Neill Woelk
Neill Woelk
Five years ago, Colorado suffered what I believed to be the most embarrassing loss in CU history when Texas destroyed the Buffs, 70-3, in the Big 12 championship game.

A total annihilation on national television.

But five years later, there`s a new candidate for that ignominious place in Buff annals.

An embarrassment of epic proportions that -- thankfully -- at least did not have the presence of television cameras.

Kansas 52, Colorado 45, courtesy of 35 unanswered points in the final 11-plus minutes of the game. A monumental collapse that is not only unmatched in Colorado history, but is the second-largest fourth-quarter meltdown in Division I history.

Hours after the game, the collapse was still hard to fathom. Even this morning, the guess is that most who saw it, heard it or even heard about it, are still having trouble comprehending the epic breakdown.

Five touchdowns in the final 11-plus minutes. That`s five touchdowns.

This much is certain: Dan Hawkins saved the worst for last. CU`s next step is to make official what everyone already knows: Hawkins won`t be retained. He`ll likely be given the opportunity to finish the season, but when the final gun sounds in Lincoln, Neb., on Nov. 26, it will signal the end of Colorado`s Big 12 tenure and the end of the Hawkins Era.

As for Saturday, the collapse provided a painful, searing display of everything that seemed to go wrong for the Buffs in Hawkins` tenure.


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After Kansas drove for a touchdown to pull within 45-24 in the fourth quarter, these events transpired:

A special teams mistake when KU successfully executed an on-side kick. Two minutes later, the Jayhawks had pulled to within 45-31.

On Colorado`s next series, CU inexplicably eschews theconventional wisdom of attempting to run time off the clock and continues to throw the ball. Then, an ill-fated and ill-timed attempted reverse results in a fumble, a KU recovery and a touchdown. Barely two minutes after their last touchdown, the Jayhawks had added another to close the gap to 45-38.

On the Buffs` next possession, CU again decides not to attempt to run time off the clock. This time, a Cody Hawkins pass lands in the wrong hands. Three minutes later, Kansas had tied the score.

Colorado`s next possession ended on a sack. CU punted with more than three minutes still remaining, and KU needed roughly two minutes -- again -- to take the lead.

Not even the most-optimistic fan in the world could have scripted the comeback that Colorado drew up for the Jayhawks on Saturday. Even typing these words ... five touchdowns in the final 11 minutes of the game ... still seems surreal, an impossible scenario that absolutely could not have happened.

But it did.

Honestly, I thought I`d seen the worst. In my years in Boulder, I`ve seen:

Chuck Fairbanks` Buffs fall behind 56-0 at the half before losing 56-14 to UCLA in 1980.

Bill McCartney`s Buffs trail Nebraska 14-12 at the half, only to give up 48 points in the third quarter and lose 69-19 in 1983.

Gary Barnett`s Buffs suffer the aforementioned 70-3 loss to Texas in 2005.

Hawkins` Buffs fall 58-0 at Missouri.

And those are just the highlights of the lowlights.

I`ve also been around for two losses to Drake, a loss to Montana State and a loss to Toledo. I`ve seen the Buffs hammered by bad Kansas State teams.

But 35 points ... five touchdowns ... in the final 11-plus minutes of a game the Buffs led by 28 is right up there at the top (or bottom).

Even worse -- and yes, that`s hard to fathom -- it was 35 points by a bad Kansas team. This wasn`t a good Jayhawk squad having a bad day. This was a bad Jayhawk squad begging to be put out of its misery. This was a bad Kansas team with one eye on the clock and the other on the exit door of the stadium.

And somehow, the Buffs not only let them back in the game, but gave it away.

CU`s defense -- which I admit to thinking was good at one point in the season -- was abysmal. The offense, which had dominated play for three quarters, suddenly lost its way. Simply, the Buffs played horribly in every area in the decisive fourth quarter. 

But the complete collapse came from the sidelines. Colorado`s coaches had no answer. The bleeding turned into a full-blown hemorrhage, and CU`s coaching staff was helpless.

Buff die-hards will suggest that there were some questionable calls. Maybe so, maybe not.

But truth is, those calls are irrelevant. Questionable calls should never make the difference in a 45-17 game. Five unanswered touchdowns in the fourth quarter can`t be excused by a couple of tough breaks in the officiating department.

(There`s also this: A program celebrating the 20th anniversary of a national title made possible by a fifth down shouldn`t complain about the officials. Not this year.)

Now, the Buffs have three games left in their season. A program that still harbored bowl hopes on Saturday morning watched those hopes swirl down the bowl on Saturday afternoon.

Ugh. Ugly. An embarrassment of epic, monstrous proportions.

Next?

Colorado officials have known for months that the task of finding a new coach was a very real possibility. Hopefully, they`ve done their homework.

Now, they must be ready to execute that plan.