Father & Son era begins for Buffs
DENVER – This time, the showdown is at sunrise.Or thereabouts.Rivals Colorado and Colorado State open the season Saturday with a novel 10 a.m. kickoff at Invesco Field, which comes a bit early for fans trekking down from Fort Collins or Boulder to tailgate before the Rocky Mountain Showdown or for students accustomed to either wolfing down breakfast or grabbing some extra Z’s at that hour.”Very unusual,” Buffaloes defensive tackle George Hypolite said. “But we did some things with scrimmages, waking up early. (Coach Dan Hawkins) sent out text messages to the team: ‘Try to get up at 5 a.m.’ So, we’re going to try to prepare as best we can for that 10 a.m. start.
“But at the end of the day, we’re football players, they’re football players. I doubt that’s going to affect the game.”Rams coach Sonny Lubick said, “the farm boys would be down at 6:30 a.m. anyway and the big city boys would have to be dragged out of bed for an early game. We won’t change our routine much for this one.”Both schools are hoping for an early jump on changing their fortunes, too.The Rams lost their last seven in 2006 to finish 4-8, and the Buffs kept almost every game close but came out of Dan Hawkins’ inaugural season a dismal 2-10.”It’s kind of like the Monty Python episode where the guy is laying there with no arms and no legs going ‘Come back, you coward!’ That’s me,” a defiant Hawkins said when his rookie campaign came to a close.The Rams sorely missed running back Kyle Bell, who missed all of last season after blowing out a knee during camp. In his absence, the Rams’ bevy of backups rushed for the fewest amount of yards in Lubick’s dozen years at Colorado State 112 yards a game and 3.1 yards a carry.Bell and Lubick are hoping for a return to his 2005 form, when he ran for 1,288 yards and 10 touchdowns.”Strength-wise, I’m right where I was before the injury,” the big (6-2, 232) senior said. “I think I might be even faster than I was just because I focused on it a lot once I was able to get back running.”Lubick’s best teams have always been built around a workhorse running back.”With a good offensive line we could get him 1,500 yards,” Lubick said. “But he’s going to have to have some help. We are going to have to be able to throw the ball so they can’t gang up on him and play eight-man fronts against us. Kyle cannot do it by himself.”The Rams return 20 starters, nine on each side plus two kickers. The Buffaloes are young, with 60 percent of their roster having never played a college game, including quarterback Cody Hawkins, the coach’s son.Cody Hawkins, however, has grown up around college football and probably knows more about the game than any redshirt freshman in the country, suggested Buffs cornerback Terrence Wheatley, a sentiment that Dan Hawkins certainly won’t dispute.”I remember a couple of years ago when I was at Boise (State) and we were at Georgia and we were struggling in the first half, I think he was a (high school) junior and he’s looking at me saying, ‘Man, I wish I could play right now.’ I’m looking at him, going, ‘Huh? Pretty bold statement right there,'” Dan Hawkins recounted. “That was one of the first times I was going, ‘Maybe he has something if he wants to go out there against those guys.'”Cody Hawkins won’t have his top target. Freshman Josh Smith bruised a kidney in a scrimmage Aug. 18 and hasn’t played since.Smith said the physical pain is bearable but “it pains me to be on the sidelines a lot. It really hurts me because I want to play football. I miss the guys. They make me feel part of the family. It’s just that I want to be able to help my team as much as I can, that’s all.”He’s not worried about the Buffs’ youth, either.”What we lack in experience we make up for in enthusiasm,” he said.And that should get the adrenaline going bright and early Saturday.