Buffs show imitation is the most sincere form of flattery
The 2010 Buff players had to wait.
The halftime ceremony honoring Alfred Williams’ selection as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010 was running long. The 2010 Buff players were lined up behind Ralphie, ready to make their second half entrance onto Folsom Field, but Ralphie’s path around the stadium had yet to be cleared. Hundreds of young children, all wearing No. 94 jerseys in honor of Williams, along with a number of dignitaries on hand for the presentation – including fellow CU Hall of Famers Joe Romig and Dick Anderson – were still in Ralphie’s way.
As the Buffs waited, they heard the cheers for Williams.
As the Buffs waited, the sun, which had been as hidden from view in the first half as the Colorado offense, decided to make an appearance.
As the Buffs waited, a trio of F-18’s thundered their way over the stadium, bringing about yet another raucous cheer from a Buff home crowd anxious to have something for which to cheer.
“Do you get it now?”, I thought to myself as I saw the Buff players bunched up behind Ralphie, their gold helmets reflecting the first patch of sunlight of the afternoon. “Do you understand that wearing those 1990 Buffs’ jerseys means something??”.
Apparently, the Buffs got it.
Maybe it was halftime speeches (Buff players related after the game that offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau was quite animated about the shutout being pitched against his offense by a Warrior defense giving up 38 points per game). Maybe it was the flyover, or the sunlight, or the presence of Alfred Williams on their field.
Something got to the 2010 Buff players, down 10-0 to Hawai’i at halftime.
Whatever it was, it sparked a rally. For the first eight minutes of the second half against Hawai’i, Colorado played about as well as any Buff team has during any such stretch in the Dan Hawkins’ era.
Taking the second half kickoff at their 20-yard line, Rodney Stewart promptly ran for seven yards. An illegal substitution penalty on Hawai’i subsequently gave Colorado a first down. After an incompletion, the offensive line was guilty of yet another false start. As moans were heard throughout the stadium, though, senior Nate Solder was getting in the grill of two of his teammates.
Enough was enough.
From there, Colorado exhibited classic ball control offense. Stewart up the middle for seven; Tyler Hansen to tight end Ryan Deehan for 13, converting on third-and-eight. After the completion to Deehan, the Buffs never again faced a third down on the drive, quickly marching down the field. A 14-play, 80-yard drive was capped off by a four-yard touchdown run by Rodney Stewart in which Stewart ran up the middle of the Warrior defense completely untouched.
The Buffs had new life, but were still down 10-7.
Enter the Colorado defense, which had seen eight snaps by the Hawai’i offense inside the Colorado five yard line early in the first quarter, but had surrendered no points. Two penalties pushed the Warriors back to their five yard line. On third down, Hawai’i quarterback Bryant Moniz was nearly sacked by junior linebacker Tyler Ahles. Moniz did get off a pass to running back Alex Green, but Green was quickly swarmed under, with defensive back Anthony Perkins given credit for the safety.
Three offensive plays by Hawai’i … for minus-nine yards and a safety. The lead was now down to a single point. 10-9, Hawai’i.
The ensuing free kick was returned by Toney Clemons to the Buff 40-yard line. The Colorado offense was now in high gear, taking off on a drive with play calling which was pure poetry in the eyes of many Buff fans who have longed for a return of “smash-mouth” football in Boulder. The first four plays were all Rodney Stewart runs, gaining nine, seven, four, and five yards. On third-and-one, Tyler Hansen easily gained two yards for a first down, but the Buffs were flagged for illegal substitution. Rather than allow the gaff to ruin the drive, however, the inspired Buffs went ahead and converted, with Hansen hitting Scotty McKnight for ten yards and a first down.
Then it was Brian Lockridge’s turn to shine. Four straight runs by “B-Lock” went for 13, two, four, and nine yards, setting up the Buffs with a first-and-goal at the Hawai’i two yard line. Stewart again did the honors, covering the final two yards unscathed for his second touchdown of the third quarter. The comeback was complete a few moments later, when Tyler Hansen hit freshman wide receiver Paul Richardson for a two-point conversion.
Eight minutes of game clock.
Two drives by the Colorado offense, covering a total of 140 yards in 24 plays. Two touchdowns.
One drive for the Hawai’i offense, losing nine yards in three plays, and surrendering a safety to the Colorado defense.
Eight minutes of play in which the 2010 Colorado Buffaloes dominated.
Eight minutes of play in which the 2010 Colorado Buffaloes looked like a team capable of competing with almost any team on its schedule.
Eight minutes of play in which the 2010 Colorado Buffaloes looked like the team which was worthy of the last team to wear those same style jerseys – the 1990 national championship team.
No. I am not saying, even for a moment, that this year’s version of the Buffs is on its way to playing like, and winning like, the 1990 team did. The national championship team went 3-1-1 in non-conference play, with four of those five games being played against ranked teams (the fifth opponent, unranked Stanford, went on to defeat the No. 1 team in the nation at the time, Notre Dame, two weeks after playing the Buffs). The 2010 Buffs would be fortunate to get away with one win against that schedule.
What I am saying is that, for an ever-so brief period of time – eight minutes - Colorado fans were treated to quality football.
Perhaps the Buff Nation owes yet another round of applause to Alfred Williams. On Friday night, Williams spoke to the team. He talked about the tradition of the program. Williams “called a lot of us guys out, basically every starter on the team,” said senior captain Scotty McKnight. “He called them all out and was like, ‘This (losing by 45 points to Cal) is unacceptable’ … We don’t take it as he’s calling us out because he doesn’t like us. I think we’re all grown men and we can understand that. We take it as he is calling us out because he wants us to be great. He said if you’re the starter, you need to work harder than anyone on the team. If you’re a backup, make it your goal not to be the backup next week.”
For much of the first half, it was the “bad old days” for the Buffs – and the Buff Nation. Buff fans were not shocked when the Colorado defense, knowing that Hawai’i was going to pass all afternoon, gave up an 80-yard pass on the second play of the game. Buff fans were not surprised, when, a few moments later, a punt was muffed, setting up the Warriors for another chance to score. Buff fans were not irate when Tyler Hansen missed a wide open Kyle Cefalo to end one threat, then had a snap go between his legs to end another. After four years of losing, with over a dozen losses by double digits, Buff fans have become numb.
For eight minutes of the third quarter against Hawai’i, however, Buff fans were at once both reminded of what was once theirs, and what could potentially be theirs again.
It was a nice feeling …