Caleb Hanie is a confident guy, but just about anyone could see that confidence waning at the close of the 2006 season.
After starting the season 4-1, including a 14-10 victory over Colorado, the senior quarterback looked to be on his way to a highly successful season.
Instead, the Rams rattled off seven consecutive losses to close the year and Hanie’s stats slowly deteriorated, along with the team’s hopes.
When CSU kicks off the 2007 campaign Saturday against CU at 10 a.m. at Invesco Field at Mile High in Denver, Hanie will be as hungry as anyone to get the bad taste of last season out of his mouth.
“It was frustrating, no question about it,” Hanie said of the ’06 campaign. “We’re so hungry to start winning again.”
The good news for Hanie is that history is on his side. Under coach Sonny Lubick, every CSU senior quarterback has led his team to a bowl game.
Anthony Hill took the Rams to the 1994 Holiday Bowl, Moses Moreno the 1997 Holiday Bowl, Matt Newton the 2000 Liberty Bowl, Bradlee Van Pelt the 2003 San Francisco Bowl and Justin Holland the 2005 Poinsettia Bowl.
For Hanie to keep that streak alive, he will need the kind of performance he had in the first five games of 2006, when he completed 72 percent of his passes for five touchdowns and two interceptions.
In the final seven games of the year, Hanie’s completion percentage went down to 55 percent, with six touchdowns and nine interceptions.
But, as Co-Offensive Coordinator, Dan Hammerschmidt pointed out, those numbers had more to do with an ineffective run game than it did with Hanie’s performance.
“He just had to throw it too many times last year,” Hammerschmidt said. “We didn’t run the ball as well as we wanted, and all of a sudden there’s a lot of pressure for a quarterback to throw 40, 45 times. That’s when his confidence went down.”
Hanie said he believes the Rams’ offense is ready for a bounce-back season.
“I have all the confidence in the world in those guys,” said Hanie. “We’ve made huge strides in the run game already, and as far as the receivers go, I’d say they’re the best in the conference.”
Senior wide receiver Johnny Walker said that “Hot Hand Hanie,” as he’s dubbed him, has emerged as a trustworthy leader for this team.
“He comes in the huddle with confidence,” Walker said. “You can see he’s going to go make a play. He’s got that look in his eyes that just makes you trust him.”
Bell agreed, saying he could see Hanie’s ability from his freshman year, when he started five games in place of an injured Holland.
“We came in together, so I saw him step in as a true freshman and start those games, and you could just tell he was way ahead of the curve,” Bell said. “He’s one of those guys that will do whatever it takes.”
This season may take a lot, considering the history and the fact that this is his final shot to put a mark on CSU football lore.
But first things first: Hanie wants to beat the Buffs a second time.
“I’d love to be up 28-0 in the second quarter and just stick the dagger in,” he said. “But that never seems to happen. They’re gonna come out firing and fighting. But if we play as well as I know we can, we should beat CU.”