CU PLAYERS, FANS LOOK TO THE FUTURE, BOTH NEAR AND FAR, AS CABRAL FINISHES OUT THE YEAR.
WHEW! A lot has happened since 12 noon on Saturday, so much that it's taken us a little while to absorb everything that's transpired with the Colorado Buffaloes. Despite all that has been said through every possible media outlet and all that has been written here and elsewhere, I still feel the need to contribute a couple of articles at least in order to get to everything that needs to be addressed. (See The End of an Error: CU Football 2006-2010, later this week.) Needless to say,
Just playing. I've always wanted to do that.
In the last few days, CU Nation has been
> elated - as we watched the Buffs go into halftime with a 35-10 lead, then start the 4th quarter with a TD that put them up 45-17
> shocked - when we checked in at the end of the game to find that CU had lost the game
> angry - that CU allowed a team as bad as Kansas to outscore CU by 35 points in the final quarter, especially when we found out about the run/pass ratio in the 2nd half
> anxious - as we heard media outlets leak the news of Hawkins imminent firing
> overjoyed - when we listened to the press conference and realized it was true
> relieved - to hear that Cabral would be interim coach, to hear Coach Hawkins leave with class, & to realize that the CU Football program could start anew
> pensive - as it sunk in that the CU Football program would have to start anew, & in considering who the next coach might/should be
> generous - as CU Nation bought 800 tickets for the Iowa State game & began making donations to the CU Foundation, Athletic Dept, etc. (A tip of the CU cap to posters on this site such as Buff-in-IL, who asked us to step up, and CUnakedbootleg, Lets Go, Ash Jackson, CleBUFFS & CUPRIDE, who pledged or donated. Hopefully, it's just the beginning.) It's a lot to absorb. To help us get back to the reality that we still have coaches and young men preparing for the first of three games to end the regular season, I'm going to now return to our regularly-scheduled format:
Looking back to last Saturday: Given Colorado's unprecedented road woes in the Hawkins era, no CU fan expected a win against Kansas in Lawrence, so a loss was not surprising. What was surprising and downright shameful was the way they lost, a historical Hindenburg of a collapse in the 4th quarter, a collapse which can be pinned on almost everybody on the field. Without taking away from a Kansas team that never said die, in one quarter the CU offense gave up a fumble and an interception, the Buffs defense made the Jayhawks running game look like Air Force or Auburn, the CU coaches called plays in the 2nd half as if they were behind instead of 25 points and four possessions ahead, and even the referees got into the act by blowing two crucial calls, one of which got the Kansas rally going and the other of which ended the Buffs chances to catch KU at the end.
The end result was perhaps the lowest of lows for CU in the Hawkins era, and maybe ever. No CU team has ever held such a large lead in the fourth quarter and lost, and only one other team in NCAA history has allowed more points in the fourth quarter and lost, and that was 40 years ago. (Tom Kensler of the Denver Post found this before I did.) It makes it more painful to realize that this 35-point rally was allowed not against one of the best teams in the conference but against the (previously) worst team in the conference, one who had only scored 40 points total in its last four games. After this game, Kansas should rename their team the "Jayhawkins". Colorado also finds itself alone in the cellar of its conference with a real possibility of staying there alone for the first time in the long and glorious history of CU football, with no real chance at a bowl game, and thus with no real chance at a winning season. It's almost too much to ask a group of young men to rebound from such a loss and win any of their remaining games, even with two of them at home. And, at least before Tuesday, it was almost as tough to ask any of that team's fans to watch those games. With Dan Hawkins fired now, true CU fans will attend and watch, showing up not only for those young men but for the future of CU Football.
(See HITS, MYTHS and FIXES after the break.)
1. CU Offense scored 35 points in the first half. Not to be taken lightly is the fact that CU's offense found out once again this season that it can roll up yards and TDs in big bunches. In the first half alone, Rodney Stewart had 117 yards rushing and 2 TDs, and Cody Hawkins was 20 of 24 for 214 yards and 3 TDs, with 81 yards and 2 of the TDs going to true freshman Paul Richardson. The Buffaloes scored more points in the first half of the Kansas game, a road game, than they had scored in a whole game anywhere all season. Yes, it was against the 3-win Jayhawks, but CU hadn't found itself able to score but 17 points in the first half against the now 3-win CSU Rams in their first game. Maybe now they've learned they can score when they need to, as long as they don't get inexplicably cocky wth a large lead.
2. Coach Riddle figures out it's time to use Castor for kickoffs, sort of. While Aric Goodman has been his usual inconsistent self this season on field goals, he had been the model of consistency on kickoffs until last Saturday, usually booting them into or through the end zone. While the reported harsh wind may have had something to do with it, Goodman's first two kickoffs went to the 17- and the 29-yard line of Kansas(I'm assuming his third kick of the half to the Kansas 37 was a squib kick to run out the last few seconds of the half). Coach Riddle decided to give Justin Castor a try, and his four straight kickoffs for the day went to the goal line, the goal line, the 1, and the 2-yard line of Kansas. Just when you might think that Riddle had things going right, he brings Goodman in for the first (and only) CU kickoff of the 4th quarter. Goodman promptly kicks it to the Kansas 25, the return man gets 9 yards, and KU is set up on their 34-yard line to start the first of four TD drives in the final quarter(the other TD was scored by the defense). At least we know that Castor can boom it.
3. "Speedy" Stewart was Stellar. Somewhat lost in the aftermath of the debacle that was Saturday's game was the career day of Stewart. He rushed for 179 yards, a career high, and added 44 receiving yards for a total offense of 219 yards, a game high amongst both teams. In a game where the two teams combined for 97 points and 1142 yards of total offense, Speedy was the star. Unfortunately, his performance was overshadowed by the Jayhawk comeback.
MYTHS(based on quotes or paraphrases of Coach Hawkins)
1. "[NO. We were moving the ball well, no reason to change up.]" I promise to beat a now-dead horse quickly, but it must be said that Stewart could have rushed for many more yards if given the chance, resulting in him being the hero and CU being victorious. It's not just that one protects a lead in the 4th quarter by running the ball: 1) You protect a lead by running the ball almost every down in the third and fourth quarters to eat up the clock. 2) You especially run the ball when your ground game has been successful. 3) You hand the ball to the hot hand, who was Speedy, not to any of the wide receivers, no matter how talented, especially when the reverses and sweeps haven't been working for weeks. 4) While doing the above, you don't snap the ball until the play clock has wound down to 2 or 3 seconds every play. 5) You instruct your players to stay in bounds (Of all people, Scotty). Enough said.
2. "We're still in control here." The sad fact is that this quote was part of Coach Hawkins' attempt to calm the team down when KU had closed the gap to 45-31, and it didn't work at all. In fact, Stewart's post-game quote indicated it had the opposite effect: "When coach brought us over and told us we needed to pull it together is when we started to get it in our heads that we could lose." (Courtesy: CUBuffs.com, Release: 11/07/2010) While Hawkins had the right idea, it may not have been conveyed in a way that instilled confidence.
3. "We've just got to finish..." In the end, Coach Hawkins did a much better job of finishing at Tuesday's press conference than he and his team did Saturday. He was classy, graceful and at last assumed full responsibility for the foot\ball team's failures. For me and many CU fans and media, one of the most off-putting aspects of Hawkins' tenure was his refusal to acknowledge either the failures or his responsibility in those failures. He may not have realized it, but he had no problem at times naming the athletes on his team who made mistakes, including his own son. These admittedly soft criticisms would have been more tolerable if included with some self-assessment, but I can find no instance of it.
1. Run with passes mixed in, not the other way around. One would hope that in the aftermath of both the KU loss and the termination of Coach Hawkins, this lesson would be learned. Yet it seems imposible to discern to what extent Coach Kiesau was implicit in the decision to allow the running game to take a backseat not only in the 2nd half of the most recent game, but in several other games this season. Interim Coach Cabral seems like the kind of guy who would rather see the ball on the ground than in the air, but he of necessity has to rely on his position coaches, especially on offense, and he has already stated as much. With Iowa State ranked as the 92nd defense overall, three spots lower than Kansas' defense, any kind of CU offense should have a field day (though it should be noted that the Cyclones held the Jayhawks to 16 points). Nevertheless, since IState's pass defense is 30 places better than its rush defense, and since said rush defense is 101st in Division I, it would behoove the Buffaloes to run more than pass.
2. Fire Coach Hawkins before the end of the season.(This was in my outline on Sunday.) Check and double-check.
3. Take out your pain on every Cyclone, Wildcat & Husker you meet on the field. Not only has it been a long and mostly painful season for the players and coaches, but it has been punctuated by an excruciating 4th quarter and the firing of a head coach that was a mentor and is a friend to many of those Buffs. On top of that, they have been and will be put through the wringer this week by a fiery interim head coach who has already made it clear that he wont put up with any "horsesh*t". As much as Hawkins was interested in keeping everybody even-keeled, Cabral is equally uninterested in such zen football. He wants them fired up and pissed off, and so much the better. The Buffs need to take out this pain and anger on their opponents. It's time to deliver the appropriate farewell to the remainder of the Big XII North, starting with Iowa State. GO BUFFS! STOMP THE 'CLONES!! LEAVE THE CYCLONES TWISTING IN THE WIND!!! AND GO BUFF NATION! SHOW YOU'RE BEHIND YOUR TEAM IN THEIR HOUR OF NEED!! GO TO THE GAME, BE LOUD, AND CHEER CU DOWN THE FIELD!!!