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Woelk: Huskers show how far Buffs have to go

Now they know.

If the Colorado Buffaloes had any doubt as to what they have to do to measure up against the best in the Big 12 North, they found out Friday.

Quite simply, Nebraska outplayed and outcoached the Buffs.

No question — none.

The Huskers had better players and were better prepared. The Buffaloes committed more penalties, made more mistakes at key moments and were caught completely unaware by NU coach Bill Callahan's bag of trick plays.

The message?

The Huskers are once again the standard by which the Big 12 North will be measured. For the first time since 2003, a North champ ran the table against division foes, and for the first time since 2003, the North champ should be at least competitive in the Big 12 Championship game.

Guaranteed, there will be no 70-3 score next week in Kansas City, Mo.

The good news this morning — even for Colorado fans — is that the overall balance of power in the conference appears to be shifting ever so subtly back toward the middle.

Texas has returned to earth after its terrific run to a national title a year ago. Oklahoma, which can win the South title today with a win over Oklahoma State, is good, but nowhere near the caliber of last season's Longhorns.

Meanwhile, Nebraska has

obviously improved and Kansas State appears to be on the upswing.

The bad news — at least for Colorado fans — is that the power shift doesn't include the Buffaloes.

Friday's loss at Nebraska was Colorado's 10th of the season. First-year coach Dan Hawkins now joins Chuck Fairbanks and Bill McCartney as the only CU coaches to lose 10 games in a season.

That's what you call divergent company.

Certainly, CU had plenty of chances to keep Friday's score closer than the 37-14 final.

And, while CU fans this morning may have a legitimate beef with Friday's officials — even the television commentators were openly questioning the decisions of Jon Bible's crew — fact is, the officiating didn't make the difference.

That task was taken care of by Callahan and the players he has recruited over his three seasons in Lincoln.

The Huskers had the edge on defense, particularly up front. NU's defensive line dominated the Buffs' offensive line — something that became painfully apparent when the Huskers recorded a third-quarter safety that turned momentum in NU's favor for good. (Memo to Hawk: quarterback sneak?)

Offensively, the Huskers pounded Colorado into submission. CU's defense did come up with some big turnovers, but as the game wore on, CU's defense wore down.

But the biggest difference came on special teams — an area in which coaching makes all the difference.

Callahan's daring call for a fake field goal that resulted in a touchdown is the kind of call that is supposed to be a Hawk specialty. The game-clinching safety was set up by a perfectly executed pooch kick. Then, as if to make a point, Callahan faked a punt for a first down.

CU was prepared for none of the above.

Hawk was a sitting duck.

But this morning, worrying about the particulars of Friday's game is a futile exercise.

What's far more relevant is the future.

Today begins Year II of the Hawkins Era. With no bowl game, CU's coach and his staff can concentrate fully on their next recruiting class — the first that will truly be Hawkins' own.

The importance of the next class can't be overstated.

Then comes a frank piece-by-piece analysis of the season. If Hawk is true to himself, he'll first take note of his mistakes, then take the necessary steps to ensure they aren't repeated.

Another important piece of that analysis? An honest evaluation of his staff. The guess here is there will be at least one change — probably on the defensive side — before spring ball.

And, we wouldn't be surprised to see Hawk become more involved with the offense. While we don't have any special beef with Mark Helfrich's game planning, there are some areas of detail that need to be shored up.

Our bet is that Hawk will dive into those areas.

No doubt, 2-10 is not the season anyone expected. Disappointing is not a strong enough description.

But it is by no means reason to panic.

What we know this morning is that the Buffs are now playing catch-up. The program that changed direction three years ago is now the clear leader in an improving Big 12 North.

The Big Red machine is up and running smoothly again.

That's the challenge Hawk faces — and there's still no doubt in my mind he is the guy to close that gap. While it's difficult to see through the rubble of the season, a strong foundation is being put in place.

It's the first step to closing the gap.

Friday simply showed us how big that gap has become.

Comments

Posted by ATLBuff on November 25, 2006 at 7:09 a.m. (Suggest removal)

It may take some time, but things will get better. On offense, we'll have several legit options at QB. This will allow CU to have a more balanced offense and give the coaches an opportunity to open up the play book more. Our OL should get better with younger players having more experience under their belt and an in-coming recruiting class that should be among the top 5 at OL. Those players may take some time to adjust to the college game, but when they do it'll give our QB more time to make smart decisions and should create the lanes for our RBs. Our running game will continue to have Charles next season, plus we'll add a couple of guys like P.T. Gates who should be fun to watch. At WR we still need to recruit badly, but we still have a shot with Boyles, Simas, Richmond, Celestine, Baker and a couple of lower ranked guys with potential. Celestine visits this weekend and I think we have a strong shot at landing his services once he visits Auburn.

On defense, we lose Washington, but retain Dizon. I think, especially under the capable tutelage of Cabral, we should be ok at LB. Our secondary has given up too many points all season. I was in the corner of the endzone at the UGA game when we lost that game on a pass in the final minute. Our secondary broke down all season and yesterday was no exception. Hopefully the 5 DBs we have coming in will make a difference. Giving up big passing plays has been a hallmark at CU for the past few seasons and needs to be addressed pronto. Our recruits seem to have the size and speed to get the job done. At DE, we'll add Obi and Shields(?). These guys should be good, but it may take some time. It won't be easy to replace Boy-Doee or Wright. Landing JC transfer Hudgins might help fill the void for the next couple of years and wouldn't count against our 25 player cap.

I'm not sure how our defense will look next season, but I suspect our offense will be completely different. This season has been a monumental disappointment, but things can and will get better. Go Buffs! Recruit! Recruit! Recruit!

Posted by ATLBuff on November 25, 2006 at 7:20 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Not to jump too far ahead, but the 2008 recruiting class has some interesting players. We've already offered a scholarship to NM hs junior QB Landry Jones. Another hs junior QB, Sean Renfree from AZ, took an unofficial visit to CU for the Iowa State game.

For folks in the Denver metro area, and Broncos fans in general, the most intriguing '08 prospect may be hs junior, QB Jack Elway. Jack plays for Creek HS and is the son of former Broncos' QB John Elway. I have no idea whether he is any good, but he certainly comes from good stock. I also don't have a clue how realistic CU's chances of landing him will be. His dad went to Stanford, so they may be an early favorite.

We've already offered two players that I'm aware of for 2008, but no sense in looking too far forward when the 2007 class isn't closed out and there are still players on the board who will be important to CU's success. Go Buffs!

Posted by buffalotom on November 25, 2006 at 8:05 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Woelk also implies coaching changes. It is a bit hard to judge a staff based on a first-year performance. Woelk specifically mentions coaching changes on the defensive side. The defensive coaches are: Bandison -line; Cabral - linebackers; Brown - secondary; Collins - coordinator. The defense has been the best unit of the team. The weakest unit is the secondary but Brown is highly regarded. The linebackers have been a bright spot, Cabral also is highly respected. Bandison's d-line has been a pleasant surprise against the run but has not generated much pass pressure - aside from Wright. I have no sense of how Collins has performed but i have no complaint with the overall defensive scheme, per se (even though I was sad to Hank move on). So, who is fired or reassigned from that group?
From the perspective of a fan without access to inside scoop, what staff changes seem warranted? How is it possible to differentiate coaching performance from [a low] talent level, suitability of current players to the new system, and the difficulty of making a transition to new schemes, culture, etc?
If anyone has visibility into this situation, please share. That includes you, too, Mr. Woelk.

Posted by T1 on November 25, 2006 at 8:38 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Well, I'm back. Job assignment had me posted overseas for several months and when they closed the message boards and re-formatted the site I was unable to post but things seem to be ship shape and bristol fashion again. As for my Buffaloes... I'm still digesting the season. My gut reaction is obviously deep dissatisfaction with the direction of the team. That said it's still just one year. The program is not "finished" anymore than Nebraska is "back" based on one year. Success or failure in college football is based on cumulative results over a number of seasons. If CU has another campaign like this one next year it will be cause for serious alarm. What can we do but wait and trust/hope. Likewise if the Huskers win the Big XII title this year and beat some quality teams next year I'll cheerfully give them their due as being "back". I have no problem with their success. They're like the Yankees. We all loathe them but we all want to be them too. That's sports. That's life. Anyway, I want to salute all the true Buffaloes fans who supported the team this year and especially commend ATLBuff for all the diligence in providing recruiting updates, views and constructive criticism all year long. That kind of dedication is positively Nebraskian and I say that as the highest kind of compliment because we know that there are few Buffs fans that can match the energy and enthusiasm the Huskers fans typically show. I won't touch the old joke about their not having anything else to do because I would be exactly the same way. My dedication to the Buffs is almost religious. Isn't that frightening? Ha. Cheers.

Posted by ATLBuff on November 25, 2006 at 9:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

buffalotom, good post on the defensive coaches. I agree the defense has been the better of the two, but we did have some break downs towards the end of the season. Of course if the offense could have given the defense a chance to catch their breath, things might have been different. I think our secondary has not been good this year. Then again, I've felt that way for a few years now. So much of college football is about mis-matches. Will Chappelle Brown, at 5-7, become a great CB? I'm skeptical. The modus operandi has been, let opponents catch the ball and then tackle them. That needs to change. Yesterday, I was furious to see NU run the ball into the endzone after their RB broke about 6 tackles and our guy in the endzone seemed to wait until the ball had crossed the plane to accelerate after the guy. If we must have coaching changes, and I'm not sure yet whether they're necessary, Kent Riddle should be concerned because Special Teams has been consistently awful all year long. Then again, his numbers at BSU were solid and he has history with Hawkins that will probably give him a reprieve.

T1, thanks for the kind words. Truth is, I don't know half of what some of the guys on Rivals do about CU football. Check out their message board some time to really get informed. That guy I've posted about, Celestine, 3 star WR from LA, is on campus this weekend. I think we've got a really good shot with him and he could help us out big time at 6-0/185/4.4/32 inch vertical. Then again, I thought our current crop of WRs had a couple play makers in the bunch and that certainly hasn't been the case this year. Celestine doesn't have a visit scheduled to Auburn, so hopefully he'll commit shortly after visiting Boulder. Auburn, AL is a one stop light, trailerpark community with a run down K-Mart centrally located in the middle of nowhere. They have a decent football team, poor university, and not much else. Celestine seems like a solid kid with a 3.0 gpa. I suspect Boulder will be a good fit for him.

Posted by ATLBuff on November 25, 2006 at 10:01 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Our season is over, so time for more...recruiting. Here are the things we can look for over the next few weeks, with the caveat that predicting what will happen is impossible to accomplish with any precision...

3 star RB Ryan McCants could announce at any time. We're in the running, but far from a sure thing. 4 star WR Boyles and 4 star LB Apaiata travel to Arizona this weekend. We should have a better sense of where we stand with each player after this visit. Apaiata has given a soft verbal to CU, but it appears to not mean much at this point. 4 star JC DE Drew Hudgins visits UConn this weekend. He has already been to Boulder (we're recruiting him hard) and lists UConn and Miami as his favorites. I'll be watching to see his reaction to visiting this basketball school. He has already been to NC State. 3 star WR Celestine visits CU on 11/26. Weird timing. It'll be interesting to learn his reaction. Drew Hudgins visits Miami on 12/1. Will Coker's dismissal dissuade him from going to Thug U? 3 star OG Cunningham travels to Washington 12/1. He has listed CU and Washington as his high interest schools. He is a huge, strong player who would be a nice addition. Will his trip to UW sway his decision?

Further out, 4 star WR Simas travels to Washington State for his final official on 12/8. Simas has said CU currently leads and Washington State is listed as a low interest. I suspect he'll decide by mid-December. I'm optimistic he could become one of our leading receivers. 3 star RB Griffin visits CU on 12/8. What will be his impressions? 2 star CB Chaz Cervino, a fast kid who we seem to like as a WR, also visits on 12/8 along with 4 star JC WR Richmond. What will be their thoughts on CU and Boulder post-visit? 12/15, 2 star LB, Ramos visits CU. I'm not sure, but we may like him as a WR too.

When will 3 star OG Tello firm up his soft verbal? It could come at any time. Jess Beets, 3 star JC OL from Saddleback, recently got a CU offer to go with his Kentucky offer. He visited CU a while back and his two teammates, Nelson and Gates, have already given verbals to CU. He could announce at anytime. The junior college signing day is 12/20. Look for us to take up to 6 guys at that time. We currently have two JCs in Nelson and Gates. The only other prospects that look possible right now are 3 star OL Beets, 4 star WR Richmond, and 4 star DE Hudgins. Beets seems like the most likely of the three, with the other two going either way.

Posted by DallasBuff on November 25, 2006 at 3:49 p.m. (Suggest removal)

ATLBuff....keep the posts coming. You appear to be the consummate fan....I have said what I am about to say many times over the past couple of years. The Buffs need to tap into the vast alumni network for funds, networking with future recruits, and to build a following that we all can be proud of. I emailed Mike Bohn several times on this subject, and he has expressed that this is precisely his plan. I suggested that he use the University of Texas as a blueprint. Fifteen years ago, UT was in a similar position that CU is in today...facilities in need of upgrading, and a sports program (particularly football and basketball) looking for a shot in the arm. Their AD tapped into the vast alumni...and we know the rest.

Bohn needs to do the same for us. I believe he is on his way, but the time is now.

Go Buffs!

Posted by Covercorner on November 25, 2006 at 5:57 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Its a sad state of affairs when Dr. Tom calls is dead on. Callahan took Hawkins to school yesterday. I'm happy with Hawks recruiting but thats about it. I am still waiting for him to coach a complete game against a good team and our road performances got worse as the season progressed. Finally, I really wanted to see Hawk take the ear of one of the officials. Every time I saw him he was just clapping his hands like he just wanted the game to end. At least let the officials have it and show some fire. I still prefer him to Barnett but that won't last if we don't start winning next season.

Posted by DallasBuff on November 25, 2006 at 6:48 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Hawkins does need to get into the game....show some fire. Was he lacking in animation at Boise State? He should have been all over the refs on several occasions (Wright's sack that was called a facemask, Williams "dropped" pass on the sideline, etc).

And, he should have suggested to Helfrich to run a QB sneak at the 1-yd line. Anyone could see what was coming, and that play ruined any chances that CU had left to stay in the game.

Posted by Kiki on November 25, 2006 at 9:59 p.m. (Suggest removal)

46-17-2 IS NOT A RIVALRY.

Posted by ATLBuff on November 26, 2006 at 12:06 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Covercorner, Dr. Tom is an idiot who predicted a 66-3 route. That was absurd. CU was in the game until the 4th quarter despite some awful calls (facemask, pass interference and incomplete pass).

I agree we need to start winning next season, but let's not be unrealistic too. I think it is reasonable to expect us to win 6 games and go to a crummy bowl next season. The year after that, we can expect a little more. The North is still weak so it may not take as long to get back into things. Nebraska and KSU are both improved though.

I'd like to see some more fire from Hawkins too. At times he has looked like he wanted to vomit. At least I know he appears to understand what I'm feeling.

DallasBuff, I was pissed about the safety too and think it broke our back. That said, it wasn't an entirely unconventional call either.

Kiki, both ABC's announcers and Callahan himself have called it a rivalry. NU fans constantly posting on our boards suggest it is a rivalry too. But honestly, I don't care what you call it, just go away. Bye, bye! Husker fans can now revert to their natural states. Go back to your crops and emerge from your holes in a year's time with the pithy posts and witty retorts. Until then, have your fellow Big Red fans work on their literacy, their spelling and their grammar. Oh and maybe their basic math too. I love the guy who posted that CU would only score 12 points, with Crosby hitting 3/4ths of his 4 field goal attempts. Some of you corn heads are probably still scratching your bug infested heads, so let me help you out...that equals 9 points. You guys are loyal college football fans and I'll give you credit for that, if not much else. Thanks for the laughs. Know that they were, more often than not, at your expense.

Posted by hckfrmstcks on November 26, 2006 at 6:55 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Hey ATLbuff! Yer abslootley krect, us skers aint got no lrnin. Were so dum I thinkt dat you Coleradoians mite be shy about funnin about are lack of telligents fer a chaing. Butt we wuz wrong......I gess we is reelly stoopid fer even thinkin. Is it them high mowntins that make you so much smarter than us or jest cuz we aint livin' wair you do. Or is it cuz yer em bair assed you aint got no big red "N" (meens nol..uh...how much ya no, course)on yer helmets to brag about all the akademik all-merikans. Mebe we dum jest cuz we proud of how are boys done did over the years, like win yer boys wuz doin good. I bet you wuz proud win yer boys wuz doin gooder than us, that one time. I no whut ya meen about pour fishiatin two. The time you was gooder than us I thinkt win yer punt catcher guy that ranned close to yer gole, he wuz helped by a cupple fishels with out i site, cuz two of yer gooder players hit our boys in the back rite in frnt of everone, but mebe my TV wuz jest fuzzin up.(not nough tin foil fer gooder resepshion) Anyway hope yer teem gets gooder again cuz I no how it hrts to wannna feel gooder. Speshially win Im so dum.

Posted by extrapoint on November 26, 2006 at 7:35 a.m. (Suggest removal)

To Hawkins credit, he has been recruiting well for the O line. His motivation is obvious.....Cody. I hope this kid is the real thing. Otherwise we are stuck absorbing red razzing for the next 3 years, or until we get a new coach. The lure of starting early has not been enough to convince choice WR recruits as they can smell the uncertainty in the QB situation as well.

Posted by ATLBuff on November 26, 2006 at 8:44 a.m. (Suggest removal)

hckfrmstcks, obviously you're joking. Too bad some of your fellow fans haven't been. Some of the posts by Husker fans, on this CU board, have been so bad, deciphering their meaning has been a challenge. At times, the writing, twisted logic and mathematical shortcomings have been downright pathetic. Of course, despite your choice of teams, not all Nebraska fans are absolute morons. That said, a disproportionate number of slow learners from The Tree Planters' State seem to have posted on this site this year.

Extrapoint, recruiting big uglies is important no matter who the QB is next season. I wouldn't assume it will be Hawkins. It could just as easily be Nick Nelson. Jackson will even have a shot at the starting job, though it should be a long shot. The best WRs we're recruiting have other options, so they'll likely take longer to make up their minds. Don't count CU out though because we're still in the hunt for some big time talent. I like our chances with Simas and Celestine. Celestine is super fast too.

Posted by hckfrmstcks on November 26, 2006 at 12:42 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Yes, I was joking and am so sorry for the goonballs that don't have a life outside of NU sports (football in particular) Just be careful not to seem as narrow when responding or better yet, why respond at all. They seem to do an adequate job of degrading themselves. I have been a Husker from birth and have lived and died Big Red for 45 years. I must admit, it's not the same for me and am embarrassed to admit I was such and idiot as you have mentioned. Too bad the media hype gets us caught up in the lunacy. Honestly though it's healthy to have loyalty, just so it's not blind.

Posted by ColoradoPaul on November 26, 2006 at 12:55 p.m. (Suggest removal)

Woelk is wrong. The defense is all that was good about the Buffs this year. They kept us in the game against Georgia early on and throughout the season were strong but got weaker because of the field time. The offense was/is the problem. This isn't the WAC, Helfrich wanted to make the Buffs something they weren't built to be, a passing team. That doesn't mean they cannot end up that way, but the lack of coaching savy not to recognize and utilize their talent is a huge concern. Their reluctance to use Bernard Jackson's strength and allow the running game to work bordered on arrogant stubborness.

I really don't like that Hawkins kid is on the team. Having raised two myself, I know where my loyalties lie, and Hawkins will be a liar if he admits any less. The QB is the heart of the team, he can elevate or degrade the performance of everyone on the team, offense or defense, prime example, the Broncos. It would be a shame if there isn't really a fair assessment at that position, especially with the highly regarded QB out of Saddleback CC transferring in and Jackson with a year of hard earned experience.

If any one issue will ultimately define the Hawkins tenure it will be his decisions surrounding the offense and Cody. To tell you the truth folks, I don't like the vibe I am already getting.

Posted by extrapoint on November 26, 2006 at 5:34 p.m. (Suggest removal)

We might get a WR or 2. Washington and the other NW schools can only sign so many.
ColoradoPaul does have a point. After the first game, I joked about Hawkins hiring Switzer as an assistant to teach the wishbone and starting Jackson for the next game. I was only partially prophetic.
I think football needs a new look anyway. Take a page from rugby and do more laterals, hook and ladders etc.
BTW I wonder if Dr, Tom will leave us alone now that our season is over. I doubt it, because I do not think he lives in Nebraska at all. I think he was a CU fan (bandwagon variety)who had some crush or connection on Barnett and turned against us out of spite when he was fired.
BTW isnt Omaha indian for "stimulation?"

Posted by ATLBuff on November 27, 2006 at 7:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

Dr.Tom, you're either not honest or delusional when you dismiss that game as a "butt kicking." Did you even watch the game? Despite a few lousy calls, CU, with less talent and a new coaching staff, hung in their with ranked Nebraska for three solid quarters. It wasn't until the fourth quarter that our backs were broken. That game was nothing like the dominance you promised. 66-3 was always absurd. Take away the bogus face mask call on Dizon or the bs out of bounds reception call against CU and the game might have been different. Yes Nebraska beat a 2-9 team. Big surprise. Good to see you're every bit as obnoxious after a win as you were before it. Say what you like, but be honest with yourself. Now please, either go away or return as your alternative persona "buffwinkle."

Coloradopaul, I'm not so sure running the ball would have done much better this season. Early on our RBs struggled to find their footing and our OL didn't block for them as would have been necessary to establish a dominant ground game. Next year should be better.

As for Cody, I don't think he'll be the automatic starter. I think it will be open with him and Nelson competing for the starting job. Jackson will be in the mix, but he'll be a long shot to retain the job. I expect Jackson to be second or third on the depth charts with a few packages designed solely for him and his ability to scramble. I wouldn't be surprised to see him in some trick plays, working as a receiver, or handling the occasional punt return. The guy is too athletic to keep off the field entirely. Ballinger will probably red shirt next season. If Cody is the best QB, he'll play. If not, he probably won't. Go Buffs!

Posted by Pogo20 on November 27, 2006 at 8:02 a.m. (Suggest removal)

ATLBuff, why do you feel the need to trash other institutions? Yes, CU is a good school. So is Nebraska. And yes, Auburn is a good school, as well, with its engineering and business schools ranking among the very best in the US. It also is one of the very few Land-, Sea-, and Space-grant institutions in the US. Depending on what one wishes to study, Auburn can, in a number of instances, be a superior choice to the University of Colorado at Boulder. And a cheaper one for many students.

And the city of Auburn, Alabama, is a very nice, thriving mid-sized town. The crime rates for the university cities also may be important for some folks in their decision about where to attend. For example, in 2004, the number of rapes per 100k population in Boulder was 37.2 versus 14.4 for Auburn (the national average was 32.2). Robbery in Boulder was 42.5 versus 28.7 in Auburn. Larceny theft was 3240.6 in Boulder versus 1236.2 in Auburn (national average was 2365.9). Boulder and the University of Colorado are hardly the acme of all that is good for humanity, my friend.

Posted by bcs3 on November 27, 2006 at 8:37 a.m. (Suggest removal)

I thought CU played much better than I expected for three quarters of the game.

I also think there are several things to keep in mind 1.) We have a QB who hasn't played the position in three years. 2.) Hawkins had to dummy down the playbook to be more like a high school playbook than a big time college playbook 3.) we have walk-ons at wide receiver 4.) we haven't recruited well in about three years and it’s really showing up now.

All that being said - I disagree w/ Woelk about changes in the Buffs defensive coaching staff. I think that's a bit rash and the "D" has been the lone bright spot this year.

Kudos to B-Jack. What a great effort all season under very difficult conditions. He may not get the nod next year but he has to be given credit for doing everything in his power to fill the roll this year.

Thadius Washington was un-real Saturday. That kid came to hit. But I think he got burned on pass coverage a couple of times too.

Hawkins got out coached Saturday. But now his real test begins. How well can he recruit and can CU begin to turn the corner? This year you can blame on coaching changes and horrid recruit by Barnett. But next year it’s all Hawkins.

Posted by gkups on November 27, 2006 at 12:35 p.m. (Suggest removal)

hi, how about about a new c.u. broadcaster instead of motor-mouth! retire the other, and put klatt! he's great! i didn't like him as a quarter-back but he's going to make it big at the mike. is brown going to make it in the secondary! put jackson back on defense. ellis has a niece style of running. with-out the drinking at the game people are caring, wishing, and hoping, the team to succeed!....go-buffs!

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