CU Games of the Day – October 18th

October 18th … CU has a 3-3 record on this date over the past 40 years … 1980: No. 16 Missouri has little trouble with hapless Colorado, defeating the Buffs, 45-7 … 1986: CU, at 1-4, rolls Iowa State, at 4-1, 31-3, to set the stage for the 20-10 win over Nebraska the following week … 1997: For the first time in 1997, the Colorado Buffaloes played like the 1997 Buffaloes were predicted to play, dominating Kansas, 42-6 … 2003: Kansas State quarterback Eli Roberson threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more in leading the Wildcats to a 49-20 rout of Colorado … 2008: Freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen lost his red-shirt, but gained the adulation of CU fans and the respect of his teammates in leading the Buffs to a 14-13 win over Kansas State … 2014: USC quarterback Cody Kessler threw for a school-record seven touchdown passes, completing 19-of-26 passes for 319 yards and seven scores in No. 22 USC’s 56-28 rout of CU …

  • 1980: No. 16 Missouri 45, Colorado 7 … Missouri was led by senior quarterback Phil Bradley and future NFL Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow, and the Tigers completely dominated the Buffs from the opening kickoff … Essay: “The Origins of Homecoming?” …
  • 1986: Colorado 31, Iowa State 3 … For the first time in the 1986, the Buffs did not have to hope for a fourth quarter stop by the defense to win, routing Iowa State, 31-3, giving the 2-4 Buffs some momentum for the epic Nebraska game coming the following week … 
  • 1997: Colorado 42, Kansas 6 … Leveling the season record at 3-3, the Buffs recorded their largest margin of victory since leveling Northeast Louisiana 66-14 early in 1995 … Essay: “A New Routine” …
  • 2003: Kansas State 49, Colorado 20 … In allowing over 40 points in a fifth consecutive game, the Colorado defense collapsed after a decent showing in the first half … Essay:Northwestern Revisited – Barnett Part II?” … 
  • 2008: Colorado 14, Kansas State 13 … Freshman Tyler Hansen’s debut passing numbers were modest – 7 of 14 for 71 yards, one touchdown, one interception – but his 98 yards rushing on 19 carries energized a lethargic CU offense, leading the Buffs to their only two scores of the evening … Essay: “Turning Point for the Defense?”
  • 2014: No. 22 USC 56, Colorado 28 … It was 28-0 at half in a Trojan rout – Mike MacIntyre: “They kicked us good to say the least” … Essay: “Nowhere to Turn” …

October 18, 1980 – at Missouri             No.16 Missouri 45, Colorado 7

When the Buffs made their way to Columbia, Missouri, for their first game after the Drake debacle, the Missouri Tigers were well on their way to their third of four straight bowl appearances in the 1978-81 era.  Missouri came into the game with a 4-1 mark, and played with the confidence of a winning program, easily taking out the Buffs, 45-7.

Missouri was led by senior quarterback Phil Bradley and future NFL Hall of Fame tight end Kellen Winslow, and the Tigers completely dominated the Buffs from the opening kickoff.

The game meant something to the ranked Tigers, and meant little to the bumbling Buffs, and each team played according to form.  The Buffs set a record for futility in the longtime series between the two teams, “amassing” a total of only 129 yards of total offense.  Colorado did forge a 7-7 tie after scoring on a six-yard run by Lance Olander (who finished with 83 yards on 17 carries).  After that, though, the game was not in doubt.  The Tigers ran out to a 21-7 halftime advantage, and rolled to a convincing win.

Colorado was now 0-6, with little hope for victory on the horizon.

Up next was a date with 9th-ranked Nebraska.

Homecoming … 

“The Homecoming” is one of the most enduring portraits by Norman Rockwell.  At the end of World War II, Rockwell put to canvas the emotion felt by the family of a returning soldier.  From the apron-clad mother with arms outstretched to hug her returning son, to the shy, but now matured, girlfriend standing quietly (for the moment) in the background, Rockwell expressed the joy of a war-weary nation in having their sons return.  It is a classic painting by an American classic.

To football fans, though, homecoming means something different.  Alumni return to campus. There are parades, homecoming “royalty”, and, above all, a guaranteed win for the home team.  When making the football schedules for upcoming seasons, schools have been known to schedule “homecoming” games the week after playing a home game, just to ensure that the homecoming crowd goes home happy.

It should have come as no surprise, then, that Colorado was chosen by Missouri to be its Homecoming opponent.  In fact, 72,333 fans, Missouri’s largest homecoming crowd ever, and fifth-largest crowd at Faurot Field history to that time, came to watch the Tigers manhandle the Buffs.

Missouri, along with many other Big Eight teams in the early 1980’s, knew which opponent represented the easiest homecoming foe.

Game Notes … 

– Missouri has laid claim to be the school which originated “Homecoming”. The story goes that in 1911, director of athletics Chester L. Brewer asked alumni and former players to “come home” for the season-ending rivalry game against Kansas. While a tradition was born, it did not help the Tigers in 1911. Missouri was tied by Kansas, 3-3, finishing the season with a 2-4-2 record.

– Missouri would go on to post an 8-3 regular season record in 1980, with a 5-2 record in Big Eight play. The Tigers were invited to play Purdue in the Liberty Bowl, falling to the Boilermakers, 28-25, to finish the 1980 season with an 8-4 record.

October 18, 1986 – Boulder          Colorado 31, Iowa State 3

For the second week in a row, Colorado put together an excellent effort on both sides of the ball.  For the first time all season, though, the Buffs did not have to hope for a fourth quarter stop by the defense to win, routing Iowa State, 31-3.

Led by quarterback Mark Hatcher’s 95 yards and O.C. Oliver’s 79 yards, the Buffs rolled up 303 yards on the ground.  Behind Oliver’s two early scores, the Buffs were up 17-0 by the end of the first quarter, and led 24-3 at halftime.

The Cyclones, 4-1 entering the contest, played more like a team with Colorado’s record of 1-4.  (In fact, Iowa State’s 4-1 record was somewhat misleading, with the Cyclones’ wins coming over powerhouses Indiana State, Wichita State, Wyoming, and Kansas.  Colorado, despite its 1-4 record, was listed as a 10-1/2 point favorite coming into the contest).

The second half of the Iowa State game, for the first time since the Freedom Bowl-clinching win over Kansas State to end the 1985 season, was a relaxing time for the Folsom Field crowd.  The only score of the second half came when little used junior halfback Cam Jones picked up his first carries and first score of the year.

Punter Barry Helton, who had been having a terrific year, outdid himself against Iowa State.  Helton booted five kicks in the Cyclone game for an average of 56.6 yards per punt.  It would be one of the most impressive performances of the All-American’s stellar career at Colorado.

Colorado was now 2-0 in Big Eight conference play, tied for the conference lead with the big boys, Oklahoma and Nebraska.  Junior nose tackle, Kyle Rappold, for one, was not concerned about Colorado’s overall 2-4 record:  “The fact that we’re 2-0 in the Big Eight is all that matters,” said Rappold after the game, “We’re just where we want to be in the Big Eight.  We’re in the driver’s seat and Nebraska has to come here and be on our turf.”

No one outside of the Buffs’ locker room, though, gave Colorado much of a chance as coach McCartney’s “rival”, the undefeated and third-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers, came to town. Nebraska was not only undefeated, but the Cornhuskers were winning going away. A season-opening 34-17 win over No. 11 Florida State set the stage, with routs of Illinois (59-14), Oregon (48-14 – the same Oregon team which had defeated the Buffs), Oklahoma State (30-10), and Missouri (48-17). Only South Carolina, which pushed Nebraska before falling, 27-24, had managed to stay within 20 points of the Big Red.

It was doubtful that the Cornhusker locker room was overly impressed by Colorado’s 2-0 Big Eight record.

Game Notes … 

– The 1986 Colorado Homecoming honored Ellison Onizuka, a Colorado graduate who was among the seven astronauts lost in the January, 1986, Challenger explosion.

– For the third time in six games, Colorado posted over 300 yards rushing against an opponent (303). Remarkably, however, the Iowa State game marked the first time in 1986 in which Colorado held the ball for more time than their opponent (32:53 to 27:07).

– Freshman O.C. Oliver had two touchdowns against Iowa State. His six on the season would lead the Buffs in 1986. For the Iowa State game, O.C. Oliver replaced Mike Marquez as the starter at left halfback, with Marquez taking over for junior Sam Smith at right halfback. Oliver would go on to start every Big Eight conference game in 1986.

– Iowa State, as noted, came into the game against Colorado with a 4-1 record. After the game in Boulder, however, the Cyclones would go on to win only two more games. With two games left in the 1986 season, and his team sporting a 5-4 record, four year head coach Jim Criner was let go. Interim head coach Chuck Banker would lead Iowa State to a 1-1 close to the season, defeating Kansas State and losing to Oklahoma State. Jim Walden would be brought in as the new head coach for the Cyclones in 1987.

October 18, 1997 – Boulder           Colorado 42, Kansas 6

For the first time in 1997, the Colorado Buffaloes played like the 1997 Buffaloes were predicted to play when the season started.

After falling behind 3-0 early, the Buffs dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage, posting its first easy win of the season, taking out Kansas, 42-6.  Leveling the season record at 3-3, the Buffs recorded their largest margin of victory since leveling Northeast Louisiana 66-14 early in 1995.  A night game parent’s weekend crowd of 52,097 was treated to the best overall team play of Neuheisel’s third campaign.

Embattled quarterback John Hessler, the focus of much of the blame for the Buffs’ failures on the field, silenced many of his critics with a near-flawless performance.  Hessler completed 15-of-19 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. The scoring passes came on an 11-yarder to red-shirt freshman Javon Green to give the Buffs a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, and a 17-yarder to sophomore Marcus Stiggers to up the lead to 21-6 in the third quarter.

Hessler also ran the ball in from 16 yards out for a score to make the contest 35-6 late in the third quarter.  Hessler sat out the rest of the game, with sophomore Jeremy Weisinger and freshman Adam Bledsoe receiving some much needed playing time in mop-up duty in the fourth quarter.

The running game also showed signs of life for the first time in 1997.  Marlon Barnes became the first CU back in 1997 to rush for over 100 yards in a game, putting together a career-high 129 yards on 16 carries.  Included in Barnes’ efforts were touchdown runs of four and two yards, giving Barnes four touchdown carries in the Buffs’ last two games.

The defense and special teams were not to be outdone.  Holding the Jayhawks without a score in the second half, the defense contributed a score of its own when junior cornerback Marcus Washington intercepted a Zac Wegner pass in the third quarter, running it back 25 yards untouched for the knockout touchdown with a 28-6 lead.

Even the much-maligned punting game passed muster, as Nick Pietsch and Andy Mitchell shared the duties.  Mitchell’s punt netted 34 yards, while Pietsch’s kick, while listed as a 36 yard kick, did pin Kansas down at its own four yard line.

Prior to the Kansas game, with Colorado coming off of back-to-back losses, the Buff coaches adopted a new slogan for the remainder of the 1997. “Relentless Positive” was the new mantra, and it worked … at least for one week.

Coach Neuheisel, understandably, was proud and relieved:  “It obviously is a great feeling for those of us involved in the program, and who have had a rough go of it”, said Neuheisel after the game, “If we can play well in the next five games, we can salvage what I think will be a very good season, considering where we started.”

A New Routine … 

I often speak ill of the fair-weather fans of the University of Colorado football team, but I too, by 1997, had become quite used to the Buffs winning on a regular basis.  So accustomed had I become, in fact, that it took several jolts during the week leading up to the Kansas game to remind me of Colorado’s new position in the world of college football.

On Thursday mornings during the college football season in the mid-90’s, the local paper ran a feature by an Associated Press writer (in 1997 being Richard Rosenblatt).  In the weekly article, Rosenblatt featured one game of the upcoming week (CU/Michigan was discussed earlier in 1997), and then predicted the outcome of the games for the top teams.  I was a regular reader, and Thursday, October 16th, 1997, was no exception.  I scanned the headline (this week dealing with Florida, which had lost its top ranking the previous week with a loss to LSU, only to face a stern test against Auburn in the upcoming week), and then searched for the discussion of the Colorado contest.  But …. it wasn’t there.  I checked again.  Nothing.  Then it hit me.  The Associated Press was only going to show national interest in the top 25 teams.  Colorado, out of the poll for the first time in eight years, was no longer worthy of mention.

Not having learned my lesson, I purchased a USA Today the next day.  Friday’s USA Today was another part of my fall routine during the football season in the 1990’s.  Even though coverage of most games was limited to three or four lines, I liked to read about the Buffs and how outsiders viewed the upcoming game.

I opened the paper to the Sports section, and found the College Football previews.  Again, I found nothing.  Only the top 25 were routinely covered.  For failing to remember that Colorado, at 2-3 and out of the national spotlight, would not rate even a few sentences, I had to laugh at myself.

It didn’t seem right to cry.

Game Notes …

– In holding the Jayhawks to 177 yards of total offense, the Colorado defense held an opponent to under 100 yards passing (89) and 100 yards rushing (88) for the first time in five seasons;

– The Buffs, meanwhile, had over 200 yards passing (207) and over 200 yards rushing (227) in the same game for the first time since the second game of the 1996 season;

– The touchdown receptions for Javon Green and Marcus Stiggers were career first touchdowns for both players;

– The 129 yards rushing by Marlon Barnes against Kansas proved to be the highest rushing total for any Buff in the 1997 season. For the team, the 43 rushing attempts and 227 yards were also season highs;

– Kansas, under first-year head coach Terry Allen, came to Boulder with a 4-2 record, including a 20-17 win over Oklahoma. After the loss to Colorado, the Jayhawks would win only one more game on the season, finishing 5-6.

October 18, 2003 – at Kansas State           Kansas State 49, Colorado 20

Kansas State quarterback Eli Roberson threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more in leading the Wildcats to a 49-20 rout of Colorado.

Roberson’s final touchdown, a one-yard run with 35 seconds remaining, capped a 34-7 second half domination of the Buffs.

In allowing over 40 points in a fifth consecutive game, the Colorado defense collapsed after a decent showing in the first half. The Buffs actually got on the board first, with a six-yard Daniel Jolly score in the first quarter. A blocked John Torp punt rolled out of the Buff endzone a few minutes later made the score 7-2, Colorado. A few minutes later, Eil Roberson scored on a two yard run to give the Wildcats a 9-7 lead.

It appeared that 9-7 would be the halftime score, but with under a minute left to play in the second quarter, Roberson connected with Davin Dennis for 40-yard touchdown. The score stayed at 15-7 when the PAT attempt was blocked. Building on the Buff momentum, Buff return specialist Jeremy Bloom returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown. When the Buffs’ two-point conversion attempt failed, the halftime scoreboard read: “Kansas State 15; Colorado 13”.

Going into the second half, the Buffs’ defense had allowed the Wildcats only 96 yards of total offense. “I thought we had a chance at that point,” said CU defensive coordinator Vince Okruch. “I felt like if we settled down and did what we were doing, we had a chance to win the damn game.”

Two chances, in fact.

Fat and slim.

Kansas State gained 288 yards in the second half and scored touchdowns on three of its four drives. The Wildcats opened the second half scoring with a 10-yard pass from Roberson to James Terry, and padded the lead less than two minutes later after a second John Torp punt was blocked. This time the ball was recovered in the endzone by the Wildcats for a touchdown. Five minutes into the second half, the score was 29-13, and the rout was on.

The Colorado offense, which had looked promising in the Buffs’ opening drive, did not score again until 5:55 remained in the game.

A 35-yard pass from Joel Klatt to D.J. Hackett came only after Kansas State had posted two more scores, and the game was out of hand. Roberson’s last minute touchdown, with 35 seconds to play, came from a yard out. Roberson had been instructed to take a knee to end the contest, but Roberson ran the ball in anyway, making the final, 49-20.

“It was more frustration on my part than anything,” said Roberson of his last score. “The linebackers came down on me and made a good hit, and that made me kind of frustrated. So I did it again, just to show them that we could get the ball in.”

Whether 42-20 or 49-20, the Buffs were in disarray.

Losers of four out of their last five games, all by double digits, the thoughts of a third straight Big 12 North title had to be muted. “They didn’t do anything out of the ordinary – nothing we hadn’t seen before,” said CU senior defensive end Gabe Nyenhuis said of Kansas State. “We didn’t execute, and we made little mistakes that killed us.”

The Buffs’ defense had played its part in the Colorado demise, but the remainder of the team contributed to the loss as well. The Buff offense went over three quarters without producing any points. The Buff special teams did score on Bloom’s kickoff return, but there were the two blocked punts, to go with two missed field goals by Mason Crosby. Colorado also committed nine penalties overall.

“The source of our biggest problem is that we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Barnett. “Not to take anything away from Kansas State, but we just took ourselves out of opportunities way too often with penalties and two blocked punts.”

The battered Buffs did not have much time to regroup.

The 3-4 Buffs (1-2 in Big 12 play) now returned home to face No. 1 Oklahoma. The Sooners, who had defeated the Buffs twice in 2002, were 7-0 in 2003, including routs of then No. 11 Texas, 65-13, and the only common opponent to that date, UCLA, 59-24 (which the Buffs had gotten past, 16-14, in September). After scoring over 50 points in four straight games, Oklahoma had settled for a mere 34 in a 34-13 win over Missouri heading into the contest against the Buffs.

“Can’t be down too long,” said tailback Brian Calhoun after the Kansas State meltdown. “Or Oklahoma’s going to put up 90 on us.”

Not exactly what the CU faithful were hoping to hear.

Northwestern Revisited – Barnett Part II? … 

In 1993, in his third season as head coach at Northwestern, Gary Barnett’s Wildcats posted a 3-7-1 record. In 1994, Northwestern became the story of the year in college football, going undefeated in Big Ten Conference play, finishing the year 10-2 after a Rose Bowl loss. The following year, the Wildcats shared the Big Ten title, finishing with a 9-3 record after a bowl game loss.

Why recite Gary Barnett’s history at Northwestern?

Compare the above with ….

In 2000, in his second season as head coach at Colorado, Gary Barnett’s Buffs posted a 3-8 record. In 2001, Colorado became the story of the year in college football, winning the Big 12 title game over Texas, finishing the year 10-3 after a Fiesta Bowl loss. The following year, The Buffs again made the title game, losing to Oklahoma, finishing with a 9-5 record after a bowl game loss.

Notice any parallels?

If those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, then Colorado fans got what they deserved in the 2003 Buffs.

Failing to build upon the national recognition bestowed upon Northwestern, Barnett’s final two teams in Evanston finished their seasons 5-7 and 3-8. Yes, Barnett had taken the Wildcats to their first bowl game in 47 years, and yes, the two winning seasons he posted in 1995-96 matched the two winning seasons the Wildcats had put together in the previous 31 seasons, but the back-sliding the program took in 1997-98 could not be ignored. After going 15-1 in Big Ten play in 1995-‘96, the Wildcats went 3-13 the following two seasons.

What about the 2003 Buffs?

Tyler Brayton and Donald Strickland had graduated, and Marques Harris had been lost for the season with a broken leg in the UCLA game. Otherwise, these were largely the same defensive Buffs which had given up 294 points in 2002, (22.6 points/game), ranking CU 39th in the nation. In 2003, the Buffs had given up 281 points in seven games, with high-powered Oklahoma and Texas Tech up next on the schedule. Only once before in school history had Colorado given up over 40 points in five consecutive games, and that was the pathetic 1-10 1980 version of the Buffs. Only the 1980 Buffs had given up over 40 points per game on average over the course of a full season.

When I was making out travel plans for the 2003 season, it was a given that I would be coming down to Boulder for the Oklahoma game. I even liked the karma of the date – October 25th. For CU faithful, October 25th holds a special place in our hearts, for it was on that day in 1986 that 2-4 Colorado shocked the world of college football in upsetting undefeated and 3rd-ranked Nebraska, 20-10.

Visions of the Buffs facing a top-ranked Oklahoma, with the nation watching, danced in my mind as I circled the date as a must-see game. What a great time for a repeat performance! The Buffs would be underdogs, probably have a record of 5-2 or at worst 4-3, and would be able to launch themselves back into national prominence with a win.

As late summer dreams turned into fall’s reality, though, October 25th offered no such delusions. Rather than 1986, my memories shifted to six years earlier. Another memorable game, this one involving Oklahoma instead of Nebraska.

82-42. The second of what would turn out to be five consecutive games allowing 40 points or more during the 1980 season. An unstoppable offensive machine against a paper-thin defense. If history were to be made on October 25, 2003, it was more likely to evoke memories of 1980 than 1986.

Gary Barnett was not fired by Northwestern after posting two losing seasons on the heels of two Big Ten championship campaigns. No one can say whether the Barnett era in Evanston would have seen another resurrection, or a fall from grace. Barnett was hired away by Colorado before time and history were allowed to write the next chapter.

In 1997, Gary Barnett went 5-7 with the Northwestern Wildcats. With only one team left on the schedule with a record worse than Colorado’s 3-4 mark (Iowa State, at 2-5), all of the sudden 5-7 wasn’t looking too bad to the Buff Nation.

Was a 3-8 2004 campaign to follow?

Was this the beginning of the end of the Barnett era?

Game Notes … 

– The safety against the Buffs in the Kansas State game was the first in just over a year. Chris Brown was tackled in the endzone by Kansas on October 12, 2002, a 53-29 CU win.

– Jeremy Bloom’s 87-yard touchdown against Kansas State was his only career kickoff return for a score (he had two punt return touchdowns).

– The Buffs had two punts blocked in the same game for the first time since 1958 (a 27-16 win over Nebraska, 10/25/58), and for only the fourth time in school history.

– The 20 points scored by the Wildcats in the fourth quarter marked the sixth time in 2003 that a team had put up 20 or more points on the Buffs in a single quarter.

– Mason Crosby’s missed 53-yard attempt in the second quarter was his first miss of the season. His five conversions to start his career was one shy of the six consecutive makes by Jeremy Aldrich (1996-‘97).

– The very first Colorado football team, in 1890, gave up an average of 54.25/game in going 0-4. Of course, even that statistic must take into account a 103-0 drubbing at the hands of Colorado Mines that season. For the other three games, Colorado gave up an average of 38.0 points/game, scoring only 4 points themselves for the entire four game season.

– Kansas State had opened the 2003 season with a No. 7 national ranking, going 4-0. Three straight losses before the Colorado game, however, dropped the Wildcats out of the polls. The 49-20 thumping of the Buffs, though, righted the KSU ship. The Wildcats went on to win the remainder of their regular season games, finishing 10-3 and earning a berth in the Big 12 championship game. Facing No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 13 Kansas State surprised the nation, taking out the Sooners, 35-7. The Big 12 title earned the Wildcats a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Against No. 8 Ohio State, the Wildcats fell, 35-28, finishing the 2003 season with an 11-4 record and a No. 14 final ranking.

October 18, 2008 – Boulder          Colorado 14, Kansas State 13

Freshman quarterback Tyler Hansen lost his red-shirt, but gained the adulation of Colorado fans and the respect of his teammates in leading the Buffs to a 14-13 win over Kansas State. Hansen’s passing numbers were modest – 7 of 14 for 71 yards, one touchdown, one interception – but his 98 yards rushing on 19 carries energized a lethargic CU offense, leading the Buffs to their only two scores of the evening.

The game against the Wildcats started with a scenario all too familiar to Buff fans – the opposition scoring on their opening drive. For the fourth time in seven games, the Colorado defense surrendered points the first time they took the field. Kansas State quarterback Josh Freeman quickly led the Wildcats down the field after the opening kickoff, needing only seven plays to get KSU into the CU redzone. The drive stalled, however, at the Buff 19-yard line, and the Wildcats had to settle for a 3-0 lead three minutes into the contest.

The Buffs, coming into the game with the Big 12’s worst offense, quickly responded. Freshman running back Rodney Stewart gained 18 yards on the Buffs’ first offensive play, and three plays later was on his way to another long run. Unfortunately for Colorado, Stewart was stripped of the ball near the KSU 30 yard line, and momentum was back with the Wildcats.

The game had the makings of a long night as once again Freeman drove the Wildcats into Buff territory. KSU’s second drive, though, could get no closer than the CU 36. No matter. Kicker Brooks Rossman, who hadn’t missed a field goal attempt all season for K-State, connected on a career long 53-yarder to up the Kansas State lead to 6-0 with 6:57 to play in the first quarter.

A three-and-out by the Buffs and another drive by the Wildcats set up Rossman with a 47 yard attempt a few minutes later. Rossman’s third attempt of the quarter, though, was wide right, and the Buffs were back in business.

A murmur went through the Parents’ Weekend crowd of 52,099 a few moments later, as true freshman Tyler Hansen took the field for the Buffs. Fourth on the depth chart, and expected to red-shirt in 2008, Hansen’s presence gave new energy to the game. The anticipation of more production from the offense, stymied for most of the season, was tempered on Hansen’s first play from scrimmage – a fumble out of bounds and a loss of five yards.

Hansen redeemed himself two plays later, when, on third-and-12, he scrambled for 13 yards and a first down. Buoyed by the success, the Colorado offense kept the ball on the ground for the remainder of the drive. Rodney Stewart, Hansen, and Darrell Scott each had impressive runs, with the drive culminating on a four yard touchdown run by Stewart – the first of his career – in an 11-play, 70-yard march to give the Buffs the lead early in the second quarter.

Two plays later, it was party time in Boulder, as linebacker B.J. Beatty forced a fumble by Aubrey Quarles, recovered by safety Ryan Walters at the KSU 24 yard line. The Buffs’ “drive”, though, lost seven yards, and Aric Goodman’s 41-yard field goal attempt was blocked.

A three-and-out by the KSU offense gave the Buffs the ball back, and Colorado responded with their most impressive drive of the game. Assisted by two 15-yard penalties (one being a personal foul on the Wildcats on the punt), the Buffs marched 65 yards in just six plays. Tyler Hansen showed he could throw the ball as well, hitting Riar Geer and Patrick Williams for 13 yard gains before connecting with Scotty McKnight for a 21-yard score to put the Buffs up 14-6 late in the first half. An interception thrown by Hansen and a missed 42-yard field goal attempt by Wildcat Brooks Rossman kept the score at 14-6 at halftime.

The Buffs started out the second half as poorly as they did the first. Colorado lost 12 yards on their opening possession, setting up the Wildcats in good field position at the CU 46. It took Kansas State only three plays to navigate the yardage, with Josh Freeman going in untouched on a 17 yard run to make the score 14-13 with 10:49 to play in the third quarter.

Little did anyone know at the time, but Freeman’s score would be the last points of the night.

Colorado managed to put together at least two first downs in each of its next three drives, but could not penetrate past the Kansas State 30-yard line. On the Buffs’ third possession after the Freeman score, the Buffs put together a 50-yard drive, only to come up empty when Aric Goodman missed a 47-yard field goal attempt.

Meanwhile, the Colorado defense was making its presence known, forcing punts out of the Kansas State offense on their next three possessions. Taking over with at their own 41 with 5:43 to play, the Wildcats seemed primed to come up with just one more drive and pull out the victory.

A 17-yard gain on the first play of the drive only seemed to confirm that the Buffs’ efforts would be for nought. On the very next play, though, Brad Jones forced a fumble by Brett Alstatt at the Colorado 34 yard line, with safety Ryan Walters collecting his second fumble recovery of the game.

With a one point lead to nurse, and 5:17 still to play, the Buffs called on Cody Hawkins to bring home the win. Two runs by Rodney Stewart lost five yards, and, with 3:48 still left on the clock, it appeared that Colorado was going to give the ball right back to Josh Freeman and the Wildcats.

Instead, Hawkins hit Josh Smith for 22 yards and a crucial first down. Three Rodney Stewart runs netted 12 yards and another first down. The next three plays were also all Stewart runs, but they gained only six yards total. While Stewart, who would rush for 141 yards on the evening, did not garner the final first down to seal the victory, he did force Kansas State to use all of their remaining time outs. When Cody Hawkins failed to connect with Josh Smith on fourth-and-four at the KSU 31, there were only 59 seconds remaining.

Assisted by two Kansas State penalties, including a holding call on fourth-and-one at the KSU 40 yard line, Freeman could not get the Wildcats onto the Colorado side of the field. A fourth-and-11 heave from the KSU 30 yard line fell harmlessly to the ground near the CU 20 as time expired, preserving the 14-13 win for the Buffs.

The Buffs had earned their first Big 12 Conference win of the 2008 season, and were back above .500 with the victory at 4-3, but the only topic of interest after the game was the play of freshman Tyler Hansen.

Asked about when he chose to give significant time to his freshman quarterback, Dan Hawkins responded, “Before we started going on Tuesday. I think we just looked at where we were on offense, and what it is we wanted to do and what we thought we could do. We felt like his athleticism at quarterback was going to give us another dimension, and it did.”

Coach Hawkins had repeatedly stated that he doesn’t like using a two-quarterback system, though that was what was effective against Kansas State. “I hate it,” said Hawkins of shuttling quarterbacks. “But it is what it is. I didn’t like the fact that I was slow and short and not very athletic, either, but I had to deal with it … We’ll deal with it as it goes.”

What of the principles in the drama? For his part, Cody Hawkins said all the right things. “I don’t know, I was just so excited for (Tyler Hansen) to get out there. Tyler is one of my good friends,” said Hawkins after a game in which he completed 6-11 passes for 35 yards (22 of which came on the crucial third down conversion pass to Josh Smith). “No one really tries to stand out as an individual. I think the biggest thing for us is that everyone in this program puts the program first in every way …. I am always going to be a team guy.”

Tyler Hansen, meanwhile, was not displeased with giving up his red-shirt season. “On Sunday, after the Kansas game, (offensive coordinator Mark) Helfrich brought me in and asked me if I would be up for it,” said Hansen. “He said I could really help the team out. After that, I said ‘absolutely’. I miss playing. I miss being out there in the lights. I want to compete.”

On the evening, the Buffs rushed for 247 yards, the most since posting 277 yards against Nebraska in the 2007 regular season finale. Rodney Stewart’s 141 yards gave him 594 yards on the season, well within reach of the freshman rushing record of 830 yards set by Lamont Warren in 1991. Still, with 353 yards of total offense, the 400-yard total offense game had yet to materialize for the 2008 Buffs, and the Colorado offense, for the third consecutive game, generated only 14 total points.

Up next was 5-2 Missouri in Columbia. The Tigers, who two weeks earlier were talking national championship, were reeling after consecutive losses to Oklahoma State and Texas.

Would Missouri be out of sync enough for Colorado to offer a serious challenge, or would the Tigers take out their frustrations on the out-manned Buffs? – More on that Wednesday night.

Turning Point for the Defense? … 

Before we get into the quarterback situation in Boulder, can we first give a shout out to the Colorado defense?

Kansas State came into the game ranked 8th in the nation in scoring offense, posting over 43 points a game, but left with just 13.

KSU’s conversion rate on third downs was 49.3%, but the Wildcats went 3 of 15 against CU.

The Wildcat offense had gone three-and-out only six times all season – there were three Saturday night (four if you count the three-and-out which became a first down after a fake punt).

Quarterback Josh Freeman, ranked 10th in the nation in passing efficiency, completed 20 of 41 passes for 237 yards and no touchdowns.

The Buffs, ranked 85th in the nation in rushing defense, giving up 168 yards per game, surrendered only 112 rushing yards, including only 42 to the elusive Freeman.

The Buff defense could have folded early. Three straight drives into Colorado territory, however, netted only six points, as Kansas State was held to two field goals and a missed third attempt. “I think we did pretty good,” said junior cornerback Cha’pelle Brown, who teamed up with Brad Jones to cause a fumble with five minutes left deep in Colorado territory. “We talked about this all week that if we had to hold them to zero, then that’s what we were going to do.”

“Obviously, they scored some points,” said Brown, ” but I think we did our job.”

Yes, indeed.

October 18, 2014 – at USC           No. 22 USC 56, Colorado 28

Colorado fans thought they had seen the best USC quarterbacks had to offer. In 2011, Trojan quarterback Matt Barkley torched Buff defense for a school record six touchdown passes. To prove the 2011 effort was no fluke, Barkley threw for six touchdowns against Colorado again in 2012.

Cody Kessler, seen as a game manager even by the USC faithful, was arguably no Matt Barkley.

Against Colorado, though, he was even better.

Kessler threw for a school-record seven touchdown passes, completing 19-of-26 passes for 319 yards and seven scores in No. 22 USC’s 56-28 rout of Colorado (yes, Buff fans, Kessler had as many touchdown passes as he had incompletions). Kessler’s favorite target was Nelson Agholor, who had six receptions for 128 yards and three scores. Javorius Allen, the Pac-12’s leading rusher, had 15 carries for 128 yards and one touchdown.

For Colorado, Sefo Liufau completed 23-of-35 passes for 143 yards, with two touchdown passes to Nelson Spruce. Liufau also had two costly interceptions in the first quarter, when USC sprinted out to a 28-0 lead, never looking back.

Continue reading Game Story here

Nowhere to Turn … 

It’s not like we haven’t seen this before.

In a 56-28 rout by USC, Colorado was out-manned, out-coached, and out-talented by a superior opponent.

We thought the Hawkins years were bad … the loss to Montana State, the 58-0 loss to Missouri, the 54-38 embarrassment at Toledo, the absurd collapse against Kansas.

But that was just the appetizer.

Hawkins was bad; Embree was worse.

The Jon Embree experiment was a colossal failure. It started with the “brick game” loss at Hawai’i, and only went downhill from there. Some of the scores during the Embree era read like misprints: 48-7, 52-24, 45-2, 48-14, 42-17, 45-6, 69-14, 42-14, 51-17, 50-6, 70-14, 48-0, 56-31, 38-3. It was so horrible, it didn’t seem real.

Enter Mike MacIntyre.

Continue reading Game Essay here


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