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DENVER -- The Colorado Buffaloes turned a year of frustration into domination on the football field Saturday in a 24-3 romp over Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Invesco Field.

It was a proud afternoon for CU coach Dan Hawkins who has endured a tough year since starting the 2009 season with a loss to the Rams. Hawkins gathered his seniors on the field after the win and then stepped away as Gov. Bill Ritter presented the Centennial Cup to captain Cody Hawkins and the rest of his classmates.

"Certainly winning against your rival and starting the season on a good note is very positive," Dan Hawkins said. "I thought our guys handled all of that very well, and I`m proud of them certainly for that."

The best part about the day for Buffs fans, other than having the stadium mostly to themselves in the final minutes of the fourth quarter? CU players left a victorious locker room after the season opener feeling they had won easily despite playing sloppily.

Hawkins seemed to agree with that assessment by referencing the need to clean things up multiple times in his postgame press conference. The Buffs committed 11 penalties, one of which was offset by a penalty from the Rams.

It was the first win for the Buffs away from Folsom Field since beating the Rams here to start the 2008 season.

"We played OK today, but we can do so much better," senior wide receiver and co-captain Scotty McKnight said. "We can play better against Cal next week, and I`m already looking ahead to that."

It was an historic afternoon for McKnight and could be one of several for him this fall.

McKnight caught six passes for 78 yards and a touchdown and became the program`s all-time leading receiver in the process. He can break records for receiving yards and receiving touchdowns this season, too.

He broke Michael Westbrook`s record in the second quarter when he hauled in a 27-yard touchdown pass from Tyler Hansen to put the Buffsup 14-0. It was the 168th reception of a career that he began as a walk-on. McKnight broke the record in front of his family and with his best friend, New York Jets quarterback Mark Sanchez, in the stands.

"For me, I came in and thought, 'Wow, it would be cool to break the record, but it would be really, really cool to beat Colorado State,'" McKnight said. "That`s all I really wanted to do.

Colorado’s Tyler Hansen drops back to pass against Colorado State.
Colorado's Tyler Hansen drops back to pass against Colorado State. ( Cliff Grassmick)

The Buffs built a 17-0 halftime advantage behind a pair of touchdown passes from Hansen, who was making his first appearance in the rivalry in front of the smallest crowd in the history of games played in Denver in the series. The announced attendance was 60,989.

Hansen connected with wide receiver Travon Patterson on an 18-yard score in the first quarter. It was the first touchdown of Patterson`s college career, coming in the first game of his senior season.

Hansen finished the day completing 17 of 25 passes for 192 yards. He also threw one interception.

Hansen said the CU offense was far from perfect Saturday, but he is excited by the possibilities.

"It`s a lot different," he said. "We can now blow the top off the coverage and open some lanes up for other guys."

Colorado had its way with a young CSU offense led by true freshman quarterback Pete Thomas.

The Buffs intercepted Thomas three times and allowed the Rams only one play of 20 or more yards. They took a shutout into the fourth quarter before allowing a 43-yard field goal with 10 minutes remaining. Defensive tackle Will Pericak had blocked a CSU kick to end the first half.

The Buffs held the Rams to 249 total yards, and stuffed coach Steve Fairchild`s running game. The Rams gained just 49 yards on the ground, and CU allowed just 1 of 12 third-down conversions.

"This is more about Colorado," Fairchild said. "Dan Hawkins had his team better prepared than I did. They were the better football team today and they certainly deserved to win that game."