October 6th – at Baylor           Colorado 43, Baylor 23

Dan Hawkins earned his first road win as Colorado head coach as the Buffs took care of business with a 43-23 road win against Baylor. Snapping a two game losing streak against the Bears, the Buffs had many stars, including freshman running back Demetrius Sumler, who had two touchdowns rushing and one receiving, freshman quarterback Cody Hawkins, who passed for 293 yards and two touchdowns, and senior running back Hugh Charles, who posted his third consecutive 100 yard game, putting up 122 yards on twenty carries.

As large as a 20-point win on the road may be, Colorado could have won by a much larger score. Thanks in part to the largess of their hosts, the Buffs had the opportunity to send the 32,376 in attendance home much earlier than the 9:37 p.m. final gun.

The Buffs opened the game with an impressive seven play, 82-yard drive for a score. The player of the drive was senior wide receiver Dusty Sprague. On the game’s third play, Hawkins hit Sprague for 27 yards. Two plays later, Hawkins hit Sprague again for another 28 yards. Completing the trifecta two plays later, Hawkins connected with Sprague from 26 yards out to give the Buffs an early 7-0 lead.

The Bears looked to make a game of it after the ensuing kickoff was returned to the Colorado 49-yard line. Three consecutive penalties, though, brought about a third-and-30 which Baylor failed to convert. The Buffs pushed the ball into Baylor territory on their second possession, but a fumble by freshman running back Samson Jagoras gave the ball back to the Bears near midfield.

Unwilling or unable to take advantage of the beneficial field position, Baylor gave the ball right back to Colorado, as senior linebacker Jordon Dizon intercepted Baylor quarterback Blake Szymanski, returning the pick to the Baylor nine yard line. Then, it was the Buffs who failed to capitalize, as CU went backwards before Kevin Eberhart missed a 36 yard field goal attempt.

A few minutes later, a 42-yard punt return by Stephone Robinson gave the ball to the Buffs at the Bears’ 24 yard line. Again, Colorado was unable to move the ball, settling for an Eberhart 41-yard field goal just before the end of the quarter.

The score moved from 10-0 to 17-0 early in the second quarter. A second Szymanski interception, this one by freshman cornerback Jonathan Hawkins (no relation) gave the Buffs the ball at the Baylor 41. Eight plays later, Cody Hawkins hit Demetrius Sumler for a seven yard touchdown to give the Buffs a 17-0 lead.

A 79-yard field goal drive by Baylor pulled the Bears to within 17-3, but one drive later a fumble by Baylor running back Jay Findley was recovered by CU freshman (there’s that word again!) linebacker Josh Hartigan at the Baylor 26-yard line. After a Cody Hawkins completion of 23 yards to Kendrick Celestine, Demetrius Sumler scored his second touchdown, this time on a run from three yards out, to give the Buffs a commanding 24-3 lead with 4:36 left before halftime.

Not content to keep a good thing going, the Buffs gave up a short drive (at least in duration) to the Bears on their next possession. It took only two plays for the Bears to cover 64 yards (including a 62-yard pass play) to pull Baylor back into the game at 24-9 (the extra point attempt was missed).

Two field goals by Kevin Eberhart before halftime made up for the Baylor score. The first came the conventional way, as the Buffs put together a seven-play drive finalized by a 44-yard field goal with 1:00 before half to put the Buffs up 27-9. A three-and-out followed by a shanked punt of only 19 yards gave Eberhart one last play, and Eberhart made the Bears pay, as he hit for a career long 54-yarder as time expired in the half.

Comfortably up 30-9, the Buffs nonetheless made sure early in the second half that there would be no comeback by the Bears. Baylor went nowhere on its first two drives of the half, while Colorado put up another field goal by Eberhart, this time from 42 yards away, and a third touchdown by Sumler, scoring from two yards out midway through the third quarter to make the score: Colorado 40, Baylor 9.

The remainder of the game saw Baylor outscore Colorado 14-3, but the game was long since decided. Baylor, which had been held to nine points and 220 yards in the game’s first 39 minutes, posted 245 yards and two touchdowns in the last 21 minutes. For the game, Baylor quarterback Blake Szymanski put up some large numbers, connecting on 36 of 60 passes for 410 yards, but many of those yards came after the final outcome was determined.

The 43-23 final represented a 20-point win, on the road, by a team which had just doubled its win total from the previous season in the first weekend in October. Time for celebration? Not in the Buffs’ locker room. “If you walked into the locker room, you’d think we just lost,” said quarterback Cody Hawkins. “How many times do you win by 20 points and everybody is kicking themselves in the foot and throwing their helmets on the ground?” Hawkins went on to answer his own question: “I think that’s what you want to have because you expect perfection in every game.”

The quarterback’s father agreed. “We’re always looking for that perfect tapestry,” said Dan Hawkins. “So the fact that you come on the road and haven’t won on the road, score 43 and win by 20 and you’re going, ‘Dang’. That’s probably a good sign.”

Thanks mostly to Baylor ‘s success late in the game, the statistical edge went largely to the Bears. Baylor had more first downs than the Buffs (24-18), more passing yards (410 to 293), and more total yards (465 to 450). Still, it was Colorado which had the big win. Pushing the Buffs’ overall record to 4-2, CU was also 2-0 in Big 12 play, the only North Division team which could make that claim. The 17th-ranked Missouri Tigers were 1-0 in conference play after completely dismantling Nebraska, 41-6, while the unranked (but undefeated) Kansas Jayhawks were also 1-0 after a surprising 30-24 win on the road over 24th-ranked Kansas State.

Up next for the Buffs were those same K-State Wildcats. Kansas State (4-2, 1-1) dropped out of the national polls after the loss to Kansas, but these were still the same Wildcats who had shocked Texas in Austin the weekend before, 41-21. Given the choice between the two, Buff fans would happily take the team which had lost at home to the Jayhawks.

Undefeated in New England

Writing up a review for a big CU win was all the nicer when, in the background, there is the sound of the Atlantic Ocean hitting up against the shoreline (sorry – couldn’t resist. “Having a great time. Wish you were here, etc. etc. …”).

Spending the better part of a week in Boston and New Hampshire visiting family on both sides, I “watched” most of the CU/Baylor game on the internet in a hotel room in Concord, New Hampshire. We went out to dinner Saturday night in a group totaling nine (including two grandsons), so I wouldn’t have been able to keep track of much of the game in normal circumstances, but I was aided by the fact that the game had a 7:00 p.m. eastern time zone starting time. By the time we got back to our hotel room, it was midway through the second quarter, and the Buffs were already up, 17-0.

Nice.

With the win, I was now able to boast a 2-0 record when in New England during the football season.

The first opportunity came about a decade earlier when I was in Syracuse, New York, for a Lions Club USA/Canada Forum. Then, I had to duck out of a banquet several times in order to learn that Colorado had escaped with a last minute touchdown to defeat Wyoming, 20-19.

What to make of the 4-2, 2-0 record at the halfway point of the season?

Well, for starters, I wasn’t convinced that the Buffs were going to win the Big 12 North just because Colorado was now riding a three game winning streak. Many of us saw the Buffs at 3-3 at this juncture, with only the Oklahoma win being unpredicted (and totally unpredictable). While it was reassuring to see the offense begin to click, and to see the defense continue its fine play (the last quarter of the Baylor game notwithstanding) there was still much work to be done.

Winning in Manhattan had become difficult for the Buffs in recent years, and I didn’t see that the loss by the Wildcats to the Jayhawks making the game any easier. If anything, the Buffs may have benefitted from a close Kansas State win (and perhaps, some overconfidence on the part of the players).

What was tantalizing, though, was how close the Buffs had come to being a national player again in just a few short weeks. In the new AP poll, the Buffs were tied for 27th place in points. A win against KSU would almost guarantee a national ranking in the next poll. The Colorado/Kansas State game was slated for national coverage on ESPN2. Not quite the 1:30 ABC national coverage of the big boys, but much closer than the Buffs had been in some time.

I was not quite sold on 2007. A couple of wins in the next two weeks against the Sunflower State teams, and I would become a believer. Still, I was quite sold on 2009, and perhaps even 2008. Taking a look back at all the contributions being made by freshmen on the 2007 team (two of the turnovers against Baylor were made by freshmen not even appearing on the depth chart!). There was much to be excited about for the future.

Perhaps even the present.

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Pregame Preview

What to look for in this weekend’s game against Baylor:

1) CU to maintain an edge in time of possession. Colorado is first in the conference in time of possession, at 32:20 per game. Baylor is last in the conference, holding the ball only 25:41 per game. If Baylor is holding the ball against the CU defense, it’s time to start worrying about the final result.

2) The Buffs to start out fast, then fade in the middle quarters. CU has been doing well getting out of the gate, out-scoring the opposition 35-14 in the first quarter. The middle quarters have not been so generous, as the Buffs have been outscored in the second and third quarters by counts of 46-31 and 38-18, respectively. The good news is that the Buffs have put up 33 fourth quarter points so far in 2007, while the opposition has only managed one field goal combined (Florida State had a field goal three weeks ago).

3) Both teams to score in the neighborhood of 24 points. Colorado and Baylor are tied for 77th in the nation in scoring, with both teams averaging 24.0 points per game. The good news is that the Buffs are only surrendering an average of 20.2 points per game, while the Bears are giving up 25.2 points per game.

4) The smallest crowd to witness a Buff game this year. Baylor’s home field has a capacity of 50,000, but the Bears have been averaging only 32,691. Every Big 12 team is averaging at least 10,000 more per game in home attendance than Baylor.

5) A Colorado win. I was hoping to not have to write here that the Buffs have the potential to be the first Big 12 team to lose three games in a row to Baylor (having lost in 2003 and again in triple overtime last season). In fact, the Buffs are already infamous. Other than Colorado, Baylor has never won consecutive games against any other Big 12 team. There is no way that the Buffs should allow this number to reach three. (Of course, I didn’t see any way for the Buffs to defeat Oklahoma, so we’ll just have to wait for the final result).

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One Reply to “Baylor – Undefeated in New England”

  1. Nice predictions for this week. 3 of the 5 were right on (time of possession, small crowd and a win) The other two turned out better than feared (no middle swoon and more points).

    I agree that next week will be big. A win moves us toward a bowl and puts us in the top 25. KSU can play well and sometimes not. Need to the defense to play up to the level of the competition. Go Buffs

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