CU Buffs offensive line the epitome of persistence
Despite injuries team has battled and finally got the job done vs. Rams
09/17/2011 05:24:34 PM MDT
CU quarterback Tyler Hansen hands off to running back Rodney Stewart during Saturday's game against CSU.
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DENVER -- Why did I come to Colorado?
It's a question Sione Tau asked himself plenty of times over the years.
The fifth-year senior had never been inserted into a game for an offensive snap until Colorado's 36-33 overtime loss to Cal eight days ago. Tau's first action of any kind with the Buffs occurred during the opener in his hometown of Hawaii on special teams.
Finally, the most patient big man on campus made his first start on Saturday in the Rocky Mountain Showdown at Sports Authority Field.
And the 6-foot-5, 335-pound Tau helped the Buffs finish off rival Colorado State during what could be a season-changing 16-play, 85-yard drive in the fourth quarter that was capped with a 2-yard touchdown run by quarterback Tyler Hansen.
"That drive was long. No lie," Tau said after CU's 28-14 victory over the Rams. "Every time we got in the huddle it was like, 'Come on, let's do this.'
"To tell you the truth, that drive was taking the life out of me, too. But our whole mentality was just to keep pushing the ball down the field."
The Buffs (1-2) rushed for 215 yards on 17 attempts. Rodney Stewart finally looked like vintage "Speedy" with 98 yards on only seven carries.
Hansen was sacked twice and only completed 17-of-32 passes, but the senior signal caller finished with 215 yards and two touchdowns.
Overall, the offense's performance was remarkable considering the offensive line's mounting injury woes.
It all started when Shawn Daniels, the projected starting center, went down with a severe calf strain on Aug. 12. The senior could be ready to play again in two to four weeks.
Starting left tackle David Bakhtiari, the best lineman on the roster, sprained a knee on the seventh snap of the season and hasn't played since. He is listed as probable for the Ohio State game next week.
Ryan Dannewitz, who also sprained a knee against Cal, was able to gut it out against CSU. But Alex Lewis, a true freshman, started at left tackle (the only CU freshman to ever start a game at the position).
Starting center Daniel Munyer sustained an ankle injury on Saturday. Backup Gus Handler broke the huddle on the decisive drive.
And Tau was replacing starter Jack Harris, who suffered a broken ankle against Cal that will keep him out of the lineup indefinitely.
"We'll see on the film. We made a lot of mistakes out there," CU offensive line coach Steve Marshall said of the performance up front. "But the one thing they did is they kept fighting, and we made the plays at the end to win the game. Every day we're getting a little bit better."
Leading 21-14 with 11:18 remaining, CU's defense forced a punt. Hansen and Co. took possession at their own 15-yard line.
Stewart opened the drive with an 11-yard run and converted a third and 7 with a 14-yard reception.
A holding call led to a second-and-20, but the Rams were called for a 15-yard personal foul penalty when defensive tackle Nuku Latu brought Stewart down behind the line of scrimmage by the facemask.
Hansen and Stewart converted two short third-down situations between the tackles en route to the back-breaking touchdown with 1:15 remaining.
Where was this ability to run the ball against Hawaii and Cal?
"We played well as a unit, simple as that. We're all on the same page. We got the job done when we needed to," right guard Ryan Miller said. "When you have a chance to finish a team, you have to finish a team. I think with that drive we did a good job with that."
And Tau is so glad he persevered and is finishing the journey at CU as an active participant.
"It was hard. There were times when I said to myself, 'What am I doing here?' " Tau said. "My mom keeps telling me to keep going, keep going, don't stop."
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Notes: Hansen gets it done on the ground