Colorado's Loss to Florida State: Aberration or Omen?

Stuart WhitehairAnalyst ISeptember 28, 2008

Sept. 27 at Jacksonville              Florida State 39, Colorado 21


Florida State running back Antone Smith ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Seminoles to a 39-21 win over Colorado in Jacksonville.

Smith carried the ball a career-high 25 times, scoring on a pair of 2-yard runs early and late, with a game-changing 60-yard scoring run in the second quarter as Florida State rushed for 259 yards on the day.

Colorado was held to 278 yards of total offense by the Seminoles, but it was special teams play which doomed the Buffs to a third consecutive loss to Florida State.

As well as the West Virginia game opened for the Buffs (long touchdown drive, turnover by the defense, another score), the Florida State game opened just as poorly.

On the game’s third play from scrimmage, CU quarterback Cody Hawkins was hit and lost the ball as he was attempting to pass. The play was ruled a fumble, setting up the Seminoles on the Colorado 27-yard line.

It took Florida State only four plays to score, with Smith taking the ball on each occasion, the last from two yards out. Just three minutes into the game, the Buffs were down 7-0.

The rout would have to wait, however, as the Buffs responded with an 11-play, 82-yard drive to tie the score. Aided by a personal foul call on third-and-16, CU was able to crack the scoreboard with a 30-yard connection from Hawkins to Josh Smith.

Smith, who failed to reach the end zone in 2007, scored the Buffs’ first points for the third straight game in tying the score midway through the first quarter.

For the next quarter of play, Colorado slowly took control of the game. After forcing a three-and-out from the Seminoles, the Buffs drove to the Florida State 37-yard line, where Jake Behrens was stopped a yard short on a fourth-and-three.

The Colorado defense forced a fumble on the Seminoles’ next possession, and had a sure touchdown go awry when Cody Hawkins overthrew a wide open Patrick Devenny at the FSU 30-yard line.

The teams traded interceptions early in the second quarter, with a deflected pass by FSU quarterback Christian Ponder scooped up by freshman defensive lineman Curtis Cunningham.

Set up at the Florida State 12-yard line, Colorado was poised to take its first lead of the contest.

Three plays netted only two yards, though, and the score remain tied at 7-7 when Aric Goodman’s 27-yard field goal attempt sailed left of the uprights.

It appeared that the two offensively challenged teams would go to the locker rooms at halftime knotted at sevens. With 2:29 to go before halftime, though, Antone Smith swept around left end for 60 yards and a go ahead score.

Smith’s efforts doubled the Seminoles’ offensive output to that time, and shifted the momentum for the remainder of the game.

A comedy of errors led to five more points for Florida State before the Buffs were allowed to head off to halftime to re-group. Josh Smith misplayed the kickoff after the Antone Smith score, precariously setting up the Buffs at their own 4-yard line.

Unable to secure a first down, Matt DiLallo was backed up against his own end line to punt. The kick was blocked out of the end zone, and the Seminoles’ lead was raised to 16-7 with the safety.

The two-point play was the first against the Buffs since Nebraska tackled Mell Holliday in the end zone in 2006, and gave the ball right back to the Seminoles.

Again, special teams hurt the Buffs, as the free kick was returned 41 yards to the Colorado 23-yard line. Five plays and five yards later, a 36-yard field goal gave Florida State a 19-7 halftime edge.

The game had all the appearances of turning into a rout after the Seminoles put together an opening drive which resulted in another field goal, raising the lead to 22-7, and the Buffs went three-and-out in their first possession of the second half.

By the time Colorado secured its first first down of the second half, late in the third quarter, the score was up to 25-7.

The Buffs were not out of the contest, though, after an eight-play, 80-yard drive made the score 25-14 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. Hawkins hit tight end Riar Geer from 2 yards out to give some hope to the 3,000 or so Colorado fans who made the trip to the River City Showdown.

Those hopes were dashed just a few seconds later. Florida State’s Michael Ray Garvin, a world-class sprinter who was a qualifier for the 2008 Olympic Trials, took the ensuing kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown, making the score 32-14.

The kick return for a touchdown was the second against the Buffs in 2008 (CSU pulled off the trick in the opener), making this the first season ever that two CU opponents have returned kickoffs for a touchdown in the same year.

[Note: The CU media release for the FSU game indicates that this the first time since 1980 this has occurred, but the record book indicates it has never before happened more than once in a season. I’ll have to look back at the records from that awful 1-10 season and get back to you.]

With the score 32-14, the two teams traded meaningless touchdowns in the last 10 minutes of play. The Buffs’ score came courtesy of a Hawkins-to-Patrick Devenny pass from 14 yards out. The Seminoles scored on a two-yard run by Antone Smith to cap his record setting day.

Of the game-changing 12-point swing in the last 2:30 of the first half, CU head coach Dan Hawkins was philosophical.

"That little exchange there at the end of the first half caused us some problems," said Hawkins. "Clearly, you’ve got the long run, you’ve got a little cycle there where you drop the ball, a blocked punt, a field goal...that being said, I don’t think our guys were daunted by it; it obviously knocks you back a bit."

As to Colorado’s special teams play, where the Buffs allowed 199 yards in kickoff returns, a botched kickoff return, and a blocked punt for a safety, Hawkins’ was more succinct: "They struggled."

On the day, Colorado had 278 yards of total offense, but only 160 yards after the first quarter. Cody Hawkins connected on only 17 of 36 passes for 154 yards.

His three touchdown scores were more than offset by his interception, fumble, missed passes, and a season-high four sacks.

"It all comes back to me," said the sophomore quarterback. "I have to take care of the football, and I have to communicate and make plays when they are there to be made. I apologize to my teammates, the coaches, and the fans, because I did not play the way that I can."

One bright spot was the effort of freshman running back Rodney Stewart. Stewart had his second consecutive 100-yard effort, carrying the ball 21 times for 107 yards.

Stewart’s efforts were even more impressive in view of the speed of the Florida State defense, and the makeshift offensive line with which the Buffs were saddled for most of the afternoon.

Starting guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner went down earlier in the week with a season-ending ACL injury, and starting tackle Ryan Miller left the Florida State game with an ankle injury which will keep him out of action from four to six weeks.

With the loss to Florida State, Colorado has completed its non-conference schedule with a 3-1 mark. Up next is a date with Texas, undefeated and in the top five in the national rankings.

Sound familiar? It was the same scenario with Oklahoma last season: conference opener; Homecoming; against an undefeated, top five team.

The Buffs can only hope that the results will be similar.


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