BOULDER, Colo. - Bill McCartney's challenge to CU fans to fill Folsom Field on April 19th paid off. Although the stadium was far from full, the Buffaloes did play their annual spring game in front of a record crowd of 17,800 fans.
The previous high was set in 1989 when 13,642 fans showed up to support McCartney's squad. This year's spring game attendance bested last year's by 12,000.
"You can't say enough about the fans," expressed senior defensive tackle George Hypolite. "They keep this program running and I just want to say thank you. It is nice on your last spring game ever to be able to look up in the stands and see more than you've ever seen before."
"It was great," head coach Dan Hawkins added when asked about the record attendance. "I think it helps the players. They got energized by it. [It was a] great day. We just have to keep building and keep going."
Black Team Victorious
The coaches are not comfortable yet splitting the team into two squads for the spring game, so the format was again offense versus defense. But they did keep score. The "black" team was represented by the first-team offense and the second-team defense, while the "gold" team consisted of the second-team offense and the first-team defense.
Led by quarterback Cody Hawkins and the first-team offensive line, the "black" team was victorious, 28-17.
The offense hit a lull mid-way through the scrimmage, but was largely effective on Saturday. Over the course of 90 plays from scrimmage, the offense racked up 536 yards. The quarterbacks combined to complete 30-of-45 passes for 383 yards and four touchdowns, without throwing an interception.
"As a defensive guy I had a large headache for most of the day but what I will say is the offense did a great job," said Hypolite. "They played well all through spring ball and came out [today] and made a lot of plays.
"You can over analyze it [though]. I mean, when it comes down to it, the team we put on the field right now is not exactly going to be the team we're going to put on the field in the fall. On defense we have a lot of guys hurt, we got some guys out."
Many fans got their first look at the new no-huddle offense on Saturday.
"Guys feel very comfortable with the system and when you change that much in four weeks, it is definitely going to be tough but I thought our guys put in a lot of time in both the film room and in the meeting rooms and we came out and executed on the field," Cody Hawkins said. "We got a lot of things accomplished this spring but we're going to keep rolling into the summer and into the fall."
Cody in the driver's seat at quarterback?
Offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Mark Helfrich said after the spring game that Cody Hawkins would be the starter behind center if the season started today.
"The [first] game isn't today so we don't have to make that call and those guys can grow and build over the summer, grow and build into the fall and we'll make that call certainly in due time," Helfrich explained. "Nick [Nelson] has made a lot of plays. The things he kind of needs to improve on are just the routine plays. And throughout the spring [he] just turned the ball over a little bit too much."
Coach Hawkins said that they plan to name a starting quarterback earlier this year than they have the past two years, when they announced it two weeks into preseason camp.
"Early in camp we need to see where we're at and get going," Coach Hawkins said. "Now whether that is day one or day three or day five [of preseason camp I don't know], but we're not going to go to week three [of camp] without a starting quarterback.
"We want to figure out who's who and get going with that person. Everyone [else at quarterback] is still going to get reps but once camp gets going I don't think we want to mess around [too long]."
Spring Football Awards
Below is a list of the annual award winners for the spring:
Eddie Crowder Award for Outstanding Leadership: Sophomore wide receiver Scotty McKnight
Fred Casotti Award for Most Improved Offensive Back: Sophomore running back Demetrius Sumler
Joe Romig Award for Most Improved Offensive Lineman: Sophomore offensive tackle Ryan Miller
Hale Irwin Award for Most Improved Defensive Back: Redshirt freshman safety Anthony Perkins
Dan Stavely Award for Most Improved Defensive Lineman: Sophomore outside linebacker B.J. Beatty
Bill McCartney Award for Most Improved Special Teams Player: Redshirt freshman safety Travis Sandersfield
John Wooten Award for Outstanding Work Ethic: Senior wide receiver Patrick Williams
Dick Anderson Award for Outstanding Toughness: Sophomore defensive back Jalil Brown
Greg Biekert Award for Attention to Detail: Junior linebacker Jeff Smart
Jim Hansen Award for Outstanding Academics: Senior fullback Maurice Cantrell
Additional Spring Game Notes
*** Ralphie V made her debut on Saturday. Her first run went well, but when she led the players out to begin the second half she managed to shed her hardness and all but one handler before finally being corralled.
"Holy smokes, that was the highlight of the day," Coach Hawkins said. "That is an ESPN highlight right there. That's got to be in the Top 10 [Plays of the Day]."
Now a year and a half old, Ralphie V weighs about 750 pounds. She should grow to weigh 1,300 pounds.
*** Junior linebacker Marcus Burton led the defense with 10 tackles for the second spring scrimmage in a row. Sophomore outside linebacker B.J. Beatty continued his strong spring by recording two sacks and six tackles.
The Buffaloes continued to tinker with the 3-4 on defense Saturday. Since the 2004 season they have been running out of the 4-3 scheme.
"The bottom line for us is we're going to try to find the best 11 guys to get on the field," defensive coordinator Ron Collins said. "I don't care who those guys are but that's what we're trying to get accomplished. I don't care if it's six linebackers, five, four
it doesn't matter."
*** Sophomore Demetrius Sumler, who established himself as the Buffaloes' number one tailback this spring, led the way with 43 yards on 11 carries. He also caught two passes for 24 yards and a touchdown. Junior tailback Kevin Moyd gained 30 yards on nine carries. He also caught three balls for 60 yards and a touchdown.
*** Junior tight end Patrick Devenny led the way with 78 yards receiving. Senior wide receiver Cody Crawford caught four balls for 39 yards and a touchdown and redshirt freshman Markques Simas had four receptions for 34 yards.
*** Senior offensive guard Erick Faatagi, who had been practicing with the first-team offensive line all spring, did not play in the Spring Game for unknown reasons. Redshirt freshmen Matt Bahr and Mike Iltis worked with the first-team offensive line at right guard in his absence.
*** Two punts were blocked and a Jameson Davis field-goal attempt was blocked. According to Coach Hawkins, it was more of a good news scenario as opposed to a bad news scenario.
"It is great that you are getting the technique down on block team now and the other side of it is those are scout teams that got blocked on so to some degree it's a little bit excusable," he explained. "We know we've got the talent and the got the skill we just have to get that mentality going.
"We got a couple punts last year but 'Rid' (special teams coach Kent Riddle) and I are used to putting six, seven, eight punts and kicks on the ground [a year] and [we] have been pretty silent for a couple years so we have to get after that."
*** CU's prized 2008 signee Darrell Scott was in attendance. The young running back spent much of the day signing autographs and posing for pictures with fans.
*** The following players missed the Spring Game due to injury: safety Joel Adams (shoulder surgery), cornerback Benjamin Burney (knee and shoulder surgery), long snapper Justin Drescher (illness), defensive end Drew Hudgins (ruptured Achilles), tailback Brian Lockridge (hernia), nose tackle Brandon Nicolas (shoulder), safety Bret Smith (knee surgery) and safety Ryan Walters (shoulder surgery).
Every player on the injury list, with the exception of Burney and Smith, is expected to be healthy for the start of preseason camp. Smith, who tore his ACL during winter conditioning, is expected back in mid-to-late September while Burney will likely miss the 2008 season.
"He is like a '66 Rambler, there is a lot of things that have to get worked on there," Coach Hawkins said of Burney. "[He is] doubtful [for the 2008 season]. He's got a redshirt year [he can use]."
*** The Buffaloes felt fortunate to get through spring football without any major injuries.
"I'll be honest with you, I kind of long for the days and I keep saying if you guys keep me around here and we have enough veteran guys that I'd like to do a lot of spring ball without any pads on," Coach Hawkins explained. "Just come out here and get better at your technique and work on that without banging each other up."
*** The CU coaches will hit recruiting trail in the coming weeks, with the exception of Hawkins. New NCAA rules prohibit head coaches from visiting high schools during the spring evaluation period. Instead, Hawkins will be renting an RV and traveling the state of Colorado in May. It will include both public and private stops. He is then going to take his family on a vacation to the Amazon.
"A big anaconda will probably take us all in one big bite," he joked.
*** The players will become reacquainted with strength and conditioning coach Jeff Pitman in the coming months. The skill players also organize 7-on-7s, while the defensive and offensive linemen meet up to run through one-on-ones.
*** Players will report to preseason camp on August 3rd. They will practice for the first time on August 4th or 5th (yet to be determined) and they will wear pads for the first time on August 9th.
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