Frankly, Hawkins seemed about the same as he's been during the spring and fall practices: generally friendly, verbose when talking about philosophical ideas, general and brief when talking about the other team or strategy. Sometimes humorous, sometimes fiery.
While much of the fans and alumni are surely reeling from the embarrassing loss, Hawkins doesn't appear to be. And that's part of the point he kept coming back to during the press conference: Becoming a championship team is about doing things – win, lose or draw – like a championship team does. Taking care of the details, the little things, the day-to-day things, eventually leads to success on the field.
"I'm infatuated with the details," he said. "When you start correcting all those little things, the big things start falling into place."
From studying film of the loss, Hawkins and his staff identified "about 47 things" that weren't done correctly by coaches and players, from communication breakdowns to penalties.
"You just keep making a list and you just keep working at them and getting better," he said.
Losing early is nothing new to Hawkins, it turns out. When he coached a high school team in California, they started out 0-2 one season and ended up winning the city championship. In 2001, Hawkins took over for Dick Koetter at Boise State. The Broncos had won the conference title the season before. Boise State started out 0-2 that year, and people wanted to run him out of town. They ended up 8-4 in 2001, then won the WAC the next four seasons in a row. He also went 5-4 his first season at Willamette and said one of the teams (not at Willamette or BSU) he coached was 1-9.
All that to say, Hawkins isn't panicked.
"The coach and the team are either like heroes or they're goats, they're either geniuses or they're idiots. That's usually how it goes," he said when asked if he was feeling pressure from the outside after the loss to Montana State. "There's no gray area, or in between. But my foundation in this thing has always been it's all about getting better. It's not about who you're playing or what's their mascot or what's their record. It's about getting better and going back to work every week.
"Too many times, I think you either have the euphoria that lingers or the disappointment that lingers. That's not how you get up and get on in life. And that's not how you get up and get on in football. Win, lose or draw, you put it away and you move on.
"When we had it going on at Boise, I guarantee you if we won 56-6 or if we lost, and you came in on Sunday, you wouldn't know what happened in the game on Saturday."
It's not like Hawkins is OK with the loss or with losing in general. In fact, one of his personality traits is that he carries a big dose of impatience around with him. It's kind of the opposite of his live-in-the present take on life. Maybe they serve to balance each other out. Anyway, he preached patience despite his own impatient nature.
"I know everybody wants it to be changed right here right now just like we do, just like the players do, but there are things that transpired that you have to work better at and improve on," Hawkins said. "That's just a process that every relationship or business or football team has to go through."
• Asked if there were going to be any personnel changes at skill positions for Saturday's game with CSU, Hawkins responded, "We're not the NFL. You gotta play the guys that you have. Our guys are battling and they're scrapping. We're dealing with a lot of new faces, a lot of new players, a lot of new schemes. That's not an excuse. But that's the nature of it."
• Hawkins is familiar with the Rams even though he never coached against them while at Boise State, and has respect for Sonny Lubick's program. He and his staff at BSU would occasionally get tape of a CSU game when they had common opponents.
He said, "We've always looked at them as a model type program. They do a very good job of recruiting, of looking at guys who can really play. They do a nice job X's and O's wise in all three phases. They play their guts out, they play hard. They don't beat themselves."
• Since 1998, the CU-CSU game has developed into a heated rivalry. It's usually well played. The past four games have come down to the very end. But Hawkins admitted Tuesday he and the new coaches on his staff probably won't fully understand the significance of the game until they've played it, experienced it. He gets a feel for it from talking to players about the game, but until he goes through it, it won't sink in to the depth he expects it to.
• The staff respects CSU junior quarterback Caleb Hanie. "I think he can run around, I think he's athletic and they use him in really good ways. I think he's a really good player," Hawkins said.
• Hawkins defended his own starting senior quarterback, James Cox. Cox finished the game 8-of-22 for 110 yards, no touchdowns and no interceptions. He was sacked twice, and had a at least two passes dropped. Hawkins said you've got to wonder what would have happened to Cox's game and the game's final outcome if Riar Geer had caught the ball in the end zone, Devin Head hadn't committed a costly holding penalty, Alvin Barnett had caught the long pass and the team was better in pass protection.
At the same time, Cox has lots of room to grow, Hawkins reiterated later.
"I don't look at it as just James," Hawkins said. "Does he have to work on some things? Yeah, he does. He had some errors. But the cumulative effect of the offense (inability to score) wasn't totally on him."
• Speaking of quarterbacks, the team practiced all August with the three quarterbacks not on the field during scrimmages signaling in plays to the on-field quarterback. The plan is to have two quarterbacks – one a decoy and one the real McCoy — signaling in plays during games. You may have noticed Cody Hawkins was the only quarterback giving signals in the MSU game. It wasn't supposed to be that way, Dan Hawkins said.
He used that as an example of one of the many minor things that went wrong that need to be ironed out from here on out. Though he didn't say where the communication broke down exactly, and Hawkins took ultimate responsibility for the gaffe, he said one of the other quarterbacks who was assigned to signal plays from the sidelines failed to understand the task, and so didn't.
Hawkins said it wasn't an issue in the MSU game because it's the first game of the season. However, he's known coaching staffs who have filmed future opponents' signal callers in an effort to learn their signs, and said the Buffs will have two in the future.
• While Internet message boards and radio airwaves have been filled with criticism of the Buffs after the loss, Hawkins said he hasn't faced much of it from fans personally. That's mostly because he hasn't interacted with them.
"We sort of live like Dracula (as coaches). You don't really see Dracula a lot hanging out on the streets," Hawkins said. "I got up this morning at 5 o'clock and I was in here at 5:30. I went home last night at 10:30. I'm not out walking the Pearl Street Mall."
He later said: "I've been through this fire before, and we'll come through it again. The same people that are cussing me right now are going to walk up and pat me on the back and say you're the greatest thing that's ever hit town. And neither one of them will be true."
• Hawkins' own fire was on display when he was speaking to a circle of newspaper sportswriters after the main press luncheon and he gave an example of his perfectionism and demand for attention to detail. A wide receiver approached him recently and asked him for more playing time because he was doing well in practice. The WR (who Hawkins didn't name) said he didn't think he'd dropped that many balls.
Hawkins' voice dropped and he balled his fist.
"I said, ‘Let me just explain something to you. In my scheme of things the great players, they almost never drop the ball. It's not like you're catching most of them," he said. Then he growled and punched the table for emphasis. "You're catching every ball (punch!). Every ball (punch!)"
• There was an IT person in Hawkins' office Tuesday trying to fix his computer. It hasn't worked for two weeks.
• Coaches are still looking for consistency from the punters, including Matt DiLallo and Isaac Garden. They'll likely keep rotating them, with the occasional punt from Mason Crosby, until one finds consistency.
• Former Buff quarterback Kordell Stewart is in town and worked out with several Buffaloes and the strength and conditioning coaches Tuesday. Good thing Coach McCartney wasn't around. Stewart was wearing red shorts and shirt.