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No. 25 Texas – Buffs hang tough … for 55 minutes

// Oct 14 - 2000

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October 14th – Boulder          No. 25 Texas 28, Colorado 14

For almost 55 minutes of their game against Colorado, the Texas Longhorns allowed the struggling Buffs to stay in the game.

Then, with 5:36 to play, Texas running back Hodges Mitchell, whose two fumbles had allowed the Buffs to keep in close, took a short pass and turned it into a 42-yard touchdown which sealed the 28-14 win for Texas.

It should not have been that close.

On the fourth play of the game, Colorado receiver Roman Hollowell fumbled at the Buffs’ 42-yard line. It would be the Buffs’ deepest penetration until the third quarter. In the first half, Colorado had only 22 total yards, including a minus-7 yard effort in the second quarter. Texas began most of its first half possessions near midfield or in Colorado territory, with its average starting position being the Colorado 48 yard line.

In all, the Longhorns ran 35 of its 42 first half plays on the CU side of the field – but still only led 13-0 at halftime.

The Colorado defense, it goes without saying, put in a solid effort.

When it appeared that the Buffs were on their way to being shutout for the first time since 1988, the defense took matters into their own hands. Early in the third quarter, Hodges Mitchell fumbled when hit by linebacker Andy Peeke, with Jashon Sykes picking up the loose ball and carrying it 50 yards for a score. Suddenly, the Buffs were back in the game, 13-7.

Just as quickly, though, Texas regained control.

Covering 95 yards in only five plays, the Longhorns went back on top, 21-7. On their next series, the Buffs were forced to punt, and some of the 52,030 picked up to leave. But Mitchell fumbled the punt, with the ball recovered by CU’s Robbie Robinson at the Texas 13-yard line. On the next play, Cortlen Johnson ran 13 yards for the score, and, once again, the Buffs were back in the game, 21-14.

Despite generating no offense on the day, Colorado remained competitive until Mitchell’s late touchdown.

“We got beat up-front early and lost our confidence in the running game”, lamented Gary Barnett. “Then when we tried to throw it, either Craig (Ochs) struggled or they covered us pretty well. Offenses in the 21st century are so quarterback-oriented that if your quarterback has a bad day, your going to struggle, and we did.”

With the win, the Longhorns ended six-game losing streak to Colorado. The Longhorns held the Buffs to 133 total yards (55 rushing; 78 passing), the lowest output by the Colorado offense in 15 years. Cortlen Johnson had 73 yards rushing on 18 carries, but Craig Ochs, making his first start in front of the Folsom Field faithful, went 11-for-32 for 69 yards, with two interceptions and six sacks (for a minus-53 yards rushing).

The loss left Colorado with a 1-5 record for the 2000 season.

With No. 1 Nebraska still looming on the horizon, the Buffs’ chances of post-season play were now virtually non-existent. The much talked about early season stretch of tough games was now history, and Colorado had failed to survive the test. Up next were the four “easy” games on the schedule: at Kansas; Oklahoma State; at Missouri;  and Iowa State. All four of those teams, though, while not as talented as all of the ranked teams Colorado had played in the first half of the season, had better records than did the Buffs.

Up first was Kansas, 3-3 and coming off of a 38-17 drubbing of Missouri. While the Buffs held a dominating 36-20-1 record in the series, the Jayhawks had managed two wins in the past five meetings.

Colorado did not have the right to look past anyone.

Game Notes –

– In addition to recovering a fumble which directly led to a Colorado touchdown, junior safety Robbie Robinson also had 19 tackles (14 solo) against Texas. Both the total number of tackles and the number of solo tackles were season-highs for the Buff defense. Robinson would go on to finish third on the team in tackles in 2000, with 97 (66 solo).

–  Sophomore guard Justin Bates was injured during the Texas game with an ankle sprain. In his place, red-shirt freshman Marwan Hage had to step in. Both players would go on to have distinguished careers for the Buffs, but the loss of Bates helped the Longhorn defense post six sacks.

– The loss to Texas gave Colorado a four game home losing streak, the longest since the Buffs’ opened the 1982 season with six straight losses. (CU played seven home games in 1982, winning the seventh, 28-3, over Kansas).

– Colorado came into the 2000 contest against Texas having defeated the Longhorns in six consecutive contests.  The Buffs failed in their attempt to become the first to defeat Texas seven consecutive times, leaving Colorado in a tie with Oklahoma, SMU, and Texas A&M as the only teams to accomplish the feat six times.  The win was the first for Texas over Colorado since the 1975 Bluebonnet Bowl. Overall, Colorado still led the series, 6-5, with all four of the Longhorns’ previous four victories coming between 1940 and 1975.

– In an oddity in scoring, Texas had two touchdowns on the afternoon – with both coming on 42-yard passes – as well as two field goals – both 30 yards in length.

– Longtime Colorado Athletic Director and official historian, Fred Casotti, suffered a mild stroke the morning of the CU game, missing his first CU home game since 1952.  Casotti was reported to be in fair condition by the end of the day.

– The win over Colorado propelled Texas to a seven-game winning streak to close out the regular season. After taking out No. 24 Texas A&M, 43-17, to complete the regular season, the 9-2 and 12th-ranked Longhorns were invited to play No. 8 Oregon in the Holiday Bowl. The Ducks defeated the Longhorns, 35-30, with Texas finishing the 2000 season with a 9-3 record and a No. 12 national ranking.

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