October 13th – at Kansas State           Kansas State 47, Colorado 20

Senior tailback Hugh Charles rushed ran for a career high 171 yards and a score, but it was not enough to keep the Buffs in the contest, as Colorado fell to Kansas State, 47-20, in Manhattan. Kansas State running back James Johnson ran for 159 yards and two scores, and quarterback Josh Freeman threw for 214 yards and another score as the Wildcats became the first team to post over 40 points against the Buffs under Dan Hawkins.

The game was billed as a defensive struggle, with Colorado ranked 21st nationally in total defense; Kansas State 22nd. K-State came into the game ranked 23rd in scoring defense (19.6 points/game); Colorado 31st (20.7). The two teams, though, combined for 36 points in the first half alone.

Kansas State opened the scoring on their third possession as James Johnson scored from five yards out to cap a 69-yard drive. After the first of four Brooks Rossman field goals staked the Wildcats to a 10-0 lead, Kevin Eberhart hit from 50 yards out to pull the Buffs to within a touchdown.

A three-play, 69-yard drive by the Wildcats, though, gave the Wildcats a 17-3 lead late in the first quarter.

The Buffs looked to make a game of it in the second quarter, outscoring the Wildcats, 10-6. A Cody Hawkins to Jake Behrens one-yard touchdown pass was the only touchdown of the quarter. Later, Kevin Eberhart and Brooks Rossman traded field goals to make the score 20-13, Kansas State. With less than a minute remaining, the Buffs faced a fourth-and-one at the Wildcat 42-yard line. The attempt was unsuccessful, and KSU used the opportunity to move themselves into field goal position. A career best 52-yard field goal by Rossman gave the Wildcats a 23-13 lead at halftime.

The game was still very much in doubt until late in the third quarter. The Buffs and Wildcats traded touchdowns midway through the quarter, with Colorado’s score coming on a one-yard run by Hugh Charles.

With the score 33-20 after a fourth Rossman field goal, the Wildcats broke the game open when Buff punter Matt DiLallo dropped the snap from center. DiLallo’s punt was blocked and returned six yards for a touchdown, putting the game out of reach at 40-20.

The fourth quarter consisted mostly of a worn down CU defense surrendering yards, while the Buffs’ offense, no longer in a position to continues with its effective rushing attack, showing an inability to move the ball through the air. On the evening, Cody Hawkins connected on only 19 of 41 attempts, for 223 yards and three interceptions to go with his one touchdown.

“We got outplayed and we got out-coached,” said Dan Hawkins. “They really brought it to us.” Junior defensive tackle George Hypolite agreed. “They beat us in every phase of the game,”, said Hypolite. “They ran the ball well, threw the ball well, and played great on special teams. They beat us.”

One could argue that the Buffs had a hand in the loss as well. The Buffs actually had more first downs than the Wildcats (22-20), and, until the final few minutes of the game, when James Johnson ran for a 68-yard touchdown, more total yards on offense. Where the Buffs beat themselves was in turnovers (four, to none for the Wildcats), and penalties (10, for 91 yards). Colorado’s offense, despite generating 411 yards, sputtered when in mattered most, going 1-12 on third down conversions.

“I still like our team,” said Dan Hawkins. “I like our guys, and I like where we’re going.”

Where the Buffs were going, after two weeks on the road, was home. Home to face an undefeated (and 15thranked) Kansas Jayhawk team fresh from a 58-10 annihilation of Baylor. If Colorado was to be a player in the Big 12 North race, and not just another team looking for six wins and a bowl bid, the Buffs will have to play differently than they did on the road the last two weeks. They would have to play like they did the last time they were at home.

Like they had against Oklahoma.

Not Ready for Prime Time

It was all out there to be had. The Buffs were 4-2, 2-0 in Big 12 conference play. There was the No. 27 national ranking in the Associated Press poll. With the late start (7:21 p.m., MST), it was already clear that a win would result in Colorado being nationally ranked. Teams ranked 15th, 18th, 19th and 21st had already lost (along with the 26th ranked team), so a win would put the Buffs into the poll for the first time in two seasons. A win would leave Colorado, along with next week’s opponent, Kansas, as the only teams in the Big 12 undefeated in conference play. The Kansas/Colorado matchup would be the marquee game for the conference (who would have anticipated that two months earlier?).

In the darkness of the 47-20 thumping by Kansas State, there was one bright ray of light which burned brightly, illuminating the harsh reality.

These Buffs were not yet ready for prime time.

Yes, the Buffs were on prime time television Saturday night. Colorado was displayed before a national television audience on ESPN2, and the evening telecast did qualify as “prime time”. Still, this was not the prime time in the world of college football. Prime time was Saturday afternoon football, shown on ABC. Prime time was a match up between two nationally ranked teams, with the ESPN Game Day crew on hand to analyze every aspect of the game.

Prime time meant conference and national races would be impacted by the result.

Prime time was where the Colorado football program longed to return.,

The Buffs were not there – yet.

The Buffs made mistakes in every aspect of the game against Kansas State in looking more like the 2-10 2006 Buffs than the 4-2 2007 Buffs:

— The offense, despite a career high 171 yards from Hugh Charles, failed to consistently move the ball. Cody Hawkins reminded Buff fans that he was indeed a freshman quarterback. Hawkins forced the ball into difficult situations; he went for the long ball on third down instead of checking down and picking up the first down, trying to make every play a big play. And then every time it looked like the offense was in sync, a penalty stopped the momentum;

— The defense, which had stopped teams like Florida State and Oklahoma (which, by the way, placed speedy position players on the field equal to or superior to those of Kansas State), looked pedestrian against the Wildcats. Cornered runners were consistently able to outflank Buff defenders. Wide receivers were able to create separation.

— The special teams, which had contributed mightily to the Buffs’ upset win over Oklahoma, did not make any plays. Kevin Eberhart did make both of his field goal attempts, but Tyler Cope’s kickoffs never made the endzone, and Matt DiLallo’s fumble of the snap leading to a blocked punt for a touchdown turned the game into a rout. The Buffs did not surrender a big return to the Wildcats, but when Terrence Wheatley did have a long kickoff return, it was brought back on a penalty.

Four turnovers by the offense; none generated by the defense. Ten penalties for 91 yards. One-of-12 in third down conversions.

Those types of numbers would not defeat Baylor, much less a quality team on the road.

What now? Kansas, the surprise team of 2007 in the Big 12 (unless you want to count the complete meltdown in Lincoln), was coming to Boulder. The Jayhawks were 6-0, 2-0, and were celebrating their highest ranking (15th) since 1995. Kansas thumped Baylor, 58-10, with the Bears’ only touchdown coming on a kickoff return, to come through the weekend as the only remaining undefeated team in the conference, both in conference play and overall.

What did the Buffs have working for them?

First, the game was in Boulder. The Jayhawks were playing their first game outside of the Sunflower State (five home games; the only road game coming last weekend against Kansas State in Manhattan). Second, the game was to be played (mostly) in the afternoon. The game would be televised at 3:45 p.m., on ESPN. So far in 2007, the Buffs were 4-0 in games with kickoffs before 7:00 p.m.; 0-3 in games with later starts. Third, this figured to be an angry Buff team. Despite their youth, these Buffs played with a great deal of confidence. They knew they could play with anyone, and weren’t likely to be intimidated by a Kansas team which, despite its gaudy numbers, had yet to convert the national pundits of their merit as a national player.

A win for the Buffs would bring about much needed publicity to the Colorado program. A second win, over a ranked team, at home, will give the Buffs a fifth win on their way to six (and bowl eligibility), and bring CU one step closer to where it wanted to be.

A prime time program.

Extra Points

— Heralded freshman Ryan Miller made his first collegiate start against Kansas State. It marked the first start by a true freshman at the offensive tackle position in CU history;

— Hugh Charles, in running for a career-high 171 yards, posted his fourth consecutive 100-yard game, and ninth of his career. Charles moved past J.J. Flannigan Merwin Hodel, and Kayo Lam into 12th place on CU’s all time rushing list.

— Terrence Wheatley, with 128 yards in kickoff returns against the Wildcats, became only the fifth player in Buff history to accumulate over 1,000 yards in kickoff returns (1,065); and

— Against Kansas State, a new freshman record was set. Wide receiver Scotty McKnight moved his season receiving yards total to 374, eclipsing the record of 337 yards set by Chris McLemore in 1982.

Here is the YouTube video of the game, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:

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