Buffs begin post-Hawkins era

The students at Folsom Field probably won’t have bags over their

heads now. The crowd won’t stand in protest and turn its back on

the coach who did just that when his kicker was attempting a field

goal recently. And maybe there won’t be as many empty seats as the

school feared.

The Dan Hawkins era is over at the University of Colorado.

He was fired this week following the worst collapse in the

program’s 121-year history when the Buffaloes blew a four-touchdown

lead and surrendered 35 points in the final 11 minutes in a

historic 52-45 loss at Kansas.

What began in December 2005 as ”Hawk Love” when he came over

from Boise State as one of the hottest coaches in the country had

turned into ”Hawk Hate” by the end of his five failed seasons in

Boulder, which included a 19-39 record, 17 straight losses outside

the state and a current five-game skid in Colorado’s Big 12

farewell tour.

The Buffaloes (3-6) host Iowa State (5-5, 3-3), which can become

bowl eligible with a win, on Saturday under interim coach Brian

Cabral, who has been on the coaching staff since 1989 after playing

linebacker for the Buffaloes and in the NFL.

Cabral would like a shot at the full-time job, and he’s among

several lower profile candidates who are in the school’s price

range. Athletic director Mike Bohn makes no secret that Colorado

lacks the cash and cachet to go after the really big names in

college football.

Cabral is a defensive mind – he coached the inside linebackers –

so he’s been cramming on offense since taking over head coaching

duties Tuesday.

”This is the first time I’ve ever watched the offense

practice,” he admitted.

And what happens Saturday in crucial situations?

”I’ll confer, I’ll confer,” Cabral said. ”I don’t know all

the answers, I don’t. And I’m going to have to rely and depend on

those coaches.”

Cabral knows exactly what Colorado needs to do on defense: stop

Cyclones running back Alexander Robinson, who has had three good

games against the Buffs.

”The dude is hard to tackle,” Cabral said.

Cabral isn’t used to worrying about the other side of the

ball.

”I’m learning. We had a drill and I’m mad at the defense then,

Oh, I have to go congratulate the offense!” Cabral said. ”I go

run back to the other side of the field and become an offensive

fan.”

Although Cabral wants an interview with Bohn, he’s not going to

publicly lobby for the permanent job. Nor does he see the next

three weeks as an audition necessarily, although beating Iowa

State, Kansas State and Nebraska would certainly augment his resume

and standing in many fans’ eyes.

”No, I’m looking for these seniors to finish on a good note,”

Cabral said. ”I’m looking for us to do what we’re capable of

doing. I believe we’re capable of doing a lot.”

Cabral said he’s not going to juggle the lineup or make any

drastic changes.

That sits well with his players, who are eager to put the week’s

drama and years of negativity behind them and just focus on

football minus the distractions.

At his farewell news conference, Hawkins said he hoped the Buffs

faithful would show up this Saturday and next to support his old

team.

”They have had to learn too much about adversity in their young

lives, so that chapter has been covered pretty well. Hopefully at

some point, they will get the spoils of victory,” Hawkins said.

”But I think these guys are poised to go out and play well and

compete and get after it the next three games, maybe four.

”I hope the Buff nation will show the kids and show the nation

and future recruits and the future coach how much passion there is

here and how much they are behind the program.”

Senior cornerback Jalil Brown said no matter the crowd’s size,

he expects the Buffaloes will rally around each other.

”Everybody is counting us down and out and we feel like we

still have a fighting chance,” Brown said. ”I would not be

surprised to see our best football being played this

Saturday.”

There was some speculation in recent weeks that Buffs

quarterback Cody Hawkins, who was elevated to starter with Tyler

Hansen sidelined, would quit if his father were fired.

No way, said the younger Hawkins, noting he signed on to play

for the Buffs, not just for his father.

”Coach Cabral talks about having a black and gold heart, I

believe that inside my chest that I have one of those,” Cody

Hawkins said. ”Regardless of what the situation is, regardless of

what’s going on outside, I’m going to prepare, I’m going to compete

and be there for my guys.”