October 1, 2009 – at West Virginia          West Virginia 35, Colorado 24

West Virginia running back Noel Devine rushed for a career-high 220 yards, including a 77-yard touchdown on the Mountaineers’ second play from scrimmage, leading West Virginia to a 35-24 win over Colorado in Morgantown. Cody Hawkins had 292 yards passing and two touchdowns for Colorado, but also threw three inteceptions. Running back Rodney Stewart had 105 yards rushing for the Buffs, and tight end Riar Geer had a career-best 113 yards receiving, but a combination of missed opportunities and missed assignments doomed Colorado to a 1-3 record in non-conference play.

The game, played in good weather before a crowd of 60,055 at Milan Puskar Stadium in Morgantown, started ominously for Colorado.

The Buffs took the opening kickoff and strung together a 10-play, 45-yard drive, stalling at the WVU 23 yard line. Aric Goodman, the hero of the 2008 game against West Virginia, failed in this instance, missing a 40-yard field goal attempt. It took the Mountaineers only two plays to take the lead, with running back Noel Devine slicing through the middle of the Colorado defensive line, then outracing the Buff secondary for a 77-yard touchdown.

Two plays, 77 yards, 18 seconds. 7-0, West Virginia.

Visions of the Toledo debacle permeated the Buff Nation. The Toledo game, which began with a Buff drive stalled in enemy territory, followed by a quick touchdown by the Rockets, had set the tone for a 54-38 rout.

This time, however, the Buffs had an answer. A six-play, 59-yard drive was culminated in a 36-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Rodney Stewart. The longest run of Stewart’s career tied the score with 8:32 to play in the first quarter.

Perhaps, just perhaps, the Buffs would be able to stay with the Mountaineers.

After an exchange of punts, West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown fumbled on the Mountaineers’ first play from scrimmage. The ball was recovered by linebacker B.J. Beatty at the West Virginia 34 yard line, and Colorado was in position to take its first lead. The Buffs were not able to take advantage of the turnover, however, as three plays netted only six yards. Aric Goodman came on for his second field goal attempt, and while this effort was a little closer than the first – it hit the left crossbar – it was still a miss. The score remained tied at 7-7.

West Virginia then turned the ball over again on its next drive. Senior linebacker Jeff Smart forced a fumble by wide receiver Brad Starks (who had fumbled early in the 2008 game, helping the Buffs jump out to a quick 14-0 lead), recovered by CU cornerback Jalil Brown at the Colorado 15 yard line. The Buffs, though, could not muster a first down, punting the ball back to the Mountaineers.

The ensuing West Virginia drive ended as the previous two had – with a fumble. This time, wide receiver Jock Sanders was the culprit, with Benjamin Burney forcing the turnover, the ball recovered by Jeff Smart at the Colorado 21 yard line.

The third time proved to be the charm for the Buffs, but not without a little more assistance from their hosts. On the eighth play of the drive, Cody Hawkins was intercepted by J.T. Thomas, who promptly fumbled the ball back to the Buffs. Taking advantage of the FOURTH West Virginia turnover in as many possessions, the Buffs drove as close as the Mountaineer 22-yard line. This time, Aric Goodman was true, with his 37-yard field goal giving the Buffs a 10-7 lead late in the second quarter.

The 10-7 score represented the first lead change of the season for Colorado, as the Buffs never led against Colorado State or Toledo, and never trailed against Wyoming.

It would take only 2:24 of game clock for the second lead change of the 2009 season.

Retaining possession for the first time in the quarter, West Virginia needed only five plays to cover 80 yards to retake the lead for good. On the first play from scrimmage, Noel Devine raced 56 yards to the Colorado 24 yard line. A six-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Jock Sanders came a few plays later, and the Mountaineers took a 14-10 advantage into halftime.

Halftime: West Virginia 14; Colorado 10.

The second half began just as poorly for the Buffs as the first half had ended. A five-play, 75-yard Mountaineer drive was capped off by a 48-yard touchdown pass from Jarrett Brown to wide receiver Brad Starks.

21-10, West Virginia. 13:10 still left to play in the third quarter. The rout was on.

Still, the Buffs refused to go quietly. A 43-yard kickoff return by Brian Lockridge set up the Buffs in Mountaineer territory, and Colorado needed only seven plays to score. A 29-yard touchdown pass from Cody Hawkins to Scotty McKnight brought the Buffs back to within shouting distance of the Mountaineers, at 21-17.

The Colorado defense then rose to the occasion, forcing a three-and-out from the West Virginia offense on successive possessions. The Buffs’ offense could not take advantage, however, with a Cody Hawkins’ interception, penalties, and a three-and-out of their own keeping the Colorado offense from taking taking the lead.

Late in the third quarter, West Virginia took over at its own 31 yard line. The resulting 14-play, 69-yard drive ended any hopes of a Colorado comeback. Noel Devine, who already had 77 and 56 yard runs to his credit on the night, methodically broke the will of the Colorado defense. Nine of the 14 plays were Devine carries, with freshman fullback Ryan Clarke doing the honors from a yard out.

28-17, with 9:17 to play in the game.

The Buffs did have one last answer, driving as close as the Mountaineer 30 yard line on their next drive. After a sack of Cody Hawkins, though, Aric Goodman badly missed a 57-yard field goal attempt, and the game was all but over. A gift touchdown for the Mountaineers (the Buffs failed on a fourth-and-three at their own 15-yard line, giving West Virginia a tap-in score) was off-set by a Colorado touchdown with three seconds to play (a 20-yard touchdown pass from Hawkins to Markques Simas).

Final score: West Virginia 35; Colorado 24.

“Even though we lost the game, that was our best effort by far,” said Dan Hawkins. “When you play a good football team, you have to maximize the opportunities. Bottom line, could we have won the game? Sure. And I think you have to leave it at that.”

Rodney Stewart, who had his second consecutive 100-yard outing (21 carries for 105 yards), agreed with his coach. “Any time you get in a game and don’t take advantage of those opportunities, the game can go the other way,” said Stewart.

The Buffs did have opportunities, and it is easy to point to the three missed field goals and the failure to take advantage of four first half turnovers by the Mountaineers. The Buffs had more first downs than did the Mountaineers (21-19), and were close in total yards (405 for West Virginia; 392 for Colorado). Still, it would be fair to say that West Virginia had a number of opportunities to make the game a rout, and failed to connect on big plays.

The opening offensive play of the game  for West Virginia was indicative. Taking over at their 23 yard line after a missed field goal by Aric Goodman, West Virginia quarterback Jarrett Brown faked a bubble screen pass to the outside. The Colorado safeties bit on the fake, allowing wide receiver Aric Arnett to get 15 yards behind the defense. A pass from Brown resembling a punt would have resulted in a score, but Brown overthrew Arnett, giving the Buffs a reprieve. (Of course, the reprieve lasted only one play, as Noel Devine ran up the middle for 77 yards on the very next play. ESPN commentator Jesse Palmer had it right when he noted that “the Mountaineers have had two scoring plays. Fortunately for Colorado, the score is only 7-0”).

Rodney Stewart did have his second consecutive 100-yard game, but had only six carries for eight yards in the second half. Cody Hawkins had another big numbers day, with 27 completions in 53 attempts netting 292 yards, but his two touchdown passes were offset by his three interceptions, and a number of overthrown passes. Wideout Scotty McKnight had 98 yards receiving, including a 29-yard score, and tight end Riar Geer had a career-best 113 yards on eight catches.

Still, the only numbers that matter are 1 and 3. Colorado will be the only Big 12 team entering conference play with a losing record, and will face #2 Texas, in Austin, on October 10th. The Buffs were 17-point underdogs to the Mountaineers, and managed to beat the spread with a touchdown with three seconds to play.

Colorado will need a 5-3 conference record to be bowl eligible …

Any takers?

“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!

CU fan enjoying the company of Chip in Morgantown
CU fan enjoying the company of Chip in Morgantown

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.

Game Notes:

Cody Hawkins has moved past Koy Detmer (1992-96) into third place on the all-time passing yardage list. With 292 yards against West Virginia, Hawkins now has 5,630 yards, passing Detmer, who had 5,390 in his career. Up next for Cody is Kordell Stewart, at 6,481 yards. Cody is also within one of the all-time touchdown passes record (44, Joel Klatt), and within one of the all-time interception record (33, Joel Klatt and Steve Vogel)

Scotty McKnight set a school record against West Virginia, catching at least one pass in a game for the 28th consecutive time, passing the old mark of 27 consecutive games set by Charles E. Johnson (1991-93). McKnight, with his 98 receiving yards, also moved into the top ten in career receiving yards, with McKnight’s new total of 1,332 yards passing Mike Pritchard (1,241 yards) and Dusty Sprague (1,261). McKnight, a junior, has also moved into seventh place on the all-time receptions list, with 118 after his nine catches against the Mountaineers.

Rodney Stewart continues to climb up the all-time rushing list. His 105 yards gives him 892 yards for his career, good enough for 53rd on the all-time list. His yardage against West Virginia moves Stewart past Charlie Davis (805 yards), Richard Johnson (815), and O.C. Oliver (817).

Riar Geer, with a career-best 113 yards receiving, made a big move in the all-time receiving yardage list. The senior tight end now has 804 receiving yards, moving from 36th to 27th on the all-time list, passing such notables as Lee Rouson (699 yards), Herchell Troutman (725), Patrick Williams (748), and Jeff Campbell (802).

– Noel Devine’s 220 yard effort was the first 200 yard rushing game against the Buffs since Jamario Thomas rushed for 247 yards against Colorado in 2004 (a 52-21 CU win).

– Wide receiver Markques Simas had his first career catch against West Virginia, and also had his first career touchdown, coming on a 20-yard pass from Cody Hawkins with three seconds to play.

– The question as to whether heralded freshman Nick Kasa will play in 2009 has been answered. Kasa was in for several plays against West Virginia, assisting on one tackle.

5 Replies to “West Virginia 35, Colorado 24”

  1. I agree with most of the comments, any other coach who care about the TEAM and not just to make sure his son play every game and all game no matter what. He knows that Mike Bohn will not do anything to him they are buddies. I disagree with the comment about speed on offense there are players on the bench with speed my son #25 run a 4.3 in the 40 but Dan won’t play him because he was recruited by Gary Barnett but Barnett saw something great in him to give him a FULL Scholarship. I know Cody can’t throw the ball deep but damn give someone else a chance and stop just playing Scotty and Jason and Geer and get some speed on the field.

  2. KTs logic is inescapable
    The fans and the rest of the team are being held hostage by a coach who wont pull his kid or crack the door for another QB even in the closing minutes of a blowout loss. How can you trust that coach’s judgment with any other apsect of the team?
    Father and son are becoming a national joke. Nothing good is going to come out of this unless Dan Hawkins somehow miraculously recognizes reality.


  4. Hawk Sr. has quieted the crowd calling for his job but this team will not improve under him and he must go. Unfortunately, I don’t see the AD doing what needs to be done, so buckle up for medicore seasons upcoming. It starts with recruiting and Hawk has failed to get any speed. Buffs secondary is slow, it’s best receivers do not stretch the defense, and too many Hawk JR passes are deflected at the line or overthrown.

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