Colorado's Hawkins tries to keep Buffs upbeat during struggles


Monday, October 2nd 2006, 4:24 pm
By: News On 6


OMAHA, Neb. (AP) _ Colorado coach Dan Hawkins concerns himself with the mental state of his team as much as the physical as the Buffaloes try to break out of a nine-game losing streak over two seasons.

The Buffs will have their best chance at their first win in 11 months when Baylor _ also no stranger to losing _ visits for homecoming in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday.

Colorado is the favorite against an opponent that's won one conference road game since the Big 12 started play in 1996.

If the Buffs lose, they would match their school-record losing streak of 10 in a row by the 1963 and '64 teams.

Hawkins, 53-11 in five years at Boise State, took over a program that won four of the last five North Division titles. One of his primary jobs now, he said, is making sure his players don't lose the faith.

``I think that phase of the game is very important,'' Hawkins said during the Big 12 coaches teleconference Monday. ``I've had to do it on the other side. When you're 5-0 you have to do the same kind of monitoring. Our kids have been good. Our coaches have been good.''

After getting stunned by I-AA Montana State in the opener, Colorado has been competitive in losses to Colorado State, Arizona State, Georgia and Missouri.

Hawkins said his players sense they aren't far from tasting success.

The Buffs led most of the way against Georgia before losing 14-13. Last week at Missouri, the Buffs outyarded the Tigers 373-353 and missed on a couple offensive chances because of mistakes.

``Obviously, the Georgia game we should have won and didn't,'' Hawkins said. ``You go to Missouri, and I'd tell you that's a game we should have won. We had several chances. It comes down to two, three or four plays. You make 'em or complete them, then probably the game changes in complexion. Our guys see that and feel that.''

Hawkins said he doesn't worry about his players getting conditioned to losing.

``When you continue to harp on the little things and bang on the little things, you get away from the winning and losing and try to get those guys to improve,'' he said.

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PROLIFIC OFFENSES: Eight of the top 27 offensive teams in the nation hail from the Big 12.

Nebraska is first in the league and fifth nationally at 480.2 yards a game. Kansas, which ranks eighth and 27th, is averaging 406.5. In between are Missouri, Texas Tech, Texas, Texas A&M, Oklahoma and Oklahoma State.

``This conference is very unique because of its ability to spread people out,'' Huskers coach Bill Callahan said. ``There are a lot of quality systems and coaches in the Big 12 capable of putting points on you. It's a wide-open league, and that's what makes it exciting.''

Seven Big 12 teams are in the top 20 in scoring, led by the Huskers' 42 points a game.

Texas A&M coach Dennis Franchione said the pace probably can't continue much longer.

``There's no doubt as we leave nonconference and go into conference, games are much closer and harder fought and you never have as many yards as you do in nonconference play,'' he said.

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TEXAS EYES PETERSON: Oklahoma's Adrian Peterson was limited to three carries for 10 yards in last year's 45-12 loss to Texas because of a sprained ankle. He goes into Saturday's Red River rivalry game in Dallas in full health and as the nation's No. 3 rusher at 160.8 yards a game.

Two years ago, in his fifth game as a collegian, Peterson ran for 225 yards in a 12-0 win over the Longhorns.

Texas coach Mack Brown said Peterson is tougher to bring down in the fourth quarter than the first.

``We saw that same attribute in Ricky Williams and Cedric Benson here as fourth-quarter players,'' Brown said. ``He has to be as good a back as there's been in college football.''

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PLAYERS OF THE WEEK: The Big 12 players of the week were Texas Tech quarterback Graham Harrell on offfense, Baylor free safety Dwain Crawford on defense and Iowa State punt returner Ryan Baum on special teams.

Harrell completed 32-of-45 passes for 392 yards and four touchdowns, with no interceptions, in a 31-27 win at Texas A&M. He had TD passes in the final minute of each half, including the 37-yard game winner to Robert Johnson with 26 seconds left.

Crawford had two interceptions in Baylor's 17-3 victory over Kansas State. Crawford's efforts were key in Baylor holding a Big 12 opponent without a touchdown for the first time in 81 games.

Baum's 65-yard punt return for a touchdown in the fourth quarter pulled Iowa State into a 21-all tie with Northern Iowa, and the Cyclones won 28-27. Baum, who averages a Big 12-leading 18.2 yards per return, totaled 103 yards on four returns.