BOULDER - Saturday's first half belonged to the defense, the second half to the offense. Halftime belonged to Colorado's offensive position coaches and junior receiver Toney Clemons, who acknowledged what his unit hadn't accomplished in the first two quarters then issued a challenge for what must be done in the last two.
"If you don't want to play, don't go back out there," running back Brian Lockridge recalled "T-Clem" advising the offense. "But it wasn't in those exact words, if you know what I mean . . . he called out our offense."
Message sent, message received. The Buffaloes scored all of their points in the second half en route to a 31-13 rout of Hawai'i that improved CU's non-conference record to 2-1 and eradicated some - certainly not all - of the angst from the previous weekend's 52-7 loss at California.
"It was good to see our guys get a little confidence and a little wind underneath their wings," CU coach Dan Hawkins, sporting a bandage on the bridge of his nose, said in one of the bigger understatements of his fifth season.
During pregame actvities, Hawkins' nose and one of his player's helmets met briefly, according to several players. Accident or not, "he was fired up," linebacker B.J. Beatty said, not elaborating.
Whatever the circumstance, Hawkins watched his defense begin the afternoon with a pair of first-half goal-line stands that limited UH's halftime lead to 10-0. The Warriors finished with 337 yards in total offense, but only 100 of it in the second half. They rushed 13 times for seven yards, with the 13 attempts tied for the second fewest against CU in its history (12 by Texas Tech in 2007 are the fewest).
On their second play from scrimmage, the Warriors (1-2) showed what they intended to do, striking for an 80-yard Bryant Moniz to Kealoha Pilares completion. CU corner Jimmy Smith crossed the field to run down Pilares at the Buffs' 3-yard line - and the Warriors went no further than the 2.
After three runs gained nothing, a fumbled snap on fourth down recovered by CU safety Anthony Perkins preserved the goal line stand. Two series later - after CU began the offensive ineptness that would follow it to halftime - UH again had possession at the Buffs' 3-yard line, this time taking advantage of a punt fumbled by Travon Patterson and recovered by Warriors linebacker Po'okela Ahmad.
But this UH possession at the CU 3 was no more effective than the first. After Moniz threw three incompletions, placekicker Scott Enos was wide right on a 20-yard field goal attempt.
The upshot: on seven plays inside the Buffs' 3-yard line, the Warriors gained one yard and missed a chip shot field goal attempt. It was a valiant first quarter by the CU defense, but apparently it was of no inspiration to the offense, which committed three first-quarter penalties and a turnover that finally allowed UH to score.
"The defense was absolutely stellar . . . they played extremely hard the whole day," Hawkins said.
His offense, though, was only good for a half - but it was the half that counted. Inept during a first half that saw them commit three of their nine penalties, fumble a punt, lose a fumble and kill a drive with a ground-hugging shotgun snap, the Buffs shook themselves awake in the second half and scored on their first two series (touchdown runs by Rodney Stewart) and the Warriors' first possession (safety). CU mostly used the no-huddle, taking advantage of the altitude and perhaps UH being road weary at the tail end of a 13-day, roughly 11,000-mile trip.
The Buffs rediscovering their running game was the second half's biggest find. Stewart (22 carries, 106 yards, 2 TDs) and Lockridge (14-109) became the first two CU running backs to go over 100 yards in the same game since Chris Brown (127) and Bobby Purify (174) did it in 2002 against Iowa State.
The Buffs rushed for 183 of their 252 yards - their largest total so far in 2010 - in the second half. But the Warriors entered the game allowing an average of 248 rushing yards in their first two games. So CU figured if it got a push from its offensive line, the ground game could stretch its legs.
"We really wanted to come out, run the ball and show we could run it," guard Ryan Miller said. "That's what we did (in the second half)."
Miller acknowledged a week of post-Cal criticism "was earned. But then we came out and ran the ball. So, I'm sorry, haters."
|SpineOne Player of the Game: Junior tailbacks Rodney Stewart and Brian Lockridge were selected as the SpineOne Players of the Game. Stewart rushed 22 times for 106 yards and two touchdowns while Lockridge recorded 109 yards on 14 carries. It marked the first time CU has had two rushers with 100 yards in a game since 2002.
CU's offensive line "just dominated," Hawkins said. "Our O-line was moving the line of scrimmage. I thought Eric Kiesau (offensive coordinator) did a good job of being patient with it and . . . our O-line did a good job of answering."
Hansen said his O-line "had a fire, a little something extra to them . . . . Mike Iltis playing center, he has some fire and we need that. They were embarrassed last week (at Cal), they wanted to have a good showing."
Running backs coach Darian Hagan had planned on using Stewart and Lockridge in fairly equal amounts, but after Stewart's first-half fumble Lockridge's role increased.
"He got his opportunity and he ran with a fighter's mentality," Hagan said. "I haven't seen him run that hard since he was a freshman against Miami of Ohio."
An opportunity for more carries was all Lockridge said he needed to record his first career 100-yard rushing game. He carried 12 times for 53 yards last season - total.
"He's not afraid to pour it up inside," Hawkins said. "We're going to need all of those guys as the season goes on because it wears on you too much."
In addition to Stewart's pair of short second-half TD runs (4, 2 yards), CU's second-half point spree featured a pair of TD passes from Hansen to Clemons (73 yards) and to Scotty McKnight via Clemons (21 yards). A series after the Hansen-to-Clemons scoring play gave CU 24-13 lead, a Hansen pass intended for Clemons bounded off of Clemons' shoulder pads and caromed to McKnight, who made the catch and ran a couple of steps into the end zone.
"I understand why it happens - it's good Karma," McKnight said. "I treat people so well, I'm such a nice guy it just comes back to you at some point. I'm just a decoy on that play . . . the ball just popped up, I said, 'Thanks, bud,' and caught it and scored."
Hansen finished the game with 200 yards passing (19 of 26) and the two TD tosses. He was not intercepted. Moniz was 27-of-41 for 330 yards and one TD. He was intercepted in the fourth quarter by nickel back Jonathan Hawkins, the fourth player CU has used at the position this season because of injuries.
BUFF BITS: CU is off until Oct. 2, when Georgia of the Southeastern Conference visits Folsom Field . . . . Saturday's paid attendance was 47,840 . . . . CU is using 6-foot-9 offensive tackle Nate Solder and 6-7 Miller on its field goal rush team. Beatty believed it shook up Enos, the UH kicker who missed from short range in the first quarter . . . . In addition to his fumble recovery, Perkins led the Buffs with six tackles (five solo) and was credited with CU's safety . . . . Nickel back Paul Vigo left the game with a lower leg injury and will be out four to six weeks. CU previously lost nickels Parker Orms and Travis Sandersfeld to injuries . . . . Freshman receiver Paul Richardson's two-point conversion reception was the first by a CU true freshman since 2000 (QB Craig Ochs) . . . . Former CU All-America Alfred Williams, who will be inducted into the National Football Foundation College Hall of Fame in December, was honored at halftime.