Returning the Favor

What will be remembered by Colorado fans as the night Tyler Hansen proved them right (“I told you we should have been starting Hansen all along!”), the 34-30 victory over No. 17 Kansas could have just as well be remembered as the night that Jayhawk quarterback Todd Reesing confounded the Buffs for the fourth consecutive year. Reesing passed for over 400 yards, had two touchdowns, and had the Jayhawks 19 yards from an epic comeback win.

Before Reesing, no Kansas quarterback had beaten the Buffs three years in a row – not John Hadl, not Bobby Douglass, not Nolan Cromwell, not Frank Seuer. None before Todd Reesing. And he had two possessions in the red zone with his team down four points, the game in his hands. Two chances at a record which could only be matched, never bested.

You know the story. The Buffs were ahead of the Jayhawks, in Lawrence, 9-0 at halftime. The date – October 28, 2006. The 1-7 Buffs, with three Mason Crosby field goals, had taken a 9-0 lead behing a stout Colorado defensive effort. Despite the late date, the Kansas coaches decided to pull the red-shirt off of freshman quarterback Todd Reesing. The decision made Mark Magino and his coaching staff look brilliant, as in the second half Reesing passed for two touchdowns and ran for a third, leading the Jayhawks to a 20-15 victory.

In 2007, Reesing hit on 20-of-29 passes for 153 yards, but also ran for 84 yards on seven carries, as Kansas topped Colorado in Boulder, 19-14. Then, last season, Reesing led the Jayhawks to two fourth quarter scores, turning a close 16-14 game into a 30-14 victory. Three games; three victories.

Will Tyler Hansen be able to return the favor?

Okay, so the red-shirt came off last Saturday in Austin, but, for all intents and purposes, the Kansas game was Hansen’s debut. His stats are not spectacular – 14-of-25 passing, two touchdowns, one interception, one fumble; 11 rushes, 34 yards.

Buff fans, though, know that there was much more to the play of Hansen than what appears in the box score. His 20-yard scramble in the second quarter on 2nd-and-14 at the Colorado 17 got Buff fans off of their seats, and ignited a 79-yard scoring drive. His official rushing stats show a total of 34 yards, but that includes three sacks for 30 yards. His true rushing totals – eight carries for 64 yards. Hansen’s stats also show a 29-yard pass to tight end Riar Geer on third-and-15, a perfectly lofted 36-yard pass to Markques Simas, and a well-timed 19-yard screen pass to Darrell Scott.

“It’s unfortunate they picked this week to take his redshirt off,” said Kansas head coach Mark Mangino, “but I think they’ve found their quarterback, that’s for sure.”

What has Buff fans excited is that Hansen adds new dimensions to the Colorado offense. Cody Hawkins knew the plays, but he did not have the ability to fully execute them. His first choice, often due to a lack of time offered by his porous offensive line, was the six yard out to Scotty McKnight. When flushed, Cody did not have the speed to get away to create new options, and the ball was thrown away.

Hansen, meanwhile, cannot only create plays with his scrambling abilities; he can create time for his receivers. “We can count on him to get out of the pressure and then we can open up some more options,” said Riar Geer. Remember the first play of the fourth quarter? The Buffs nursing a 27-23 lead, third-and-five at the CU 25-yard line? Hansen scrambles, buying himself time. He finally buys enough time to loft the ball to a wide open Demetrius Sumler. Hansen led the senior running back just a bit too much, and the ball fell incomplete. On the Buffs’ next drive (one which ultimately would result in a Colorado touchdown), Hansen again scrambled, getting away long enough to launch a long pass downfield to Rodney Stewart. Again, the pass fell incomplete, but the precedent has been set.

The message is clear: Colorado receivers – don’t give up on your route or your quarterback. He’ll figure out a way to get you the ball.

The Buffs just played two ranked, undefeated teams, and led for most of both games. The next four games are against teams which will be unranked. Colorado now has a quarterback who can run and throw deep. Tyler Hansen’s red-shirt came off against Kansas, and he led the Buffs to victory.

He might well have two more chances to take down Kansas, giving him three wins over the Jayhawks to match those Todd Reesing had over the Buffs after Reesing tore off his red-shirt three years ago.

It sure would be nice to return the favor.

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