Farewell Big 12. Goodbye Hawkins and son. Adieu to you too seniors.
A 5-7 season that seemed never-ending is finally over, and with it falls the reign of a number of eras.
Or is it errors?
There was no fairytale ending for those seniors picturing a postseason. No optimism remained that former coach Dan Hawkins could right the ship. And certainly, no one in Boulder wanted the final Big 12 go-around to conclude like this.
CU ended the once promising 2010 campaign with a 45-17 loss to rival Nebraska, who it may never play again as the Buffs and Huskers head in opposite directions to join their new conferences.
After the seventh and final loss, interim head coach Brian Cabral took over and says the month of November wore his players down with exhaustion.
“In all reality, the Buffaloes just ran out of emotional gas,” Cabral said. “It’s been a very emotional three weeks, including this week as well. They put everything into this game and into this week.”
Home wins against Iowa State and Kansas State temporarily kept the Buffs in a daze of bowl dreams after the worst collapse in school history. A trip out of state to Memorial Stadium woke them up with freezing water.
Of course reality had set in long before then. CU’s final trip around the Big 12, a conference it helped establish, was like one of those dreadful family vacations where everything that can go wrong does.
In less than a month, between October and the first week of November, the Buffs lost five straight. All of them were against conference opponents, but one in particular stood out to fans and administration.
It came that first week of November when CU headed to Lawrence, Kansas in a match-up of two teams winless in the Big 12. There need be no reminder of what happened that fateful Saturday, the last game of Hawkins’ five year coaching tenure at Colorado.
A few days later Mike Bohn sent Hawkins on his way, citing an unavoidable stench of pessimism in Boulder.
“Really ending the negativity is what it was all about,” said Bohn, during a press conference after Hawkins’ 16th straight road loss. “The divisiveness and the disenfranchisement of our fan base, and not necessarily just all our fans, but everybody connected to the program.”
A season that began with a 3-1 record basically promised a bowl game to those around the program. When the Buffs edged out SEC power Georgia 29-27 at Folsom, it looked almost certain that Hawkins and his seniors would get their first winning season.
At halftime of that game, the 1990 National Championship team was honored. CU’s most successful head coach Bill McCartney and all-time leading rusher Eric Bienemy were both honored. Now, with a 2-6 collapsing finish by the 2010 team, both figures are being heavily considered for the opening at head coach.
As Cabral put it, “the cupboards are not going to be bare” for whoever the school decides to succeed Hawkins. And succeed he must, as a continuation of the 21-40 record over the past five years would make Ralphie fur a potential Pac-10 doormat.
Tailback Rodney Stewart will most likely return for his senior season, after posting a career-best 1,230 yards rushing. Impressively, his 5-foot-6 frame withheld 290 carries, ranking second nationally.
Coming back with him will be fellow junior Tyler Hansen, who looked impressive in leading the Buffs in total offense before rupturing his spleen against Texas Tech.
That injury gave command back to Cody Hawkins, beginning in the second quarter and finishing out the season. His father’s firing may have spoiled his senior season, but Hawkins looked fresher than ever in his final two home games when he combined for nearly 500 yards and tossed six touchdowns without an interception.
Even though they could not be together on the sidelines, Cody Hawkins was not without his father on senior day when the former coach joined the ceremonial introduction with his son.
For that final time, they walked out onto Folsom Field as they had every game since 2006, when Cody Hawkins redshirted. Some paranoid fans believed the school’s all-time leader in touchdown passes would jump ship after his father was thrown overboard.
But the quarterback finished out his senior season with dignity.
“When I signed my national letter of intent to come play football here, nowhere on the contract did it say I’m going to come play for Dan Hawkins,” Cody Hawkins said. “Yes, that’s a big reason why I came here, because I thought he ran the program the right way, and there’s great people around him, but I wanted to be a part of Colorado.
Fellow seniors Scotty McKnight, Nate Solder (a finalist for the “Academic Heisman”), Jimmy Smith and B.J. Beatty, among others, represented their university with class for four plus years. They may be remembered for only reaching one bowl game, a loss to Alabama in the 2007 Independence Bowl. Or they could be remembered for winning their last two home games, the last two Big 12 games that will be played on Folsom grounds.
Parting with a round 60-60 record in Big 12 conference play, the Buffs look for greener pastures covering their future conference. A schedule is set, a roster returns loaded with talent and anticipation of better times returns to Buff Nation by way of subtraction.
Now the only question that remains: who can turn that developing nation back to its days of dominance?
Contact Sports Writer Michael Krumholtz at email@example.com.