GREELEY — Dan Hawkins 58, Ed McCaffrey 10.
“People are just gonna kind of probe and probe,” Our old pal Hawk, the loquacious former CU football coach, told me late Saturday afternoon after his UC Davis Aggies chewed up and spit out McCaffrey’s UNC Bears at Nottingham Field.
“But, I mean, as you said, they’ve given up some points. (Dylan McCaffrey’s) not playing on defense. So where are we out there?”
Lost. And hurt. But mostly lost, brother. The Bears (2-6, 1-4 Big Sky) of October resemble the Buffs of September, in all the worst, damning ways.
The lines are beat up. The tackling’s optional. Where they’re not too small, they’re too slow. If the quarterback’s name was Dylan Smith and not Dylan McCaffrey, would he still be the No. 1 guy?
“If it wasn’t for Dylan, we would be getting obliterated,” the coach countered after his son threw for 232 yards, a touchdown and two interceptions, one of which got run back for a Davis score.
“If it wasn’t for him, it would be a lot worse. And I have faith in (backup) Jacob Sirmon. He’s a great quarterback as well … but Dylan’s one of the huge reasons we’re able to move the ball and we are able to put the points on the board.”
Not enough. Because Saturday was the third time in four weeks in which the Bears have given up 55 points or more. And the fourth time in 12 months. More context: The last time UNC put together a stretch of surrendering 55 points or more four times, it took the Bears five seasons (2015-2019) to get there.
“We practice tackling every single day,” the elder McCaffrey said after his seventh home loss in nine tries. “We practice catching the football every single day … we just don’t have enough guys making plays.
“It’s, at some point, maybe they’re just better than we are. Hopefully, we can keep practicing and keep working hard and we can put up a better showing than we did (Saturday). But as I was watching it, I just saw a team out there that was better than we were. But we still have — like, there’s a third of our guys that stand toe-to-toe with everybody and work hard. It’s just (that) I need a whole team.”
Hey, this ain’t intramurals. Are Hawk’s Aggies (3-4, 2-3) better than their record? Sure. But not curb-stomp-you-by-48-points-in-your-backyard better. (Among those four losses? A 34-13 waxing at Cal in Berkeley. The same Cal Bears that handed September CU its first win the year.)
“I mean, there’s reasons and excuses, right?” the elder McCaffrey continued. “The reasons are, we’re down like seven starters. Do you need more of a reason than that? The guys that (are) coming in weren’t the starters to start the season. So they’re playing hard. In some situations, we’re really outmanned. And we’re doing the best we can. So if we have a guy giving up 50 pounds, who’s sticking his head in there, but getting beat — I mean, what are you gonna do? I love the guy, you know what I mean?”
If Nathaniel Hackett needs someone to hug (and he does), McCaffrey, the former Broncos great and Valor Christian coach, would make an excellent foil. Because they both look out of their element in their current positions, and their fan bases know it. At some point, you start to wonder if their bosses know it, too.
Of the wacky hires that made up the Front Range’s bizarre coaching carousel in the fall/winter of ’19-20, a club that includes CU’s Karl Dorrell (hired February of ’20, fired October of ’22) and CSU’s Steve Addazio (hired December of ’19, fired December of ’21), McCaffrey, who seemed the wackiest hire of all, is the last one left standing.
Granted, not coaching a game for your first 20 months on the job helps a ton when it comes to tenure, to say nothing of sanity.
But there are reasons and there are facts. And the facts are, 19 games in, McCaffrey’s Bears are 5-14. He’s 2-7 at home, which is an awfully tough platform on which to fundraise. Daz got 16 games to go 4-12. Dorrell got 23 to go 8-15.
“Look, I live where my feet are,” McCaffrey said. “And I do the best job I can where I am.
“And I love these kids. I wish we could perform better than we’re performing. Because in terms of character, they’ve got it. They’ve got the character and as a coach, I’m proud of them. I love them. But we need to be better football players to be a better team.”
On a gorgeous day at Nottingham, the attendance was listed at 4,499, or 52% of capacity. Sometimes, when an athletic director heaves the ball from half court, the thing lands in somebody’s popcorn.
And sometimes, you get Dan Hawkins 58, Ed McCaffrey 10. Or, if you like, Cody Hawkins 58, Dylan McCaffrey 10. Remember Cody? The former Buffs QB, another divisive figure in CU football lore, is now Davis’ offensive coordinator.
“I tell people there’s a lot of positives (to having your kid at quarterback) and there’s downsides to it,” the elder Hawkins said of the McCaffreys. “It’s fun being around your kid. (Dylan), he’s obviously a good player, (a) talented player. But no matter when it happens, people are always going to look at that guy, you know, as being the issue.”
He’s not the only one in Greeley these days. Not by a long shot.