James Morehead of CSU celebrates a sack on a frustrated Cody Hawkins in the Buff loss....Cliff Grassmick / September 6, 2009...
James Morehead of CSU celebrates a sack on a frustrated Cody Hawkins in the Buff loss....Cliff Grassmick / September 6, 2009... (Cliff Grassmick)
If Dan Hawkins wasn`t on the hot seat before Sunday night, he is now, at least among fans of the Colorado football program.

Some of those fans gave Hawk the bird as he walked off Folsom Field at the same time Colorado State fans were storming it following the Buffs` 23-17 loss in the season opener for both teams.

The Buffs, who showed up after an offseason filled with talk of redeeming themselves for a 5-7 record in 2008, couldn`t have been the same team Hawkins predicted was capable of 10 wins. They were beaten to the punch early and often as the Rams clearly won the battle in the trenches and stung the home team with big plays.

"They did a really good job," Hawkins said. "They ran the ball and they hit their shots."

Boos were heard just about as often as cheers, which is typical for a rivalry game. However, both were intended for the Buffs in most instances as impatience continues to grow for Hawkins` program to finally blossom.

Hawkins quickly dismissed the idea that his program could have overlooked any opponent, but more than one player said that might have been the case. Senior captain Riar Geer said the Buffs need to do a better job of preparing for opponents the rest of the season.

"I think we kind of might have overlooked CSU a little bit," Geer said. "We were pretty confident going into this game and they came out and played great. They came out and hit us in the mouth those first few drives. You`ve got to take your hat off to them."

Colorado State hasn`t had nearly the same problems with its most recent coaching change. Steve Fairchild and the Rams went to a bowl game last season and appeared much closer to going back to the postseason than the Buffs in the final edition of the rivalry on campus for at least the next 10 years.

Cody Hawkins was revealed as the starting quarterback when he trotted out for the first snap of the season. He played the entire game and his father said he never considered replacinghim with sophomore Tyler Hansen.

Hawkins` third year as the starting quarterback looked eerily similar to much of the previous two. The offense had its moments, but was often ineffective. The Buffs failed to score 20 points for the 20th time in Dan Hawkins` tenure.

An offensive line featuring three new starters struggled to get the Rams blocked and the Buffs never found a rhythm, Dan Hawkins said. CU gained just 251 total yards and averaged a paltry 4.1 yards per play.

"We just need to realize, after taking this blow, that we are still as good as we thought we were," Cody Hawkins said.

The CU defense played well outside of a handful of big plays that paved the way to victory for the Rams.

The first gasher came on the first drive of the game when CSU quarterback Grant Stucker connected with wide receiver Dion Morton for a 57-yard gain on a third-down play. Tailback John Mosure scored the first touchdown two plays later -- 3 minutes, 13 seconds into the game.

The Rams took a 14-0 lead late in the first quarter on a 13-yard pass from Stucker to Mosure, capping a 10-play drive. CSU extended its lead to 20-3 at halftime and held a 265-63 advantage in total offense. The Rams walked off the field feeling like they could have had more while the Buffs were thankful it wasn`t worse.

"When you go back and look at the tape, I know I am going to feel this way, there was a lot hanging," Fairchild said. "We could have had a better first half than we did."

The Buffs stormed down the field after halftime, using just 1:40 to drive 66 yards. The big play came on a play-action fake with Hawkins finding Andre Simmons down the middle of the field for 44 yards. Tailback Brian Lockridge scored on a nine-yard run on the next play.

CU seemed to be emerging from its funk as it moved the ball again on its next drive. Cody Hawkins connected with wide receiver Scotty McKnight on an 18-yard pass that was originally ruled a completion. The play was reviewed and officials determined McKnight had caught the ball and fumbled it after a jarring hit from Elijah-Blu Smith. McKnight suffered a concussion on the play but returned to the game.

CU turned the ball over on downs in its own territory on its next possession, and punted on its next three. The Buffs finally found the end zone again late in the contest when Cody Hawkins connected with McKnight for a two-yard touchdown pass. CU didn`t come close to recovering the ensuing onside kick and the Rams completed their triumph by taking a knee just short of another touchdown after a long run from tailback Leonard Mason.

CU now must deal with a quick turnaround. The Buffs play at Toledo on Friday night and have only three days to practice.

"I don`t think too much needs fixing," Cody Hawkins said. "We just need to focus and go out and work on the small things."