September 1st – Denver           Colorado 31, Colorado State 28 (OT)

Kevin Eberhart waited four years for his opportunity to be Colorado’s No. 1 placekicker, and when called upon, the senior produced.

Replacing two-time all-American Mason Crosby, Eberhart kicked the game tying field goal with 13 seconds remaining in regulation, then booted a 35-yarder in overtime to lift the Buffs to a 31-28 win over rival Colorado State in the 2007 season opener. The 68,133 who showed up for the 10:00 a.m. kickoff were treated to an exciting game with a close finish for the sixth consecutive game in the series.

The contest started out as well as any Colorado fan could have hoped.

After recovering their own fumble on the opening kickoff, the Buffs marched smartly down the field behind freshman quarterback Cody Hawkins. Never facing a third down on the drive, the Buffs needed only six plays to cover 83 yards, with Hawkins connecting with fellow freshman Scotty McKnight from 24 yards out just 2:08 into the game.

Colorado State quickly responded, however, tying the game on a six-yard Caleb Hanie to Kory Sperry pass on the Rams’ first offensive series.

The two teams traded scores on their second drives as well. For the Buffs, Hawkins hit senior tight end Tyson DeVree on a 10-yard pass on CU’s next possession, with the Rams again countering with Hanie and Sperry, this time from four yards out to tie the score at 14-14 early in the second quarter.

The in-state rivals, who managed just 24 points between them in the 2006 14-10 CSU victory, had their fans cheering their offenses; imploring their defenses. After the initial fireworks, however, the offenses were slowed. The only remaining score in the first half came on the last offensive play of the second quarter, when Colorado took a 17-14 halftime lead on a 38-yard field goal by Eberhart.

As encouraging as the first half had started for the Buffs, the start of the second half could not have begun in any worse fashion, as Colorado State scored two touchdowns before the Colorado offense was able to take the field.

The Rams took possession to start the third quarter, covering 77 yards in only seven plays, with Hanie and Sperry connecting for the third time on the day, giving the Rams their first lead of the game, 21-17. On the ensuing kickoff, Rams’ placekicker Jason Smith attempted a squib kick to reduce the chances of a big CU return. The kick, however, bounced off the back of CU special teams captain, junior linebacker R.J. Brown, and was recovered by the Rams at the Colorado 47. Five plays later, the Rams were up 28-17 after a 13-yard touchdown run by Kyle Bell. The situation turned from dire to desperate a few minutes later after Eberhart missed a field goal attempt from 41 yards out.

Then, something happened which didn’t happen during the Buffs’ slide to a 2-10 record in 2006 – the Buffs came through on every play they had to for the remainder of the game.

The Buff defense, which had surrendered 28 points in the first 35 minutes of the game, did not surrender any points the remainder of the contest. The Colorado offense, lethargic after its opening two drives, came through with two clutch drives to tie the game. First, the Buffs converted three consecutive third down attempts of seven yards or longer on a 14-play, 86-yard drive capped by a three yard touchdown run by freshman running back Demetrius Sumler. The Buffs pulled to within a field goal on the scoreboard when Hawkins hit sophomore tight end Riar Geer on a two-point conversion to make the score 28-25 in the last minute of the third quarter.

The second big drive came after a 43 yard punt return by senior Chase McBride set up the Buffs inside Ram territory with under just over two minutes remaining.

With just over a minute to go in the contest, Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins made the call of the game.

Down three, the Buffs faced a fourth-and-four at the CSU 28 yard line. The options: attempt a 45-yard field goal (by a kicker making his first collegiate start – a kicker who had missed from 41 yards out a quarter before); or risk it all by going for the first down. Hawkins chose the latter option. A fade route from Hawkins to junior wide receiver Patrick Williams was caught … but out of bounds. Fortunately for the Buffs and their fans, pass interference was called, giving the Buffs new life (the call was not hotly contested by the Rams nor their coaches). A few plays later, Eberhart’s attempt was 23 yards closer, and the senior connected, tying the game at 28-all and sending the rivals into the first overtime game in the history of the series.

In overtime, the Buffs won the toss, electing to go on defense first. Colorado State took the ball at the 25, and promptly put the ball inside the Colorado ten yard line. On third-and-goal from the nine, though, Ram quarterback Caleb Hanie, who had torched the Buff secondary for 229 yards on 20-26 passing, finally made an error on his 27th pass. Looking for Sperry and wide receiver Johnny Walker in the back of the CU endzone, Hanie instead found Buff senior cornerback Terrence Wheatley, who made the Buffs’ first interception in four full games, dating back to the Kansas game in October of 2006.

The Buffs, knowing a field goal would win the game, took no chances. Three runs netted seven yards, and Eberhart’s third field goal of the game, from 35 yards out, gave the Buffs and their fans a thrilling come-from-behind 31-28 victory.

“It’s been a long time coming to get this opportunity,” said Eberhart after the game. “Mason (Crosby) was obviously a great player. I’m just excited to be here. It all goes out to Terrence Wheatley and the defense. They are the ones that made this happen.”

On the day, the Buffs were out-gained offensively, 386 yards to 330 yards, and the defense allowed the Rams to convert 11 of 19 third down opportunities. Still, a win was a win, and Dan Hawkins expressed no concern that the Buffs had faced an 11-point deficit late into the third quarter. “I totally believed we were going to win,” said Hawkins. “We had a few issues and stubbed our toe. I expected to win.”

Expected or not, the 1-0 Buffs were on the proper side of a won/lost record for the first time in the Hawkins’ era. Up next was a road date against Arizona State, 45-3 winners over San Jose State in their first game. After the Sun Devils, the Buffs would face Florida State in their home opener. While the celebration on the field after the CSU win was joyous and well deserved, there was much work still to be done before the Buffs would be taken seriously on the national stage.

From YouTube … here are video highlights from the game:

Desperate times ….. call for desperate measures

When the Buffs fell behind 28-17 early in the third quarter, the sense of despair was palpable on the Colorado side of Invesco Field.

The Ram fans across the way were chanting and singing, soaking in the Rams’ second touchdown in as many minutes. What had started out with such promise – two touchdowns in two drives to open the game from a team which had averaged only 16 points a game in 2006 – was now falling apart. Buff fans were quiet, or worse, quite vocal, about the 11-point deficit which had been a four point lead only moments before.

Fortunately for the future of the Colorado program, there was no such despair on the CU sideline. A team which lost ten games the year before, but had not quit in any of them, was not about to quit now. All three phases of the game came through for the Buffs in the second half. The CU offense converted crucial first downs, and did not make critical mistakes (read: penalties and turnovers). The CU defense held the Rams scoreless the remainder of the game, including two stops on fourth down attempts by CSU. Meanwhile, the CU special teams, much maligned in 2006 but for the efforts of Mason Crosby, stepped up, including a crucial punt return of 43 yards by Chase McBride to set up the game tying field goal.

And what of the coach?

Had the Buffs failed to convert on fourth-and-four with just over a minute remaining, the exciting win would have been just another close loss. Dan Hawkins would have been unmercifully second guessed (here’s betting that the Denver Post’s Mark Kiszla had his column half written before the snap). But this was not to be the makeup of the Buffs under Hawkins in 2007. “I’m going to tell my guys that we are going to play to win,” said Hawkins of his decision to go for the first down. “You have to take shots, if you don’t believe in the play or your kids don’t believe in the plan then you don’t have anything.” On this day, Hawkins took his shot, and the result was a much needed Colorado win.

I have mixed emotions about playing the annual game against CSU in Denver (at the very least, I would like to see it moved down the schedule to the third or fourth game, as Iowa and Iowa State do in the their inter-conference rivalry game), but I can tell you one thing I do enjoy. When the Buffs win (which had now happened in four of the eight neutral site games), walking out of the stadium is ecstasy. The fans on both sides of the field expend almost as much energy as the players. Every play is cheered by one side or the other, with a conspicuous attempt to make the cheers louder than the other side can produce. Hearing the fight song reverberate throughout the miles of internal ramps at the stadium as the fans make their way to the exits is music to my ears.

There was one other emotion I felt as we worked our way from the fifth level down to the parking lots. In 2001, I wrote about a sense of relief at the CU victory over the Rams at Mile High (if you haven’t read this account yet – why haven’t you? … Here is a link).

This year, it wasn’t relief I felt walking out of the stadium, though there was certainly a fair amount of that emotion going around.

Rather, what I was feeling was excitement!

Go back and look at the players who made the plays in the CSU win. Yes, there were the seniors, Eberhart and Wheatley, making the plays at the end, but getting the Buffs to that point were names like freshman Cody Hawkins (18-31 for 201 yards and two touchdowns), freshman Scotty McKnight (106 yards receiving on eight catches, including the opening score), freshman Demetrius Sumler (85 yards and a score on 16 carries, spelling starter Hugh Charles, who injured his hamstring on the game’s opening drive). That was what was exciting. The Buffs were being led by very talented freshmen! Yes, there would be freshmen mistakes down the road, and no one was yet mentioning Hawkins’ name as a Heisman hopeful – but, at least for a day, they weren’t crying “nepotism” either. Cody Hawkins made it clear in his debut that he was a leader and a winner.

Just like his father, Cody was 1-0 on the season.

Game Notes …

– Junior wide receiver Patrick Williams has found a unique way into the CU record book. On the first play of the game, Williams ran an end around for 24 yards. It was the longest run on an opening play of the game (dating back to 1950 when play-by-play records are available). The odd thing is that Williams is already on that page of the record book. Last season, Patrick Williams was on the receiving end of a 42 yard pass from quarterback James Cox, the longest pass completion on the first play of the season for CU.

– The Hawkins to McKnight touchdown pass just 2:08 into the CSU game was the fastest first score of the season for the Buffs since Eric Bieniemy scored from a yard out just 1:15 into the game against Texas (remember Darian Hagan’s 75-yard run to the one yard line?).

– Cody Hawkins’ 201 yards passing was just seven yards short of the passing yards record for a freshman quarterback in the first game of their career (Craig Ochs had 208 v. Kansas State in 2000).

– Freshman wide receiver Scotty McKnight did set a record, however. His 106 yards receiving set a record for a freshman in the first game of their career (Phil Savoy had 60 yards receiving against NE Louisiana in 1994). McKnight also came close to setting the record for a freshman in any game (Phil Savoy has this record as well, totaling 113 yards against Oklahoma State, also in 1994).




Pregame Preview

Desperate times ….

The team is coming off a losing season, one of the worst in years.The non-conference schedule is ranked amongst the toughest in the nation.

The head coach, though not on the “hot seat” lists in any of the 2007 preseason magazines, is just one more losing campaign away from being raised to the top of the ignoble chart.

Of course, the team we are talking about is ….

Colorado State.

For all the angst in Boulder, it is easy to forget that there is much to be concerned about in Fort Collins as well. The Rams finished 2006 with a 4-8 record. While the win total was twice that of the Buffs, CSU started last season 4-1, only to lose each of their last seven games. The losing season was the second in the past three years, and the season totals for the past four years (7-6 in 2003, followed by records of 4-7, 6-6, and 4-8) are not what the Ram fans have become accustomed to seeing in Fort Collins under head coach Sonny Lubick.

Calling for the head of the coach whose name adorns the stadium is not a popular past time anywhere. Still, if 2007 turns into another losing season, the whispers north of Boulder that it is time for Sonny Lubick to step down will turn into full fledged grumbling. The 15-year head coach of the Rams turned 70 this off-season, and the sentiment that the game has passed him by has dogged him the past few years.

The non-conference schedule does not do Lubick and the Rams any favors, either. In addition to being saddled with the memories of a seven game losing streak, a loss to the Buffs may condemn the Rams to a double digit losing skeen, just as the Buff fans endured this past season. After facing CU in Denver, the Rams play California, ranked 12th in the preseason AP poll. Next are road games against Houston and TCU. The Cougars are one of the favorites to finish atop the West Division of Conference USA, and TCU is not only the favorite to win the Mountain West Conference, but the dark horse favorite of many preseason prognosticators to find their way into a BCS bowl at season’s end (and are ranked 22nd in the preseason poll). With these games on tap after the CU game, there is all the more desperation for the Rams to post a win against the Buffs.

Despite the losing streak, there is reason for some optimism in Fort Collins. Seventeen starters return, including senior quarterback Caleb Hanie and senior wide receiver Johnny Walker. The returning starter total does not even include running back Kyle Bell, returning to the lineup after missing all of the 2006 season. Bell rushed for 1,288 yards in 2005, and his success will help dictate the overall success of the Rams.

CU is just as desperate to start the 2007 campaign in the win column. A win over CSU gives the Buffs and their head coach some momentum for the rest of the non-conference slate and a measure of redemption for the 14-10 loss to the Rams in 2006. A loss by Colorado to the Rams will put the Buffs in a position of likely opening the season 0-3, with a road game against Arizona State and a home game against ranked Florida State (19th in the preseason poll) up next. An 0-3 start by the Buffs will conjure memories of the 0-6 start to 2006, and the stories will begin anew about how head coach Dan Hawkins cannot hold his own in a BCS conference.

Two teams. A combined 6-18 record in 2006. Not much for the national pundits to focus on. The winner will have the chance to put last season behind them. The loser will continue to carry the burden of unhappy fans and diminished expectations.

The 2007 game between Colorado and Colorado State was moved by FOX to a 10:00 a.m. kickoff time in order to make room for more attractive games later in the day. The game between the Buffs and the Rams was not merited important enough for a prime television slot.

Try telling the players (and fans) in Boulder and Fort Collins that the game is not important.



The Big 12 went 8-4 in the season’s opening weekend. The North went 4-2. Other than CU, the winners were: #20 Nebraska, which defeated Nevada, 52-10; Missouri, which held off Illinois, 40-34; and Kansas, which had surprisingly little difficulty in defeating Central Michigan (10 wins in 2006), 52-7. The North losses were absorbed by Kansas State, which fell 23-13 to #18 Auburn, and Iowa State, which began the Gene Chizik era with a 23-14 loss to Kent State. Two of the Buffs’ remaining non-conference opponents were victorious, with Arizona State defeating San Jose State, 45-3, and Miami (Ohio) opening with a road win, 14-13, over Ball State. (Florida State was to play Clemson on Labor Day).

Trivia you’ll want to remember

Colorado State

– Colorado State holds the dubious distinction of being the first team in Division 1-A football to go 0-12. The Rams pulled off the feat in 1981 (many teams had gone 0-11, but under NCAA rules at the time, teams could play 12 games when they had Hawaii on the schedule. The extra game, though, just meant another loss for the Rams in ‘81). The average margin of defeat: 28 points.

– In 1957, Colorado A&M became Colorado State. Up until that time, the Rams had been fairly successful on the field. Head coach Harry Hughes, between 1911 and 1941, racked up 125 wins against 93 losses. Bob Davis, coach from 1947 to 1955, had seven winning seasons in nine years at the helm. Then the bottom fell out. From 1960, until Sonny Lubick came on the scene in 1993, CSU posted only seven winning seasons in 34 campaigns. From a 30-3 win over Drake in October, 1960, to winning the opener of the 1963 season, a 20-0 decision over Pacific, the Rams lost 26 games in a row. Both the 1961 and 1962 seasons ended with 0-10 records, and only twice in each season did the Rams score as many as 10 points in a game.

– The name of the mascot, Cam the Ram, is more than just a rhyme. “CAM” harkens back to when CSU was known as Colorado Agricultural & Mechanical. The Rocky Mountain bighorn is the Colorado state animal, and the “Rams” replaced the “Aggies” as the nickname after the switch in school name was made.

– The Wyoming/Colorado State rivalry is the oldest interstate rivalry west of the Mississippi. The “Border War” dates back to 1899. The schools play for the “Bronze Boot”, which was worn by CSU graduate Jeff Romero in the Vietnam war.

– Bowling for Dollars – In 1948, CSU represented the Skyline Conference in the Raisin Bowl in San Francisco, falling to Occidental 21-20. In 1949, CSU went 9-1, but the school decided against accepting a bowl bid, as the trip to the Raisin Bowl (the bowl lasted five years, from 1945-49) lost money. Not such a great decision – the Rams would not be invited to another bowl game for 41 years (the 1990 Freedom Bowl).

– Famous alumni – football – Mike Bell (all-American, 1978); Greg Myers (all-American, 1995); Steve Bartalo (pain in the Buffs’ butts, 1983-86).

– Famous alumni – other – Amy Van Dyken (Olympic swimming medalist); John Amos (actor).

Bar Bet Winner – Which team in the Big 12 North will start the 2007 season with the longest winning streak? Answer: Iowa State! Three teams from the Big 12 North went bowling last season, Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas State, and each lost their bowl game (in fact, Nebraska and KSU are on two game losing streaks, and Missouri has lost four of its last five). Of the other three schools, CU lost its last game of the season against Nebraska, while Kansas lost to Missouri in its last game of the ’06 season. The only team in the North on a winning streak? Iowa State. The Cyclones, despite going 1-7 in Big 12 play, did finish their season with a 21-16 win over Missouri.

4 Replies to “CSU – Desperate Times Call for Desperate Measures”

  1. I am impressed with the way that the defence stepped up in the second half. Could the coaches not give so much cusion in the seconday on third and long? The offence left me optimistic. Thank goodness Florida State has someonr else to take out their anger on before coming to CU.

  2. an almost new Buff offence will need to prove itself, but I think the defensive seconary will make the difference. Buffs 17-Rams10

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *