Friday, September 11, 2009

Rockets blast past Buffaloes

By Tom Kensler
The Denver Post

TOLEDO, OHIO — Colorado senior cornerback Cha'pelle Brown said earlier in the week that Friday night's game at Toledo would give the Buffaloes an opportunity to work against a spread formation similar to the ones that CU will see often in the Big 12.

Now there's a scary thought.

The Buffs come home 0-2 after Friday night's 54-38 loss to the Rockets.

No, this UT wasn't Texas. And don't look for Rockets quarterback Aaron Opelt to be included in Heisman Trophy talk. But the Buffs sure let him look like a prime-time player. Opelt scored six touchdowns (four passing, two rushing) and finished with 428 total yards (319 passing).

And once again on national TV, Colorado appeared almost inept at times.

Toledo (1-1), a member of the Mid-American Conference that loves to upset teams from bigger conferences, led 23-3 at halftime and kept scoring.

The Rockets lost 52-31 a week earlier to a rebuilding Purdue squad. This time, Toledo didn't even call on its punter until midway through the third quarter. By then, Toledo led 30-3.

Colorado showed some life scored two touchdowns in the third quarter, when a TD catch by Jason Espinoza was followed by a CU fumble recovery at the Toledo 4 on the ensuing kickoff. But Opelt, a drop-back passer who rarely runs, scooted 61 yards on a draw on the second play of the fourth quarter to make it 44-24.

At that point, Toledo already had five plays of longer than 40 yards and 10 of 20 or more.

The real backbreaker came just before halftime on a 27-yard run by Rockets quarterback Aaron Opelt with 36 seconds left before the break.

CU's defense, blitzing and pass rushing from the edges, evidently failed to account for a quarterback keeper. But the Buffs should learned. A play earlier, Opelt scrambled for eight runs on 3rd-and-7 to keep the chains moving.

Colorado junior Cody Hawkins draws criticism from fans for his lack or arm strength but, ironically, his problem in the first half was overthrowing receivers. The most costly was just missing tailback Darrell Scott for what would have been a 30-yard touchdown late in the second quarter. Scott, sprinting down the left side, made a diving attempt for the pass but could not reach it.

Hawkins finished with 356 yards on 30-of-64 passing with four touchdowns and three interceptions.

Making matters worse, Aric Goodman was wide right on 47-yard field goal attempt.

Later, with 30 seconds left in the second quarter, Cody Hawkins found sophomore wideout Anthony Wright for what appeared to be a 60-yarder to the Toledo 7. No. The ball was brought back. Holding on offensive tackle Bryce Givens.

Nothing seemed to go right for Colorado. Then again, coaches say good teams always seem to have good luck.

Toledo struck first, moving 84 yards in eight plays with its first possession. The bulk of the yardage came on a 60-yard completion to the CU 14 on third down, with Opelt finding 5-foot-10, 165-pound Eric Page down the right sideline.

Five days earlier, Colorado's defense was burned by the big play, with five going for 215 yards. Apparently, that problem was not fixed because an even longer "gasher," as Dan Hawkins disgustingly calls them, was yet to come.

It was Page's turn again, this time on a 70-yard touchdown reception. The freshman speedster ran by the Colorado defense, along the left hash mark, and was open by almost 10 yards when he caught Opelt's spiral.

Colorado, meanwhile, stumbled around and at times couldn't seem to get out of their own way. The Buffs punted away their first two possessions, but did miss a potential long-gainer when senior tight end Riar Geer got behind the Toledo defense but dropped a perfect throw by Cody Hawkins.

Tom Kensler: 303-954-1280 or


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