Even with Dan Hawkins gone as Colorado coach, it's both literally and figuratively possible to point out that Hawkins led the Buffaloes to a victory.
Hawkins' son, Cody, still quarterbacks Colorado. And the senior responded to his father's dismissal by throwing for 266 yards and three touchdowns, with no interceptions, as the Buffs throttled Iowa State 34-14 on Nov. 13.
"He's Dan Hawkins' son," said Colorado interim coach Brian Cabral, "but he's a Buff first."
In addition, players were certainly inspired by what transpired earlier in the week. The shakeup, largely in response to negativity swirling around the program after Colorado blew a 28-point fourth-quarter lead Nov. 6 at Kansas, left their former coach watching from the north end zone in the Dal Ward Center.
The win snapped an eight-game conference losing streak for Colorado, as well as a five-game skid this season which had corresponded with Big 12 play. At 4-6 overall and 1-5 in the league, the Buffs are still mathematically alive to become bowl-eligible with a home game remaining against Kansas State before ending the regular season with the Big 12 "Exit Bowl" at Nebraska.
Cabral, a 22-year assistant at Colorado, was serving for the first time in a head coaching capacity as the Buffs' interim coach. He orchestrated the win and helped his cause after acknowledging he wanted to be considered as a permanent replacement.
"I am just so proud," Cabral said. "I am so happy for our players. I am so happy for our coaches. To do what they did, to overcome what they had to overcome, and not just Kansas, but the loss of their head coach. That was pretty impressive."
It was a total team effort. The Colorado defense, after getting shredded in the improbable comeback by Kansas, recorded eight sacks and scored on a 45-yard fumble return by linebacker Michael Sipili. In addition to Hawkins' aerial strikes, running back Rodney Stewart became Colorado's first 1,000-yard rusher since 2004 by gaining 123 yards on a whopping 36 carries.
--The Denver Post reported that former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti has had preliminary discussions with Colorado officials about the Buffaloes' coaching vacancy. Bellotti was in Boulder before Dan Hawkins' firing was finalized, visiting the campus the week after Colorado's Oct. 30 loss at Oklahoma. He spoke with CU officials about the move into the Pac-12 and what was envisioned for the future.
--After news leaked of Hawkins' dismissal as Colorado coach, athletic director Mike Bohn reported an immediate spike in ticket sales, roughly 800, he said, for remaining home games against Iowa State and Kansas State. However, the crowd of 42,722 to watch the 34-14 victory over the Cyclones on Nov. 13 was the smallest at Folsom Field for a Big 12 game.
--Colorado interim coach Brian Cabral freely admitted RB Rodney Stewart was the Buffs' exclusive threat to rush the ball. "In reality, we've just got one back," Cabral said. That was why, after Stewart lost a first-half fumble Iowa State converted into a touchdown, Cabral pulled aside the diminutive junior and engaged in a passionate sideline conversation regarding ball security. "I know he's better than that," Cabral said.
--After achieving a 35-point lead early in the fourth quarter at Kansas, the Buffs attempted just four rushes the remainder of the game and gave the Jayhawks their opportunity to pull off a stunning comeback. Things changed against Iowa State. After building a 10-point halftime margin against Iowa State, QB Cody Hawkins attempted just nine second-half passes. Of his 266 passing yards, 194 came in the first half on 11-for-15 accuracy.
GAME BALL GOES TO: QB Cody Hawkins -- Not only did he manage the game against Iowa State, Hawkins managed his emotions after his father, Dan, was fired as the Colorado coach earlier in the week. Cody Hawkins acknowledged that his dad's absence "hit me when we came out" for pregame warmups, but he quickly regrouped and then completed 16 of 24 passes for 266 yards, with three touchdowns and no interceptions. Hawkins, the all-time CU leader in attempts, touchdowns and interceptions, broke the 7,000-yard barrier for his career and needs 332 yards to break the school record.
KEEP AN EYE ON: KR Arthur Jaffee -- The cornerback returned a kickoff 89 yards in the second quarter, the longest play of the season for the Buffaloes. Colorado came into the game averaging a respectable 21.8 yards per return, though any jolt the Buffs can get on special teams is noteworthy. Colorado ranks fourth in the Big 12 in kickoff returns and third defending kickoffs. The return was the 10th of the season by Jaffee and the only runback logged against ISU. CU has used six different return men on kickoffs.
QUOTE TO NOTE: "This is powerful medicine for this team and we just started. We have only begun. If we want to win another game we have a lot of work to do and these guys have never lacked a work ethic. Never." -- Colorado interim coach Brian Cabral.
STRATEGY AND PERSONNEL
LOOKING GOOD: Credit the Colorado defense for rebounding after finishing with a disastrous meltdown a week earlier in the stunning loss at Kansas. The Buffaloes ended a three-game streak of 100-yard rushing games by Iowa State's Alexander Robinson, and by doing so knew the Cyclones had to resort to throwing the ball. That helped Colorado generate eight sacks. The pressure was so relentless that Iowa State QB Austen Arnaud suffered a season-ending knee injury. The sacks, as well as just 22 yards on nine carries by Robinson, resulted in minus-6 yards rushing for the Cyclones. The 229 total yards allowed by the Buffs was a season low.
STILL NEEDS WORK: Colorado was obviously riding a wave of emotions following the dismissal of coach Dan Hawkins and the inspirational takeover by longtime assistant Brian Cabral. Now comes the tough part, sustaining the momentum gained with the first win in the Big 12. The Buffs figured to be a better team this season with more versatility on offense. They showed some of those dimensions with nice balance against Iowa State, and only one turnover. Maintaining that efficiency and consistency both ways, however, can be challenging when the emotions aren't so high. Cabral fared well in week one, but he must continue to captivate a team that's not accustomed to winning.
--WR Travon Patterson remained out with an ankle sprain he suffered Oct. 30 at Oklahoma.
--No injuries were reported from either of Colorado's last two games, though the Buffs have lost seven players for the season, including two defenders (LB Jon Major and SS Anthony Perkins) who led the team in tackles when they went out.