Buffs Unleash Latest Member of QB-Happy Big 12

Freshman Buffalo QB snaps 3-game skid

Did the Colorado Buffaloes just join the League of Quarterbacks?

Time will tell, but they sure put themselves into position to do so by stripping the red shirt off athletic freshman Tyler Hansen at midseason and unleashing this unknown signal-caller on the Big 12 and the astounded Kansas State Wildcats on Saturday night.

The Buffaloes (4-3, 1-2) probably saved their season with the bold move, their 14-13 win snapping a three-game skid. They're now two wins shy of another bowl game, that all-important extra month of workouts and acknowledgment to alumni and fans alike that the school is heading in the right direction.

Nobody's going to confuse Hansen with Texas' Colt McCoy, Missouri's Chase Daniel, Texas Tech's Graham Harrell, Kansas' Todd Reesing, Oklahoma's Sam Bradford or Kansas State's Josh Freeman.

Not yet, anyway.

But the Buffs are an entirely different team with Hansen under center.

"Any quarterback who can move halfway decent is a surprise, from watching our team," said incumbent sophomore Cody Hawkins, the admittedly unathletic son of coach Dan Hawkins.

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Cody Hawkins sounds like Hansen's biggest fan, saying the fantastic freshman has all the tools necessary to be a Big 12 quarterback, and a good one, at that.

Hansen may have had a truncated playbook and a bevy of bootlegs and draws against the Wildcats "but Tyler has a strong arm and he's a smart and tough kid," Cody Hawkins said. "He's not going to be a package runner all the time. I mean, he's a guy who can drop back and throw it 50 times a game if he needs to.

"At practice, the guy's accurate, he has a very strong arm and he has good feet. So, he's the kind of guy who can be a great program quarterback. A lot of people might only have seen him run tonight, but he's got a great quarterback and he's a dual threat.

"If I'm on the sideline, my most important job is coaching up Tyler."

Cody Hawkins, who has struggled to match last year's solid debut season, wasn't exactly benched. He took 33 snaps on five drives and Hansen took 49 snaps on eight drives against Kansas State.

Hansen finished a modest 7-of-14 for 71 yards with one TD and one interception, but he also ran 19 times for 86 yards. Hawkins was 6-of-11 for 35 yards and didn't attempt a single rush.

Mired in a three-game slump in which Matt Ballenger had replaced Cody Hawkins in consecutive losses to Texas and Kansas, the Buffaloes realized this athletic kid who was wowing them at practice had something to offer them that just couldn't wait 'til next year.

"Well, mainly it's because of his legs. He can really run," Dan Hawkins said. "And so it was a huge sacrifice for him. ... It's not something we would have made him do. We just said, 'Hey, how do you feel about it?' And he didn't hesitate an instant."

Dan Hawkins thanked not only Hansen but also his son and his former backup Matt Ballenger for putting their egos aside and placing team pursuits ahead of individual interests.

"Matt ran over and ran the scout team," Dan Hawkins said. "He's big and he's the closest thing we have to Josh Freeman. And again, that was a huge sacrifice for him, to go over there and do that."

But where does this leave him?

With a three-headed monster at quarterback?

Probably not.

One doesn't take a redshirt season away from a kid for spot duty, right?

Logic says Hansen will get more and more of the snaps, leaving Cody Hawkins to guide him from the sideline and Ballenger to keep running the scout team.

"Well, the best thing about it is, again, I think we've got a number of kids that are just more concerned about the team and winning than they are about themselves," Dan Hawkins said.

Even though Hansen sparked the Buffs to victory, concerns remain about Colorado's passing game. Asked about his level of concern, Dan Hawkins retorted: "Are you concerned about the stock market?"

OK, so Hansen is the bailout then.

And this man of mystery sure threw the Wildcats for a loop.

"I was like, who is he? I didn't even know who the kid was," said Kansas State defensive back Courtney Herndon.

But now that the rabbit is out of the hat, it's the Buffs who are going to have to be even more creative if they plan to continue sharing snaps.

Opponents quickly figured out that running back Demetrius Sumler was the Buffs' best pass blocker and whenever he entered the game, they assumed a pass was on its way.

They might decipher the Buffs' intentions depending on who's lining up under center.

The thing is, Dan Hawkins has never been a fan of playing more than one quarterback.

"I hate it," he said. "But it is what it is. I didn't like the fact that I was so slow and short and not very athletic, either. But I had to deal with that."

Of course, they could avoid all the pitfalls by giving Hansen more of the playbook and leaving him out there all the while.


No. 4 Oklahoma's Sam Bradford put up the biggest numbers by a Big 12 QB this weekend, throwing for a school record 468 yards in OU's 45-31 shootout win over Todd Reesing and Kansas, which fell three spots to No. 19.

"It's not surprising anymore, if you give him the time," Sooners coach Bob Stoops said. "He throws so many great balls. It's a rarity when you see one that isn't perfect. I thought everyone else around him really executed well and he delivered like he always does."


Like Colorado, Nebraska also ended its three-game losing streak. The Cornhuskers beat Iowa State 35-7, holding the Cyclones to a season-low 218 yards after getting burned in losses to Missouri and Texas Tech. "I'm not happy until we hold them to about 150," Huskers coach Bo Pelini said. "That's what I'm used to and that's the kind of standards we're going to have around here."

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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