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The Colorado Buffaloes’ defensive line — which started a freshman, a sophomore and a junior Sunday in the 81st Rocky Mountain Showdown at Folsom Field in Boulder — was dissected by the Colorado State Rams’ rushing tandem of Leonard Mason and John Mosure — who combined for 158 rushing yards — to propel CSU to a 23-17 victory.
The Buffs’ big men, to complicate matters, rarely pressured CSU quarterback Grant Stucker, which allowed the senior quarterback to find open receivers downfield.
Stucker, who made his first career start, was 10-for-17 with 208 yards. He was only sacked twice.
“I think the way we started was very unusual for our defense,” said CU senior linebacker Marcus Burton. “I think, obviously, we didn’t do well. We didn’t do a good job of executing our plays.”
The Rams snapped a seven-game slide at Folsom Field with the win. Prior to Sunday, they hadn’t won in Boulder since 1986. For some, the loss to an in-state rival was painful.
“I think it’s definitely tough,” said Buffs junior quarterback Cody Hawkins. “Any time you lose a season opener, lose to your rivals, especially on your home field, it’s going to sting a little bit.”
Hawkins beat out sophomore Tyler Hansen as the team’s signal caller position because, according to his father and head coach, Dan Hawkins, he was more “efficient.” Dan Hawkins said he never had any plans of inserting Hansen into CU’s offensive scheme.
The younger Hawkins tossed for 222 yards on a 24-for-40 evening. He was intercepted once and sacked four times.
Trailing 17-0 near the end of the second quarter, boos rained down on Cody Hawkins when he overshot an open Patrick Devenney down the right sideline for what most likely would have resulted in a touchdown for the senior tight end.
Two plays later, the junior quarterback was booed even more when he was sacked for a 10-yard loss at CU’s 37-yard line, which appeared to push the Buffs out of field goal range.
“People are always going to boo,” Cody Hawkins said. “You just have to go out there and take care of your assignments. When somebody on the offense messes up, it’s going to be my fault. When somebody on the offense makes a great play, everybody’s going to stand on the table for me.”
Junior kicker Aric Goodman, however, deposited a career-long 54-yard field goal between the uprights to provide CU its first points of the game.
Rams sophomore kicker Ben DeLine booted a 45-yard field goal with five seconds remaining in the first half to hand CSU a 20-3 advantage as both teams headed for the locker rooms.
“You have to go in at the half and think about what kind of adjustments you need to make,” Dan Hawkins said. “I thought we did. I thought we made some good adjustments.”
CU, which produced just 63 yards of total offense on 25 plays in the first half, amassed 188 yards in the second half.
The Buffs came out firing to start the third quarter as Cody Hawkins found junior wide receiver Andre Simmons deep down the middle for a 44-yard completion. On the next play, sophomore tailback Brian Lockridge found the end zone from 9-yards out on a sweep to the right. The four-play, 66-yard scoring drive cut the Rams’ lead to 20-10 with 13:20 remaining in the third.
The Buffs’ defense then held CSU to a three-and-out on its next possession. CU was quickly on the move again, but a pivotal play came when Cody Hawkins connected with junior wide receiver Scotty McKnight for what appeared to be an 18-yard gain to the Rams’ 18-yard line. The play was reviewed, though, and it was ruled McKnight caught and fumbled the ball. It was scooped up by CSU junior linebacker Alex Williams.
“That would’ve been huge for us,” Cody Hawkins said. “We would’ve maintained possession right there, but you definitely can’t fault Scotty at all. Sometimes, that stuff happens. If I would’ve thrown it to him a little bit earlier, it wouldn’t have been such an issue.”
CSU was unable to score on its next three possessions, but neither was CU.
The next points came when DeLine extended the Rams’ lead to 23-10 with an 18-yard field goal with 8:58 remaining in the contest.
Cody Hawkins hooked up with McKnight on a 2-yard touchdown pass with 1:58 to play to seal a 10-play, 57-yard drive and cut the deficit to six.
The Buffs’ onside-kick attempt was recovered by CSU senior Dion Morton to cement the game.
“They always give us a good game,” said CU senior linebacker Jeff Smart of the Rams. “Any team that comes in here, any team that we play is going to play hard, try to win and expect to win. It’s not a shock that they played well.”
The Buffs will next travel to Ohio to do battle with Toledo on Friday, and according to Dan Hawkins, there’s no time to dwell on Sunday’s loss.
“I told our guys beforehand, no matter what happens, even if we’d won the football game, we don’t have any time,” he said. “You have to throw it away and get moving. There’s no time.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Alex K.W. Schultz at Alexander.Schultz@colorado.edu.