BOULDER - A tumultuous week in Colorado football has been a week of firsts for Brian Cabral.
Although this is his second time around as CU's interim head coach, this is his first week of game preparation as the guy in charge - not exactly the same as it was in 2004 when he was charged with running spring practice in Gary Barnett's absence. Cabral also is getting acquainted with the offense, its coaches and players for the first time.
This week also has found Cabral speaking before a couple of area Buff Clubs - in Greeley on Thursday, in Denver on Friday. And here's another first: On Friday night for the Buffalo Stampede on Pearl Street, he'll give up his customary role of watching the CU Band from the sideline and join the parade.
"I've never walked with the team (in the Stampede) because I enjoy watching the band so much," Cabral said. "I usually watch at the starting point, walk up the mall after they pass, come back and watch some more. I love the band's energy.
"And I love seeing my guys look into the crowd and see me . . . it always kind of shocked them."
Cabral's "guys" have been the Buffs linebackers - the position he's coached at CU for the past 21 seasons. But on Monday night, when he was named interim head coach, his "guys" suddenly became the entire team.
Saturday's game against Iowa State (11:30 a.m., Fox College Sports) concerns him - not so much in how the Buffs might respond to last week's debilitating loss at Kansas but in how the fans respond to Saturday's weather and a season gone awry.
Speaking to the Coaches Group, an off-shoot of the Northern Colorado Buff Club on Thursday, Cabral said he wants two things to occur Saturday for a team that desperately needs something good to come its way.
"One is a win, that more than anything for them," he said. "And two, is for our seniors to have fan support. These guys are true Buffs. They've cried more, bled more, sweated more than any other players on the team. They deserve a sendoff this week and next week (against Kansas State).
"I don't want anything out of this. I just want them to experience victory and the support of our fans . . . and I want the younger guys to see the support they can expect when we go to the Pac-12 (next season)."
Dan Mills, who heads up the Northern Colorado Buffs, said the Coaches Group is capped at 40 members, but an additional 10 to 12 guests were present, making it the season's most well-attended meeting.
"The enthusiasm was palpable," Mills said. "If anyone knows Brian's history, they know he's emotional. If he doesn't move you, you're a Nebraska fan."
At the gathering in Greeley, Cabral implored fans to show up at Folsom Field despite temperatures expected to be in the upper-30s and a CU season (3-6 overall, 0-5 Big 12) that also has been on the cold side, resulting in Sunday's dismissal of fifth-year coach Dan Hawkins.
"Is that a big request? Yeah, I understand that it is," Cabral said. "But we're not looking back, we're looking forward . . . I'm asking the people that care about CU football to come out, support the team and show they care - much like the way this coaching staff cares about these players."
Cabral said he would make the same plea Friday in Denver and again Friday night at the Buffalo Stampede, which begins at 7 p.m. at the courthouse on Pearl Street.
"I'm asking fans to show up and encourage their friends and family to be a part of this," he said. "The only thing this is about is the players."
At noon Tuesday, Athletic Director Mike Bohn said about 800 tickets for Saturday's game had been sold since Monday night. By Friday morning, that number had increased to about 1,800, with the week's total nearing 2,000. CU's ticket office number is 303-492-8337. Ticket information also is available on CUBuffs.com.
RUNNING LIKE THE WIND: Is Cyclones running back Alexander Robinson looking forward to Saturday? Let him count the ways: 366, 4, 1.
That's 366 rushing yards, four rushing touchdowns and one receiving TD - Robinson's highlight package from his three most recent games against CU.
Since he was a freshman, the 5-foot-9, 191-pound senior has trampled the Buffs. The breakdown: 2007 - 127 yards rushing, 2 TDs (31-28 ISU win); 2008 - 101 rushing yards, 2 TDs (28-24 CU win); 2009 - 138 rushing yards, 20-yard TD pass reception (17-10 ISU win).
Based on his performances from the past three weekends, he'll be in fine form again when he reaches Folsom Field. He's topped 100 yards rushing in each of the Cyclones last three games and has 13 100-yard games for his career, pushing him into the school's elite 3,000-yard career rushing club. His 3,189 yards rank him fourth behind Troy Davis (4,382), Darren Davis (3,763) and Dexter Green (3,437).
In ISU's 31-30 overtime loss last weekend against Nebraska, Robinson sliced through the Big 12 Conference's No. 2 overall defense for 101 rushing yards. Against Kansas the previous week, he ran for 117 yards and a TD against Kansas, and at Texas three weeks ago he rushed for 124 yards and a pair of TDs. ISU won both games (28-16 vs. Kansas, 28-21 vs. Texas).
From watching Robinson for the past three seasons as a defensive position coach (linebackers), Cabral knows what the Buffs defense is up against.
"He's a really good back," Cabral said. "He makes you pay if you don't get him down."
The key to slowing Robinson?
"We just have execute the defense," Cabral said. "They out-executed us last year, no question. That dude is hard to tackle. We've got to be better tackling. That's it. If we execute the defense and fit where we're supposed to fit, and we tackle, we're good. But he's strong, tough . . . maybe it's time to put a stop to that."
AA IS A-OK: Robinson isn't the Cyclones' only offensive weapon. Fifth-year senior quarterback Austen Arnaud is ISU's career leader in completion percentage (.596 percent) and second in passing yards (6,641) and passing TDs (42).
Arnaud (6-3, 224) also has run for 1,293 yards and 15 TDs in his career.
ISU coach Paul Rhoads said he and his staff have been "really happy with his play, especially of late . . . Austen struggled a little earlier in the season, especially in big games. Right now, he's overcome adversity. He threw two interceptions (against Nebraska) and then played some of the best football of his career after that in the fourth quarter and in overtime. We're very pleased with his command and performance in our program."
Despite the two picks against the Cornhuskers, he finished 21-of-32 for 213 yards and three touchdowns. He also ran 13 times for 63 yards and a score.
Cabral acknowledged Arnaud's ability but said what the Cyclones are doing offensively doesn't differ from Rhoads' first season: "It's the same offense we saw last year . . . they're just running it better."
Rhoads said Arnaud and his offense have matured on schedule: "We're heading into our eleventh game and we got some kids playing at their best level right now, and our team as well."
LET'S GO BOWLING: Think things haven't changed a bit in the Big 12? Iowa State (5-5, 3-3) is a win away from bowl eligibility for the second consecutive season, CU (3-6, 0-5) is a longshot to reach the postseason for only the second time in five years.
In Rhoads' first season in Ames, the Cyclones earned a trip to the Insight Bowl with a 6-6 record, then defeated Minnesota 14-13 to finish 7-6. He was the first ISU coach to win seven games in his first season at the school since 1907 and the first Cyclones coach since 1931 to debut as a winner.
ISU is counting on a win Saturday to avoid taking its postseason plans to the final regular-season game - Nov. 20 vs. No. 20 Missouri. The plot was almost identical last season, when the Cyclones defeated the Buffs 17-10 to gain bowl eligibility. CU dropped to 3-7 and out of postseason contention with two games to play.
Saturday's stakes are equally high, but Cabral said whatever drives ISU "doesn't help us get focused; we help us get focused. This situation (coming off an embarrassing loss, a coach's firing) is helping us get focused. Iowa State is a very talented team, no question. We've got our hands full . . .
"But right now, I like the response of this team. We'll see."
COMING ALONG SLOWLY: CU tight end DaVaughn Thornton, a redshirt freshman from Denver East, made his first career reception last weekend at Kansas. It went for a 12-yard TD.
Thornton had played in seven of the eight previous games, but had not been deeply involved in the offense. Offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau attributed that to "getting him to understand his assignments, that's basically it . . . he's got great hands, a great body (6-4, 225). We have to be very, very specific on what he does and in telling him what to do.
"We have some specific things for him. (But) you have to be careful with that because when he goes in, (opposing coaches) say, 'Oh, he's going in because that's the play he knows.' We have to make sure we camouflage it."
Kiesau believes with harder work and more experience, Thornton can become more of a contributor.
BUFF BITS: CU leads the all-time series with ISU 48-15-1, but the Cyclones have won two of the past three meetings. The Buffs are 10-4 vs. the Cyclones in Big 12 play and have won six of seven games at Folsom Field . . . . Iowa State has played this season's toughest schedule, facing teams (including CU and MU) that have posted a combined 55-29 record . . . . Cyclones linebackers Jake Knott and A.J. Klein, both sophomores, rank second and third in the Big 12 in tackles per game. Knott averages 10.3, Klein 9.9. Said Rhoads: "We started the season very, very young and (had) inexperience to go along with that. I talked about the improvement these guys would need to make (weekly) if they were going to develop - and they've done that. Our two true sophomore linebackers are playing well." . . . . ISU placement specialist Grant Mahoney hit a career-long 57-yard field goal last week against Nebraska. It was one yard shy of the longest field in school history . . . . The coaching change isn't likely to affect CU's placekicking status. "I've got to trust coach (Kent) Riddle for special teams, for kickers," Cabral said. "We've had conversations. I just want to know what his thinking is." Senior Aric Goodman hit a 38-yard attempt at Kansas, making him 6-for-10 this season.