One look at the overall record and there's little reason to be disappointed, or elated, by Colorado's 2-1 start. It's exactly where most predicted the Buffaloes to be before an off week to get ready for an Oct. 2 home game against Georgia.
However, consistency remains an issue. It has throughout the four-plus seasons Dan Hawkins has been at Colorado, though the coach observed some "breakthrough moments" as the Buffs rallied from a 10-point halftime deficit to thump Hawaii 31-13.
"Of the teams that I have been on before, it seems like there is one play that really just tips off the whole deal and gets it going," Hawkins said. "You kind of need some of those breakthrough moments, and we got them."
Unfortunately for Hawkins, this is his fifth season attempting to capitalize on a breakthrough that catapults the Buffs into consistent winners. Throughout the offseason he was right whenever he mentioned the little things that seemed to prevent Colorado from making any strides. A combination of those elements often contributes to defeats under his watch.
The latest predicament for the Buffs is their offensive identity. They went into the season convinced that faster playmakers among the receivers would promote a big-play attack with completions going over the top.
But what they discovered against Hawaii was a potent run game. Two backs, Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge, each enjoyed 100-yard performances running behind an experienced line that looked comfortable opening holes.
Relying on that phase, however, could be risky against Georgia, which ranks 20th nationally against the rush. Still, it was something to build from, and frankly, any threat through the air will be greatly enhanced with a better run game. Assuming, of course, quarterback Tyler Hansen has time to throw and can spot open receivers.
"I think you need about three (running backs) to get yourself through the season," Hawkins said. "You don't want to wear on one guy, and having a few guys available to keep them fresh, who have the talent to carry the ball, is a good thing."
--The Colorado Board of Regents planned to again address legal and financial ramifications related to leaving the Big 12 for the Pac-10. The switch is currently scheduled for 2012, though the regents will discuss making a move in 2011 and consider any help the Pac-10 can offer to defray withdrawal fees imposed by the Big 12, which were estimated between $9 million and $14.5 million for a move in 2012.
--A 20th anniversary celebration of Colorado's 1990 national championship will be observed the weekend of the Oct. 2 game against Georgia. Former coach Bill McCartney, as well as players and members of the staff are expected.
--The Colorado marketing department declared the Georgia game as a "blackout." CU fans are encouraged to wear black as a sign of solidarity as the Buffaloes play host to an SEC program for just the second time in history.
SEASON SUMMARY: Inconsistency has been an issue throughout the early part of the season, but Colorado at least observes an off week with some momentum. After a lackluster offensive showing in a 52-7 loss at California was followed by a scoreless first half against Hawaii, the Buffs came to life and beat the Warriors 31-13. A stout defense, something Colorado possessed much of last season, remains a staple, though that unit is susceptible to fatigue, especially after two turnovers by the offense were converted into touchdown returns by Cal. The offense is still an unknown. Colorado wanted to develop a vertical passing game, yet against Hawaii it showed it could rush the ball with consistent success, producing two 100-yard backs.
LOOKING AHEAD: The desire to always play a loaded schedule may be something Colorado needs to consider, whether Dan Hawkins remains on board as coach or not. The early tests, which conclude this season with a visit from Georgia, are nice for the fans and something Colorado can tout when boasting a strong strength of schedule. But in the end, they offer little help in any postseason quotients and often backfire in terms of injuries suffered and confidence lost. Perhaps this season will be different. Maybe the competitiveness of the early schedule will build the Buffs as they take on the Big 12. So far, however, they look like a marginal team in the North Division.:
QUOTE TO NOTE: "We showed what we can do (against Hawaii). We played to what we and others expect we should be. We've advertised ourselves as having a lot of talent. Now we have to play as advertised." -- Colorado WR Toney Clemons.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
SCOUTING THE OFFENSE: If Colorado can build on a run game that produced two 100-yard rushers, RB Brian Lockridge and RB Rodney Stewart, it could open some opportunities for QB Tyler Hansen. The Buffaloes are confident they have the capability of striking over the top, and also have one of the Big 12's top possession receivers in proven senior Scotty McKnight. An experienced line makes this an attack that could flourish, though a seven-point output over six quarters (against California and the first half of the Hawaii win) raised doubts about the Buffs' productivity. Establishing the run, and avoiding obvious passing situations, could be critical, though Colorado proved its big-play capability with a 73-yard TD strike to WR Toney Clemons against Hawaii.
SCOUTING THE DEFENSE: This unit deserves credit for being well-coached and keeping the Buffaloes in games when the offense struggles. Even against Cal, the Buffs held an edge in total offense over three quarters, thanks primarily to a defense that did its part but was victimized on the scoreboard by two touchdowns the offense gifted. Forced with defending a Hawaii aerial attack, the Buffs never gave up on their gap responsibilities and allowed just seven yards rushing on the second-fewest rushes (13) CU ever defended. Hawaii fell short of its offensive average by 133 yards after generating just 100 yards against the Buffs in the second half.
--DB Paul Vigo became the third nickel back in as many games to suffer an injury. He hurt his lower leg against Hawaii and is expected to miss four to six weeks.
--DB Parker Orms tore a knee ligament in the opener and DB Travis Sandersfeld broke a bone in his leg in the second game after each started at nickel back before Vigo, a redshirt freshman, moved into the spot.
--WR Scotty McKnight has caught a pass in every CU game he's played, running his streak to 40 games (counting postseason) against Hawaii, while also surpassing the 2,000-yard receiving mark for his career.