The University of Colorado football team is in a tough spot, and things aren’t looking up. The Buffs stunk it up against the University of West Virginia last Thursday, dropping the game 35-24. After the game, starting defensive end Lagrone Shields quit the team, reports the Longmont Times-Call. Apparently, Shields has been contemplating the move for a long time and may be considering a return to his family’s home in Tennessee.

Shields’ absence leaves CU with 76 players on scholarship, nine below the NCAA limit. Just 15 of the 28 players CU signed in its 2007 recruiting class remain on the team. Ouch. Perhaps they were prescient enough to see the beatdown that is sure to come CU’s way this weekend, when the Buffs take on number-two-ranked Texas. Any objective observer would say either side has a chance, but a realistic observer would say Texas could hang 100 points on CU.

The almost inevitable loss will put more pressure on CU head coach Dan Hawkins, whose 1-3 start this year falls well below expectations. Problem is, it would cost CU nearly $3 million to can Hawkins at any time this year, according to Boulder’s Daily Camera, which also notes some lesser-known facts that make firing Hawkins, the second-lowest-paid head coach in the Big 12, more complicated than it appears.