Cody Hawkins is still unbeaten.
``Barely,'' the freshman quarterback and son of Colorado coach Dan Hawkins said through an exhausted grin after the Buffaloes rallied past the Colorado State Rams 31-28 Saturday on Kevin Eberhart's 35-yard field goal in overtime.
Hawkins, who redshirted last season after going 59-0 at the youth and high school level, completed 18 of 31 passes for 201 yards, two touchdowns and one interception and guided the Buffs back from an 11-point deficit in the second half.
These Rocky Mountain Showdowns usually come down to the end the last five games between these rivals have been decided by a total of 25 points but none had ever gone into overtime until Eberhart, a senior finally getting his chance following the departure of two-time All-American Mason Crosby to the NFL, tied it with a 22-yarder in the waning seconds.
``Obviously, Mason was in front of me for three, four years, one of the best players that you could hope to be with and he taught me a lot,'' Eberhart said. ``I'm just glad to finally get out there and help the team.''
The Rams (0-1) won the coin flip, but Terrence Wheatley intercepted Caleb Hanie's pass in the end zone when his intended target, Johnny Walker, and tight end Kory Sperry, who caught three touchdown passes, collided.
The Buffs (1-0) reached the 18 and called on Eberhart, who calmly hit his game-winning kick just as Crosby beat the Rams by the same score with a 47-yarder two years ago.
While Eberhart was kicking the game-winner, Hanie was kicking himself for not throwing the ball away or at least tucking it away.
``I'll just remember that we lost, that's all that matters,'' said Hanie, who was 20-of-27 and wasn't picked off until his final pass of the afternoon. I had a decent game in regulation and a (poor) overtime.''
Senior Kyle Bell returned to the Rams' backfield after missing last season with a knee injury and rushed a career-high 40 times for 135 yards and a touchdown.
``I was tired, but that last carry in overtime I still had a pretty good burst,'' said Bell, whose 14-yard gain put the Rams inside the 10.
The Rams (0-1) scored two quick touchdowns coming out of halftime to take a 28-17 lead.
Sperry, who caught TD strikes of 2 and 6 yards in the first half, hauled in a 37-yarder and dragged linebacker Brad Jones the final 10 yards into the end zone to give the Rams their first lead at 21-17.
Jason Smith then squibbed a line drive on the ensuing kickoff that ricocheted off Buffs special teams captain R.J. Brown, who had turned his head at Smith approached the ball. Jermaine Walters recovered for the Rams and Colorado State drove 47 yards and went up 28-17 on Bell's 13-yard run.
``It was so fast I couldn't get out of the way,'' Brown said. ``I've seen it on tape but it's never happened to me before. That was tough.''
``We were trying to squib it pretty hard through the front line,'' Rams coach Sonny Lubick said. ``We'll take credit for it, but there was good fortune on our part, and at that time momentum was really flying our way.''
Smith squibbed it again, but this time, Brown made sure he was out of the line of fire and Wheatley returned it 68 yards before Smith corralled him at the Rams' 21. Colorado, however, failed to score as Eberhart's 41-yard attempt sailed wide right.
The Buffs put together an 86-yard drive on their next possession as Hawkins converted three third-and-long plays before Demetrius Sumler took it in from the 3. The 2-point conversion, a pass to Riar Greer, made it 28-25.
The Buffs' game-tying field goal was set up by Chase McKnight's 43-yard punt return and a pass interference call on Rams cornerback Joey Rucks on fourth-and-4 from the Colorado State 28 with 1:16 remaining.
While the Rams celebrated the return of their workhorse running back, the Buffaloes lost theirs on the first series. Hugh Charles took a swing pass from Hawkins and rumbled 15 yards before grabbing his left hamstring and stepping gingerly out of bounds.
In his place, Sumler ran 16 time for 85 yards, often taking the snap directly.
Hawkins threw a 24-yard touchdown pass to childhood friend and fellow freshman Scotty McKnight, and added a 10-yard strike to tight end Tyson DeVree on Colorado's first two possessions.
``Cody played like a man today,'' Buffs wide receiver Patrick Williams said. ``He stepped up big-time and made plays. I don't think anyone could tell he was a redshirt freshman. He looked more like a fifth-year senior. He played with confidence all day and made the plays he needed to make.''
Sperry's first two TD catches capped the Rams' methodical drives. Capitalizing on linebackers in coverage, he finished with eight catches for 103 yards. But could have had a much better day had Hanie not thrown over the wrong shoulder on what would have been a 54-yard score early in the fourth quarter or if he wouldn't have collided with Walker on Wheatley's interception.
``That was a hard-fought ballgame by two teams ... fairly evenly matched,'' Lubick said. ``It was just back and forth all day long. I'm proud of our football team; they fought hard and did everything they could. As I told our football team, in our business it comes down to one false step, one little this, one little that. It was a heck of a football game.''
As it usually is.< ^Notes:@ Following the game, Rams special teams coach Dave Arnold, 62, was taken to a hospital suffering from exhaustion. He was fine but was kept for observation, school spokesman Zak Gilbert said. ... Eberhart's career-long 38-yarder put the Buffs ahead 17-14 at halftime.