Colorado (4-3, 1-2 Big 12)
at No. 16 Missouri (5-2, 1-2)
WHEN: 5:30 p.m.
WHERE: Memorial Stadium
RADIO: KFRU/1400 AM, KBXR/102.3 FM
TV: Fox Sport
COLUMBIA — Colorado football coach Dan Hawkins doesn’t seem like the type to rotate his quarterbacks. But after the Buffaloes’ 14-13 win against Kansas State last week, that appears to be his plan as his team prepares for Missouri, despite his personal objections.
“I hate it,” Hawkins said in a release on the Colorado athletics Web site. "But it is what it is. I didn’t like the fact that I was so slow and short and not very athletic either, but I had to deal with that.”
Now, after removing freshman Tyler Hansen’s redshirt last week, Hawkins has to deal with rotating in Hansen and incumbent starter Cody Hawkins, depending on what will help the Buffaloes the most.
“We’re trying to give (the offense) a spark,” Dan Hawkins said by phone. “We’re just going to play whoever we need to play, whenever we need to play them, to get whatever we need to get done, done.”
That doesn’t bother either player. In the first game with the system in place, the coach's son Cody Hawkins was the first player to congratulate Hansen when he came off the field for the first time.
“I think our coaches are doing an awesome job of it,” Cody Hawkins said in the Web site release. “Tyler’s a very talented kid. I know we’re going to have schemes that suit both of our capabilities and we’re going to do whatever we have to do to move the ball down the field.”
Dan Hawkins said that Hansen giving up his redshirt was a sacrifice, but Hansen didn’t sound like someone who had given something up. Instead, he was thrilled with the chance to play.
“I love it, I just want the team to win,” Hansen said. “Me and Cody both work good together, and I think we give the team two different things to help the team win. I think it’s awesome.”
Using a two-quarterback system is unusual, but not unheard of. Colorado has faced one opponent this season, Florida State, who rotated its quarterbacks. Iowa State also has experience with quarterback rotation, and Cyclones coach Gene Chizik said in Monday's Big 12 coaches' teleconference that the makeup of a team is an important factor.
“For us, it really wasn’t that big of a deal,” Chizik said. “I think it all depends on how you approach it with your team. Certainly, what everybody worries about is, does it ever divide your team in one way or another, and I think you’ve got to guard against that.”
So far, the only thing it has done is excite the Buffaloes and make them a more cohesive group.
“It’s a testament to Cody and Tyler, who are stepping up for the team and saying, ‘I’m just about getting W’s,” defensive tackle George Hypolite said. “A guy six weeks in is willing to give up his redshirt, and the guy who’s been the starting quarterback for almost two years now says, ‘Hey, bring him in,' as long as we’re going to win football games, it doesn’t matter.”
That’s exactly how Cody Hawkins views it.
“The vision I have is not necessarily yourself standing on a mountain with everybody cheering you on,” he said. “I know this is a great situation. Our team needs to win. If I play and we lose, or I never play a snap and we win, I’ll be much happier when we win.”
If the attitude remains that way, perhaps the biggest danger with the system for the Buffaloes is becoming too predictable with their rotations.
Because Hansen is less familiar with Colorado’s system than Cody Hawkins, who literally grew up with the system, Hansen's legs have been his most valuable weapon as the coaches try to work him into the game plan.
That could lead to an expectation that if Cody Hawkins is in the game, the Buffaloes intend to pass or hand the ball to running back Rodney Stewart, while Hansen would signal that a quarterback run is likely.
With Hansen’s good arm strength, though, the Buffaloes don’t mind if people made that assumption, because it would be inaccurate.
“That was Tyler’s first game, and he’s a good runner,” Cody Hawkins said. “But Tyler has a strong arm, he’s accurate and he’s smart. I think we’ll open it up more for him. He’s not just a running quarterback.”
If the rest of the Buffaloes are as confident in the two quarterbacks as Hansen and Hawkins are in each other, Chizik thinks the system can work for them.
“I think you’ve got to convince the team that no matter who’s in there, both guys have the capability to lead your club,” Chizik said. "Those are the evils that you’ve got to fight through, but it certainly can be done.”