SI.com college football writer Stewart Mandel shares his commentary, analysis and random tidbits on the latest developments around the country.
9/06/2006 01:26:00 PM
Colorado Debacle Was Years in the Making
Losing to Montana State was not the way Dan Hawkins wanted to start his career at Colorado.
Montana State 19, Colorado 10. It was, without question, the most shocking score of opening weekend, leaving mouths agape across the country and sending the state of Colorado into mass panic. In an amusing anecdote in Mark Kizla's Denver Post column, former Buffs star Kordell Stewart described hearing about the result from a friend while driving home from a golf course Saturday. "Shut up!" Stewart said to his jeering friend on the phone. "… What you mean we lost? You got to be kidding."
Kizla goes on to suggest that the Buffs, with upcoming games against Colorado State, Arizona State, Georgia and Missouri, are looking at a possible 0-5 start. While losing to a I-AA opponent doesn't necessarily doom a team to abject failure -- Stanford, after losing to UC-Davis last year, wound up winning four Pac-10 games -- 0-5 is certainly a distinct possibility. Not that first-year coach Dan Hawkins is conceding anything just yet. "People out there can panic all they want, but I’m not panicked," said the former Boise State coach. "I started out 0-2 as a high school coach and ended up winning the city championship; started out 0-2 my first year at Boise State … You just keep making a list and keep trying to improve."
If the Buffs do turn things around, it will be a major testament to Hawkins' coaching abilities, because the fact is he doesn't have a whole lot to work with. As stunning as it may seem that a one-time national championship program, not to mention the most recent Big 12 North champion, could fall so far as to lose to Montana State, what you're seeing now is the inevitable byproduct of the unfortunate scandal that rocked that program a couple years back.
As if never-ending headlines about alleged rapes and former coach Gary Barnett's job security weren't enough to scare off potential prospects, the university instituted severely restrictive policies regarding recruiting visits. Not coincidentally, the Buffs' past three recruiting classes were ranked 49th, 44th and 50th nationally by Scout.com. CU still should have won last Saturday's game, but the seeds for such an implosion have been growing for years (and first started to show themselves in those lopsided losses to Nebraska and Texas at the end of last year). "We are not in the NFL," said Hawkins. "You’ve got to play the guys that you have."
One other observation: The level of parity in major college football has been growing for some time now, and apparently it's starting to seep even further down the ranks. Colorado's loss was one of three for I-A teams against I-AA opponents last weekend (New Mexico lost 16-7 to Portland State and Duke lost 14-0 to Richmond), one more than all of last season. In addition, Arizona State struggled with Northern Arizona, Purdue with Indiana State and Kansas State beat Illinois State by one. Traditionally, it's been considered the ultimate indignity to lose to a I-AA team, but with more and more I-A teams scheduling such matchups due to the 12-game schedule (and since all such wins now count toward bowl eligibility), expect such upsets to continue growing in frequency over the next five years.
This may not be all that surprising. In addition to CU's recent problems, it seems that much of Boise State's success coincided with its (then) offensive coordinator (who is now the head coach). It'll be interesting to see whether Boise State continues its success as well as what CU can do under its new coach. Perhaps Coach Hawkins got the benefit of his coordinator's talents? Time will tell.
Dan Hawkins was definitely left with a mess and he deserves credit for sticking with the players he has now and not throwing them under the bus or selling them out for a new batch of recruits that he wants in his system. The program will come back to respectability after a year or two, provided the keyboard athletic directors don't have their way with him first.
Can you kill CU football and keep the band? CU needs four years without football. After such penance, they might merit resurrecting the program. The band deserves to stick around and every effort should be made to provide them venues for displaying their talent. The sousaphone players could count down the years until CU football returns. The college football nation would embrace them. You know it!
How exactly can you call a 60-35 win over ISU a "struggling" effort by Purdue, especially when the last touchdown came in garbage time against the second teamers, and two of the touchdowns are attributable to first week special teams miscues?
Time to climb off Purdue's backside and let them reclaim their place of prominence in the Big Ten, without all the hate.
I was at field level at the Big 12 championship game last year, and I have never seen a team as thoroughly whooped as CU was by the Longhorns. On every level, they were outmatched. I mean, Texas scored 10 TDs! 10!
Maybe the Big 12 can switch them out with TCU. . .
It should be pointed out that people said the same thing about Dirk Koetter when he left to go to ASU - that Hawkin's was the real reason Boise State was good. And while Koetter hasn't been great at ASU, that accusation certainly was not true.
This weekend's game against CSU will be a solid indicator of the Buffs' ability to turn things around. If they can't pull out a win over their in-state rival, especially with so much to prove after last weekend's loss, then a 3-9 season might be on the horizon. As a CU fan and student, I'll stick with the Buffs and predict a 31-17 win over CSU.
It's not like CU losing to a bad opponent (recently) is totally without precendent --anyone remember a few years ago when Baylor beat them? The headline SI.com's AP reports said "Baylor, yes Baylor, defeats Colorado". It's been a program of low expectation for the past few years. Let's hope Hawkins can steer this thing back up.
You're gonna put up 31 on CSU when you could barely muster 10 on Montana State? The Rams offense may not be as deep with Kyle Bell out but the defense shut down Weber State and is a much better squad than Montana State. Gimme CSU 27-3.
CU loses to Montana State, Iowa State struggles against Toledo, Kansas State nearly tanks against Illinois State, and Oklahoma has to come from behind to beat lowly UAB. There was a lot of bad Big-12 football this weekend and yet we don't hear any whining about how the Big-12 is a one team conference and how Texas will have an easy road to the BCS. It's amazing how the Cal-Tenn game is seen as a litmus test for an entire conference while a slew of embarrassingly bad football in other conferences is written off as an aberation.
Games against IAA teams are just a cash grab. The teams will come in with nothing to lose, and are often taken lightly. True, CU should have won anyway, but MSU is a top 25 IAA team that knows how to win. To me the Purdue game was more shocking. They allowed IAA bottom-feeder Indiana State (0-11 in '05) to score 35 pts and put up 387 yards of offense.
CSU beat thier Div 1AA Opponent. Not only that but they held them to -37 yards rushing, the same run defense that was CSU weekness last year. In addition to that CSU's quartback that blew the game last year is gone replaced by junior stud Henie and overall much of the same team that nearly beat a stronger CU team last year. 24-10 CSU.