A thick fog, that hid the Flatirons-view for much of the day, gave way during halftime to a bright and spotless sky. Once the sun came out, so did CU’s biggest stars, who rallied to defeat Hawaii 31 – 13 after being shutout at halftime.
Two second-half scores from junior Rodney Stewart and one by junior Toney Clemons, and senior Scotty McKnight, allowed the Buffs to run away with the game.
“We knew what we’re playing like on offense was unacceptable,” McKnight said of the Buffs‘ first-half play. “Our defense was playing great, just like in the past when we’ve been flat. We know we have the potential. If we put two halves together like that you’re talking 50-60 points.”
Three plays into the game and the Buffs already had their backs against the wall, with Hawaii just a few yards away from an abrupt touchdown.
After an 80 yard pass play from Hawaii quarterback Bryant Moniz to receiver Kealoha Pilares, Hawaii landed at the CU three-yard line. On the very next play the Warriors made it inside the one, and it all looked like a repeat from the week before when the Buffs’ were crushed by Cal.
In the next moment, Hawaii’s offense was put on pause. Buff defenders stood the visiting-team up in three consecutive plays. The last of which resulted in a fumble recovered by CU junior safety Anthony Perkins.
It was one of two crucial goal-line stands in the first quarter and both kept the team afloat when the CU offense looked sunk.
“We took it upon ourselves right there to make a statement,” said senior linebacker and Hawaii native B.J. Beatty. “The crowd was behind us and right there we took it upon ourselves, and [decided] this is where we’re going to win the game.”
Decked out in the 1990 replica uniforms, the Buffs looked oh-so old school in their approach. They hit Hawaii by running the ball 52 times for 252 yards. On defense they contained the active Hawaii run game to only seven yards.
Running backs Stewart and junior Brian Lockridge both ascended the 100-yard mark on the ground, making it the first time since 2002 where two Buffs have done so. The offensive line came under heavy criticism after the Cal game, where they allowed six sacks on Hansen and gave little room for their backs to gain only 75 yards.
“We wanted to really come out and run the ball, and show we could run the ball,” said junior guard Ryan Miller. “That’s what we did; we came out and we ran the ball.”
Not only was the run game more successful than it has been all season, but Hansen and his receivers, were more proficient statistically as well. His 73-yard bomb to Clemons made it a 24-13 CU advantage. It is the longest play in the Dan Hawkins Era.
“We practice [the] scramble drill every week,” said quarterback Tyler Hansen. “Scotty was about the same place, but I had Clemons behind him so I choose him to throw the ball to. I think Scotty was kind of mad I didn’t throw to him.”
The Buffs fumbled twice in the first half and put up a so-so 124 yards of total offense in what looked to be a hangover from the previous week’s defeat. Then, after a Stewart touchdown run in the opening drive of the second half, Hawaii got the ball back deep in their own territory.
Moniz dropped the snap, and hopelessly threw the ball to his senior running-back Alex Green in their own end zone. Green was immediately swarmed by CU defenders and taken down for a safety. The score made it 10-9, and the Buffs never stopped rolling from that point on.
“We talked about last week’s game and how we just couldn’t get any momentum going ever, and it became tough,” Coach Hawkins said. “And on this day they definitely showed up, offensively in the second half and defensively the entire game.”
The defense did surrender over 300 yards passing to the Warriors pistol offense, but the fact that Hawaii could only punch it into the goal once came back to haunt them.
“They really just out-toughed us on that,” Moniz said. “We were only two or three yards away. It didn’t bother us, but we were discouraged that we didn’t get any points. In the end, it really hurt us.”
A crowd of 47,840 made themselves heard on both goal-line stands, giving strength to the steady defense. Only giving up 10 points to a dynamic Hawaii passing-game when their own offense is neutralized, shows this defense can hold their own.
“Defensively, we were holding up,” Beatty said. “Our offense came on the second half and you saw what they did.”
Hansen and company piled up 328 yards in that second half when the sun came out. They scored on four of their first five drives during that time and did not turn the ball over once. A week after giving it away four times and not letting the defense get an adequate rest they returned the favor with a monstrous second half.
The previous week was filled with scrutiny of the offense, the linemen and of course the coach. Hawkins said he knows this team has been through their share of messes, but a big win over Hawaii fixes all that. For another week, at least.
“Lord knows we have had our share of adversity,” Hawkins said. “Again to their credit they have never bagged in and they have never quit. They have never doubted and they keep coming back.”
Contact Staff Writer Michael Krumholtz at Michael.firstname.lastname@example.org.