September 4th - Invesco Field Colorado 24, Colorado State 3
The Colorado Buffaloes took the first steps toward exorcising the demons of the 2009 season with a convincing 24-3 win over in-state rival Colorado State. Led by junior quarterback Tyler Hansen, a stout defensive effort, and a record-setting performance by wide receiver Scotty McKnight, the Buffs methodically took down the Rams before 60,989 on a 90-degree sun-baked day in Denver.
The Colorado defense set the tone early.
On the Rams' second possession, third-year head coach Steve Fairchild opted to go for first down on fourth-and-one at the CSU 44-yard line. Running back T.J. Borcky, however, was stopped for no gain by sophomore linebacker Jon Major, and the Buffs took over possession. It took the Buffs six plays to score, with Tyler Hansen hitting senior transfer Travon Patterson on a 17-yard touchdown pass with 5:58 to play in the first quarter.
After teams exchanged punts, the Buffs took over at the 13:26 mark of the second quarter. Colorado then put together its most impressive drive of the game, going 82 yards in nine plays to score. The first five plays of the drive were all Rodney Stewart runs. Speedy slashed through the Ram defense on runs of four, eight, four, 10, and seven yards to move the ball midfield. From there, Tyler Hansen took over, hitting Toney Clemons for eight yards, then Scotty McKnight for 15 more. Setting up with a first down at the Colorado State 27, Hansen hit McKnight for a 27-yard score and a 14-0 Colorado lead. The catch was not only the 17th score of McKnight's career, it was also his third catch of the afternoon, giving him 168 for his career, one better than Michael Westbrook (167, 1991-94).
On Colorado State's next possession, freshman quarterback Pete Thomas was intercepted by junior safety Travis Sandersfeld. The Buffs took over at the Colorado State 46 yard line, and looked poised for the knockout punch. The Buffs' drive stalled, however, at the Ram 11-yard line. Senior placekicker Aric Goodman, who had struggled through the past three seasons, then made good on his first field goal attempt of the 2010 campaign. Goodman's 28-yarder put the Buffs up 17-0 with just over four minutes remaining in the first half.
There were plenty of fireworks remaining, however, before halftime, as the two teams traded big plays in the last minute of play before the break. First Colorado State quarterback Pete Thomas was picked off an acrobatic interception by senior cornerback Jalil Brown. Then, on the very next play, Tyler Hansen was intercepted by Ram cornerback Momo Thomas. The Rams quickly drove down the field, reaching the Colorado 20-yard line. Any chance that Colorado State would take momentum into the locker room was snuffed out, though, as a Ben DeLine 37-yard field goal attempt was blocked by defensive lineman Will Pericak.
17-0, Colorado, at halftime.
Perhaps it was the 90-degree heat, or perhaps it was the fact that there were two 3-9 teams slugging it out, but the second half was notable more for its lack of execution than it was for its big plays.
The Colorado defense came out appearing anxious to preserve its shutout, forcing three-and-outs from the Colorado State offense in its first two possessions. Taking over at midfield at the halfway point of the third quarter, the Buffs put the game away with an eight-play, 50-yard drive. This time, Tyler Hansen, who went 17-for-25 for 192 yards on the day, scored from a yard out to put the Buffs ahead, 24-0, with 1:55 left in the third quarter.
The remainder of the game was of interest only to see if the Buffs could preserve the shutout. The defense did its job for the most part, but three straight three-and-outs by the Colorado offense gave the Rams one too many opportunities. With 9:36 to play, Ben DeLine connected from 43 yards out to close out the scoring.
"A win is better than a loss," said Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins. "I thought our defense played really well, and, at times we played well on offense ... But certainly winning and winning against your rival and starting the season on a winning note is very positive."
The statistics bore out the quotes from the Colorado coach. While the scoreboard showed a three-touchdown rout, the game figures showed a closer contest. Colorado had 18 first downs to 14 for Colorado State. The Buffs generated 307 yards of total offense to 245 for the Rams. Junior quarterback Tyler Hansen had 192 yards passing on the day, his freshman counterpart for Colorado State, Pete Thomas, had 196 yards.
The difference between the two quarterbacks ... Hansen had two touchdown passes and one interception, while Thomas had no touchdowns and was picked off three times.
"He did a nice job," said Hawkins of Hansen, who was named the starting quarterback midway through fall camp. "He made some plays with his feet. He missed a couple throws but he made some too ... He certainly helped us out early in the game getting away from some pressure." For his part, Hansen was glad to get the first game as the unquestioned starting quarterback out of the way. "I feel really good, a lot more comfortable," said Hansen. "The last three years I felt new to the offense and new to this whole deal, but today I felt really comfortable."
While Hansen and the Colorado offense was adequate, the Colorado defense came to play. The Colorado defensive line struggled all day to get to the Rams' freshman quarterback, but did end the day with three sacks. The defensive secondary did give up some yards, but did have three interceptions, and did not allow a pass play in excess of 18 yards.
The stars of the day were the linebackers. The stat line of the week ... Colorado State converted only one-of-12 third down conversion opportunities. That was largely due to the linebackers filling holes as the defensive line held up the Ram blockers. Perhaps the play of the day came early when linebacker Jon Major, who led the Buffs with eight tackles, stopped Ram quarterback Thomas for no gain on fourth-and-one, leading to the Buffs' first touchdown. "Obviously, that one backfired," said Colorado State head coach Steve Fairchild. "But it's short yardage; we should win that nine times out of 10. I'll have to look at the tape, but in retrospect, that's a bad call." Major agreed on that the play changed the game's momentum. "Definitely," said Major. "It was monumental."
While the Buffs did reclaim the governor's trophy, and could bask in the glow of winning a game for the first time since last November, there was little time to celebrate. "We're a more mature team," said Tyler Hansen. "Like I said after the game, 'yeah, it's great to hoist that trophy up and celebrate beating Colorado State'. But I was also telling the guys, 'let's beat Cal now'. It's water under the bridge, forget about it, and now go beat Cal."
For its part, California is also 1-0, also posting a rout. The Bears took care of business against the out-manned Cal-Davis Aggies, 52-3.
Game Notes -
- Senior wide receiver Scotty McKnight set two records against Colorado State. His six catches for 78 yards and a touchdown gave him 171 catches on his career, with the record setting 168th catch being his 27-yard touchdown reception. McKnight also continued his streak of games with a consecutive catch, running his total to 38 straight games. McKnight is now poised to become only the 7th Buff to post 2,000 career yards receiving, ending the contest with 1,978. McKnight also had a touchdown catch against Colorado State for the fourth consecutive year.
- Junior running back Rodney Stewart had 67 yards rushing and 41 yards receiving. Stewart's rushing total moved him up three spots on the all-time list, up to 27th place. Speedy moved his career rushing total up to 1,493, passing Howard Cook (1,463; 1956-58); Mark Hatcher (1,470; 1984-87); and Bill Harris (1,486; 1961-63).
- Seven players earned their first career start against Colorado State in the 2010 opener ... offensive tackle David Bakhtiari; wide receiver Kyle Cefalo; wide receiver Toney Clemons; defensive end Josh Hartigan; linebacker Jon Major; tight end DaVaughn Thornton; and safety Parker Orms. A few of the starts were a surprise, with Cefalo starting in front of senior transfer Travon Patterson, and red-shirt freshman DaVaughn Thornton being in for the first play of the season instead of senior Ryan Deehan.
- In all, 21 players saw their first action as Buffs, including five true freshmen ... cornerback Jered Bell; short-snapper Ryan Iverson; wide receiver Paul Richardson; running back Justin Torres; and defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe.
- The three points allowed were the fewest by the Buffs in an opener since Colorado opened the 1988 season with a 45-3 rout of Fresno State. The 245 yards allowed by the defense were the fewest in an opener since the Buffs held Colorado State to 202 total yards in a 42-14 win in 1998. The 49 yards rushing was the fifth lowest total surrendered ever by the Buffs in an opener.
- The crowd at Invesco Field for the Cinch Jeans Rocky Mountain Showdown was 60,989, the lowest in the series. The previous low was 65,701 in 2006. The Buffs now have a 6-4 advantage in games played in Denver since the series was renewed.
- Freshman red-shirt punter Zach Grossnickle had a good debut. Grossnickle averaged 41.4 yards on seven kicks.
- Senior transfer Travon Patterson had four punt returns for 46 yards. The Buffs averaged 3.3 yards per punt return in 2009.
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