“It’s still hard, it is, but you keep telling yourself, ‘You knew this. You knew it wasn’t going to be easy,” Colorado’s first-year head coach said.
The Buffaloes won the last two Big 12 North division titles, but two title game losses by a combined score of 112-6 plus embarrassing off-field incidents got Gary Barnett fired. Enter Hawkins, a subscriber to ancient Eastern philosophies not to mention the sixth-winningest active coach in the nation after a remarkable run at Boise State.
Buffalo fans expected his “Hawk Love” style to immediately repair their national reputation off the field and their battered psyche on it. Instead, Colorado is 0-3 for the first time since 2000 and just the second time since 1986.
“I knew I was going to be thrown in and gas poured on me and flame-throwers lit,” Hawkins said. “I knew full well what it was about and quite frankly that’s part of the reason I came.”
Formerly the toast of Boise, Idaho, Hawkins now is facing a bigger media market that is thus far unimpressed. Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla wrote Colorado was “setting back offensive strategy 60 years,” but the hotter spotlight isn’t a problem, Hawkins said.
“The truth is the truth,” he said.
Hawkins has even shaken off the assessment of Barnett, who still lives in Boulder and told the Associated Press that, “it’s hard for me to believe that the players that I can no long coach are 0-3.”
“I mean, I’m surprised we’re 0-3, too,” Hawkins said. “I don’t think anybody expected we’d be 0-3, but the reality is we’re working on a lot of things and those things have to get worked out.”
Georgia coach Mark Richt, of course, sees the Buffaloes as a dangerous opponent, cornered and poised to lash out.
“They’re a team that is in transition,” Richt said. “They’re learning a new system. They’re battling for their lives right now.”
Richt is hoping the Buffaloes don’t have their version of Georgia’s 2001 game at Tennessee, a game the Bulldogs won 26-24, validating Richt’s way of doing things.
“We needed some type of defining momentum to help us with the players buying in to what we were doing,” he said. “I’m sure they’re going to have that game where it begins to click for them and they get that first victory, and I just don’t want it to be this week.”
The Buffaloes have shown no outward signs of snapping out of this slump. They aren’t even losing with flair, and flair has been a constant in Hawkins’ previous stops. Colorado is 114th in the nation in scoring (7.7 ppg) and 115th in passing (89 ypg).
Still, the coach’s typically upbeat attitude hasn’t changed, said senior offensive lineman Brian Daniels, a team captain.
“Coach Hawkins is a great coach, and we’ve got a team that is rallying behind him,” Daniels said. “He’s a guy with a lot of energy who knows how to motivate.”
That skill has never been more handy.
Rushing 85th 104.7 ypg
Rushing defense 28th 82.3 ypg allowed
Passing 115th 89.0 ypg
Passing defense 95th 239.7 ypg allowed
Scoring 114th 7.7 ppg
Scoring defense 41st 18 ppg