September 19th – Boulder               Colorado 24, Wyoming 0

On a day when Washington, 0-12 in 2008, took out No. 3 USC (16-13), you knew it was a day in which anything could happen.

The much-maligned Colorado defense held Wyoming to 230 yards of total offense in posting the first shutout for Colorado since the Buffs took out Miami (Ohio), 42-0, almost exactly two years ago.

The Buffs’ offense was not overwhelming, but was much more effective than it had been the first two games of 2009. Cody Hawkins hit on 17-of-31 passes for 175 yards, and Rodney Stewart rushed for 127 yards and two touchdowns. Scotty McKnight had five catches for 77 yards, and had a timely fumble recovery for a touchdown.

Colorado, which had fallen behind by double digits in each of the first two games, turned the tables in game three.

The Buffs took only 1:30 of game clock to take their first lead of the season. The eight-play, 69-yard drive to open the game was finished off in bizarre fashion. Demetrius Sumler, on first-and-ten at the Wyoming 17 yard line, took off for a fifteen yard gain, but fumbled the ball. Fortunately for Colorado fans, the fumble was recovered by wide receiver Scotty McKnight at the Wyoming two yard line, who scooped the ball up and fell into the end zone for a Colorado touchdown.

7-0, Colorado.

After forcing a three-and-out by Wyoming, the Buffs set up shop at their own 37. A mixup by the offense, though, nearly resulted in disaster for Colorado. Center Mike Iltis snapped the ball over quarterback Cody Hawkins’ head, with the resulting fumble being recovered back at the Colorado 18-yard line.

Wyoming was in business, and Colorado fans everywhere had the same thought … uh, oh. Here we go again.

But Saturday was a new day, and the Colorado defense held. Wyoming kicker Austin McCoy missed a field goal attempt from 35 yards out, and the 7-0 lead was preserved.

The Buffs were able to move the ball for much of the remainder of the first quarter, but did not score. The Colorado defense, though, was magnificent, to-wit: Wyoming had four first quarter possessions. In those possessions, the Cowboys netted a total of six yards, earning nary a single first down.

Early in the second quarter, the Buffs culminated a 12-play drive with a 20-yard field goal by Aric Goodman (kudos, by the way, for Goodman having a good game against his former team) to put the Buffs up 10-0. On the first play of the ensuing drive, CU cornerback Benjamin Burney forced a fumble by Wyoming running back Darius Terry, recovered by Jalil Brown at the Wyoming 27-yard line.

Unlike Wyoming, the Buffs were able to take advantage of their only turnover of the game. After a three yard pass from Hawkins to Espinoza, it was all Rodney Stewart, as the sophomore running back posted runs of nine, 13, and two yards, with the final run giving the Buffs a 17-0 lead with 11:40 left in the second quarter.

Both teams had additional opportunities in the first half, but neither got past the opponent’s 40-yard line, and the Buffs took a 17-0 lead into the half.

The second half opened with the Cowboys gaining almost as many first downs (two) as they had in all of the first half (three), but Wyoming could get no closer than the their own 49-yard line. The teams traded punts before the Colorado offense put together a drive that Buff fans have been waiting for all season. Taking 6:45 of the third quarter, the Buffs manufactured a 13-play, 76-yard drive to put the game out of reach. Rodney Stewart carried the ball eight times during the drive, including the final 11 yards, as Colorado took a commanding lead, 24-0, late in the third quarter.

The Wyoming Cowboys had one last bit of fight left in them. In their next drive, the Cowboys got as close as the Colorado seven yard line, but a penalty and a sack by linebacker B.J. Beatty pushed the ball back to the 20 yard line, where Austin McCoy missed his second field goal of the game.

Both teams had scoring opportunities late, but the game outcome was no longer in doubt.

Final score: Colorado 24; Wyoming 0.

The two missed field goals by Wyoming certainly helped, but the Colorado defense, after giving up 77 points in the first two games, was not about to look a gift shut out in the mouth. “We simplified everything,” said cornerback Jimmy Smith. ” We came out and played fast.” Linebacker Marcus Burton agreed. “We made our game plan simple. We did the little things,” said Burton. “Guys were running around making plays, not worrying about making mistakes.”

While the Colorado offense failed to match the season average of 27.5 points per game, no one was complaining. Sophomore running back Rodney Stewart had his fourth 100-yard rushing game of his short career, putting up 127 yards. His two touchdowns matched his career total coming into the game. “Having a healthy ‘Speedy’ is really going to help your chances on offense,” said quarterback Cody Hawkins. “He brings energy, fun, playmaking ability, speed, explosion, swagger and confidence to the field.”

Up next:  West Virginia on Thursday, October 1st.

West Virginia will be looking to avenge the Buffs’ 17-14 overtime win in Boulder last season. The 2-1 Mountaineers lost for the first time Saturday, falling to Auburn on the road, 40-31. West Virginia shot out to a 14-0 lead in the first five minutes of the game, but six turnovers led to 31 of Auburn’s points on the evening. The nationally televised game (ESPN) will mark the third time in four games that the Buffs have not played on a Saturday. “Our schedule is so wacky that you just deal with it,” said Dan Hawkins. “If you spend so much time thinking whether we’re off, or it’s a Thursday game, you are just going to drive yourself wacky. We have to get a lot of work done and get a lot better.”

The Buffs do have a lot of work to get done, and do have to “get a lot better”.

The tough part of the schedule is about to begin.

Game Notes

– Scotty McKnight continues his relentless march up the all-time lists. The junior wide receiver had five catches for 77 yards against Wyoming, giving him 109 catches for 1,234 yards in his career. The new yardage total moved McKnight into 11th place on the all-time yardage list, passing Jon Embree (1,166), D.J. Hackett (1,194), Darrin Chiaverini (1,199), Ron Brown (1,217), and Marcus Stiggers (1,223). The new catch total pushed McKnight into eight place, passing Daniel Graham (106).  Up next for McKnight on each list: Yards receiving, No. 10 Mike Pritchard (1,241 yards); Catches, No. 7 Monte Huber, 111.

– McKnight also tied an all-time Colorado record Saturday, catching a pass in his 27th consecutive game. McKnight tied the record set by Charles E. Johnson (1991-93). McKnight has caught a pass in every game he has played in for the Buffs.

– With the fourth 100-yard rushing game of his career, sophomore running back Rodney Stewart upped his career rushing total to 887 yards. In so doing, Stewart jumped from 69th to 53rd on the all-time rushing list. Amongst those on the all-time list passed by Speedy on Saturday include: No. 67 Jon Keyworth (704 yards), No. 62 Ken Johnson (727), No. 58 Ron Brown (751), No. 56 Charlie Davis (805), No. 55 Richard Johnson (815), and No. 54 O.C. Oliver (817).

– With his 175 yards passing, Cody Hawkins now has 5,338 yards passing in his career, just shy of Koy Detmer’s 5,390. Detmer is third on the all-time list, behind Kordell Stewart (6,481 yards) and Joel Klatt (7,375).

– The 50,535 in attendance is not the largest crowd to witness a Colorado/Wyoming game. In the 1997, game, 50,971 were on hand to witness the Buffs come from 19-10 down with four minutes to play to win, 20-19.

– Colorado now leads the all-time series, 24-2-1.

Throwbacks

For their game against the Wyoming Cowboys, the Buffs donned 1937 vintage jerseys (what? No leather helmets?). The uniforms were a dull gold with black numerals; the helmets and pants silver. It was a “throwback” weekend in Folsom Field, as the Buffs did what they used to do when they played Wyoming decades ago – dominate.

A few words about the vintage uniforms … Ugg-ahh-lee! Memo to marketing staff: First, thank you for not choosing to put CU fans through a 25th anniversary restoration of the baby blue uniforms from 1984 (sorry, make that “Colorado sky blue at 9,000 feet”). However, if you wanted to actually market and sell vintage uniforms, you might have been better served by going with a 20th anniversary replica of the 1989 jerseys (now, those were cool uniforms!). You might ponder this as you crate up the unsold 1937 jerseys for their “Goodwill Tour” of a country where football is actually soccer.

As for the game, the throwback to a defense which could shutout an opponent was well received, and much appreciated. A decent crowd of 50,535, buoyed by a number of Wyoming fans hoping to bear witness to only the third win over Colorado in school history, saw the Buffs dominate from the opening series. For a defense giving up 500 yards per game, a 230 yard effort was just what the doctor ordered.

Still, while Buff fans can bask in the glow of the first win in 315 days – there is still much to temper the enthusiasm:

1) Three weeks ago, an objective look at the schedule would have probably resulted in “Wyoming” as being penciled in as the most likely win of the season. A new coach (albeit Dave Christiansen, mastermind behind the 58-0 shutout by Missouri last fall), with no returning running backs and no quarterback. The Buffs could have and should have counted on this victory;

2) Toledo ain’t that great. The Buffs made the Rockets and their quarterback, Aaron Opelt, look like world-beaters a week ago. Notice how well Opelt did against Ohio State? Under 200 yards passing in 45 attempts – 0-38 final score.

3) The first three games of the 2009 season represented the easiest quarter on the schedule. Up this next quarter: @ West Virginia; @ Texas; and Kansas.

Yes, West Virginia lost last night (40-31, on the road at Auburn), but the Mountaineer offense, even without Pat White and four offensive linemen from last season, remains potent. West Virginia was up 14-0 before five minutes had been played. Quarterback Jarrett Brown is just as elusive as White was, Noel Devine had 128 yards and three touchdowns, and wide receiver Jock (“I’ll try an avoid another felony charge if you’ll let me play”) Sanders had 115 yards receiving. If you watched the game, you know that it was West Virginia’s six turnovers, not the lack of talent on offense, which turned the tide in favor of the Tigers. (Note: Colorado has forced only five turnovers in three games – the Buffs may need to double that total to stay with West Virginia).

As for Texas and Kansas … for now, I’ll spare you the comparison of the Rockets’ Opelt to the Longhorns’ Colt McCoy and the Jayhawks’ Todd Reesing …

4) the Colorado offense is still in low gear. Yes, it was great to see Speedy over 100 yards, and yes, it was good to see Cody Hawkins manage the offense better than the first two games, but the CU offense is far from a polished product. There were two good touchdown drives, but in between, there were ill-timed penalties, misreads, and missed opportunities. The Buffs posted 326 yards of total offense – not bad, but that number is only a few yards above the 2008 season average of 318.5 – a number which ranked Colorado 95th in the nation.

5) Will the Buffs ever produce a wide receiver? Congratulations to Scotty McKnight, who continues to set records and move up the all-time lists, but really … is Scotty all the Buffs have? We’ve been living the dream of a complement to Scotty since last February:

– All hail the incoming freshmen, Jarrod Darden and Terdema Ussery!;

– Former running backs Brian Lockridge and Kevin Moyd spend the spring working with the wideouts!;

– Will Jefferson signs right before fall camp opens; dazzles staff and players!;

– Former cornerback Anthony Wright moves to wide receiver to add speed and depth!;

– Andre Simmons finally a Buff!!; and, most recently

– Markques Simas off of suspensions, ready to break out!

The box score from the Wyoming game: Scotty McKnight, five catches; tight end Riar Geer, four catches; Jason Espinoza, three catches. Of those players mentioned above, Brian Lockridge had one catch, as did Will Jefferson. In three games, the seven wideouts listed as potential new stars in the Colorado passing game have a total of five catches.

The Buffs will not be, and cannot be, a threat in the Big 12 North unless there is more to the Colorado passing game than Scotty McKnight and Riar Geer.

(Hey, if it doesn’t work out in 2009, we can all spend the off-season getting excited about transfer Toney Clemons and the return of Kendrick Celestine!).

I understand that the above sounds negative, and that is the last thing Colorado fans want to read about after posting a 24-0 shutout. Still, this is not the dawn of a new day in Colorado football. It will take exemplary efforts by the offense, defense, and special teams if the Buff hope to win even one of the next three games.

“It’s the little things that decide games,” said Dan Hawkins after the Wyoming win. “We got gashed a couple of times on defense the last couple of weeks. It wasn’t massive things. It was the little things …”.

Here’s hoping that the Buffs can continue to improve upon the “little things” …

Now, about those uniforms …

2 Replies to “Colorado 24, Wyoming 0”

  1. I agree that we need to utilize our talent better. In terms of quarterback, Cody is here to stay. While he may not be the athlete Hansen is, the offense runs more smoothly when he is leading it. In terms of RB, I wish the coaches would give the truth about why Scott isn’t getting more time. The truth is, he is flat out LAZY. Everyone behind the scenes at CU says his work ethic is atrocious. He had the natural talent to blow through high school without putting in the time. He failed to develop the drive necessary to succeed at CU. Recruiting him was a mistake, he is at best mediocre. On field he lacks speed, power and decisiveness. Not to say he won’t ever be a threat but he is no Speedy. Onto WR, Mcknight is solid but I believe he would function best as a slot receiver. Simas and Simmons should have been in on almost every play the second half, lets see what they can do while we are ahead for a change!

  2. Good to get a win but really this one was a “given”, if there is such a thing this year for the Buffs. Until we beat a quality team that preseason was even or better than us I will remain unconvinced. Hawk still has alot to prove to me, espically after seeing what a new staff has done in their first year at U of W.

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