“Best effort by far”

Yes, that was the quote by Dan Hawkins after the West Virginia game. The Colorado football program, in the eyes of its head coach, put forth its best effort of the season. Mind you, this “best effort” was an 11 point loss to an unranked team – a team which could have scored 50 if it had a better quarterback.

“Best effort”?

I don’t know what is more infuriating:

– The fact that the Buffs have fallen so far from mediocrity that a game in which they held the lead for just over two minutes, a game which ESPN’s Chris Fowler, a CU alum, politely (but correctly) suggested that the Colorado defense was “out-talented” by the West Virginia offense, a game in which the Buffs failed to take advantage of turnovers and went 1-for-4 on field goal attmepts – is considered the Buffs’ “best effort by far” …

– or the fact that Dan Hawkins is right.

Sad as it is to say, the Buffs did play their best game of the season against West Virginia. The offense did put together some decent drives, Rodney Stewart did post another 100-yard game, and the defense, when the game was still on the line, pushed the Mountaineer offense around, recording three sacks in two possessions to give the Colorado offense a chance to take over the game.

The Buffs also showed heart. Take a look at the three Colorado touchdown drives.

The first came right after Noel Devine had raced 77 yards for a touchdown, on the Mountaineers’ second play (a play after a sure touchdown pass was overthrown). If you are being honest with yourself, you will admit that you thought a 52-7 rout was in the offing. I know I did. Instead, the Colorado offense responded with a touchdown drive of its own, with Rodney Stewart tying the score on a nifty 36-yard run. Instead of folding, the Buffs answered.

The second touchdown drive came under similar circumstances in the third quarter. West Virginia scored on its opening drive of the second half (note to coaching staff – of eight drives – starting the first and third quarters – the opposition this year has posted four touchdowns. That’s on you. It’s called “preparation”). The score was up to 21-10, and it looked as if the home crowd could finally relax. Instead, the Colorado offense again answered with a touchdown drive of its own to pull the Buffs back to within a score, at 21-17. The Buffs had a second chance to give up, but kept on fighting.

The third Colorado touchdown came with only three seconds to play. It came after the Buffs had gifted the ball back to West Virginia on downs at the CU 15-yard line. Two plays resulted in another touchdown, and the Mountaineers’ had finally pushed the score to rout-like numbers, at 35-17. Still, with only 1:54 to play, and no time outs, the Buffs mustered a nine-play, 73-yard drive for a score with three seconds to play. Meaningless? Perhaps. Against second-string? Maybe. But the final touchdown showed me that these Buff players have heart. They played sixty minutes.

Sad to say, but Colorado fans are down to “best effort” platitudes, “missed opportunities” laments, and moral victories.

Cheer up – the start of the 2010 season is only 11 months away!

If this is the “best effort” of the Buffs, what can reasonably be expected from conference play?

Losses to Texas and Oklahoma State on the road were all but givens, even back in the heady days of August when Buff fans thought eight wins was a reasonable expectation. The most winnable games are against Kansas State and Iowa State, but both are on the road. And, as we all know well, the Buffs haven’t won a road game since Barack Obama was a junior senator from Illinois who once gave an impressive speech at the 2004 Democratic National Convention. The Colorado home games include bouts with Kansas (currently ranked 18th in the nation), Missouri (which routed the Buffs, 58-0 last year), Texas A&M, and Nebraska (currently ranked 23rd).

See five wins in there – five wins which the Buffs will need to become bowl eligible?

Neither do I.

It will take a better “best effort” if Colorado is to pull its way out of the Big 12 basement this season.

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