BOULDER, Colo. -- On the road during Senior Day against a team that has apparently received a spark of positive energy stemming from the midseason firing of its head coach, the deck was stacked against Kansas State before it arrived in Boulder for Saturday's game, but as their 44-36 loss unfolded, the Wildcats failed to help their own cause.
The Buffaloes used their final home game as a member of the Big 12 Conference to take a parting shot by hanging a large number on the scoreboard and filling up the boxscore with plenty of offensive yardage.
There was more still. The recently fired Dan Hawkins appeared on the field prior to kickoff and stood at the side of his son, starting quarterback Cody Hawkins. As Senior Day ceremonies unfolded, each player introduced sprinted over to the former head coach and greeted him with a whisper and a drawn-out embrace.
The trail of intensity carried right on through the final whistle.
"How 'bout them Buffaloes?" CU interim head coach Brian Cabral yelled upon meeting the media after the win. In retrospect, better team on paper or not, K-State stood little chance. It was up against supercharged opponent, after all.
"There are a lot of fans that haven't really been too fond of my family over the past few years," Cody Hawkins said. "Today, it was good to see we have the support of all those fans who came out here and supported us."
The emotion fluttering around Folsom Field on Saturday afternoon began to manifest itself in 27 unanswered points for Colorado. With each score, K-State, which led 14-3 early on, began to look more and more defeated. The spirit-crushing blows started early and we're almost non-stop.
A usually reliable Daniel Thomas coughed the ball up on his own side of the 50-yard line, Colorado routinely gashed the Wildcat defense for chunk plays and the K-State offense struggled to find a rhythm until quarterback Carson Coffman, who came off the bench to rack up 270 passing yards and three total touchdowns, found a groove late in the contest. By then, however, the damage was too much to overcome.
"They got up on us pretty big," Coffman said. "We tried to come back at the end, but we just couldn't do it. I'm going to have to watch the film, but I think there are things we could have done better."
The defensive effort was much less impressive than the one put on display by the dual-quarterback offense. The Buffaloes shredded the K-State for 476 total offensive yards on Saturday, 251 of which came on the ground and Hawkins tossed for three scores. Then, there the fact that CU tailback Rodney Stewart set a career high in rushing yards with 195 rushing yards.
No, Saturday wasn't exactly bullet-point material for defensive coordinator Chris Cosh's resume.
"You have to play well on both sides," said K-State coach Bill Snyder, whose allowed its opponent to convert 9 of 14 third-down conversions. "We certainly didn't do that and we couldn't stop them."
Meanwhile, seemingly everything, including gadget plays, clicked for the home squad. On the second snap following Thomas' second-quarter fumble, Hawkins tossed a lateral to Stewart, who found a wide-open Toney Clemons in the end zone. The junior tailback's first career pass attempt covered 23 yards and staked the Buffaloes to their first lead of the game. It was a position they would never relinquish.
Fans in the Folsom Field stands, which slowly filled up throughout the opening half, seemed reengaged. The emotion combined with a changing of the guard at head coach and every other part of the existing motivation-stew created the perfect storm for the home team.
"We made a bunch of key mistakes that turned into big plays," linebacker Tre Walker," who logged seven tackles said. "It was very frustrating."
With each big play and each sack of Wildcat quarterbacks, of which there were six, the energy inside the confines grew. The snowball effect was culminated late in the second quarter, when a 37-yard pass from Cody Hawkins to wideout Scotty McKnight put Colorado up 23-14 going into halftime.
The Buffaloes pushed their advantage to as many as 16 in the third quarter, but 22 second-half points, including a flurry of late-game passes from Coffman, pulled K-State to within eight on two occasions. Still, with a chance to even the score with a long drive with less than two minutes to play, Snyder's offense stumbled.
"We're very frustrated after every loss, but we were really expecting to win this game. We got an early jump on them, but things went downhill after that."
Playing in front of a hometown crowd, Wildcat wide receiver Aubrey Quarles led the team five catches for 114 yards and a touchdown.
K-State, now 6-5 on the season and 3-5 in Big 12 play, will wrap up its regular season next Saturday with a road game at North Texas, a Sun Belt Conference opponent that has also undergone a midseason coaching change.