Buffs Have Turned A Corner

Dan Hawkins had a feeling. Even living in Boulder hasn't turned him into a guru or psychic. But, unlike most everyone else outside the CU locker room, Hawkins sincerely believed his Buffs were going to knock off the No. 3 Oklahoma Sooners. What does the win mean? Colorado has officially picked itself up off the mat.

Kevin Eberhart calmly (sure!) booted the football through the uprights from 45 yards out. The clock read 0:00. Eberhart's teammates erupted and streamed onto the field. The crowd — 50,031 strong at Folsom Field — hesitated for the briefest of seconds, almost as if they couldn't believe the Buffs had actually stormed from three scores back in the fourth quarter and won the game.

Then the CU student section flooded onto the turf at Folsom. Colorado had indeed won 27-24.

You can talk about turnovers. CU had two, the Sooners had three. All were significant. But this CU football team went toe-to-toe with Oklahoma — a heretofore undefeated team many thought to be the best in the land.

CU simply outplayed the Sooners: The Buffs slowed OU's explosive offense. OU came in averaging 562 yards, CU held them to just 230.

(OU coach Mike Stoops is a believer. "I knew they had a great defense," he said afterward. "They just really outplayed us.")

The OU defense is bigtime as well, but Colorado eventually had its way. Oklahoma had given up at grand total of 177 yards rushing through four games. The Buffs pounded out 161 in Saturday's win.

This was no fluky win on a bad call or wacky play. Colorado beat Oklahoma. The win is legit.

And the win is hugely significant for a program going through a metamorphosis.

Fourteen times prior, Colorado had lined up and lost to ranked opponents. It had been since 2003. What's more (OK, what every Colorado fan knows is much, much more) is the Buffs had been beaten badly by ranked teams since 2003. It started in the 2005 Big 12 Championship game, when these same Oklahoma Sooners pasted CU 42-3. Losses in big games to Texas, Iowa State and Nebraska followed. For a few years there, it seemed like every time the Buffs faced a quality opponent, they put their worst foot forward.

To be fair, those games came during an era when the team was under the kind of unfair scrutiny they themselves wouldn't wish on their worst enemies. That the Buffs played in the Big 12 title game in 2004 and '05 grows more and more remarkable the further we get away from those seasons.

But now, the days of getting embarrassed 70-3 are over.

Under Dan Hawkins, the Colorado Buffaloes are currently 5-12. But one thing they are not is quitters. This team — its players and coaches — have not given up at any point over the past 20 months.

Their effort and their belief has been rewarded with a victory over one of the country's premiere teams.

Hawkins said after the game he believed all week the team would beat the Sooners. As fans flooded the field and pandemonium broke out behind him, Hawkins was ushered to the north end zone by an FSN broadcaster. The broadcaster asked Hawkins about the win. The coach said: "This is a great football program with great tradition. We've been behind the eight-ball a little bit lately, but the Buffs are coming around."

Sure, CU needs to get back to work Sunday and prepare for a trip to Baylor. Also on the horizon is a road trip to Kansas State (the Wildcats went into Austin and beat No. 7 Texas today, which should prompt a debate: Is the North back?).

But something tells me this Colorado squad will use the reward of beating Oklahoma to fuel themselves even more toward playing well the rest of this season.

Hawkins said the Buffs are coming around. Seems to me they've gotten off the mat and turned a corner.


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