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He ran, passed, scrambled, and even leapfrogged a bit.
Yes, Buffaloes fans, there is something to be happy about despite the disappointing start to the 2009 season: Sophomore Tyler Hansen is the quarterback for the Colorado football team and thanks to a 34-30 upset over the 17th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks on Saturday night, it is going to stay that way for the foreseeable future.
I’ll admit I was a bit nervous about this decision. Sometime during last week’s game between the Colorado Buffaloes and the Texas Longhorns, two scary questions occurred: What if junior Cody Hawkins was the best quarterback the Buffs had? What if head coach Dan Hawkins had no choice but to leave his son in the game despite the increasingly loud calls for Hansen to burn his redshirt and step into the starting role? If this was true, then the coach was in a no-win situation. He was being accused of nepotism for refusing to take his son out even though he wasn’t getting the job done, and yet he wouldn’t be able to put Hansen in if he really wasn’t as good as his son.
Saturday’s upset quickly changed that assumption and the Buffaloes found what appears to be a genuine starting quarterback capable of giving fans a reason to go to Folsom Field. Perhaps more importantly was Dan Hawkins’ gamble to burn Hansen’s redshirt midway through the season for the second consecutive year — a choice that may have saved the coach’s job.
Hansen didn’t light up the stat box, but the things he did can’t be put into statistical categories. Numerous times, he was pressured and forced to scramble, leaving Kansas defenders with fistfuls of air and befuddled looks. This was not the offense the Buffaloes showed through their first five games. This offense thrived on Hansen’s ability to make plays when it seemed like there wasn’t a play to be made. I can’t count the amount of times a play started with groans from the crowd only to quickly change to wild cheers as Hansen avoided trouble and made a spectacular play.
Remember this game because it just might be the date CU football turned around the large corner it has been trying to get around since Dan Hawkins came to Boulder. It might be the date that Tyler Hansen wowed 51,146 fans in attendance and became a star.
After he led one of four touchdown drives early in the game, Hansen leapfrogged his counterpart Cody Hawkins on the sidelines. It was both a light-hearted moment for a team that hasn’t had much to be happy about and an ironic, albeit unintentional, metaphor.
I guess here is where I should offer some praise to the widely criticized, younger Hawkins. Since Hansen is a year younger, Cody Hawkins may never play in a game again for the Buffaloes. Certainly Dan Hawkins could put his son back in should Hansen struggle, but that might not happen. In that case, Cody Hawkins’ career here in Boulder could be virtually over. Perhaps it’s because I’m nostalgic, but I find something bittersweet in this notion.
It was Cody Hawkins who the fans originally clamored for in Dan Hawkins’ first year when Bernard Jackson was struggling en route to a 2-10 season. It was Cody Hawkins who led the Buffs to one of the biggest upsets in school history against Oklahoma two seasons ago. And it was Cody Hawkins who never quit on this team during the first five games of a season where results have fallen far short of expectations. It might hit a soft spot for Dan Hawkins as a father, but as a coach, the time had come to bench the kid who fans once thought was going to help save the program from despair.
But it’s Hansen’s team now and it should stay that way. This might mean the coach will have to spend a few nights on the couch, but he might also be able to keep the “for sale” sign out of the front yard for the time being.
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Ryan Callahan at Ryan.email@example.com.