November 26th – at Nebraska           No. 16 Nebraska 45, Colorado 17

Colorado was riding the high of a two-game winning streak, needing one more win to qualify for a bowl game. Instead, the Buffs reverted to old bad habits, falling on the road to No. 16 Nebraska, 45-17. Three Colorado turnovers were all converted into touchdowns by the Cornhuskers, who held the ball for almost 40 minutes of game time. With the loss, Colorado ended its final season as a member of the Big 12 conference with a 5-7 record. Cody Hawkins, who had only two interceptions (and 12 touchdowns) in four games after taking over for an injured Tyler Hansen, threw two interceptions early in the third quarter, allowing Nebraska to turn a close game into a rout.

While it was impossible to know it at the time, the game may have turned on the fifth play from scrimmage. Nebraska took the opening kickoff, and, on second-and-eight at the Cornhusker 47 yard line, Nebraska quarterback Cody Green hit running back Rex Burkhead for a short gain. Burkhead fumbled the ball, with the fumble picked up Colorado cornerback Jimmy Smith and returned to the Nebraska 23 yard line. The 3,800 Buff fans in attendance were in full voice – Colorado had the ball and the momentum!

After a booth review, however, the play was ruled an incomplete pass, and Nebraska maintained possession.

It was as close as the underdog Buffs would come to a turnover all day, and as close as Colorado would come to dictating play.

The Colorado defense did force a Nebraska punt two plays after the booth reversal, but the Buffs, after one first down of their own, punted the ball back to the Cornhuskers. On their second drive of the game, the Cornhuskers made it as far as the Colorado 24 yard line before stalling. Enter Buff killer Alex Henery, who booted a game-winning 57-yard field goal to beat the Buffs in 2008. Henery connected from 42 yards out to give Nebraska a 3-0 lead with 5:13 remaining in the first quarter.

After a three-and-out by the Colorado offense, Nebraska put together a methodical nine-play, 72-yard drive. Rex Burkhead, who would rush for 101 yards on the day, scored on a two-yard run to give Nebraska a 10-0 lead early in the second quarter. The Buffs were still in the game, but the numbers to that point were daunting – Nebraska had held the ball for 12:11 of game clock (to 4:02 for the Buffs) and had eight first downs (to one for Colorado).

The Buffs did respond, though, with their next drive. A trick play – a pitch to Rodney Stewart, who lateraled the ball back to Cody Hawkins, who threw a 25-yard pass to sixth-year tight end Luke Walters – gained 25 yards down to the Nebraska 38 yard line. On the next play, Rodney Stewart, who was held to 88 yards rushing on the day, had his best run, going 24 yards down to the Nebraska 14. Cody Hawkins missed an open DaVaughn Thornton on the next play, however, and three plays later the Buffs settled for a 22-yard field goal by senior Aric Goodman.

10-3, Nebraska, with 10:22 to play before halftime.

The Colorado defense forced a punt on the Cornhuskers’ next drive, but only after Nebraska got the ball out to midfield. After an exchange of punts, the Cornhuskers to set up shop at the Nebraska 49-yard line. After gaining one first down, the Cornhuskers faced a third-and-eight at the Buff 34. Quarterback Cody Green threw an incomplete pass, forcing a fourth down … but … the Buffs were called for an offsides penalty, giving the Cornhuskers new life. After Rex Burkhead gained three yards and a first down, the Cornhuskers pulled out a trick play of their own. Burkhead pulled up on a sweep, throwing the ball downfield to wide receiver Brandon Kinnie, who took the ball in for a 26-yard touchdown with just 49 seconds to play before halftime.

Halftime score: Nebraska 17, Colorado 3.

All season long, the third quarter was the Buffs’ best quarter. Colorado had out-scored the opposition 94-57, and had out-gained its opponents 1,328 yards to 1,001). As a result, Buff fans had good reason to believe that Colorado, who would receive the second half kickoff for the first time in recent memory, could still make a game of it.

Then the Cody Hawkins of 2010 reverted to the Cody Hawkins of 2007-09.

On the third play of the second half, Hawkins was intercepted by Nebraska safety DeJon Gomes, who returned the pick to the Colorado 43 yard line. Five plays later, Cody Green hit Brandon Kinnie for a 16-yard touchdown, and the score, quite suddenly, was 24-3.

On the second play of the ensuing drive, Cody Hawkins threw his second interception in as many passes, with Nebraska Eric Hagg doing the honors, returning the ball 26 yards to the Colorado four yard line. On the next play, Rex Burkhead hit his second touchdown pass of the game, this time to tight end Kyler Reed, and the rout was on.

Less than five minutes into the second half, and the score had gone from 17-3 to 31-3. Game over.

To the Buffs’ credit, the offense did respond on its next possession. After two penalties placed the Buffs in the precarious position of a first-and-25 at their five yard line, Cody Hawkins hit Rodney Stewart for 17 yards, then Scotty McKnight for six more. Aided by a personal foul on Jared Crick of Nebraska, the Buffs had new life. A six yard run by Will Jefferson took the Buffs to midfield, where Cody Hawkins hit freshman wide receiver Will Jefferson for a 50-yard touchdown.

Nebraska 31, Colorado 10.

Down three scores, the Buffs attempted an onsides kick, but the attempt by Aric Goodman was unsuccessful. Taking over at the Colorado 46-yard line, Nebraska took nine plays to respond. Cody Green hit on his second touchdown pass of the day, hitting Kyler Reed for a two yard touchdown and a 38-10 lead.

Still, the Buffs were not quite done, going 79 yards in nine plays on their next drive. On the final play of the third quarter, Cody Hawkins hit sophomore wide receiver Will Jefferson for 29 yards and a touchdown. Nebraska 38, Colorado 17.

The third quarter had, on paper, been good to Colorado. The Buffs out-gained the Cornhuskers, 151 yards to 93, had seven first downs to five for Nebraska, and actually held the ball for more time (7:47 to 7:07). However, thanks to two interceptions and an onsides kick, the Nebraska offense did not run a single play in the third quarter on their own side of the field. The result? A 21-14 quarter for Nebraska, and a commanding 38-17 lead.

The Colorado defense did make one last stand, forcing a three-and-out after the Jefferson touchdown. The game ended, though, on the next play. Senior quarterback Cody Hawkins, who would end the game in possession of most of the Colorado career passing records, hit senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight, who would end the game in possession of most of the Colorado career receiving records, for a short gain. McKnight, though, fumbled the ball, with the ball returned to the Colorado three yard line. Two plays later, Cody Green took the ball in for a one yard touchdown. Nebraska 45, Colorado 17.

The remainder of the game was Colorado ineffectively trying to gain yards (one first down after the Nebraska score) and Nebraska effectively playing keep-away (in one five play stretch, the Cornhuskers gained exactly seven yards rushing on four of the five plays).

Final score: Nebraska 45, Colorado 17.

Here is a link to the YouTube video of the game, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:

“In all reality, the Buffaloes just ran out of emotional gas,” said interim head coach Brian Cabral. “It’s been a very emotional three weeks, including this week as well … They put everything into this game and into this week. I could not be more proud. I’m honored, and I am blessed to have had the opportunity for three weeks to lead these guys.”

The Nebraska offense did generate 407 yards against the Buff defense, but it took 78 plays to get there. By contrast, Colorado only had 50 plays of offense, posting 262 yards of offense. For a team which had held the time of possession lead in ten of eleven games coming into the Nebraska contest, the season finale was a shocker – Nebraska held the ball for 39:30 of game time, to only 20:30 for Colorado. “They filled the box early on, and we just have to catch balls when they do that,” said junior offensive guard Ryan Miller. “We weren’t executing. We executed at home, but we didn’t execute on the road.”

Cody Hawkins, who had played very well in the past four games in place of the injured Tyler Hansen, reverted to some bad habits. After throwing 12 touchdown passes and only two interceptions in his first four starts, Hawkins threw two costly interceptions before completing two touchdown passes after the game was out of hand. Still, Hawkins, in completing 10-of-26 passes for 163 yards, did set new records in the two career categories which had eluded him. Hawkins, in his final game, surpassed Joel Klatt in setting new records for career completions (667, to 666 for Klatt) and career passing yards (7,409, to 7,375 for Klatt).

The loss left Colorado at 5-7, the fifth consecutive losing season for the program. Only a six year drought (1979-84) stands before the Buffs and a new legacy for poor play. The 2-6 Big 12 conference record also left the Buffs with an even 60-60 regular season record all time in 15 years of Big 12 play. Colorado will also travel to Hawai’i next September fully aware that the Buffs now carry a  17-game losing streak on the road, and will travel to Palo Alto next October 8th to try and break a 13-game road losing streak in conference play (both streaks are school records).

Game Notes –

– As noted above, senior Cody Hawkins is now the owner of every major career passing record at Colorado. The new standards are as follows: career passing yards (7,409); career passing touchdowns (60), career interceptions (41), career passing attempts (1,214), and completions (667). As Tyler Hansen has played only sporadically in his career, and has only one year of eligibility remaining, it will take a three or four year starter in the future to come close to these numbers.

– Senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight, failed in his attempt to obtain one last record. McKnight had three catches for only ten yards against Nebraska, leaving him with 2,521 career receiving yards, leaving him in third place all-time, just behind Michael Westbrook (2,548; 1991-94) and Rae Carruth (2,540; 1992-96). McKnight did conclude his career with the most receptions (215) and touchdowns (22). McKnight also extended his streak of games with at least one catch to 48 games (49 counting the Independence Bowl). McKnight became just the tenth player in NCAA history with a catch in every game of his career (and only the sixth to do so without missing a game due to injury).

– Junior running back Rodney Stewart added 88 yards to his season total against Nebraska, ending the year with 1,318 yards, the fifth highest total in Colorado history. Against Nebraska, Stewart moved past Hugh Charles (2,659 yards, 2004-07) and Chris Brown (2,690; 2001-02) into fifth on the all-time rushing list. Stewart’s career 2,744 yards is 1,196 yards shy of the all-time record total of 3,940, set by none other than Eric Bieniemy (1987-90). Stewart’s 290 carries for the season were the second most ever by a Buff, just shy of the 298 carries by Rashaan Salaam in his Heisman trophy winning campaign of 1994.

– Freshman wide receiver Paul Richardson did break a Scotty McKnight record in the Nebraska game. His two catches for 62 yards and a touchdown gave him 514 receiving yards for the year, breaking the record of 488 yards set by Scotty McKnight in 2007. Richardson’s six touchdowns are also a freshman record, besting the five receiving touchdowns by Michael Westbrook in 1991.

– Freshman cornerback Terrel Smith had 17 tackles against Nebraska (11 unassisted). Smith sets a new standard for a true freshman, breaking the record of 15 tackles by a freshman set by J.J. Billingsley against San Diego State. The 17 tackles ties the mark for all freshmen, set by Matt Russell against Oklahoma State in 1993. Red-shirt freshman linebacker Liloa Nobriga also set a new career high against Nebraska, recording 14 tackles (seven unassisted).

– Colorado went 0-3 against ranked teams in 2010, marking just the fifth season in the past 23 in which Colorado did not beat at least one ranked team during the season.

– The Buffs had one sack against the Cornhuskers, raising the season total to 34, the most since the Buffs posted 37 sacks in 1995.

– Colorado’s record when needing a win to secure a bowl bid fell to 6-7 overall, and 1-4 in games played against Nebraska.

3 Replies to “Nebraska 45, Colorado 17”

  1. If you would have asked me at the beginning of the season if I could take a 5-7 season and lose Hawkins I would have taken it, yet for some reason I am still worried about who our next coach will be. Is Miles out of the question? Where are those 50 million dollar boosters?

  2. Good question! Dont be surprised to see Hirschman instead, although, when given time Hansen can be very accurate. Either way Kiesau is unlikely to be retained as OC by the new staff, even if he does have a guranteed contract.

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