Preview of this week’s game

It’s time for the Rocky Mountain Showdown! (Okay, I’m not wild about the moniker given the CU/CSU game, either). Still, you need to be prepared, and I’m here to give you you all the information you’ll need to be the most informed fan in the stands.

The Buffs are going to defeat the Rams, and here’s why ……

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August 31st – Denver          Colorado 38, Colorado State 17

Colorado defeated Colorado State, 38-17, in the ninth (and final?) edition of the Rocky Mountain Showdown in Denver. All the notes, quotes, stats, and stories are just a click away …..

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Video highlights:

Trivia you’ll want to remember – Colorado State

How well do you know the Buffs’ Mountain West Conference neighbor to the North? Can you answer the following:

1) What was Sonny Lubick’s record against CU? 2) What will happen in 2008 which has happened only once before in the 80-game history of the series? 3) What did CSU administrators do in 1949 that the Rams’ fans regretted for the next 40 years?

If you don’t know the answers to these questions, check out this section ….

Read Trivia…

“This Day in History”… August 31st.

In the history of college football, playing games in August is a fairly recent innovation (as recently as 1988, for example, Colorado played its first game of the season on September 10th). Still, there have been significant games played on this date, including one by Colorado. Famous games on this date in history ….

Remember the “Quack Attack” (1985)? Do you know which teams played in the first-ever Big 12 game(1996)?

The best game for CU fans on August 31st? Try the 1996 game against Washington State (Koy Detmer v. Ryan Leaf. We know how that quarterback battle turned out in the NFL, but what about head-to-head in Boulder?) …..

Read On…

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Archive Game of the Week

Playing the first game of 2004, the Buffs were not in a great frame of mind. For starters, CU was coming off a 5-7 season in 2003. To make matters worse, the spring of 2004 had seen the controversy over a December, 2001, recruiting party explode into a national story. The CU football program was all over the football airwaves – but for all the wrong reasons. Head coach Gary Barnett missed spring practice, being suspended over comments made about former kicker Katie Hnida. The scars and the scandal, though, cut much deeper. The Buffs could ill afford to lose their opening game against in-state rival Colorado State.

The game, before a record Folsom Field crowd, came down to the very last play …..

Go To The Archived Game of The Week…

Pregame Preview

CSU Preview – 2008

Welcome to the debut of “Stuart’s TIPS”. This season, I’ll breakdown each upcoming game into four categories:

T – Talent – Simply, which team has the better horses?

I – Intangibles – momentum, home field, weather – these are 19 and 20-year olds, after all.

P – Preparation – either team coming off a short week? Injuries? Rivalry game next week?

S – Stats – if you are going to be a part of this site, you are going to get stats.

Breaking down the Colorado/Colorado State game:

T – Talent. Not really much room for debate here. The Rams under Sonny Lubick faltered over the past few seasons. CSU hasn’t had a winning season since 2003, and the talent level has declined noticeably. Steve Fairchild takes over for Lubick, and while there are quality players in Ft. Collins, they are of insufficient number for Fairchild to compete for a title in the Mountain West Conference race.

Names familiar to CU fans will lead the CSU offense, with senior tailback Kyle Bell and senior tight end Kory Sperry back to face the Buffs. Sperry, last season (as a senior), had eight catches for 108 yards and three touchdowns against Colorado (Sperry was injured the following week, and was granted a sixth year of eligibility). Bell racked up 135 yards and a touchdown in the 31-28 loss to the Buffs in 2007.

But that’s about it, folks. CSU will be starting career backup Billy Farris at quarterback, and, other than Sperry, Farris really has no one to throw to who should scare the Buffs. Plus, the offensive line, while returning a number of starters, has surrendered an average of almost 40 sacks a season over the past two years. The CSU defense, for its part, gave up 207 yards/game rushing last season, and their cornerback situation is even worse than Colorado’s. The Rams were thin in the secondary to begin with, and have lost players to injury and suspension this fall.

In short, there is no way the Buffs lose the talent battle.

I – Intangibles. The Rams only had 18,820 on hand at home in Sonny Lubick’s last game in 2007 – and that was a victory over rival Wyoming. With a new coach comes new enthusiasm, and it has been reported that Colorado State sold out its student allotment of tickets for this year’s Rocky Mountain Showdown.

The Rams will play with emotion early, and, if they are successful, it could carry them through the remainder of the contest. Still, with Colorado’s overall edge in talent, and with the matchups on the field favoring the Buffs’ ability to move the ball on the Rams, as well as to stop the Rams’ attack, emotion should be mitigated by the second quarter.

Plus, I can’t help but be nagged by the memory that the Buffs, playing with “emotion” for their new coach, fell flat against Montana State in Dan Hawkins’ first game in Boulder.

P – Preparation / Schedule. No advantages or disadvantages here. It is the season opener for both teams, and the game is at a neutral site (though it would be an upset if Colorado does not have more fans in the stands for this game). Both teams follow this game with a contest at home against a 1-AA Big Sky Conference team (CU v. Eastern Washington; CSU v. Sacramento State), so there is little reason for either team to be “looking ahead”. Both teams should be rested and ready for this one. Preparation edge for either in the season opener? None. This week, this category is a wash.

S – Stats. If you were a member of the Colorado coaching staff, you would have to think that having CSU as the opponent for the opener – other than having to play an in-state rival on a neutral field – would be about as good a Division 1-A match-up you could get without being criticized for dumbing down the schedule (see: most of the Big 12). Worried about getting your rushing game going? How’s about taking on the 107th ranked rushing defense (in 2007 – before CSU lost three defensive line starters to graduation)? Want to give your wide receivers an ego boost to get the season started right? We’ll give you a defense with no returning starters in the secondary, and which has lost two cornerbacks (one to injury; the other to suspension) since fall camp opened.

Worried about your defense? Well, the Rams can only run the ball, and the strength of the CU defense is up the middle, with quality tackles and linebackers. Starter Billy Farris threw only 20 passes all last season, and there are no quality receivers on the roster other than Sperry. The Buffs should be able to load up against the run, forcing Farris to beat them through the air.

Will special teams make the difference, then? Only if you are a Buffs’ fan. Last season, the Rams gave up 23.5 yards per kick return (101st in the nation), and an amazing 12.3 yards per punt return (106th). (For comparison’s sake, CU gave up 19.3 yards per kickoff return – 19th in the nation, and 6.8 yards per punt return – 31st). Paging Josh Smith and Rodney Stewart ….

Everything on the stats sheet favors the Buffs. The talent on the field for Colorado will be superior. The only thing going for the Rams is the emotion of playing for their new coaching staff, combined with the excitement of playing your in-state rival on opening day on a neutral field. The Buffs will have the last two emotional edges on their side as well, plus the quiet confidence of a team which believes in itself, and feels it is ready to resume its status as a national player.

The only way the Colorado loses this game is if the Buffs don’t come prepared to play ……

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Postgame Review

August 31st – Invesco Field – Denver           Colorado 38, Colorado State 17

Cody Hawkins scored on two short touchdown runs and connected with Scotty McKnight for a third score as Colorado wore down Colorado State, pulling away late for a 38-17 victory. Playing for perhaps the last time at Invesco Field in Denver (or, at least, for the next two seasons), the Buffs held the Rams to 258 yards of total offense, sending about two-thirds of the 69,619 in attendance home pleased with the outcome.

The opening quarter was scoreless, but not without its drama. The Rams were held to one first down on their opening drive, but Josh Smith, on the first offensive touch of the season for the Buffs, fumbled the punt. Fortunately for CU, Gardner McKay gathered up the fumble back at the CU four yard line. On the Rams next drive, which began in CU territory after the Buffs were unable to move the ball, cornerback Jalil Brown held Ram running back Kyle Bell to a one yard gain on fourth-and-eight at the CU 32-yard line.

Colorado was the first to score, with Cody Hawkins hitting fellow sophomore Scotty McKnight on a 35-yard pass to put the Buffs up 7-0 less than a minute into the second quarter. The hookup between Hawkins and McKnight, culminating a 58-yard drive, marked the second year in succession that the first score of the year for CU was a Hawkins-to-McKnight pass play.

A few minutes later, the Buffs were up 14-0. On CSU’s next possession, punter Anthony Hartz lost control of the snap, and was tackled at the Ram five yard line. Two plays later, Cody Hawkins snuck in from a yard out and it appeared as if the Buffs were on their way to a blowout.

No such luck.

After forcing another CSU punt, the Buffs took over at their own 20 yard line. On the second play of the drive, an attempted screen pass from Hawkins was tipped at the line, intercepted by CSU linebacker Jeff Horinek at the CU 24. It took only two plays for the Rams to make a game of it, as quarterback Billy Farris hit Dion Martin for a 21-yard score.

Then the fun really began.

The kickoff from CSU freshman kicker Ben was DeLine was a squib kick, eventually finding its way to CU’s Josh Smith at the seven yard line. After initially bobbling the kick, Smith took the ball up the middle of the field, and was barely touched in going 93 yards for a touchdown. The kickoff return for a score was the first for CU since Jeremy Bloom pulled off the feat against Kansas State in 2003. The score was also the first for Smith as a Buff.

Not to be outdone, the Rams “returned” the favor, with John Mosure taking Jameson Davis’ offering back 90 yards for a CSU touchdown. In less than 30 seconds of playing time in the middle of the second quarter, the score went from 14-0, Colorado, to 21-14, Colorado. The score remained 21-14 through to halftime, with both teams turning the ball over once in the opposing team’s territory.

The second half began as well as any Buff fan could have hoped, with Josh Smith returning the second half kickoff 46 yards to the CSU 45 yard line. The Buffs needed only eight plays to cover the 45 yards, with Cody Hawkins again doing the honors from a yard out as Colorado regained its two-touchdown lead, 28-14, three minutes into the third quarter.

Two possessions later, the Rams put together their last scoring drive of the night. Taking over at CU 44-yard line after a short Matt DiLallo punt, CSU drove inside the Colorado ten yard line before settling for a 26-yard DeLine field goal to cut the CU lead to 28-17.

With the game still in the balance, the Buffs put together the drive of the night. Though it ended with only a field goal – a 23-yarder by Aric Goodman – the drive removed the spirit from the Rams. Covering 74 yards in 18 plays, the Buffs took off over seven minutes in game clock in restoring their two-touchdown advantage. Along the way, CU converted three third downs and a fourth down in ending the Rams’ hopes of a comeback.

The final score of the night came with only 2:14 remaining. The Buffs took over on downs at the Ram 47 yard line after a Brad Jones sack of Billy Farris on fourth down. A quick drive, highlighted by a 35-yard pass from Hawkins to Kendrick Celestine, was culminated by the first touchdown for true freshman Darrell Scott. Scott capped a successful debut with a one yard score to make the final score 38-17, Colorado.

While the final score suggested domination, the Buffs were never in complete control until late in the game. Colorado led in total offense, 367 yards to 258 for Colorado State. The Rams, despite a strong effort by senior running back Gartre Johnson, who had 95 yards rushing on the night, were held to only 71 net rushing yards. The Buffs were led by Darrell Scott, who posted 54 yards on 11 carries, with senior Demetrius Sumler contributing 41 yards and true freshman Rodney Stewart another 38 yards. Cody Hawkins had a productive, if not spectacular, game, with 20 completions in 29 attempts, good for 214 yards, one touchdown and one interception.

The much-maligned Colorado defense put up some good numbers on the evening. The 258 yards surrendered was the best for the Buffs in a season opener since CU held CSU to 202 yards in the first game of the 1998 season (a 42-14 CU win). The Buffs registered five sacks in game one, after collecting only 19 in all of 2007. Senior safety Ryan Walters and junior linebacker Shaun Mohler each had an interception. For the game, the Rams were successful on only 2-11 third down conversions and 1-4 on fourth down tries.

“We’re making a lot of progress,” said sophomore wideout Scotty McKnight, who led the Buffs’ receivers with five catches for 67 yards. “I think we had a great spring last year and a good summer, and we carried that into camp and into today.” McKnight, though, also echoed the sentiments of many of the Buff players, saying, “But I think we still have a lot that we need to clean up in order to be a good football team (the Buffs did have two turnovers and eight penalties). Once we clean everything up, I think we are going to do some great things.”

Senior defensive tackle George Hypolite was of the same mind. “We’re 1-0, so we’re obviously still in the national championship picture,” said Hypolite, himself held to only four tackles against CSU. “We’re going to go in and look at the drawing board, look at what we did wrong, come back out next week, and hopefully put up a good effort against Eastern Washington.”

The opportunity for continued growth will present itself soon enough, with the Eastern Washington Eagles coming to Boulder next Saturday. The Eagles, from the Big Sky Conference, are 0-1 on the season, coming of a 49-24 loss to Texas Tech (in a game which was 35-24 at the start of the fourth quarter).

Weathering the Storm

An hour before kickoff of the 2008 Rocky Mountain Showdown, the clouds to the west looked ominous.

Perhaps not as ominous as in 2003, when a lightening delay ultimately stopped play in the CU/CSU game at Invesco Field for 28 minutes amidst a downpour, but ominous nonetheless.

As it turned out, there were only a few sprinkles. True, there was a moment or two during the first half when it looked like the rain would turn into a deluge, and a few fans did take refuge below the stands when the sprinkles became a light rain. For the most part, though, fans rode it out, and were rewarded shortly thereafter with a calm and pleasant evening.

The same was true for the Buffs.

Colorado had to weather an early storm of emotion from the underdog Rams from Colorado State. The fumble by Josh Smith early in the game could have turned into a disaster, but Gardner McKay fell on the ball at the CU four yard line. The Buffs couldn’t move the ball, and gave the Rams the ball back on the CU side of the field. Backed up, the Colorado defense held, stopping Colorado State on a fourth down attempt at the CU 32 yard line.

After calming things down, the Buffs moved out to a 14-0 lead, and Buff fans settled in for the much anticipated rout. Later in the first half, though, emotion was on the green side of the field. The Rams converted an interception into a touchdown, then bounced back from a Josh Smith kickoff return with one of their own. Only a Ryan Walters’ interception late in the second quarter prevented the Rams from moving in for a tying score before the half.

Patience, though, by the Buffs was rewarded. Young, yet experienced, the Colorado players slowly but surely took control in the second half. A touchdown on the first drive of the second half gave the Buffs a two score cushion they would maintain the remainder of the game. “We had no turnovers in the second half and a lot more production,” said quarterback Cody Hawkins. “When you have the football in your hands and no penalties, it’s a lot easier to win. Our offensive line did a great job for us in the second half.”

Colorado is talented, but is still young. Take a look at the stats sheet from the CSU game. Cody Hawkins is just one game into his sophomore year, but is already in the top ten in career passing yards at Colorado. True freshman Darrell Scott, who only played in specific situations (“We are going to continue to work him in there,” said Dan Hawkins. “If you are a freshman, you are a freshman … there is still a steep learning curve.”), still led the team in rushing. The receivers were led by a sophomore, Scotty McKnight. The remainder of the roster on both sides of the ball are littered with freshmen and sophomores.

There will be tough situations. There will be tough games. There will be mistakes. That’s what young players do.

Colorado weathered an emotional storm early against Colorado State. Rather than let the early mistakes cost them a victory, the Buffs rode out the ominous threats from the other side of the field, and were rewarded by a calm and pleasant evening.

Just like their fans.

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Trivia you’ll want to remember

Colorado State

Sonny Lubick left the Colorado State program at the end of the 2007 season. His records speak for themselves:

– overall record at CSU of 108-74

– six conference titles won or shared

– nine bowl games (CSU has played in a total of 11 in its history)

– four seasons with over ten wins (the only four such seasons in CSU history), but …

– 4-9 record v. Colorado

– The 2008 CU/CSU game will a repeat of something that happened in 1985, and it’s a record neither school wanted to be a part of. The Buffs and the Rams come into the ‘08 campaign off of losing seasons in 2007 – and in 2006. The last time CU played CSU when both teams were coming off of consecutive losing seasons? Once, in 1985. In the 80 game series, only once before has CU played CSU when both the Buffs and the Rams had suffered through back-to-back losing seasons before the game. (By the way, CU won the 1985 contest, 23-10).

– 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 for the Rams in 1981? 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 school changed its name – and 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.

– The only major award winner in school history is Greg Myers, who won the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s best defensive back, in 1995. (Two Buffs have won the award – Deon Figures in 1992 and Chris Hudson in 1994).

– 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 only lasted five years, by the way, 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).

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“This Day in History”…

August 31st

1985 – Oregon 42, Washington State 39. The Oregon Ducks unveiled the “Quack Attack”, as quarterback Chris Miller threw for 259 yards and three touchdowns. Not to be outdone, the Washington State Cougars quarterback Mark Rypien threw for 403 yards and four touchdowns. (Miller and the Ducks would go on to lose to CU, 21-17, in Boulder two weeks later, in one of the pivotal moments in recent Buff history).

1991 – Rutgers 20, Boston College 13. The Scarlet Knights edged the Eagles in the inaugural game of the Big East Conference. The game was played near the spot where Rutgers faced Princeton in the first-ever “American” football game in 1869 (for the record, the final score of that game was Rutgers 6, Princeton 4). Boston College would go on to stay in the nascent Big East Conference until 2005, when the Eagles bolted for the Atlantic Coast Conference.

1996 – Kansas State 21, Texas Tech 14. The Wildcats bested the Red Raiders in the inaugural game of the Big 12 Conference, played in Manhattan. Later in the day, Texas defeated Missouri, 40-10, in the newly named Darrell Royal – Texas Memorial Stadium. In the nightcap, which was delayed 45 minutes by a lightning storm, running back Ricky Williams led the Longhorns with 112 rushing yards and two touchdowns. Three of the four participants in the first-ever Big 12 games would go on to good seasons. Texas won the first Big 12 title, defeating Nebraska in the first title game, 37-27. The Longhorns finished 8-5, ranked 23rd. Kansas State completed its season 9-3 (and 17th overall) after a 19-15 loss to BYU in the Cotton Bowl. Texas Tech was unranked at season’s end, but did sport a 7-5 overall record. Only Missouri failed to have a winning season of the four, completing its ‘96 season with a 5-6 record.

2002 – Notre Dame 22, #21 Maryland 0. Tyrone Willingham was successful in his first game as head coach at Notre Dame as the Irish shutout 21st-ranked Maryland, 22-0 . The game marked the first time an African-American had led the Irish in competition in any sport. The Terrapins had only 133 yards in total offense in the Meadowlands, as the Notre Dame/Maryland game represented the 20th – and last – Kickoff Classic at East Rutherford, New Jersey. What became a dream season for the Irish ended with a familiar tone – a bowl loss. In what would be Notre Dame’s best season under Willingham, the Irish completed the 2002 season with a 10-3 record after a 28-6 loss to North Carolina State in the Gator Bowl. In the final poll, Notre Dame was 17th (Maryland, for its part, rebounded to finish with an 11-3 record and a 13th-place finish.)

August 31st – Colorado – best game on this date

#5 Colorado 37, Washington State 19 – August 31, 1996.

The Buffs were led by quarterback Koy Detmer, who passed for 254 yards and three touchdowns against the Cougars. Detmer, who also had a rushing touchdown, was named the first-ever Big 12 offensive player of the week. What was memorable about the game was that the final score could have been much worse for WSU (and their quarterback, Ryan Leaf). Colorado was up 37-3 late, and was poised for another score. A fumble by third string quarterback Jeremy Weisinger, though, was returned 94 yards and a touchdown. After a successful onside kick, the Cougars scored again in the waning moments to make the final score more respectable.

For his part, 2nd-year CU head coach Rick Neuheisel was philosophic: “Everybody comes with high hopes and expectations and anticipation of seeing a finished product in week one, and its just not going to be that way ….. I’ve been in this business long enough to know that you never take winning for granted, and, albeit it wasn’t as impressive as it maybe could have been, I’m still pleased with the victory.”

When you are ranked 5th in the nation, perception is everything …..

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4 Replies to “Colorado State – Weathering the Storm”

  1. Great review and history tidbits! Thanks for all the effort and time you’ve put into this site. Yous are a very strong and faithful Buff!

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