POINTED QUESTION (OR QUESTION OF POINTS?): Colorado coach Dan Hawkins chuckled, probably because when he plugged into Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference he just knew this was coming.
Paraphrased, the query went like this: "Can you share your thoughts on why Missouri recently seems to have had your number?"
Here's his number: Mizzou 4, CU 0 during Hawkins' five-year tenure in Boulder. Game 5 is Saturday (5 p.m., MDT, FSN) in Columbia, where 20 years ago this week (Oct. 6, 1990) the Buffs "took the fifth, the victory and got out of town" (that was in the lead of my "Fifth Down" game story for the now-deceased Rocky Mountain News. If I steal from myself it's not plagiarism, is it?)
But Missouri's 4-0 recent edge in the series doesn't come close to detailing the Buffs' misery or the Tigers' dominance in two of the games - 55-10 in Boulder in 2007 and 58-0 in Columbia the next season. That pair of blowouts is bookended by 28-13 and 36-17 Tigers victories in 2006 and 2009, respectively. The venues haven't mattered.
No other way to say it: Under Gary Pinkel, Mizzou's spread offenses, particularly in the passing game, have proved a nightmarish matchup for Hawkins' defenses. The stats tell a very ugly story.
In their four consecutive victories, the Tigers have passed for an even 1,200 yards and 17 touchdowns - an average of 300 yards and 4.25 TDs a game. MU's high air marks came under quarterback Chase Daniel in 2007-08: 429 yards, 5 TDs in '07 and 302 yards, 5 TDs in '08.
But CU hasn't exactly stuffed MU's run game either. Consider: The Buffs played their best run defense against the Tigers in 2006, limiting them to 100 rushing yards and no TDs. But in the three succeeding seasons, to go along with their prodigious passing output, the Tigers ran for 169 yards and two TDs ('07), 189 yards and two TDs ('08) and 184 yards and one TD ('09). Four-game average: 160.5 rushing yards, 1.25 TDs.
MU's four-game total offense average and points per game against CU: 460.5 and 44.3.
Ouch. Did somebody say shredded 'D'?
"They've done a great job," Hawkins conceded Monday. "Scheming, the technical portion of it, they've out-executed us. So (it's) definitely something we're going to have try to improve on."
BIG 12 HONORS BEATTY: Outside linebacker B.J. Beatty was CU's man of the final minutes in Saturday night's 29-27 win against Georgia - and the Big 12 took notice.
Beatty, a senior from Kaaawa, Hawai'i, and Oklahoma State's Ugo Chinasa were recognized as the league's co-defensive players-of-the-week. Beatty stripped the football from Georgia quarterback Aaron Murray at the CU 27-yard line, allowing fellow Buffs linebacker Jon Major to make a win-preserving recovery at the 30 in the final 2 minutes.
It was the first time Beatty has been honored by the league and the first time this season a CU player has been recognized. This week's other honorees were Baylor quarterback Robert Griffin III (offense) and Iowa State's Jeremy Reeves (special teams).
Hawkins called Beatty's play "obviously . . . huge - not just his penetration, but I think him kind of being able to see what was going on. You kind of see him week in, week out, he's just kind of got a non-stop motor and the ability to kind of dissect things and make plays . . . that's great for him that he got the award, he's a high energy guy."
PLEASE DON'T CALM THE STORM: CU students stormed the field after Saturday night's win - an act that some observers have questioned over the past couple of days.
Was storming the field justifiable after defeating a 1-4 opponent? Or does the justification come from reveling in the moment, celebrating a win that appeared to be headed in the other direction?
Hawkins sides with the latter argument.
"I guess there's always some security risks," he said before adding, "To me, it's just sort of become a tradition here a little bit . . . I think our student section is pretty dynamic and a big part of Folsom Field. I think it's become more of a tradition and a fun thing. And I hope it continues . . . .
"You always worry; it doesn't matter if you're at a concert or a game, when you get a whole bunch of bodies pushing up against each other . . . but our student section is pretty vivacious, as you know."
SO WHO NEEDS TO RUN? Given Mizzou's recent passing success against CU, some might think the Tigers don't need a ground game. But they're a decent running team, even minus Derrick Washington, who scored 10 rushing TDs last season and would have been MU's top returnee in the run game.
Washington, a senior captain, was kicked off the team before the season started after being charged with felony sexual assault. In his place, Pinkel has gone to a tailback-by-committee approach, using two true freshmen (Henry Josey, Marcus Murphy), junior De'Vion Moore and sophomore Kendial Lawrence. None of the foursome is averaging more than 53 yards a game (Josey), but collectively they're contributing to MU's 154.0 ground average.
Said Pinkel: "We have two players (Moore, Lawrence) that are experienced . . . Henry Josey and Marcus Murphy are good young players with great speed. Certainly our running game isn't where we want it to be, but we're working to improve and we've adjusted to that loss (Washington)."
Pinkel added that his offensive line has "done pretty good overall; the whole thing is about consistency - play in, play out, quarter in, quarter out. I think that's certainly where it all starts, not only for us in running the football, get hats on hats and sustaining blocks and in protection, which is certainly a big part of what we do. Our offensive linemen have to be very athletic, because we ask so much of them."
BOUNCING BACK FROM BERKELEY: Fortunately, the Buffs have been a different team since being mauled 52-7 at California in Week 2. Since then, they've defeated Hawai'i (31-13) and UGA, putting together what Hawkins considers six decent quarters of football. (For good reason, he's discounting the first half against Hawai'i.)
What's made the difference?
"Momentum, confidence, getting off to a good start and having some positive things go your way early on in the game," Hawkins said. "The great thing I thought with this past game against Georgia was we did come out fast, then they came back, then we were kind of able to regain the momentum . . . .
"So I think that showed a little bit of maturity from our guys. But I think that's a lot of it - getting positive things going early. Our mentality has always been last week has nothing to do with this week. We try to get better, try to get in there on Sunday and be pretty clinical about things and look at what we did well and what we have to improve on, fix those things and keep getting better and move on."
MORE MIZZOU MO(E)MENTUM: The Tigers haven't been short on top-tier receivers over the past several seasons, and the latest in that line appears to be sophomore T.J. Moe. He's third in the Big 12 in receiving yards per game (98.5), having caught 37 of Blaine Gabbert's passes for 394 yards and two TDs.
At 6-foot, 190 pounds, Moe isn't as big as UGA's A.J. Green (6-4, 212), but he might be as athletic. Moe is a former high school quarterback (O'Fallon, Mo.) that Pinkel and his staff briefly considered playing at safety.
"He wanted to go on offense," Pinkel said, "and we knew he could play receiver. It was an adjustment in his first year, being out in space, not being behind center. But he's a heck of an athlete, a smart kid, a student of the game. He's got a lot going for him (and) has been a real plus for us; you kind of anticipated as you saw him potentially he could be like this. I think he can get a lot better, he's only played a third of the season and he's only a sophomore. We expect him to keep improving."
PINKEL'S TAKE ON FIFTH DOWN: Pinkel's tie to the Fifth Down episode is close friend Bob Stull, formerly a fellow assistant at the University of Washington, where Pinkel was offensive coordinator in 1990. Stull was Missouri's head coach from 1989-93 and now is UTEP's athletic director.
Upon hearing about "Fifth Down," Pinkel said he was "mad when they found out they made a mistake that they didn't flip it, you know, turn it around." He said he spoke with Stull "right after the game that evening" and called the episode a "career-changing game. I don't know if he had another one in its place . . . you win a game like that, your whole program changes. That was really a struggle with me.
"We all know in college football that you go on to the next play - it's all over anyway, so you can't go back and change it, although at the time I didn't like that rule either. Anyway, things happen . . . crazy things happen."
If it occurred 20 years later, instant replay would have altered the course of that game and possibly CU's run to its first national championship.
"I would like to think it couldn't (happen again)," Pinkel said. "I would like to think if there was any confusion at all from anybody, they'd be able to stop and with replay now that we have access to every game now, you go back and make sure you get it right. But you hear people around here (at Mizzou) talking about it and everybody has kind of their opinion on what happened.
"Some people knew that it was wrong and other people say with replay (CU) would have never scored the touchdown anyway - that he (QB Charles Johnson) never crossed the line . . . . But it's a strange, strange game in history and unfortunately Bob Stull, a friend of mine, was a part of it and it probably changed their program."
Asked if Stull might have remained at MU if the Tigers had defeated CU, Pinkel said, "I have no idea, but everybody needs - as you're building a program - you need a big win. And that would have been a huge win for them; it just propels your program and also (is) a confidence booster. But it's interesting."
BUFF BITS: CU ranks No. 48 this week in total defense (336.7 yards a game), with that ranking heavily swayed by its run defense (No. 18, 100.7 yards a game). In pass defense, which will be paramount at Mizzou, the Buffs are No. 83 among 120 FBS teams, allowing 236.0 yards a game . . . . MU is No. 24 in passing offense (277.5 yards a game) and No. 32 in total offense (431.5) . . . . The No. 22/24 Tigers' 4-0 record includes wins against Illinois (22-13), McNeese State (50-6), San Diego State (27-24) and Miami (Ohio, 51-13) . . . . Through four games, Gabbert has completed 103 of 151 passes for 1,039 yards and five TDs (three interceptions). His efficiency rating is 133.0 - eighth in the Big 12 and one notch ahead of CU's Tyler Hansen (67-for-105, 716 yards, 5 TDs, 5 INT; 127.3 rating) . . . . Mizzou, Oklahoma State (0-2) and Texas (0-2) are the only Big 12 teams Hawkins' teams haven't beaten . . . . Pinkel said defensive end Aldon Smith won't play Saturday. Smith still is recovering from a broken right leg . . . . Hawkins believes his team's 3-1 non-conference mark can be attributed to "stability on the whole team . . . I think we just have an older team, a deeper, more experienced team. So, I think all that stuff kind of leads to where we are." . . . . Hawkins sounds more jacked up about beginning conference play than beginning CU's final Big 12 season. "I think there's so many games to play, a season to be played," he said. "It always sounds mundane and redundant, but we try to get lined up and put our best foot forward each week and let all that stuff take care of itself . . . . Obviously, we're excited to get going in conference play and we have a tremendous amount of respect for Missouri. So we're looking forward to getting better." . . . . Fox College Sports (Central) will televise the Oct. 16 Baylor-CU game from Folsom Field. The kickoff is set for 5 p.m.