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End Zone

After two months of ignoring the University of Colorado's football program, often with full justification, the Big 12 Conference finally acknowledged its lame-duck member on Monday with its Player of the Week honors.

CU quarterback Cody Hawkins was named the Big 12's top offensive player for the games of Nov. 13. And there wasn't a peep of disagreement from anywhere. The only sad part is that Hawkins didn't sweep all the national weekly recognition.

After all, how many times have you heard of a major-college quarterback, whose father is also his head coach, seeing Dad lose his job on Tuesday, late in the kid's senior season — then leading his team to an impressive victory on Saturday? Even to the extreme of making the case (unintentionally, of course) that the school did the right thing in firing his father?

More than a few observers of Colorado's program feared that Cody Hawkins would walk away from the team if CU dumped his father, Dan, as head coach before the end of the season. And with early-season starter Tyler Hansen already lost for the year to injury, that would have meant chaos, and probably having to use redshirted freshman Nick Hirschman, which would have wasted a year of his eligibility.

Instead, Cody delivered the finest performance of his up-and-down college career, hitting 16 of 24 passes for 266 yards and three touchdowns as Colorado laid a 34-14 whipping on Iowa State.

To call it admirable would be a major understatement. Here's a 22-year-old young man, devoted to football and his father, turning such bitter disappointment and, yes, embarrassment into such a satisfying victory. Not once did Cody show any emotion other than complete poise — and joy in celebrating every touchdown. But after the chest-bumps and high-fives, he made sure every time to turn and wave to his dad, watching the game quietly from a balcony.

But just when you began to wonder if the quarterback had taken a massive dose of Valium to get through the game, Cody finally gave in to his feelings at the end. As the final seconds wound down, he grabbed his helmet and sprinted to the dressing room, where he could deal with his feelings and then say all the right things.

Of course, the Buffs' victory wasn't just about Cody Hawkins. The entire offense executed well, the defense was swarming, and the team had a sense of purpose. Perhaps many of them dedicated that game to Coach Hawkins, but they obviously responded to his interim replacement, Brian Cabral.

Not that Cabral is full of charisma and rah-rah energy, because he isn't. He's a solid, soft-spoken guy, but he also has plenty of fire inside, as anyone who remembers him as a CU linebacker in the 1970s could testify. You also can judge him positively for surviving several coaching changes at CU, from Bill McCartney to Rick Neuheisel to Gary Barnett and then Hawkins.

So the question becomes, is Cabral worthy of becoming the next head coach? The first impulse would be to say no, if only because of the monumental challenge ahead in moving to the Pacific 12 Conference (as it'll be named) next year. Being able to compete in that league, and provide the kind of personality that helps Colorado raise millions of dollars to give the program a chance, might be more than Cabral could achieve. He could stay as the new coach's No. 2 man, providing the historical perspective that CU still needs.

With athletic director Mike Bohn's job also on the line, most likely he'll go for a proven head coach with that extra polish and pizzazz, unless the choice is to bring back McCartney for a short-term encore. My guess is that Bohn will go after someone like former Oregon coach Mike Bellotti or, possibly, ex-CU All-American runner Eric Bieniemy, now a top assistant with the Minnesota Vikings.

Of course, if Cody Hawkins leads Colorado to another home victory this week against Kansas State, and especially if the Buffs stand up to Nebraska at Lincoln on Nov. 26, he might force CU to choose Brian Cabral as his dad's successor.

And that would be the height of irony.

routon@csindy.com

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