The Colorado Buffaloes found an answer to their quarterback troubles, turning to freshman Tyler Hansen, who sparked them to a 14-13 win over Kansas State on Saturday night.
Hansen, whose photo wasn’t even included in Colorado’s media guide and who was planning to redshirt this season, made a surprise appearance in the first quarter and energized the Buffs (4-3, 1-2 Big 12) while confusing the Wildcats (4-3, 1-2).
It’s not as though Cody Hawkins, the son of Buffs coach Dan Hawkins, was benched.
He continued to split series—and even snaps within some series—with Hansen, and it was Hawkins who came in with 5:17 left and the Buffs clinging to a 1-point lead.
Although Hawkins mostly handed off to Rodney Stewart (29 carries for 141 yards), he also hit Josh Smith for 22 yards on third-and-15 from his own 29 on the drive.
His fourth-and-4 pass to Smith, however, fell incomplete and Kansas State took over at its own 31 with 59 seconds remaining.
Josh Freeman’s fourth-down desperation heave to Brandon Banks at the Buffs’ 20-yard line was broken up by free safety Ryan Walters on the last play of the game.
Hansen finished a modest 7-of-14 for 71 yards with one TD and one interception, but he also ran 19 times for 86 yards, bringing a dimension that Hawkins doesn’t have. Hawkins was 6-of-11 for 35 yards.
Trailing 6-0 and in need of a spark to break out of their monthlong slump, Hansen entered the game and promptly fumbled his first snap out of bounds. But on third-and-12 from his 28, Hansen gained 13 yards on a draw play and suddenly the Buffs, who snapped a three-game skid, had the momentum.
He drove them to the Kansas State 4, where Hawkins re-entered and handed off to Stewart, who ran into the end zone to give Colorado a 7-6 lead.
The next time Hansen drove the Buffs downfield, Hawkins stayed on the sideline and Hansen hit Scotty McKnight with a 21-yard touchdown pass down the left sideline for a 14-6 lead.
When Hansen returned to the sideline, he was greeted by both the younger Hawkins and his father, coach Dan Hawkins.
Cody Hawkins had given way to redshirt freshman Matt Ballenger in the Buffaloes’ last two games, losses to Texas and Kansas, and when asked midweek if Hansen might get a shot under center, Dan Hawkins played the poker face.
Brooks Rossman kicked field goals of 37 and 53 yards but was wide right from 47 yards and wide left from 42 in the first half.
The Wildcats pulled to 14-13 when Freeman scored untouched on 17-yard keeper early in the third quarter.
Colorado had a chance to pad its slim lead but Aric Goodman’s 47-yard field goal try sailed wide right at the last moment. Goodman’s 48-yard attempt in the first half was blocked by Ian Campbell, Kansas State’s seventh block in seven games, best in the nation.
The Buffs still haven’t found a way out of their scoring funk—they haven’t scored more than 21 points since Sept. 6 against Eastern Washington, but they did find a way to win.