It wasn’t enough that the Buff Nation had to be bombarded with stories about the 20th anniversary of the "fifth down" game. It wasn’t enough that Colorado was looking to avoid a five-game losing streak to Missouri. It wasn’t enough that the Buffs had to lose to the Tigers.
No, Dan Hawkins had to do it in style.
A 26-0 loss to Missouri was bad enough, but the number of mental mistakes on offense and special teams were enough to place Dan Hawkins right back on the front burner of the coaches’ ”hot seat” discussion. For those of you that missed the game, Colorado had five special teams gaffes—a long kickoff return, a blocked punt, a missed field goal, a blocked field goal, and a fake punt that Missouri used to turn a contested game into a rout—that directly contributed to the loss.
Not to be outdone, the Colorado offense had five drives in the second half. Each and every one of the five drives went into Missouri territory, and the Buffs netted no points.
Few in the Buff Nation realistically expected Colorado to defeat Missouri. That was too much to ask. Still, based upon how much better the Buffs had played over the past six quarters leading up to the game against the Tigers, it was reasonable to expect that Colorado would not suffer the meltdown inflicted by Cal.
Apparently, even that was too much to ask.
Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel was 1-4 against Colorado before the Dan Hawkins era; he is now 6-4 (and likely deeply lamenting the end of the series). In posting a five-game losing streak to Missouri, Colorado has not even come close to being competitive. The cumulative halftime score of those five games? 138-19 (or an average of 27-4). In the last three seasons, including the 19-0 deficit in 2010, it’s been 86-3.
“It’s really, really frustrating for us to come out and play like this,” said senior cornerback Jimmy Smith. “I have no idea why. They’ve just got it out for us; they whip us good.”
“We made Missouri look a lot better than they are,” said quarterback Cody Hawkins.
Or did Missouri just expose what many Buff fans have suspected all along…that the wins early in the season were a mirage, that it is the 52-7 pasting by Cal that should remind the world of what Dan Hawkins has brought to Boulder.
Still, the final scores of the Cal and Missouri games notwithstanding, Colorado fans have to take stock of where the Buffs are five games into the season.
Colorado checks in at 3-2 after five games. Wins over Colorado State and Hawai’i were must wins, and they were achieved. Cal was a “hope for” win, but not an expected one. Georgia was another “hope for” win, and the Buffs came through. Missouri was one of those road games, along with Oklahoma and Nebraska, which were write-off losses. True, there are always hopes for upsets, but based on the Buffs’ track record against Missouri in the Dan Hawkins era, it was not an expected win.
As a result, the Buffs are 3-2, when many of us were looking at Colorado being 2-3 at this juncture.
Plus, there are several positives to take away from the Missouri game. The defense held up its end of the bargain. The Tigers' first three drives started, respectively, at their own 40-yard line, the Colorado 40, and their own 28. Each drive resulted in a three-and-out. It would not be possible to expect more against an offense that came into the game averaging 431 yards and 37 points per game.
And yet, despite the stellar effort of the defense after those three drives, the Buffs were nonetheless already behind, 2-0.
The defense did surrender a field goal drive on Missouri’s next possession, and Colorado was very much alive in the game when Toney Clemons’ kickoff return set up the offense at the Missouri 44-yard line. Another missed field goal (it has now been over four full games since Colorado had a successful field goal attempt) by the offense, coupled with a fake punt for a first down by the Tigers, took the air out of the defense. A 30-yard touchdown pass a few plays after the fake punt put the Buffs in a 12-0 hole, and the game was all but over.
“Our defense played really, really well,” said Dan Hawkins. “They gave us a short field a couple of times, and we couldn’t take advantage.”
So, at least one side of the ball played well (Missouri netted 345 yards of total offense, almost 100 yards below its average, and the 26 points were 12 behind the season norm), but can the Colorado offense and special teams catch up?
There is hope for the Colorado offense (and I’m not talking about the insertion of Cody Hawkins as the starting quarterback). Missouri came into the game against Colorado ranked 10th in the nation in scoring defense, giving up only 14 points per game. The Buffs will only face defenses of a similar nature twice more in the remaining seven games.
Here’s what I mean …
In the last game played by five of seven remaining opponents, the opposition has scored 45 points (v. Baylor, by Texas Tech); 38 points (v. Texas Tech, by Baylor), 55 points (v. Kansas, by Baylor), 68 points (v. Iowa State, by Utah), and 48 points (v. Kansas State, by Nebraska).
Can the Colorado offense generate that much fireworks against five of the remaining teams on the schedule? History suggests that may not be the case, as the Buffs have yet to score over 31 points in any one game. However, there are vulnerable defenses out there for Colorado to exploit, and four of those five opponents are coming to Boulder.
The Buffs, despite fears of a continued letdown, were able to shake off the lethargy caused by the Cal beatdown. It took a half, and some miscues by Hawai’i, to allow the Buffs to come back and post a 31-13 win. Baylor will not give Colorado an equal opportunity next weekend. Led by quarterback Robert Griffin III, the Bears have an explosive offense to match their only ”fair” defense. If the Buffs cannot bounce back—and quickly—from the Missouri trouncing, a downward spiral to the season could quickly ensue.
On the other hand, two home victories over Baylor and Texas Tech would give the Buffs a 5-2 record, with a decent shot at a road win (at Kansas) and Iowa State and Kansas State still to come to Boulder.
The Buffs are done with the road for the next two games, and are done with Missouri for the foreseeable future. “Luckily, we’re not playing Missouri next year,” said Tyler Hansen. “You hate to say that, but … “.
… it’s true.
Missouri—at least while Dan Hawkins has been the coach at Colorado—has the Buffs' number.
The number this week has been five. Fifth down. Five second-half drives into Missouri territory without scoring a point. Five straight losses to Missouri.
Dan Hawkins is in his fifth year as the Colorado head coach.
Fair to say that, unless the Missouri debacle is the last one of the 2010 season, he won’t be around for year six.