and Boulder. This year, the highly sought after – and former Florida Gator – Nick Kasa is verbally committed to play for Colorado.
Lost in the media blitz which has been the Kasa saga is the fact that the Buffs, for the second year in a row, have also obtained the services of the second-best player in the state. Last season, it was offensive tackle Bryce Givens, who had offers from Florida and Michigan, and took recruiting visits to Texas and Nebraska. (Givens red-shirted in 2008, and will be ready to compete for playing time this fall).
This season the second-highest rated player in the entire state of Colorado is …..
Allow me to make the introductions ….
Harris is an offensive tackle from Parker, Colorado. He is 6’6?, and weighs 280. Harris is rated as the 42nd-best offensive tackle in the nation by Scout.com and the 19th-best offensive tackle in the nation by Rivals.com. When the final recruiting rankings were issued this past week by Rivals, Harris moved into the Rivals250, coming in as the 223rd-best player in the nation, regardless of position.
While many Buff fans are unfamiliar with Harris, coaches around the nation are quite familiar. Harris had offers from a number of schools, including Texas Tech from the Big 12, and Oregon, Washington, and Arizona State from the Pac-10. In a year when the Buffs seem to be battling the Ducks on several fronts, the Buffs won out in October after Harris had narrowed his choices down to the final two.
There are several reasons as to why Harris may have been off the radar a bit for Buff fans this recruiting cycle. First, there is the fact that Harris is an offensive lineman. Yes, Ryan Miller was closely followed in 2007, but Miller was considered the top Colorado prep recruit in the state in 2007. This season, the recruitment of Harris has been the subject of far fewer stories.
Second, there is the fact that Harris committed early. The lineman from Parker took his official visit during the Texas game, and committed the next day. It’s been a long time since October 4th, so Harris has been overlooked as Buff fans turned their attention to the remaining recruiting battles.
Finally, there is Harris himself. While not seen as a qualifying risk (in addition to Colorado, Harris was recruited by schools which rival CU academically, such as Cal and Vanderbilt), Harris is apparently a man of few words. When contacted by PrepColorado.com during his recruiting visit, Harris was asked how his visit was going. “Great!” was the response. When asked if he had committed to Colorado, Harris texted back, “I did!”.
Look for this quiet star to be a fixture on the Buffs’ offensive line after taking a red-shirt season this fall.
Welcome to Boulder, Jack Harris!
Guest Archivist – Game of the Week
This a story of mine from 1980 – I’d rather be posting yours! Check out details for becoming a “Guest Archivist”, at the end of this post.
[The Buffs entered the 1980 game against Oklahoma with an 0-3 record, having lost the weekend before to Indiana, 49-7 (a Hoosier team coached by Lee Corso, by the way). The ignoble home loss was not even the worst news of the week, as Sports Illustrated that week came out with a scathing article, indicting Chuck Fairbanks and the Colorado athletic department for cutting “minor” programs at the University. It was not a fun time to be a Buff fan. Then this happened …]
October 4th – Boulder #12 Oklahoma 82, Colorado 42
The score says it all. 82-42. If you have never seen these numbers before, consider yourself fortunate. The headline in the October 5th Rocky Mountain News was: “Buffs humiliated by Sooners 82-42?. The statistics border on the unbelievable. The total number of points scored by two teams, 124, set the modern day NCAA record (which lasted until 2001), as did the total number of touchdowns by both teams (18). In all, at least 51 NCAA, Big Eight Conference, Colorado/Oklahoma team, or Folsom Field records were broken – and five more were tied.
No one was disillusioned with the belief that Colorado was going to upset the Sooners. Still, for an ever so brief moment, it looked as if CU, though reeling at 0-3, might stay with the Sooners. After Oklahoma had gone up 14-0, Buff freshman Walter Stanley ran the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown to make the score 14-7 with 3:07 left in the first quarter. The Sooners quickly responded with a 20-yard touchdown run by Buster Ryhmes to run the score to 21-7, but, with the aid of a pass interference penalty taking the ball to the Sooner three-yard line, Colorado pushed the ball over on a Willie Beebe run, and the second quarter scoreboard read 21-14. CU hadn’t stopped the Sooners, but had shown an ability to score as well. Maybe there was hope. At the half, the score was a respectable 34-21.
Good news, bad news.
First the good news: at least CU had scored some points in the first half of a game (which was a rarity in early 1980 – the Buffs fell behind UCLA in the opener, 56-0, at halftime!).
Now the bad news: Oklahoma had not scored in the first half of its first two games, but had scored five touchdowns in the first thirty minutes against CU.
Unfortunately, matters only deteriorated from there.
In the second half, Oklahoma continued to roll, scoring 48 points. The Buffs only consolation was the posting of 21 points to match their total from the first half.
For the game, the Sooners numbers were incredible: 758 yards rushing on 73 carries. Throw in 117 yards passing and the Oklahoma total yardage for the day was 875 yards of offense. OU never punted, and only two fumbles prevented further carnage. It was a rout in every sense of the word.
Associated Press writer Steve Harvey had a column in the early 1980’s, dubbed the “Bottom 10?. Rankings were awarded along the same concept as with the Top 20, but were inverse to the best teams in the nation. The only saving grace keeping Colorado, at 0-4, from being “ranked” as the worst team in the nation after the Oklahoma game, was that CU shared the #1 ranking with the other two state teams. That same weekend, Air Force out of Colorado Springs was beaten 17-16 by Yale to fall to 0-4-1, while the Colorado State Rams from Fort Collins succumbed 69-0 to Iowa State. It was small consolation to CU fans that the state’s other schools were having equally poor seasons.
Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines “nadir” as: “the lowest point”. Nadir is the only appropriate way to describe the CU program after the Oklahoma game. The records, of course, speak for themselves. For myself and Mark W., an aerospace engineering freshman who also lived on Second East floor in Libby Hall, though, the game became an odyssey. While many CU fans left early, for us the game was like driving by an accident on the highway. You know you shouldn’t look, but you can’t help but watch.
Two players from the 1980 Colorado/Oklahoma track meet are locked forever into my memory. The first is Darrell Shepard, the backup quarterback for Oklahoma. I didn’t know his name at the time, but his stats were easy to remember: three rushes, 151 yards – a nifty 50.3 yards per carry average. He may have been a tailback, but I remember him as the quarterback, and I remember his carries. All day, Oklahoma ran the triple option right. Everyone in the stadium knew the play was coming. The Buffs just could not stop them. OU’s 758 yards rushing attests to the lack of a need for a passing game. CU just didn’t have the horses to keep up.
There is the story that Fairbanks, himself a former OU coach, contacted Sooner head coach Barry Switzer through assistants in the press box. The plea, sent in the second half, was to stop running the option and just run up the middle. I don’t know if the story is true, or if the Sooners coaching staff was sympathetic. Even if Oklahoma complied, it didn’t help Colorado much, as the Sooners scored 48 points in the second half.
The second player I remember from that October afternoon was a Buff. I remember him as the right cornerback, and his number being #6. I didn’t know his name at the time, but the stats sheet from the game identifies Colorado #6 as defensive back Tim Stampley. Perhaps it was for the best that we didn’t know his name in the stands, for to us, #6 became known as the “designated chaser”. Baseball has it’s designated hitter, and CU, for this game anyway, had it’s designated chaser.
Lining up against the wide out on the left side of the Sooner offense, the designated chaser for the Buffs had limited action in defending against the passing game. Instead, it seemed to us that his role was to run across the field, as Oklahoma ran its triple option right, and chase the OU quarterback or tailback into the endzone as they ran for yet another long touchdown. He was not responsible, mind you, for actually catching and tackling the OU ball carrier, but simply chasing the back all the way to the endzone. It was almost as if CU didn’t mind the touchdowns, but didn’t want to be embarrassed by having the touchdown scored by a Sooner walking to the goalline.
The other macabre reason for sitting through the 82-42 annihilation, at least from a home town fan standpoint, was to see if the scoreboard at CU could hold 100 points. We were unsure whether this had been considered as a possibility when the scoreboard had been ordered. After all, at the time, the most CU had ever scored in a game was 65 (v. Arizona in 1958) and the most given up to an opponent was 63 (v. Nebraska in 1975 – a 103-0 loss to Colorado Mines in CU’s inaugural season of 1890 notwithstanding). For better or worse, the scoreboard was not tested, and CU had to settle for being ignominiously mentioned in the national media for the second time in as many weeks.
October 11th – Boulder Drake 41, Colorado 22
Colorado responded from the Oklahoma debacle by out-gaining the supposedly out-manned Drake Bulldogs, 379 yards to347. This was not sufficient, however, to prevent a loss to a team the Buffs had surely scheduled as a breather game between games against ranked Big Eight opponents. Colorado had no reason to be overconfident against any team, but they played as if they only needed to put on their pads in order to record their first win of 1980. Seven turnovers later, however, and the Buffs had qualified as one of the worst teams in the country, falling 41-22.
Colorado actually enjoyed its first lead of the season in this game, as quarterback Charlie Davis led the Buffs to an early 14-3 advantage. Unfortunately for CU, Charlie Davis was injured after scoring the second Colorado touchdown. With back-up quarterback Randy Essington suspended for one game for “disciplinary reasons”, the Buffs attack was placed in the hands of Scott Kingdom. Kingdom failed to come through, though, completing only 10 of 25 passes for130 yards, 0 touchdowns and 4 interceptions. By halftime, the Buffs were down 24-14, well on their way to an 0-5 start.
Having been famous in college football world for the last two weeks, but for all of the wrong reasons, it seemed that things could not get worse for the University of Colorado football team in October, 1980. This proved to be overly optimistic. Losing to Drake, and losing badly, at home, left even the most fervent CU fans shaking their heads, and many looking for better things to do with their fall afternoons. Only 37,689 bothered to come to the Drake game, and those who came probably showed up to see what it would be like to see the Buffs actually win a game.
The motivation also should have been there to show to the world that Colorado football was not as bad as had been demonstrated in previous 49-7 and 82-42 home losses. If nothing else, one would have thought CU would have wanted to “avenge” the upset loss to Drake from the year before. Neither statement was made by the swooning Buffs. In fact, the opposite was conveyed, as CU was not even competitive against a program which would in a few years discontinue it’s football team (only to resurrect the program later as a Division I-AA team).
The headlines the next morning showed the frustration everyone felt:
Denver Post: “Drake Adds Insult to CU Injury”
Rocky Mountain News: “Drake Pushes CU to New Low”
Boulder Daily Camera: “Bulldogs Send CU to Bottom”
The Drake loss proved to be my greatest test as a CU fan. I wanted to cheer for my school, and I loved college football, but I had yet to see the team win. With the next two games on the calendar coming against Missouri, ranked #16 in the country, and Nebraska, ranked #9, there was no hope in sight. I started scanning the sports pages to find the one line entries for the Montana State game results. After all, MSU, playing in my hometown of Bozeman, Montana, had won the Division II National Championship in 1976, and was at least playing competitive football.The Drake game, and indeed the entire 1980 CU season, was summed up towards the end of the contest by a fraternity member, who stumbled past us on his way out of the stadium. Apparently having had his fill of beer for the day, and his fill of CU football for the season (by mid-October) all he could mutter was: “Drake! Who the Hell is Drake?”
[The Buffs went on to post a 1-10 record in 1980, a record of infamy matched only by the 1984 team].
This spot reserved for YOU! Tell me your favorite CU story – favorite game, favorite meeting, lasting impressions – drop me a note at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll get your story posted in a forthcoming update!