Juniore wide receiver Toney Clemons brings down a touchdown pass from quarterback Cody Hawkins during the 2nd quarter of Saturday's game against the Iowa State Cyclones at Folsom Field. The Buffs won 34-14. (CU Independent/Phil McMichael)
As soon as he stepped foot on Folsom Field, the realization hit Cody Hawkins.
For the first time in his collegiate career, he would play without his father coaching him.
“It hit me a little bit and it was tough,” Hawkins said. “[Offensive Coordinator Eric] Kiesau asked me on the phone, ‘What’s wrong with you?’ I was like, ‘I’m just about to lose it right here.’”
Without former coach Dan Hawkins on the sidelines, the senior quarterback threw CU to its first conference victory. After the program decided to relieve Dan Hawkins earlier this week, his son helped lift the Buffs 34-14 over Iowa State.
The senior finished at 266 yards passing with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Following his second touchdown, a 26-yard lob to Toney Clemons, Cody Hawkins gave a thumbs-up to the balconies on the north side of Folsom.
There sat his father surrounded by family members, far away from the usual crowds of players, assistants and media.
“I didn’t know if he was going to come out,” Cody Hawkins said. “My aunts and uncles were up there, and my mom was up there with my brother and my cousins. It was good to have them out there and know I had their support.”
On Tuesday, the athletic director fired his much-criticized football coach due to a sense of “negativity around the program.”
In place stepped an old coach with a new gig. Associate head coach Brian Cabral has coached at CU for 22 years and was part of Bill McCartney’s staff during the 1990 National Championship run. As a linebackers coach with a defensive mind, Cabral admitted he received a great deal of help on the sidelines.
“I don’t know a thing about offense,” Cabral joked. “I have a lot of help, I’m not doing this by myself. This was a total staff effort.”
For the first time since the string of five conference losses began, the defense marked its territory with dominance. Lead by linebacker Michael Sipili, the front seven punished Iowa State into negative six yards rushing.
That statistic is absolutely credited to the defense’s eight sacks, a season high. Early in the fourth quarter, Patrick Mahnke twisted Cyclones quarterback Austin Arnaud to the ground and forced the football out of his grasp. Sipili recovered and ran 45 yards for a dagger of a touchdown, making it a 34-7 advantage.
“I hear [safety] Ray Polk telling me to pitch it back to him,” Sipili said. “There was no way I was going to pitch it. I knew, I just had it in my mind, I was going to score.”
Last week in Lawrence, Kan. – site of the program’s worst collapse in history – the offense came under criticism from fans and media for running the ball three times when up by 28 points in the fourth quarter.
This week back at home, tailback Rodney Stewart felt the love with 36 carries (a career-high). Stewart now has 1,039 yards running in his junior campaign. The diminutive runner is the first Buff to eclipse 1,000 yards since Maurice Purify in 2004.
“In all reality we’ve got one back so we had to rely on him a lot,” Cabral said of Stewart.
Stewart balanced out and opened the door for Hawkins and his receivers to take over. The Buffs signal-caller threw touchdowns to Clemons, Ryan Deehan and Scotty McKnight. It was the 13th time where Hawkins threw a touchdown to McKnight, the most in school history by any duo.
Hawkins continued relying on emerging target Paul Richardson. A first quarter screen pass that Richardson weaved into a 55-yard gain began the offensive roll. The freshman wide out has tallied 21 catches for 369 yards and four touchdowns in the past four weeks, after being a non-factor in the first six games of the season.
“He’s on his way to becoming a complete football player,” Cody Hawkins said of Richardson. “He’s one of the best athletes we’ve had here in a long time.”
At 4-6, the Buffs clogged the leak just before any of the season’s pipe dreams could burst. If they win the final two games, they will go to a bowl game. If they lose either one (vs. Kansas State or at Nebraska) the seniors’ goals of playing in the post-season will be lost.
As senior Nate Solder said, the constant pessimism is gone from the locker room for the first time in a long time. They have nothing to play for but each other now.
“There’s a lot less negativity and there’s nothing to point it at, there’s just the team,” Solder said. “It’s just us, and that’s how it should be.”
Coach Cabral had only praise for his senior quarterback, who had one of his better games at CU. Immediately after the conclusion of his post-game press conference; Cabral met Cody Hawkins in the hallway.
The senior’s new head coach patted him on the back and murmured encouragements. Cabral repeatedly told reporters how proud he was of his team’s response to a continued negativity.
Cabral said Cody Hawkins answered the many questions coming into a game where his dad was in the stands with a ball cap, not a headset.
“He is Dan Hawkins’ son but he is a Buff first and he is a leader second.”
-McKnight’s 20th touchdown catch places him in a tie for CU’s all-time lead in touchdown receptions with Derek McCoy and Rae Carruth
-Iowa State finished 0-of-10 on situations of 3rd-&-5 or longer
-Iowa State QB Arnaud, a senior, suffered a severe injury to his left knee and is expected to be out for the rest of the season
-The 229 yards by the Cyclones offense was an opponent low for the season
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Michael Krumholtz at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.
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