A 31-25 decision Saturday marked the second road win for Baylor at Colorado since Hawkins became coach in 2006. Yet it was just the third road win for the Bears since the inception of the Big 12.
Granted, Baylor is better. The victory moved the Bears within one win of bowl eligibility, something they have not managed since 1994, two years before the Big 12 was launched. But Colorado let a winnable game slip through its grasp as a potential game-tying touchdown pass on the last pass fell incomplete in the back of the end zone.
That play left the Buffs (3-3, 0-2 Big 12) with just three touchdowns on six trips into the red zone. And no matter how much Baylor has improved, the loss intensified the heat on Hawkins, a fifth-year coach who was retained despite growing unrest at the end of the last season.
This time the Colorado defense, which had been as dependable as any of the team's units, couldn't keep pace. It allowed a whopping 543 yards, including 309 rushing, as Baylor averaged 8.8 yards per snap. Two 100-yard rushers dented the Buffs, who came in ranked 20th nationally against the rush. Rodney Stewart responded with 125 yards and two touchdowns as Colorado counted on its tiny tailback 30 times.
Hawkins was left to answer for a couple of unconventional two-point conversion attempts, which both failed, including one after the first touchdown of the game.
But then, the loss itself was the crucial blow, especially if Colorado wants to ride momentum as it heads into the Pac-10 next season. One question that continues to linger is whether a coaching change will be needed to deliver that momentum with three wins needed in the last six games to qualify for the postseason.
"You just have to keep playing, and (a bowl bid) is part of your goal," Hawkins said. "No matter what the deal is, you just have to keep playing."
--By generating a 100-yard rushing game for the 11th time in his career, RB Rodney Stewart became the 16th rusher in Colorado history to pass the 2,000-yard mark. With 125 yards in a 31-25 loss against Baylor, Stewart bumped his career total to 2,044 yards and will get a chance as a junior to pad that mark.
--Although Colorado has been inconsistent in the red zone, and managed three touchdowns on six opportunities in the Baylor loss, it remains good at moving the chains on third down. It converted 9 of 15 opportunities against the Bears to push the season conversion rate to 50 percent, which ranks 12th nationally. RB Rodney Stewart is helping in that capacity, rushing for first downs on 13 of his 17 third- or fourth-down attempts.
--Colorado planned to try PK Marcus Kirkwood, yet it threw a pass on the first PAT attempt, which failed. Then, with a field goal in order from 45 yards, it called on struggling PK Aric Goodman, who connected for just the second time in five attempts this season. Goodman eventually booted two fields goals and a PAT. Kirkwood wasn't called upon as the Buffs went on to miss another two-point conversion attempt.
--While the game did not receive as much attention as Texas' visit to Nebraska, the matchup between Colorado and Baylor did have some significance dating to the conference realignment furor. Colorado was the first to leave the Big 12, accepting an invitation from the Pac-10. That conference was reluctant to admit Baylor, a private school, which contributed to the decision influenced heavily by Texas to keep the Big 12 intact with 10 teams. Colorado finished the series with a 9-7 advantage over Baylor.
GAME BALL GOES TO: TE Ryan Deehan -- Although Colorado entered the season hoping to use some new-found speed among the wideouts to create a vertical passing threat, Deehan is becoming a familiar target. Deehan, who is roommates with QB Tyler Hansen, established career highs for receptions (seven) and receiving yards (70). Four of his catches came on the Buffs' final drive as they scrambled to get into scoring position.
KEEP AN EYE ON: SS Jered Bell -- The true freshman started against Colorado as the replacement for SS Anthony Perkins, who suffered a season-ending injury a week earlier at Missouri. Bell led Colorado with eight tackles, but must continue to grow into the position considering Perkins was responsible for many defensive calls and adjustments. Bell became the first true freshman to start for the Buffs this season.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This team is ready to refocus a little more and take it to the next level and take things more seriously. A loss at home is unacceptable. This is our home turf and we have to defend it. We have to start setting the bar higher." -- Colorado LB B.J. Beatty.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Colorado showed more life offensively in a 31-25 loss to Baylor on Oct. 16, and even led by nine points at halftime, but a late drive resulted in no points with the Buffs throwing into the end zone on the last play after reaching the Baylor 19-yard line. The Buffs have a dependable rusher in RB Rodney Stewart, though he lacks a breakaway burst. QB Tyler Hansen made some nice throws against Baylor and showed he was capable of driving the Buffs while relying on WR Scotty McKnight and TE Ryan Deehan. While the offensive performance wasn't perfect, and didn't produce a win, it was something to build on after the Buffs were shut out a week earlier at Missouri.
STILL NEEDS WORK: First off, Baylor QB Robert Griffin is really good. Sadly for the Buffs, everyone was ready to make that concession after Griffin accounted for 371 yards after coming in as the Big 12 total offense leader with a 329-yard average. He rushed for 137 yards on 15 carries and completed 22 of 27 passes for 234 yards. Colorado had no answers and also could not stop RB Jay Finley, who added 143 yards. The 543-yard output for the Bears was disappointing considering it came against a defensive unit that had held its own.
--SS Anthony Perkins was lost for the season after suffering a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the Missouri loss on Oct. 9. He will undergo surgery in the near future.
--RB Brian Lockridge also was lost for the season and must undergo surgery for an ankle injury.