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Cabral learning as he goes with Colorado’s offense

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BOULDER, Colo. » The students at Folsom Field probably won’t have bags over their heads now. The crowd won’t stand in protest and turn its back on the coach who did just that when his kicker was attempting a field goal recently. And maybe there won’t be as many empty seats as the school feared.

The Dan Hawkins era is over at the University of Colorado.

He was fired this week following the worst collapse in the program’s 121-year history when the Buffaloes blew a four-touchdown lead and surrendered 35 points in the final 11 minutes in a historic 52-45 loss at Kansas.

What began in December 2005 as "Hawk Love" when he came over from Boise State as one of the hottest coaches in the country had turned into "Hawk Hate" by the end of his five failed seasons in Boulder, which included a 19-39 record, 17 straight losses outside the state and a current five-game skid in Colorado’s Big 12 farewell tour.

The Buffaloes (3-6) host Iowa State (5-5, 3-3), which can become bowl eligible with a win, today under interim coach Brian Cabral, a Kailua native who has been on the coaching staff since 1989 after playing linebacker for the Buffaloes and in the NFL.

Cabral would like a shot at the full-time job, and he’s among several lower-profile candidates who are in the school’s price range. Athletic director Mike Bohn makes no secret that Colorado lacks the cash and cachet to go after the really big names.

Cabral is a defensive mind — he coached the inside linebackers — so he’s been cramming on offense since taking over head coaching duties Tuesday.

"This is the first time I’ve ever watched the offense practice," he admitted.

And what happens today in crucial situations?

"I’ll confer, I’ll confer," Cabral said. "I don’t know all the answers, I don’t. And I’m going to have to rely and depend on those coaches."

Cabral knows exactly what Colorado needs to do on defense: stop Cyclones running back Alexander Robinson, who has had three good games against the Buffs.

"The dude is hard to tackle," Cabral said.

Cabral isn’t used to worrying about the other side of the ball.

"I’m learning. We had a drill and I’m mad at the defense then, oh, I have to go congratulate the offense!" Cabral said. "I go run back to the other side of the field and become an offensive fan."

Although Cabral wants an interview with Bohn, he’s not going to publicly lobby for the permanent job. Nor does he see the next three weeks as an audition necessarily, although beating Iowa State, Kansas State and Nebraska would certainly augment his resume and standing in many fans’ eyes.

"No, I’m looking for these seniors to finish on a good note," Cabral said. "I’m looking for us to do what we’re capable of doing. I believe we’re capable of doing a lot."

Cabral said he’s not going to juggle the lineup or make any drastic changes.

That sits well with his players, who are eager to put the week’s drama and years of negativity behind them and just focus on football minus the distractions.

There was some speculation in recent weeks that Buffs quarterback Cody Hawkins, who was elevated to starter with Tyler Hansen sidelined, would quit if his father were fired.

No way, said the younger Hawkins, noting he signed on to play for the Buffs, not just for his father.

"Coach Cabral talks about having a black and gold heart, I believe that inside my chest that I have one of those," Cody Hawkins said. "Regardless of what the situation is, regardless of what’s going on outside, I’m going to prepare, I’m going to compete and be there for my guys."

 

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