After Dan Hawkins was fired this past week, many wondered how this Colorado Buffaloes football team would respond for the rest of the season. Many wondered what Brian Cabral could bring to the table in just five short days to rally a team who sat at 3 wins, 5 losses and slim postseason hope. It would have been easy for these college kids to write off the rest of the season with just a few weeks left.
Whatever coach did, it worked.
For one of the first times in many years, a team performance in all three phases of the game lifted the Buffs soundly over its opponent. Colorado came out of the gates strong and never looked back, potentially crashing Iowa State's postseason dreams with a 34-14 beat down. That score doesn't reflect how lopsided this game really was (how many times have we been able to say that over the last few years?).
I hate to keep say "over the past few years" but it is true, Saturday the team looked different, played different, acted different and dominated. Is Iowa State a world beater? No. But two things were evident: Brian Cabral did a heck of a job righting the ship when the ship could have sunk and the Buffs had the better football team. Yes, whoever takes this team over next season whether it is MIke Bellotti, Eric Bieniemy, Bill McCartney, Mark Richt will have some talent.
Back to the performance in all three phases of the game.
So many great things to say about the offense. If you look at the stat sheet, you will only see 384 yards of total offense, nowhere near their top output of the year but in the fourth quarter, unlike a week ago, Colorado shut it down, ran the ball and took a victory home. Through three quarters of play, Colorado had 397 yards of total offense. Yes, the Buffs finished with negative yards in the fourth quarter correctly preserving the win, their first win in conference play.
Colorado had five drives of 40+ yards, completely controlling the time of the possession in the process by more than an 8 minute margin.
It all started up front. The offensive line had their best overall performance for as long as I can remember. Cody Hawkins was not sacked and was hardly threatened, Rodney Stewart rushed for 134 yards and the offense clicked on all cylinders. OG Ryan Miller and OT Nate Solder were dominant yesterday.
Congratulations to Rodney Stewart who is turning in one heck of a junior season. Saturday was his fifth 100 yard game in 2010 as he surpassed 1,000 yards on the year. Stewart ranks 17th in the nation in rushing yards per game with 103 and if it wasn't for Kendall Hunter and Daniel Thomas, Stewart could be looking at a first team all Big 12 performance this year. He has been that good. What makes Stewart's performance even more impressive is the next leading rusher on the team is Brian Lockridge with 146 yards. Lockridge hasn't played since the Georgia game. The 5'6" back has done it all by himself this year.
QB Cody Hawkins. Unbelievable performance yesterday in all aspects of the game. Made big league throws, challenged up field keeping the defense off balance. With the offense shut down in the fourth quarter, Hawkins, through three quarters, had 266 yards passing and three scores. Five days after his father was relieved of his coaching duties, Cody rose to the occasion and delivered when his team was counting on him. Gutsy performance.
When I envision how I expected former Buff RB Darrell Scott to play as a freshman, I think of what WR Paul Richardson is doing right now. No player gets me more excited about the future of this team as Paul Richardson does. The 6'2 180 pound true freshman has exploded on the scene the last four weeks. A week ago against Kansas, he had 11 receptions, 141 yards and two scores. As an encore, the frosh had 5 catches for 121 yards against Iowa State. No one has been able to stop him, he has done whatever he wants. I think this is a player the Buffs could build around for years to come.
With Brian Cabral a linebackers coach by trade, you had to figure the defense was going to have a good game for their new head coach. They did. Once again, it starts up front and for this discussion, it ends here. If there was a more powerful word for domination, I would use it but that is what the Buffs front seven did. They destroyed Iowa State. ISU came into this game averaging 142 yards on the ground. Yesterday, the Buffs held Alexander Robinson and the rest of the Cyclones to negative six rushing yards. If that stat could be topped, Colorado sacked Austen Arnaud/Joe Tiller eight times with seven different players registering a sack.
Iowa State had 11 drives that ended in less than ten total yards. Over those 11 drives, Iowa State averaged 2.1 yards. The defense also added their first touchdown of the year on a Michael Sipili 45 yard fumble return. The defense also came up huge on fourth down in the last quarter of play and only allowed the Cyclones to convert 3 of 14 third downs. The defense didn't allow Iowa State second chances.
CB Jimmy Smith continues to impress. You hardly hear his name during a game unless he is making a tackle against the run. He has in his senior year turned into the dominant corner that we thought he would be for a few years now. The 6'3" corner is moving up the NFL draft charts game after game and will be hard to replace next year.
One thing that does get me excited about this defense the next few years is looking at the tackle box score. A ton of young players are contributing. Yes, the Buffs will lose some good players in Jimmy Smith, Jalil Brown, Michael Sipili and B.J. Beatty but there is a lot of young talent seeing action that will be better for it next year. We finally saw some highlights from DE Forrest West and DE Nick Kasa, S Terell Smith continues to make plays, LBs Liloa Nobriga and Derrick Webb are getting invaluable experience. I believe there is some depth here.
If you have read the Ralphie Report for long, you know that I can't stand poor special teams play. I have been vocal about the lack of execution and how many games/points that aspect of the game has cost the Buffs. Yesterday, for the first time in many, many, many years, special teams play helped the Buffs win. Does CU still have issues punting? Absolutely. But Saturday, the special teams unit gets a big passing grade. KR Arthur Jafee got this rout jump started in the second quarter. After Iowa State drove 82 yards for the go ahead score, Jafee and the kickoff team quickly responded returning the ensuing kickoff 89 yards to the Cyclone 9 yard line. Two plays later, Cody Hawkins hooked up with TE Ryan Deehan and the game was all CU after that. As we learned yesterday, special teams can spark a team.
Aric Goodman hit two field goals. Since the Baylor game, Goodman has been great hitting 7 of 8 field goals.
Overall, great win by the Buffs when they could have folded. Next week they have Kansas State coming into Folsom Field. A win against a solid Wildcats team will put the Buffs at five for the year heading into Lincoln.