September 15th – Boulder          Florida State 16, Colorado 6

A week after surrendering over 400 yards of total offense to Arizona State, the Colorado defense came to play against Florida State. The Buffs held the Seminoles to 221 total yards, but the CU offense could not take advantage, failing to score until the final result of the contest had been determined. At the final gun, the scoreboard showed a 16-6 Buff loss before a Folsom Field crowd of 52,951.

The kickoff, set for 8:15 p.m., was the latest in Colorado football history. The game was moved to late Saturday night for national broadcast by ESPN. Still, most of the nation missed almost all of the first quarter, as the Alabama/Arkansas game (won in the last minute by Alabama, 41-38), went well over its allotted time. As if sensing the lack of a spotlight, both the Buffs and the Seminoles opened with little offensive production. The Buffs actually held the ball for 11:39 of the first quarter, but could not crack the scoreboard. A 16-play, 60-yard drive produced no points, as Buff kicker Kevin Eberhart was wide left on his 37-yard field goal attempt.

On the Buffs’ next possession, CU quarterback Cody Hawkins was intercepted by cornerback Tony Carter, who returned the ball to midfield. Two plays later Florida State running back Antone Smith raced past the Colorado defense for 36 yards and a touchdown and a 7-0 lead five minutes into the second quarter. After a three-and-out possession by Colorado, Florida State drove 50 yards in nine plays, setting up a 31-yard field goal by FSU kicker Gary Cismesia.

Down 10-0 at the half, the Buffs showed signs of life to open the third quarter.

After holding the Seminoles to a punt to open the stanza, Colorado put together a nine play drive which took the Buffs to the FSU 13-yard line. With the Buffs on the verge of their first touchdown since the first quarter of the Arizona State game, the CU crowd, with almost everyone “blacked out” for the occasion, reached its highest decibel level since the opening kickoff. A sack and two failed draw plays later, Kevin Eberhart missed his second field goal of the game, this time from 46 yards out. Two drives later, after a 44-yard punt return set the Seminoles up at the Buff 15 yard line, Florida State took a 13-0 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Cismesia.

A third field goal by Cismesia, this time from 37 yards, gave the Seminoles a 16-0 lead with 13:37 left in the game. At this point, for those who hadn’t left Folsom Field in search of a bed before midnight, the only real question remaining was whether the Buffs could avoid the shutout. With a streak of 224 games on the line, the Buff offense continued to run in reverse. The next two drives by Colorado netted minus-10 yards.

Taking over at the Buff 29-yard line with 4:37 remaining, Colorado’s offense put together only its second sustained drive of the evening. Cody Hawkins, who would put up a near-school record 54 attempts in the game, connected with fellow freshman Scotty McKnight for three first downs, taking the Buffs to the Florida State 11-yard line. Three incompletions later, the Buffs faced a fourth-and-ten with just over three minutes remaining. A third field goal attempt would have possibly extended the scoring streak, but coach Dan Hawkins continued to play for the win. On this occasion, the Buffs were rewarded, as Cody Hawkins hit tight end Tyson DeVree for a touchdown to make the score 16-6 with 3:39 remaining (the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful).

After a failed onsides kick attempt, the Buffs’ defense held the Seminoles one last time, getting the ball back for the offense with 1:36 remaining. Another productive drive ensued, and for the second successive drive, the Buffs found themselves at the Seminole 11-yard line. This time, however, Hawkins was intercepted in the end zone, again by cornerback Tony Carter, preserving the 16-6 win for Florida State.

“You have to run the football to win consistently, and we didn’t do that” said Dan Hawkins after the game (with sacks and fumbled snaps included, the Buffs finished the evening with a minus-27 yards rushing) . “You also can’t drop back and throw the ball 65 times. But they’re a good team.”

The prevailing theme in the Colorado locker room after the game was that, despite the loss, the Buffs could play with anyone in the country. Head coach Dan Hawkins: “This was a chance for us to play a big program, and we obviously believe we can go in and beat anybody.” Defensive tackle George Hypolite: “What we can take away from tonight’s game is that we can play with anybody”. Linebacker Jordon Dizon: “It was a crazy game. I thought we played well as a defense and it showed us that we can play with anyone.”

“Playing” with anyone was one thing. Defeating them was another. The Buffs were now 1-2 on the 2007 season. Up next was Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks were also 1-2, having defeated Ball State on the road in their opener, before falling in overtime against Minnesota and 47-10 to Cincinnati. If the Buffs were to become bowl eligible, there were certain “must wins” on the schedule. Arizona State and Florida State were not “must wins”.

Miami was one.

Basic Black

The idea had come from the students, and it wasn’t until late in the week that the CU administration embraced the concept. A “blackout” was put together for the latest start in Buff history. While the students coming to the game were specifically requested to wear black to the Florida State game, most of the alumni and fans decided to participate as well. The result was an impressive sea of black for the national ESPN audience (at least those who stayed up for the 10:15 p.m., eastern time kickoff).

To me, this is what college football is all about.

Yes, I could have stayed home and watched the game on television. I could have forgone the 700-mile drive. I could have gone to bed an hour earlier, simply going upstairs to bed after the Buffs finally scored, avoiding all together the long walk back to the car and the traffic gauntlet back to Tony and Julie’s. Still, I wouldn’t miss being a part of it. There is something about the atmosphere of the college game which I can’t give up. I normally avoid crowds; anyone who knows me well knows that I hate standing in line. Yet I am more than willing to put myself into crowds in excess of the population of my entire county back home in Bozeman every time I step into Folsom Field.

The Buffs came into the game with a 3-12 record under Dan Hawkins, all the more reason to stay home for the game. Still, aside from being part of the crowd in Folsom, I continued to see the glass as being half full. Yes, the offense had been unproductive, and at times maddeningly inconsistent. Still, there were glimmers. Cody Hawkins, for all of his youth, usually made good decisions (remember, for as much as we have read and heard about the coach’s son, and for as long and as well as we seemingly already know him – this was still Hawkins’ first start in Boulder). There were multiple times Saturday night when Colorado had a freshman quarterback handing off to a freshman running back or throwing to a freshman receiver. This experience by trial and error will pay off in time. The defense played very well against Florida State. Such efforts, if assisted by even a moderately productive offense, should produce wins against the likes of Miami (Ohio), Baylor, Kansas, and Iowa State. Oklahoma and Nebraska are clearly better talents, but games against Missouri, Kansas State, and Texas Tech are winnable under the right conditions.

If in August we were told that the Buffs were going to be 1-2 to start the season, we would have figured that was about right. Coming from behind to beat CSU was huge. It allowed Buff fans a chance to relax for a few weeks without the stress of a “must win” game. That stress returns this upcoming weekend. A win puts the Buffs at two wins, equal to last year’s total, and on pace to put together a bowl-worthy season. A loss leaves the Buffs with a 1-3 non-conference record, with third-ranked Oklahoma, scoring over 60 points per game, up next on the schedule.

I will be coming down to Boulder for Oklahoma. Making the drive to watch a 2-2 team put up its best shot against a national championship contender? Worth the trip.

Making the drive to watch a 1-3 team play the role of sacrificial lamb to a team looking to post unworldly numbers to impress pollsters? Now that’s a long drive.

At least I should still have the scoring streak to root for!

Game Notes –

– The Florida State game was the latest starting time ever (8:15 p.m.), so it is not a surprise that the ending time of 11:46 p.m. is also the latest in Buff history

– Florida State went just 1-13 on third down, the best such mark for the Buffs’ defense since 1999, when Kansas (1 of 13), Baylor (1 of 13), and Kansas State (1 of 14) were similarly held. This from a team which gave up third down conversions at a 47.8% clip in 2006, and 43.2% of third down conversions in the first two games.

– The Buffs scored in their 225th consecutive game. It was the latest in the game, though, (3:39 remaining) in the streak. The previous latest time which the Buffs kept me stressed was the 1998 Kansas State game. In that contest, the Buffs scored with 5:42 remaining. CU was down 16-0 in that game as well, going on to lose 16-9.




Pregame Preview

The Buffs are back in familiar territory, stats-wise. After two games, Colorado is no better than 10th in the Big 12 in any offensive category (and no better than 76th nationally), and no better than 8th in the conference in any defensive category (67th overall). Florida State, meanwhile, bounced back from an opening day defeat with a come-from-behind win over Alabama-Birmingham, and has seemingly righted its ship. The last time the two teams met, the Seminoles cruised to a 47-7 win.

So why do I think that the Buffs have more than a puncher’s chance to win Saturday night? Five Reasons:

1) The game is on national television. Old hat for FSU, having played on ESPN 53 times (posting a 41-12 record) on the network. For the Buffs, though, with the exception of the annual Nebraska game, there has been little national exposure for the past few years. The players know this, and will respond (meanwhile, Florida State has lost its last three regular season games broadcast by ESPN, and is only 4-6 in the last ten);

2) The intangibles. Yes, the game is at altitude. It is also a late kickoff (10:00 p.m., eastern). But did you also know that this is the first time if five years – and only the third time in the past 15 years – in which the Seminoles have played a non-conference game on the road in September? Read that again. The current players on the FSU roster have never played a non-conference game on the road in September in their careers.

3) Recruiting. There will be five high school players making their official visits this weekend. All five are three stars or above, and include five star linebacker Jon Major from Parker, Colorado. Major is listed by as the #1 strongside linebacker prospect in the nation. Major is being courted by all the major schools. How’s about picking up the number one player in the state for the second year in a row as a sign of good things to come in Boulder?

4) Fast starts. CU has been hot out of the box in both openers, scoring 14 points in the first quarter of each game. Meanwhile, FSU has struggled early, being outscored 41-6 by Clemson and UAB before rallying. Here’s hoping that the teams are consistent in the first half of this game, and that the Buffs have learned their lessons about taking advantage of opportunties, and will have the confidence to finish strong.

5) We are due. ‘Nuff said. We are due.



Trivia you’ll want to remember – Florida State

– The Seminoles have won two national championships, in 1993 and 1999.

– Florida State was an all-girls’ school until the 1940’s, and didn’t field a football team until 1947.

– In the three seasons before Bobby Bowden arrived in Tallahassee in 1976, the Seminoles had a 4-29 record, including an 0-11 mark in 1973. There was talk of dropping the program. Bobby Bowden quip: “At West Virginia, they sold bumper stickers that said BEAT PITT. When I came to Florida State, they sold bumper stickers that said BEAT ANYBODY.”

Famous alumni – football – Charlie Ward (Heisman Trophy winner, 1993); Chris Weinke (Heisman Trophy winner, 2000); Deion Sanders (1987-88); Fred Biletnikoff (1964).

Famous alumni – other – Lee Corso (analyst); Burt Reynolds (actor); Paul Azinger (golfer).




Going Down in History

Jordon Dizon – senior linebacker

Career total tackles – 319 Rank: 12th

#13 – J.J. Billingsley (2003-06) 307

#11 – Jashon Sykes (1998-2001) 330

#10 – Mickey Pruitt* (1984-87) 332

*Mickey Pruitt held the career lead for tackles by a defensive back until his total of 332 was passed by Michael Lewis in 2001. Pruitt led the Buffs in interceptions in 1985 with five, and two of his six career picks were returned for touchdowns. Pruitt is one of only a handful of Buffs ever to be named first team all-conference three times, and Pruitt was a finalist for the inaugural Jim Thorpe award in 1986. In 1989, Pruitt was named to the Buffs’ All-Century team. Still, with all of the honors, Pruitt is best remembered by the CU faithful for one play. In 1985, CU opened with a win over Colorado State, equaling the total number of wins for all of 1984. In the second game of the season, the Buffs led Oregon, 21-17, late. The Ducks drove down field in the waning seconds, and it appeared that the Buffs were in line for a disappointing defeat, all too common in those years. With fourth-and-goal at the Buff three yard line, and only nine second remaining, Oregon quarterback Chris Miller rolled out. The Buffs sold out on the play, and safety Mickey Pruitt sacked Miller to preserve the win. The Buffs went on to finish 7-4 that season, earning the Buffs’ first trip to the post-season since 1976.

Terrence Wheatley – senior cornerback

Career Interceptions – 11 Rank: t6th

t6th – Steve Rosga (1992-96)* 11

t6th – Ben Kelly (1997-99)* 11

*Both names deserve some mention here. Steve Rosga has one of those records which can be equaled but never exceeded. On October 12, 1995, Rosga returned an interception against Oklahoma State from deep in the Buffs’ endzone all the way back for a touchdown. Rosga’s return, according to the CU record book, was 105 yards. However, in the NCAA records, you can only be credited with a 100-yard return. Rosga’s record, then ties him with two other Buffs (Dick Kearns and Johnny Zeigler) and numerous other players in NCAA history.

Ben Kelly meanwhile, didn’t cover 100 yards with all of his 11 interception returns combined. However, that doesn’t mean he couldn’t outrun the linebacker Rosga. In fact, Kelly stands atop the CU record book in kickoff returns. His 1,798 yards in returns is a full 600 yards better than the Buffs’ number two man, M.J. Nelson.

Hugh Charles – senior running back

Career rushing yards – 1,670 Rank: 21st

Up next: #20 – Byron White (1935-37)* 1,864

#19 – Bob Stransky (1955-57) 1,868

#18 – Tony Reed (1975-76) 1,938

*If you need help with this name, you are not a true Buff fan. Byron “Whizzer” White after leading Colorado to its first ever bowl game (the 1938 Cotton Bowl) as CU’s first consensus All-American, went on to become the Buffs’ third Rhodes Scholar before playing for three seasons in the emerging NFL. White served as a Justice on the U.S. Supreme Court from 1962-1993. Justice White was the initial inductee into the Colorado Athletic Hall of Fame, in 1998.

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