October 25th – at Missouri          No. 16 Missouri 58, Colorado 0

The Missouri Tigers, ranked 16th and out of the national championship race after two consecutive losses, took out their frustrations against an over-matched Colorado Buffalo squad, throttling the Buffs, 58-0. In holding Colorado to 199 yards of total offense, Missouri handed the Buffs their first shut out loss in almost twenty seasons.

For the fifth time in eight games, Colorado allowed its opponent to score on its opening possession. A short kickoff set up the Tigers at their own 44-yard line, and it took all of four plays and 69 seconds for Missouri to post all of the points they would need on the night. Two passes from Heisman trophy candidate Chase Daniel to Heisman trophy candidate Jeremy Maclin set Missouri up at the Colorado four yard line, with Derrick Washington doing the honors one play later.

The Buffs’ first possession was a tragic comedy of errors. Starting at their own 33 yard line, the Buffs marched backward in quick succession:

Tyler Hansen, making his first start at quarterback – rush for loss of nine yards;

Rodney Stewart – rush for one yard;

Tyler Hansen, sacked for a loss of nine yards;

punter Tom Suazo, in for his second punt of the season, mishandled the snap, tackled for a loss of fifteen yards at the Colorado five yard line.

Four plays, minus 32 yards.

It took Missouri three plays to punch it in from the five, with Chase Daniel hitting tight end Chase Coffman from a yard out. 10:48 still to play in the first quarter, and Missouri had already matched the point total the Buffs had scored in each of its last three games.

And then it got bad.

A three-and-out by the Buffs resulted in a short field for the Tigers. The Colorado defense did force Missouri to take 13 plays to march 55 yards, but march the Tigers did. 21-0 Missouri.

The Buffs managed one first down before the end of the quarter, but then punted the ball back to the Tigers. An interception by CU safety Ryan Walters set up the Buffs in Missouri territory, but any hope of a Colorado resurgence ended three plays later after the Colorado drive netted a loss of one yard.

Again, the Colorado defense made scoring difficult for the Missouri offense – but not difficult enough. A 15-play, 80-yard drive made the score 28-0 with 8:10 still to play in the first half. A fumble by Cody Hawkins and a three-and-out by the Colorado offense were followed, respectively, by Jeff Wolfert field goals.

At halftime, the Faurot Field scoreboard read: Missouri 34; Colorado 0.

The Tigers had 34 points, the Buffs had 13 total yards of offense.

And then it got worse.

The Buffs did take the second half kickoff and put together a drive. Three first downs put the ball in the Missouri red-zone, but there the drive stalled. Rather than try a 34-yard field goal, Dan Hawkins elected to go for it on fourth-and-three at the Missouri 17-yard line. A Cody Hawkins pass to Patrick Williams, however, fell incomplete, and the Missouri shut out was preserved.

The teams matched three-and-outs before Missouri struck again. A 30-yard punt return by Jeremy Maclin set the Tigers up in CU territory, and Missouri needed only four plays to travel 44 yards to up the score to 41-0 on a four yard pass from Daniel to Daniel Alexander.

Another three-and-out by the Buffs, coupled with another good punt return by Maclin, set up the Tigers for a 39 yard touchdown drive, with Daniel hitting Maclin for a 30-yard score. 48-0.

A field goal and a 55 yard touchdown run by De’Vion Moore pushed the score to 58-0 with 4:45 to play. A last minute drive by the Buffs, the best of the night, garnered five first downs and a second trip to the Missouri red-zone. The game ended on the Missouri eight yard line after Tyler Hansen hit Josh Smith for a two yard gain as time expired.

“It’s all on me,” said Dan Hawkins after the game. “I did an awful job of getting them ready. I have to do a better job.” Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was also quick to jump on the sword. “I take 100 percent responsibility for how things turned out here tonight.”

Not so fast, said quarterback Cody Hawkins. “Coaches are always going to try and take the blame because they care about us as players and as people,” said Hawkins, who hit on 9 of 17 passes for 86 yards, was sacked twice and had a lost fumble. “I really think as an entire team we didn’t play even close to the level we’re able to play at today.”

Fine. Everyone was to blame. There was plenty to share. The Colorado offense netted only 199 yards for the entire game (66 of which came on the last drive), and only 14 first downs (five on the final drive). The Colorado defense, playing on its heels the entire game, gave up 491 yards of total offense to Missouri, sacked Chase Daniel only once, and gave up eight conversions on 13 third down attempts.

The special teams? Where to start? Tom Suazo’s fumble, setting up the Tigers at the CU five yard line on the Buffs’ first possession? The 25.3 yard net/punt average on the other nine chances Suazo and Matt DiLallo?

There was little or no time to regroup. If the Buffs were to make anything out of their quickly deteriorating 2008 season, it had to come in the next two weeks. Colorado would next play Texas A&M in College Station before returning home to face Iowa State. A bowl bid and a chance at a winning season for the 4-4 Buffs would hinge on the outcome of those two games.

“It starts with everyone looking at themselves in the mirror,” said senior defensive tackle George Hypolite. “We’ve been beat worse than this and it’s not the end of the world.”

It just felt like it.

Note … Here are the You Tube video highlights from the game:

Beginning of the End?

Dan Hawkins has logged 33 games as the Colorado head coach. The pariah of Colorado coaches, Chuck Fairbanks, coached 33 games in Boulder.

Fairbanks went 7-26.

Hawkins is 12-21.

For the record, Bill McCartney, in his first three seasons in Boulder, went 7-25-1, and he received a contract extension in the midst of a 1-10 third campaign. Dan Hawkins received his contract extension a few weeks ago.

Due to the extension of the seasons to 12 games, plus the bowl game from last year, Hawkins still has four games (hopefully five) in his third year. His record is marginally better than those of either Fairbanks or McCartney (though far shy of the 33 game records of Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett).

Is it time to start wondering whether Hawkins is the right man for the job?

Clearly, Dan Hawkins deserves great credit for cleaning up the negative perceptions about the Colorado program, and for resurrecting fan support. How long will the fan support last, though, if the Buffs do not show improvement on the field?

This is Hawkins’ third season. The 2-10 debacle was a write off for most, and the 6-7 record showed sufficient improvement to satisfy most observers. At this point of the 2008 season, though, continued growth appears to be unlikely.

6-7 looks pretty darn good, and may be a long shot after the display put on by the Buffs in Columbia.

The Buffs’ inconsistencies are frustrating, to say the least. The Colorado defense has, for the most part held its own (the 58 points scored by Missouri notwithstanding – the average starting field position for Missouri’s seven touchdown drives was the CU 48 yard line). The Colorado special teams, but for Josh Smith’s record number of return yards, have been abysmal. Punter Matt DiLallo, a two year starter, hasn’t been able to hold on to his job and kicker Aric Goodman has missed six field goal attempts in a row (and seven of ten overall).

The Colorado offense? The Buffs are last or close to last in the Big 12 in almost every significant offensive category, and with Saturday’s numbers, will likely remain so placed the remainder of the season. In his last season at Boise State (2005), Hawkins’ Broncos scored 59 touchdowns. The year before that – 69 scores. The Buffs, through 2/3 of the 2008 season, have 18 touchdowns, on a pace for 24 total scores. Where’s the magic?

Yes, the offensive line has been decimated. However, in 2007, the year the Buffs had so few linemen that the spring game had to be a scrimmage, CU still generated 38 touchdowns.

Colorado, in Hawkins’ third year, should be past personnel excuses. These are Hawkins’ guys.

And they can’t compete.

I’m not going so far as to say that the next two games are a referendum on whether Dan Hawkins should be the coach at Colorado in 2009. That is all but assured.

The next two games, though, will go a long way in determining whether the 2009 campaign will be his last in Boulder.

The Shut Out String

The shut out string was the last of the statistical holdouts from the time when Colorado was still a national player.

Consecutive weeks ranked in the Associated Press poll? Started in 1989; ended in 1997.

Consecutive bowl games and winning seasons? Started in 1985; also came to a close in 1997.

Consecutive seasons defeating at least one ranked team? Started in 1988; ended in 2000.

The above are still noted in the weekly press release from the media relations office, but they are now afterthoughts 30 pages in. They were significant for a long time. Now they are relics from the past.

Other Dave Plati specials in the weekly media release include “Top College Football Records – 1985 to present” and “Top College Football Records – 1989 to present”. Problem is, it wasn’t that long ago that the Buffs were in the top ten in these categories (the Buffs were 8th in the “best since 1989? category as recent as the start of the 2004 season). Now, Colorado has slipped out of the top 20 in each category, and Dave is going to have to start using a smaller font just to keep the Buffs on the page.

The last claim to statistical greatness came to a crashing halt against Missouri. 242 consecutive games without being shut out, dating back almost exactly 20 years to a 7-0 loss to Nebraska on November 7, 1988. Every week, there were two full pages of the media release devoted to the streak. Colorado was up to ninth on the all-time list, and had the third longest active streak.

There were several close calls along the way. Nine times the streak came down to the fourth quarter, most recently a touchdown scored against Florida State with just 3:39 remaining (and on fourth down, no less).

The Florida State score was from 11 yards out, with the Buffs trailing the Seminoles, 16-0. Dan Hawkins could have gone with the field goal, but his “play to win” philosophy meant going for the touchdown. Against Florida State, the strategy was rewarded.

Twice against Missouri, on the first and last drives of the second half, it failed.

While I have no issue with the “play to win” philosophy, and while I certainly would not insist on scoring late in the game just for the sake of posting a score, there should have been other factors at work against the Tigers.

On the first drive of the third quarter, the Buffs’ offense put together an 11-play, 64-yard drive, only to come away with nothing when a fourth-and-three pass fell incomplete at the MU 17 yard line. Two reasons why the Buffs should have gone for the field goal at that time:

First, CU was already down 34-0. The Buffs had scored a total of 42 points in the last ten quarters combined. A comeback was not imminent. Why not give your beleaguered offense something positive for the opening drive effort? A field goal would not have changed the outcome – but a touchdown wasn’t going to change the final result, either.

Second, and more importantly – the Buffs have a kicker whose mind is not all there. Aric Goodman has missed his last six attempts. A miss on a 34-yarder in a 34-0 game? Not a huge deal. Why not get your kicker out there, on an opposing team’s turf, and let him try and feel some success? I’m guessing Dan Hawkins want to use him again at some point this season. Why not let him work it out when a miss would not be crucial?

Plus, Dave Plati would still have one last vestige from the golden era of Colorado football to put into the weekly media release.

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Pregame Preview

2008 – Missouri Preview

Colorado got the win they desperately needed last weekend against Kansas State. Now it’s on to Columbia to take on #16 Missouri. The Tigers certainly have more talent in the two deep, but are on a two game losing streak and gave up almost as many points in the first half against Texas as the Buffs have given up to the state of Kansas in the last two games.

Will the Tigers be disheartened or determined? Let’s take a look at this week’s “T.I.P.S.”:

T – Talent

When, exactly, did Chase Daniel and Jeremy Maclin become mediocre players?

Two weeks ago, the concern in Columbia was not whether their All-American quarterback and their All-American wide receiver were Heisman worthy. No. Instead, the concern was that the pair would cancel each other out in the Heisman balloting (to help their collective cause, the Missouri media relations department set up a website featuring both players).

Two losses later, Daniel and Macklin have all but disappeared from the Heisman trophy watch lists.

Did I miss a meeting?

While Daniel’s three interceptions certainly contributed to the 28-23 loss to Oklahoma State, he also completed 39 of 52 passes for 390 yards against the Cowboys. Maclin’s numbers against OSU? Eight catches for 120 yards. Against Texas, Daniel hit on 31 of 41 passes, good for 318 yards. Maclin was “held” to 66 yards on eight receptions, with tight end Chase Coffman picking up the slack with 12 catches for 140 yards (Coffman’s 3rd 100-yard game of the season. The senior tight end also had over 100 yards receiving against Oklahoma State).

No, Daniel and Maclin haven’t gone away, they have just been overshadowed by the inability of the Tiger defense to stop two exceptional offenses. Texas ran over, through, and past Missouri to a 35-0 second quarter lead. Oklahoma State relied more on its rushing attack (7th in the nation) to stay with the high scoring Tigers.

What can the Colorado defense do, short of borrowing a couple of All-Americans from the Longhorn defense, to stop Daniel, Maclin, and Coffman?

Realistically? Nothing. Missouri is going to score. All the Buffs can to is help control how often and how quickly. Remember how Nebraska coach Bo Pelini talked the week before the Missouri game about the Cornhuskers’ game plan to “shut out” the Tigers? Well, that plan lasted less than a minute, as Jeremy Maclin scored 59 seconds into the contest on the way to a 52-17 Missouri rout.

The Colorado defense has been fairly good about not surrendering the big play this season. In seven games, the Buffs have given up only five plays of over 40 yards to the opposition. This number has to remain at five if Colorado is to stay competitive on Saturday.

Here’s something to chew on between now and Saturday: Which of the seven opponents of #1 Texas has held them to their lowest point total this season?

Oklahoma? Missouri? – two teams which have resided in the top ten for most of the 2008 campaign?

Nope.

That’s right. Colorado.

The Buffs’ defense also held the Longhorns to fewer total yards than did either Oklahoma or Missouri.

The Colorado defense is not yet great. But it’s not that bad, either. If the Colorado offense can generate any sort of consistency, and the Buffs’ special teams play is indeed “special”, you can count on the CU defense to do its part.

I – Intangibles

There will be a great deal of talk this week in the Missouri locker room and in the Missouri local media about the Tigers controlling their own destiny. Yes, Missouri is 1-2 in Big 12 conference play, one game behind Kansas and tied with Colorado, Kansas State, and Nebraska. Other than Kansas, though, only Missouri can win out and be guaranteed a spot in the Big 12 title game.

Winning a Big 12 championship and a spot in a BCS bowl game are still available! Our goals are still achievable! Our season was not ruined by two straight losses!!

I’m not buyin’ it.

Two weeks ago, Missouri was the darling of the NCAA. Fresh off of their first Big 12 North title, complete with not one but two Heisman trophy candidates, the Tigers rolled through September. Starting out with a #6 preseason ranking, Missouri slowly but surely crept up the charts.

5th, then 4th, then 3rd, then ….

Splat.

The loss to Oklahoma State dropped Missouri to #11. The annihilation by Texas dropped the Tigers to 16th (good trivia to try on your friends: Name the only two teams with two losses currently ranked in the polls. Answer: Missouri and Kansas. Insert your own punchline).

I know that the coaches and players will all say the right things. Yes, we are taking Colorado seriously, they will say. Yes, we know every game is important. Yes, we are still upbeat about 2008 and all it has to offer. No, we are not down.

Not so much. These are still 19 and 20-year olds. These are still players who, until two weeks ago, had realistic hopes of playing for a national championship. Playing in the limelight, before a national television audience (Brent Musberger!), then falling flat, has got to take its toll.

If the game were in Boulder. If the Buffs’ offense had shown any semblance of consistency. If the kicking game didn’t give CU fans a sinking feeling every time the Buffs took the field.

Then I could get excited about this game.

I just don’t see it. There is a golden opportunity here. The Tigers and their fans will be going through the motions, at least at the outset of the contest. A great team would take advantage. A good team still only has a puncher’s chance.

Right now, the Buffs are not great.

P – Preparation / Schedule

The Tigers did not make the showing in the month of October they were hoping to make.

Beat Nebraska in Lincoln for the first time since 1978? Check. A 52-17 throttling.

Beat back an aspiring Oklahoma State team which needs to be exposed as a fraud? Messed up by three costly turnovers in a 28-23 loss.

Make a national statement by taking down Texas in Austin? Not so much.

The last game in October was supposed to be the beginning of Missouri’s victory lap. After enduring a tough three game stretch, the path to the national championship got considerably easier: Colorado and Kansas State at home, Baylor and Iowa State on the road. Four speed bumps on the way to a season-ending showdown against Kansas.

Now what?

Instead of relishing easy games while other top ten teams beat up on one another, Missouri is suddenly in dire straits. One more loss, and the Tigers might not even win the division, much less a Big 12 title and a national championship. That fear alone could motivate the Tiger players.

Next week’s opponent, Baylor, is much improved, but hardly ranks as a reason for Missouri to look past Colorado. The Buffs, on the other hand, have a two game stretch after the Missouri game – Texas A&M in College Station; Iowa State at home – which will likely decided whether 2008 will be remembered as a successful season or one of lost opportunities.

If you want to turn that around – the Buffs can play loose because the Missouri game is not a make or break game (that was last weekend against Kansas State), while the Tigers may be tight if the game stays close.

Certainly enough reason to tune in, wouldn’t you say?

S – Stats

Kansas State has a lousy defense, at least statistically, and the Buffs failed to take full advantage, scoring only 14 points for the third straight week.

Missouri, on the other hand, being a national power, uh, ….

has a lousy defense, too.

Out of 119 teams in 1-A, the Tigers are ranked 114th in pass defense and 100th in total defense. Lest you argue that these numbers are skewed by the Tigers’ losses in their last two games, I offer you Missouri’s numbers from two weeks ago, when the Tigers were 5-0: 114th in pass defense; 83rd in total defense.

Missouri can be scored upon, but it has to be through the air. The Tigers’ rushing defense remains solid, and will not be surprised by Tyler Hansen or his ability to run the ball. Missouri will line up eight or nine players in the box, and dare the Colorado offense to win the game through the air.

The game for Colorado, if it is to be won, will not be by way of Rodney Stewart sweeps and Tyler Hansen keepers. Missouri is much stronger and faster than Kansas State, and the Buffs will be in third-and-long all evening if the same game plan is implemented. Colorado, be it through Tyler Hansen or Cody Hawkins, must be able to get the ball into the Missouri secondary.

If you often hear the names of Scotty McKnight, Josh Smith, and Patrick Williams during the evening (not to mention the tight ends over the middle), the Buffs have a fighting chance. If the Buffs run Rodney Stewart right and Rodney Stewart left all evening, keep the alcohol handy.

One other stat which jumps out this week:

Can you name the Big 12 team which has the highest rated pass defense in the conference?

Yup. Colorado.

Granted, the Buffs are only ranked 54th nationally, but that is good enough to be ranked higher than any of their Big 12 brethren. No other Big 12 team ranks in the top half in the country in pass defense.

Truly, this is the year of the quarterback in the Big 12 (seven of the schools in the conference rank in the top 20 nationally in pass offense), but let’s just take a moment to give a shout out to the CU secondary. Seen as the weak link in the Colorado roster by many (myself included), the Buff defensive backs have more than held their own so far this season.

Up next. Chase Daniel and the 4th ranked pass offense in the country.

Good luck, gentlemen.

Go Buffs!

Trivia you Need to Know – Missouri

– After defeating Kansas, 36-28, on November 24, 2007, Missouri claimed into the #1 ranking in the Associated Press poll for only the second time in school history. Just like the first trip to the summit, the stay was short-lived. The following week the Tigers fell to Oklahoma, 38-17, in the Big 12 championship game, to fall out of the top spot. A 38-7 win over Arkansas in the Cotton Bowl secured for Missouri a 12-2 record and a #4 final ranking. Missouri last finished in the top ten in the Associated Press poll in 1969. Only Iowa State, which has never finished in the top ten in the AP poll, had a longer drought amongst the Big 12 North teams.

– Missouri is the only school besides CU and Nebraska to have been ranked #1 amongst North Division teams. The Tigers were ranked #1 for one week in 1960 before falling to Kansas, 23-7. The twist to the story – it was later determined that Kansas used an ineligible player in the game against Missouri, and the game was forfeited to the Tigers. Despite the “win”, the result on the field cost Missouri a chance at the national title. Undefeated in name only, the Tigers finished the season with a 10-1 record and a #5 finish in the polls.

– Legend has it that the tradition of Homecoming began at Missouri. In 1911, the director of athletics Chester L. Brewer reportedly asked alumni and former players to “come home” for the season-ending game against Kansas. (The game ended in a 3-3 tie, and Missouri finished its season with a 2-4-2 record).

– Faurot Field is named after long-time coach Don Faurot, who coached the Tigers from 1935-42 and 1946-56. Faurot won 100 games, and is credited with creating the split-T formation, precursor of the wishbone and veer offenses.

– While the infamous “Fifth down” game against CU still rankles the Missouri faithful, most of their venom is saved for Kansas. The bitter feelings over the 1960 game, above, only added fuel to the fire. The “Border War” as it was long known, is now known as the “Border Showdown”, a nod to the post 9/11 era.

– Missouri leads the all-time series against Colorado, 38-31-3. The series was much more lopsided in the Tigers’ favor, though, until recently. Prior to the 1985 season, Missouri had a dominating 31-13-3 lead. The Buffs then ran off a 12 game win streak, and have won 18 of the last 23 in the series.

– Missouri ties to Boulder include head coaches Bill McCartney, a 1962 MU graduate who played on that 1960 team, and Gary Barnett, a 1969 MU alumnus.

– famous alumni – football – Dan Devine (coach), Kellen Winslow, Henry Marshall, Phil Bradley, Tony Galbreath.

– famous alumni – other – George C. Scott (actor), Sheryl Crow (singer), Mort Walker (cartoonist). 13 years.

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One Reply to “#16 Missouri – Shutout!”

  1. Thanks for another great assessment leading into today’s Missouri game. One of your “games on this date” caught my attention – the SMU over Texas game of 1980. In 1980 SMU was in the midst of the most NCAA violations in NCAA history going back to 1958, culminating in their being banned from football in 1986 (?). SMU had a history of handsomely paying its “student athletes”. I’m no Texas fan, but a raised eyebrow is warranted in looking at any SMU victory in that period of SMU violations.

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