What a difference a week makes! After a tumultuous 7 days of losing: an insurmountable lead, their minds, a 5th game in a row, their pride, hope for a bowl game, and a head coach, then finding: a new head coach, some fire in practice, old Buff traditions, a sense of purpose, new hope, and Buffalo Heart, the Colorado Buffaloes found victory on Folsom Field Saturday. When is the last time you saw the Buffs play like this? 2007? 2005? Both offense and defense not only played with emotion but looked like they knew they were the better team. Great job by all of the players and coaches, but especially Coach Cabral, Cody Hawkins, Paul Jefferson, Mike Sipili, Rodney Stewart, Travis Sandersfeld, Coach Collins, Coach Kiesau, Patrick Mahnke, Forrest West, and Arthur Jaffe.
1. Coach Cabral Restores Buff Traditions - Brian Cabral has one primary mentor, Bill McCartney, and so it should come as no surprise that once he took over the reins last week, he reinstated some traditions that had not been seen in years, some since the days of Coach Mac. Emotion was back. No more of the color red in the Dal Ward Center, unless it was the word "Nebraska" on the schedule board. The players and coaches learning together from review of the best and worst plays of the previous game. And then, right before the game, the sound from inside the locker room of the "Buffalo Heartbeat". Players pounding on walls, benches, floors anything that could make a sound loud enought to be heard outside. All of this started when Coach Cabral lit a fuse early in the week by lighting into players during practice. That produced an explosion in the right direction during the game. He gave them fire in practice, and they came with fire at game time.
2. Cody Hawkins Shows True Grit - I doubt that any Buff fan can truly comprehend what it would be like to be in Cody Hawkins' shoes. This week was a microcosm of his five years at CU. A low amongst football games in a historic letdown, followed by personal attacks on he and his dad, then more cries of nepotism, and then a new low for he and his family when his dad lost his job, all of which only produced in him unflagging loyalty to the program and a dogged determination to make things right. This time, what resulted was a stirring victory, thanks to a remarkable performance by young Mr. Hawkins under great duress. For this gutsy, gritty performance, which resulted in a QB rating of 201.02, Cody was awarded the Big XII Offensive Player of the Week, and perhaps nobody has ever deserved that award more.
3. Personal Bests All Day Long - The win over Iowa State came about only as a result of a total team effort. Many players stepped up to heights previously unknown to them. Here is a list of personal bests or firsts(per cubuffs.com & Dave Plati):
1. Cody Hawkins - Career-high Quarterback Rating of 201.02. 1/2 of Duo w/Most TD receptions in CU history at 13.
2. Scotty McKnight - Tied for 1st in CU All-time Career TD receptions with 20. 1/2 of Duo w/Most TD receptions in CU history at 13.
3. Rodney Stewart - Career-high number of carries in a game at 36(5th most in CU history for a single game). Reached the 1000-yard mark for the season, 1st time for him, only the 13th back in CU history.
4. Paul Richardson - Most receiving yards by a true freshman in CU history with 442 yards. First freshman to have 2 100-yard receiving games in a season.
5. Michael Sipili - 1st Career Touchdown. 1st non-offensive TD of the season for CU.
6. Arthur Jaffe - Longest play in yards of the season - 89-yard kickoff return.
7. Defense - 1st time holding ISU's Alexander Robinson to under a 100 yards in his 4 games against CU.
8. Brian Cabral - 1st win as CU Head Coach (& only 2nd head coach since 1932 to win his first game).
MYTHS(including my take on the ignorant responses to Mike Bohn's choices for the Head Coach Search Committee) and FIXES after the break)
1. CU had a balanced attack on offense. Not even close. Cody passed 24 times, but CU rushed 45 times. Now if the statement was, CU had the right balance on offense, the answer would be yes. Earlier in the year, CU often passed more times than they ran, twice passing 20 more times than they ran(26 runs, 46 passes vs Missouri; 24 runs, 44 passes vs Oklahoma), and they failed every time. In the 3 games CU won before last Saturday, the ratio of runs to passes was 35-25, 52-26 & 47-20. Anytime they ran less than 10 times more than they passed, the Buffs lost. The right balance on an offense that boasts one of the largest offensive lines in the country is to run 10-30 times more than they pass.
2. The Buffs performed well in all phases of the game. Not quite. The Buffs had good performances in every phase of the game, but not overall in every phase. The defense was brilliant, coming up with 9 sacks, which is the 3rd highest game total in CU history, as well as 11 total tackles for losses, 4 pass break-ups, 3 forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. A lot of it had to do with the return of Travis Sandersfeld, who merely led the team in tackles with 9, 8 of them solo. Even more had to do with an attack philosophy on defense, aided by a pumped up set of players. Coach Cabral made sure that the side of the ball he knows best showed up in full force.
The offense also did well as outlined above. They just needed to do without the 3 fumbles and 3 too many penalties(they had 9). And once again, special teams was uneven. While Goodman made both fieldgoals, he got no touchbacks and the kickoff team allowed the Cyclones to start on average at the ISU 30-yard line. The kick return team was great on the fake handoff, as special teams superstar Arthur Jaffe came a few yards from taking it to the house. However, the punting continued to be mediocre even with the great move of eliminating the rugby kick, as Zach Grossnickle only averaged 35 yds/punt. It would be great to see a good effort in every aspect of special teams play, and they may be getting close.
3. The CU Football Coach Search Committee has to have a former football alum on that committee. Amongst the most vociferous members of the CU family are the former players. Whatever the issue affecting CU football, they want to stand up and be counted in returning the Colorado football program to its tradition of winning. Their enthusiasm and concern is terrific. It is no small surprise to find this group especially prominent and loud when it comes to who should be the next Buffs football coach. They would prefer that he come from the ranks of their own membership or be a past or current CU coach. (I actually concur in this preference at this particular time in the football program's life.) Because the football alums seem to be so uniform in their response, it is no wonder that none of them are on the search committee. Their position is loud and clear. Unfortunately, it is also close-minded. Instead, the committee includes the university's Chief Financial Officer; the Chair of the Faculty's Intercollegiate Athletics Committee; the Vice Chancellor for Diversity, Eguity & Community Engagement; and CEOs of major contributors to the university and its football program, deemed "boosters" by most. A closer look at his biography on the cubuffs.com website reveals that the head of the Committee, Dr. Clough, is the Faculty Athletics Rep. and has been involved with and specialized in student-athletes for over 30 years, including representing CU to the Big XII and the NCAA. He also is an expert in the NCAA's Academic Performance Program and has developed tracking and predictive tools used all over the country.
The response of many in the local media as well as many bloggers and posters has been, in my opinion, ignorant. I mean this primarily in the sense of being uninformed about the people asked to participate in this committee and that committee's role. I also apply ignorant in the more pejorative way to those who stoop to stereotypes in describing the committee members, calling them nerds and eggheads or lumping them into some nebulous and sinister group of faculty members who must of necessity hate the football program. Many of these uninformed are particularly dismayed that there is a female on a committee that will "choose" the next coach. This "female", Dr. Elizabeth Bradley, with three degrees from MIT, is the above-mentioned Chair of the Faculty's Intercollegiate Athletics Committee, and the resources and documents she has gathered suggest she probably knows more about college athletics than most any media member one can find. As a former Olympic athlete, she just might be a proponent of sports.
So, we basically have four really intelligent and well-organized faculty members on the committee who like athletics and work with student-athletes, and that are the experts in such areas as financing & budgeting, helping minority student-athletes fit into a mostly white city and school, helping student-athletes with academic performance, and knowing the ins & outs of NCAA rules and standards for student-athletes, plus three CEOs who as far as I can tell like to see money go to the football program, especially their own money or their large corporation's money. And this Committee will create a list of recommendations for the head coach and give it to Mike Bohn, who will make the actual selection with the approval of Chancellor DiStefano, he of the "must be a current or recent coach" comments. Seems to me like the Committee members are not the ones we have to worry about.
1. Shut down their running game. Kansas State has the 22nd-rated rushing offense in D1, thanks to having the leading rusher in the Big XII, Daniel Thomas. The Buffs were able to shut down Alexander Robinson on Saturday despite his past success. Last year, Thomas rushed 20 times for 145 yards, more than 7 yds/carry. He is a tough runner who makes a lot of people miss and gets a lot of yards after contact. The Buffs defense must fill up the gaps and swarm to the ball when Thomas carries. If they stop Thomas, they have a great chance to win.
2. Keep our running game going. As mentioned above in Myths 1, the running game needs to be the predominant force on offense. I'm just not sure whether Speedy can do it this week all by himself. Getting Jefferson in there more often to throw off the defense's tackle-timing could produce a big play while giving Stewart a rest. Since the Wildcats will be keying on the run, it may need to be tweaked a bit, with quickly executed plays like last week mixed with some misdirection. One thing for sure is CU definitely wants to test the 112th-rated rush defense in the country with everything it has.
3. Keep the fire burning. Coach Cabral showed last week that he knows how to fire up this Buff team. He has got to stay after this team and keep the fire burning. This is, after all, a team that rested on its laurels in the 2nd half of the Kansas game despite a losing record this year and in the previous 4 years. The Buffs need to act like they know what Senior Day means and bring the heat all day long. That's what it will take to beat a well-coached team. They need to remember the pain of the last 1-5 years and take it out on the Wildcats. GO BUFFS! TAME THE MILDCATS!! RUN THEM OFF FOLSOM FIELD ONE LAST TIME!!!