CU in 2011, Because 2010 is Over

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CU in 2011, Because 2010 is Over
Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images

“Turn out the lights, the party’s over …”

Where is Dandy Don Meredith when you need him?

For those of us old enough to remember, the ABC Monday Night Football football crew once consisted of Frank Gifford, Howard Cossell and Don Meredith. In the 1970s, the former Dallas Cowboys quarterback was the light-hearted counter-balance to the irascible Cosell, and millions looked forward to Monday nights when the two would do battle with one another on the air.

One of Dandy Don’s signatures came when the Monday night NFL offering game was safely out of hand. Meredith, a southern crooner who went to school at SMU, would belt out a farewell to the losing team, "Turn out  the lights, the party’s over. They say that all good things must end."

Well, it’s turn out the lights time for the University of Colorado football team under Dan Hawkins.

Enough will finally be enough.

True, there are five games still to play, and there will be much talk in the Dal Ward Center this week about playing hard each game and about taking it “one game at a time.” A bowl game is still possible, they will say. The Buffs are only 3-4, and need only to go 3-2 to qualify for a bowl game in 2010. The Buff players will put on brave faces, and say the right things.

But no one will believe them.

I’m not sure the players will be believe any of it, either.

For all practical purposes, Colorado had to win one of its two home games against the Big 12 South this year to have any chance of going to a bowl game in 2010 and probably had to win both. Instead, Colorado had every chance to defeat Baylor last weekend, but came up short, falling 31-25. Saturday, the Buffs blew a ten-point fourth quarter lead against Texas Tech to lose, 27-24.

Colorado will now go on the road, against Oklahoma, carrying the burden of a three-game losing streak and road losing streak dating back over three seasons. The line will probably be around 30 points. The train wreck will be nationally televised on ESPN.

Will a 56-3 loss be enough for Colorado athletic director to pull the plug? Oklahoma will be looking for style points for the national pollsters, and the Colorado Buffaloes will be powerless to stop them.

But that’s for next week …

For now, for those who would like to bookmark the moment in history when the Dan Hawkins’ experiment officially came to an end at the University of Colorado, it came not with two minutes remaining, when Texas Tech kicked the winning field goal.

In came earlier in the fourth quarter.

Colorado was nursing a seven point lead, 24-17, and had just taken over after a turnover on a punt return. The Buffs recovered the fumble at the Texas Tech 35-yard line, and managed one first down before the series which decided the game.

An illegal substitution penalty pushed the ball into the redzone at the Texas Tech 18-yard line.

First-and-five, up a touchdown and 13 minutes to play.

Colorado had the Red Raiders on their heels, and had the crowd in the game. Dan Hawkins’ son Cody was in line to be the hero. A two-touchdown lead was in the offing. The Buffs would be 4-3 with the win, just two victories away from being bowl eligible. The “Hawk Haters” would be nervous … Would the Buffs qualify for a bowl? Would Colorado have to keep Hawkins if the Buffs posted a winning season?

A touchdown on that drive would have raised just such questions.

The Colorado offense to that point had not been successful on the ground, but if there were ever a time to assert dominance along the line of scrimmage, this was it. Give the ball to Rodney Stewart, and let “Speedy” take time off the clock, gain the necessary yardage, and put the game away. Wasn’t Stewart ranked 22nd in the nation in rushing coming into the game? Wasn’t Speedy being marketed weekly as the player who got the “tough” yards for the Buffs?

First-and-five at the 18-yard line.

Piece of cake.

Then the Buffs, or more precisely, senior quarterback Cody Hawkins, threw three straight incompletions.

No effort to run the ball when the down, the distance, the score, the time remaining (everything) mandated that the Buffs run the ball.

Three straight incompletions by Cody Hawkins.

It was the Dan Hawkins’ era in microcosm.

The missed field goal by Aric Goodman on the next play was all-but irrelevant. The interception in the endzone later in the fourth quarter by Jalil Brown was a mere stay of execution. Fans who have put up with Dan Hawkins for the past five years already knew, even though Colorado was up by seven points, that the Buffs’ best chance to win the game had been lost.

Perhaps it was all too appropriate that the home losses to Baylor and Texas Tech bookended one of the better weeks in the history of the Colorado athletic department. On Thursday, Pac-12 chancellors and presidents ratified the agreement amongst the membership as to divisions, the conference championship game site, and revenue sharing. Colorado got want it wanted – an annual (recruiting) trip to southern California as a member of the Pac-12 South, and an equal distribution of media revenue, which could double the revenue the Buffs were receiving as a member of the Big 12.

It was a great week for the Buff Nation, sandwiched between two tough losses at home by the football team.

There is talent on the Colorado roster. The Buffs will lose one of its best all-time receivers, along a great tackle, from the offense. Colorado will have to replace two quality cornerbacks and two decent linebackers from the defense, and that’s about it. Colorado has a huge junior class in 2010, and will have a huge senior class in 2011.

It will be a perfect storm for the new head coach … new enthusiasm which always meets a new staff. A renewed sense of enthusiasm amongst the Colorado fan base. A large senior class dedicated to show that the University of Colorado can be competitive in the Pac-12 (and a large first full recruiting class for the new coach in 2012).

Colorado will face one of the toughest schedules in the nation next fall. In addition to a yet to be announced Pac-12 schedule which will include games against Cal, USC, UCLA, Arizona State and Arizona, the Buffs will have road games at Ohio State (currently 7-1 and ranked in the top 10) and Hawai’i (6-2, anyone else noticed that the Warriors have not lost a game since losing to Colorado?), the Rocky Mountain Showdown against Colorado State, and a home game against Fresno State (4-2).  Unless The Buffs pick up a conference game against Washington State, Colorado may not be favored in more than a handful of games in 2011.

Still, the future looks bright. Buff fans have a great deal to look forward to as a member of the new Pac-12.

It would have been nice if there had been more to look forward to in the last half of 2010, but the Buffs’ play calling in the fourth quarter, with a seven-point lead and a first-and-five in the red zone, took that away from us.

Cue Dandy Don …

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