The news has taken it's toll on me. A mention here, a jab there...it's every where I look. It will be gone after this week if the Buffs get through it and we won't hear about it until week 2 or 3 in some future year. Instead of celebrating the Buffs being 1 - 0 with a convincing win over intra-state rival Colorado State, I am reminded of a two letter word that will send chills down every single Buffs' fan spine. This is a cloud that hangs over this program. Is it bigger than the sex, drugs, party scandal of the Gary Barnett era? I am beginning to think so. Is it worse than the 5th down game at Missouri? Most definitely. This phrase has even replaced the words "Rick Neuheisel." Go onto any CU Buffs site and you will hear trash talk about Gary Barnett, about Slick Rick and the Cornhuskers but this is seldom mentioned... it's the day no one wants to remember and in my opinion, one of the biggest gaffs in Colorado Football History.
With FCS (three letters that directly link to the team mentioned above) opponent Eastern Washington coming to Boulder next week, thoughts of the 2006 game are ringing through people's heads. No one needs reminding of what happened that day as it was one final shot the media could put on a program that was left for dead after Gary Barnett. What hurt even more was the Bobcats of Montana State then went on to lose the next three games against powerhouses Chadron State, UC Davis and Eastern Washington. It was a swift kick in the face to a program that was a power in the early 90's turning out draft picks to the NFL like Miami and Florida State did in the early 2000's. You felt bad for former coach Bill McCartney and former big name players that were now linked to a program that lost to an FCS team and a mediocre one at that. The worst part was wondering if you were ever going to see the Buffs play at a high level again. Which brings us to this week.
Eastern Washington is a good FCS team that gave Texas Tech a scare, to say the least, and made everyone question if Texas Tech can make a run with a defense that gave up 341 yards through the air. It has even made me start to wonder how close this game will be with a defensive backfield that qualifies for FEMA funds with injuries to back ups Anthony Wright and Jimmy Smith. If there is a weak link on this Buffaloes team, it is the secondary. It has been well publicized and well documented.
I thought about guaranteeing a victory but I won't set myself up for that but here is what has changed since the last time an FCS team rolled into Boulder just three years ago...it feels like an eternity from where the Buffs are now.
- Talent - Does anyone remember James Cox? Me either. He was the Buffs quarterback who dazzled the Bobcats that day completing 8 of his 22 passes for 101 yards, 42 of it on the first play of the game to Patrick Williams. How about RB Mel Holliday? Let's face it Barnett left the cupboard dry. The Buffs talent level has improved drastically on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Culture and Character - Hawkins is in his third year of experience with "his" players. How many of Gary Barnett's players have been arrested, thought of as bad seeds, etc. Remember when Hawkins first started how immature some of the players were that they were still loyal to Barnett. I know that the "It's Division One Football Brother" has now become an icon in YouTube history but that was about changing Barnett's ways. The Buffs are now Hawkins' team and they play his way, not Barnett's way. I think the character of this team is full of pride that anything short of a dominating performance this weekend will not be tolerated. I expect the Buffs DB's to hear it all week from the coaching staff about how good EWU is. I think a very prideful defense will respond.
- Confidence - the Buffs are now a confident team with leaders. In 2006, you couldn't name who the leader of that team was. Now you have guys like Cody Hawkins, Jeff Smart, Ryan Walters and Daniel Dykes that are visible leaders on this Buffs team. In 2006, the Buffs were identified by scandal, today they are identified as a team on the rise.
After reading all the publications reminding the Buffs about '06, I am becoming more confident that the Buffs will win in convincing fashion because now it is about proving where they have come from and validating this program. Montana State will serve as the best motivation the Buffs staff could ask for even if it is a hurtful memory for us fans.
Tell us your thoughts about what is different from the 2006 Buffs & the 2008 Buffs and why there is no way that EWU wins in Boulder this Saturday.