On Dec. 15, 2005, everybody at Colorado -- from the university president to the athletic department to the fan base -- was ready to embrace "Hawk Love."

The Buffs had just gone through an ugly recruiting scandal and a 70-3 humiliation in the Big 12 championship game.

It was on this date when Mike Bohn, only a week after firing Gary Barnett, introduced Dan Hawkins as the new face of the program.

"I think Colorado football, certainly, has all the potential in the world of being a national championship program," said Hawkins, who also talked about trying to recruit the next Heisman Trophy winner and No. 1 NFL draft pick at his introductory press conference.

 Coach Dan Hawkins looks up at the scoreboard late in the CSU game.Cliff Grassmick / September 6, 2009
Coach Dan Hawkins looks up at the scoreboard late in the CSU game. Cliff Grassmick / September 6, 2009 ( CLIFF GRASSMICK )

Three and a half seasons into the Hawkins era, CU supporters would settle for an offense that isn't at or near the bottom of the Big 12 in all of the major statistical categories.

Hawkins has been unable to recreate any of the magic he was a part of at Boise State, where he compiled a 53-11 record in five seasons as the Broncos averaged 41.6 points a game and scored over 50 points 19 times and over 40 points 37 times in his 64 games.

When asked about his philosophy at his first CU press conference, Hawkins said this about the offensive side of the game:

"You have to run the football. Another part where I'm probably different is that I like throwing the ball vertical and I'm not afraid to take some chances and do some funky stuff. You can't play not to lose, and I've never played that way."

Through 15 wins and 29 losses at CU, Hawkins has been criticized for not sticking with the running game (despite recruiting an impressive stable of running backs that includes Rodney Stewart and Darrell Scott), not getting talented enough receivers (see Simmons, Andre) in position to stretch the field, and not implementing an imaginative scheme like the one the nation still sees on ESPN weeknights moving the ball up and down the blue turf in Boise.

The Buffs are currently ranked last in the Big 12 in scoring offense (22.4 ppg), last in total offense (301.9 ypg), 10th in passing offense (212.7 ypg) and 11th in rushing offense (89.1 ypg).

CU is also last in passing efficiency with its quarterbacks -- former starter Cody Hawkins and current starter Tyler Hansen -- combining to throw 10 touchdowns and 12 interceptions through seven games.

On Tuesday, after Dan Hawkins opened his weekly press conference with a humble yet defiant 25-minute soliloquy, the Camera asked the head coach what is missing on offense besides experience.

"I think we have to get Tyler some confidence and that comes from just playing and playing through some situations and not looking at me or (offensive coordinator Eric) Kiesau and thinking he`s going to get the hook. I think that`s part of it," Hawkins said. "I thought we made some huge strides in the O-line in the Kansas game, and those guys will tell you that`s where it all starts -- trying to get some consistency there. I think we played as well as we`re capable of there in the Kansas game.

"I think we`ve got a good group of receivers that are coming, that are in the boat. I love Scotty McKnight and he`s going to be the first person to tell you that he doesn`t run track in the spring, he`s not 4.3 (in the 40-yard dash). But he`s going to catch everything, he`s going to get open, he`s going to run the right routes. Having a guy that`s going to blow the lid off the top of it is going to help you.

"And then just getting that cumulative consciousness going of consistency and understanding the grind and understanding the task of what it takes every week. That`s just a part of that whole warrior`s mentality and champion`s mentality. Understanding that, hey guys, we beat Kansas. That should give you some confidence, but it doesn`t mean anything unless you go out with a chip on your shoulder and you decide every day you`re going to get back to what it is you need to do."

Hansen`s huddle?

With Hansen watching from the background on Tuesday, Dan Hawkins addressed the conspiracy theorists who believe his son was only the starting quarterback because blood is thicker than winning. 

"Tyler, have I been up front with you from the get-go?" Hawkins said.

"Yep," Hansen replied.

And now the entire team hopes to turn the page on the CU signal caller soap opera.

Hansen burned his redshirt -- again -- during the second half of CU`s 38-14 loss at Texas on Oct. 10 and was very impressive in leading the Buffs to a 34-30 upset of then No. 17 Kansas on Oct. 17.

Last Saturday at Kansas State, however, Hansen completed just seven of 14 passes for 89 yards. The coaching staff put Cody Hawkins in to run the two-minute offense and opened itself to even more criticism when two promising drives ended with him throwing an interception during a 20-6 loss.

The Buffs, now at 2-5, seem miles away on offense from where they thought they would be in the fourth year of this regime.

"Coach Hawk will tell you we`re real close, we`re right there. We kind of sense that," Hansen said. "We`re playing some really good teams and we`re always in the games. We`re not getting blown out ...

"Talking to a couple players, we`re there. We`ve just got to open our eyes and believe we`re there. We`re where we need to be right now. We`ve just got to believe and open our eyes and actually think that we`re there."

Ten wins and no excuses has turned into -- look at how young the roster still is.

And it`s true that the Buffs don`t have any senior offensive linemen, are starting a true sophomore at quarterback, are starting a true sophomore at running back and are void of any real experience at wide receiver other than McKnight.

"For me, offensively, it`s unbelievable what a juggle it`s been," Dan Hawkins said. "I`d love to have a three-year starting quarterback, I`d love to have juniors and seniors on the O-line, I`d love to have more than one guy that caught a ball last year at wide receiver.

"You know? I`d love all that. But for whatever reason we don`t."

Talking about

practice?

Mark Helfrich, an unpopular name on Buffs-related message boards, was the offensive coordinator during Hawkins` first three seasons in Boulder before leaving to accept the same position at Oregon.

In those years, CU`s offense ranked as follows in the Big 12:

2006 -- Last in scoring offense (16.3 ppg), last in total offense (291.4 ypg), last in passing offense (118.5 ppg), fifth in rushing (172.9 ypg).

2007 -- 10th in scoring offense (27.3 ppg), 10th in total offense (378.5 ypg), 10th in passing offense (234.3 ypg), 8th in rushing offense (144.2 ypg).

2008 -- Last in scoring offense (20.2 ppg), last in total offense (318.5 ypg), 11th in passing offense (194.0 ypg) 10th in rushing offense (124.5 ypg).

The new staff didn`t inherit much talent on offense in 2006, and the Bernard Jackson-led unit was 116th in passing offense, ranking ahead of only North Texas, Air Force and Navy.

With Cody Hawkins under center the Buffs made some strides in 2007, including an upset of Oklahoma and a respectable showing against Alabama`s vaunted defense in the Independence Bowl.

In 2008, the injury bug infected the offensive line and 120 games lost due to injuries was blamed for a 5-7 finish.

This fall was supposed to be the time when a more experienced, talented and deeper group turned the corner.

Kiseau revealed why he thinks the Buffs haven`t been able to sustain consistent success this season -- practice habits.

"The big thing is they have to stay consistent in practice," Kiseau said during an interview with the Camera following Wednesday`s practice. "Yesterday was the best practice we`ve had in our four years here. The guys were executing, catching everything, flying around. It was exciting.

"Then today, I`m not going to say it was a bad practice because it was a pretty good practice. But the attitude, it was like the guys came here, did the work and went home."

The old cliche, of course, is teams play like they practice. For coaches, seeing the players follow up a crisp, intense practice with a ho-hum, going through the motions session is like following up an emotional home win over KU by laying another road egg at K-State.

"It`s not enough," Kiesau said. "You have to have every practice the same."

Talk is cheap

Despite the shaky start to the season, CU`s players are still talking about the possibility of winning the North Division and playing in the Big 12 championship.

Obviously, that`s better than throwing in the towel on the 2009 campaign. But is it realistic after getting manhandled in Manhattan?

"I definitely think we believe that we can win some games. We just have to execute," Ryan Miller said. "That`s what we`ve been saying since Colorado State. We`re a great team, we just have to play like we know how to play."

The Buffs are looking forward to the opportunity to show Missouri they know how to play a Big 12-worthy brand of football. Last year CU was embarrassed by a score of 58-0 in Columbia. It was the first time the program had been shut out since 1988.

"I think it`s perfect timing for this game," Hansen said. "Kansas was awesome, K-State was not so good, and so we need a game to kind of get us motivated and get us going a little bit. Missouri has been a big game on our schedule since the beginning of the season. One of our team goals was to beat Missouri and beat Nebraska.

"We want these guys real bad, and I think everybody knows that, especially after getting beat 58-0."

Missouri (4-3, 0-3) is actually looking up at CU in the North Division standings.

The Tigers are coming off a 41-7 loss to No. 2 Texas, a game Colt McCoy and Co. led 35-7 at halftime in Columbia (CU led the Longhorns 14-10 in Austin).

Right now, Hawk is the one who could use some love this Homecoming.

"I think with our staff, with our team, with our players, it has been awesome," Dan Hawkins said. "I think we have learned a lot, both about Colorado and the Big 12. And I think we just need to continue to put it together."