A massive offensive line paired with a stable of speedy and slippery running backs spells success for most football teams.
The combination allows coaching staffs to play smash-mouth football and, when defenses start stacking the box, go up top to catch the opposition off-guard.
“I think a quarterback’s best friend is always going to be a good running game,” said Cody Hawkins, the Colorado Buffaloes’ junior quarterback.
CU has the aforementioned blend of size, power, speed and accuracy, but its game plan was sniffed out Sunday as the Buffs fell 23-17 to the Colorado State Rams in the 81st Rocky Mountain Showdown at Folsom Field.
Four CU running backs combined to gain 68 yards on 16 rushing attempts. Ballyhooed recruit Darrell Scott, a sophomore from Ventura, Calif., carried the ball once for a yard.
Hawkins completed 7 of 14 passes for 46 yards in the first half and was intercepted by sophomore defensive back Elijah-Blu Smith. To his credit, the junior finished with 222 yards on a 24-for-40 evening and connected with wide receiver Scotty McKnight for a 2-yard scoring strike late in the game.
Something has to change Friday, though, as CU will travel to Ohio to take on the Toledo Rockets.
When asked Wednesday what his offense will do differently to more efficiently move the ball against UT, Buffs head coach Dan Hawkins said, “You guys [the media] always ask me that like I’m supposed to give that out in the paper.”
Compounding the problem Sunday was CU’s inability to contain the Rams’ offensive attack. CU’s defense surrendered 208 passing yards and 168 rushing yards.
Although UT lost 52-31 Saturday to the Purdue Boilermakers, they demonstrated their ability to eat up yardage and score points.
The Rockets’ pass-heavy offense netted 423 yards as senior quarterback Aaron Opelt was 41-of-67 with three touchdowns. Eight different receivers were involved in the aerial assault.
Opelt’s favorite targets, senior Stephen Williams and true freshman Eric Page, combined for 27 receptions for 313 yards.
“They’re a nightmare for a pass defense,” said CU secondary coach Greg Brown.
Buffs junior cornerback Jimmy Smith, who notched a game-high 10 tackles against the Rams, acknowledged UT’s offensive capabilities.
“We have our hands full,” Smith said. “I think if we go out and play our game and do the things we know we can do, we can get the job done.”
Friday will mark the first-ever meeting between the two schools. CU was originally scheduled to play the Miami (Ohio) Redhawks, but MU asked out of its end of the home-and-home series with the Buffs so it could play Saturday against the Kentucky Wildcats in Cincinnati. The Redhawks lost the game 42-0.
Although UT is a member of the much inferior Mid-American Conference, Dan Hawkins said he is not taking the Rockets lightly.
“I’m concerned about everybody,” Hawkins said. “I’m not sleeping at all.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alex K.W. Schultz at Alexander.Schultz@colorado.edu.