November 2nd - @ Oklahoma No. 2 Oklahoma 27, No. 13 Colorado 11
Despite allowing Chris Brown to become the first runner to post a 100-yard game against them since 1999, the Oklahoma defense made a strong showing in leading the No. 2 Oklahoma Sooners to a 27-11 win over Colorado in Norman. The Sooners’ defense forced four Colorado turnovers in giving its offense a short field. Quarterback Nate Hybl threw three touchdown passes, with the touchdown drives covering just 39, 24, and nine yards.
“Our defense played very well,” lamented Gary Barnett. “Look at the position they were in time after time after time.”
In the first half, Colorado lost two fumbles, had a pass intercepted, muffed a pooch kickoff and had a field goal attempt blocked. The Colorado miscues allowed Oklahoma to build a 20-3 halftime lead, but it could have been much worse. The Sooners missed two field goal attempts themselves, and settled for field goals on two other possessions deep in Colorado territory. “You could see (our offense) out there choking,” wide receiver John Donahoe said. “When you start out like we did, there’s only one way to go. Our defense played great all game, and we just didn’t back them up.”
Any hope of a Colorado comeback ended on the Buffs’ first second half possession, when quarterback Robert Hodge was intercepted by linebacker Teddy Lehman. Lehman’s 31-yard return set up the Sooners deep in Buff territory – again - and after Hybl connected with Mark Clayton from 12 yards out, the score was 27-3, Oklahoma, and the rout was seemingly in the offing.
Colorado did not fold, however.
Late in the third, Bobby Purify scored on a 12-yard run. When Robert Hodge connected with Derek McCoy on a two-point conversion, the Buffs were within two scores at 27-11. In the fourth quarter, Colorado pushed the ball into Oklahoma territory three times, missing a field goal after making it to the Sooner 23-yard line, then turning the ball over on downs at the Oklahoma 14 and 11. On the day, the Buffs out-rushed the Sooners, 204-200, and gained more yards through the air, 174-105.
Winning the yardage battle would not change the scoreboard, though. The Buffs were now 6-3, 4-1 in Big 12 play. Kansas State and Iowa State both had two losses in conference play, while Nebraska was 2-3 in Big 12 action. Contests amongst all of the teams were still to be played, including games the Buffs had on the schedule with the Cyclones and the Cornhuskers. As a result, there remained numerous possibilities for a division champion.
There was only one scenario that mattered to the Buffs, though, as they prepared to travel to Columbia, Missouri, to fact the Tigers (4-5, 1-4). If the Buffs defeated Missouri and Iowa State, they would be Big 12 championship participants. “Our guys are upset and want to play Oklahoma again,” said Barnett. “The only way they can play Oklahoma is to win out. We’ve got to find a way to do that.”
The Buffs’ defense gave up three touchdown passes. Sooner tailback Quentin Griffin ran for 128 yards.
Yet the Colorado defense played well enough against Oklahoma that the Colorado players and coaches were already gunning for a re-match. “We got beat. No doubt about it, we got beat. But we think we’re pretty good, too.” said a defiant Gary Barnett. “Our guys would like to line it up and play ‘em tomorrow”.
“Damn right”, agreed linebacker Kory Mossini.
“We know what we did wrong,” Barnett went on to say. “We didn’t feel like we got out-athleted’ “. Translation: if Colorado did not have four turnovers and several other miscues, the Buffs may well have been celebrating a victory instead of absorbing a 16-point defeat. And with a 4-1 conference record, the Buffs controlled their own destiny to make a re-match a reality. The fact that the Buffs did not roll over after falling behind 27-3 was a testament to their heart. The fact that the offense put up 378 yards of offense against a defense giving up just 252/game was encouraging. The championship game would be in Houston, a somewhat more neutral a site than Norman.
Colorado had lost to Oklahoma, but was conceding nothing.
Sooners’ head coach Bob Stoops was less than amused after hearing the Buffs’ comments about a re-match. Wondering allowed why Colorado hadn’t bothered to bring their “A” game to Owen Field, Stoops groused about the Big 12 not allowing “mulligans”.
Yet the Sooner fans seemed to know that a second game with Colorado would not be a surprise. Rather than spraying the Buffs with taunts as the Colorado players left the field on the heels of a 27-11 defeat, the Oklahoma fans yelled out to the Buffs, “See you in Houston”.
Wins over Missouri and Iowa State (or Missouri and Nebraska if the Cyclones lost to Kansas State) would put the Buffs on a plane to Houston, with Oklahoma the prohibitive favorite to be the opposing team. If the Buffs could take care of business, they would likely have the chance to make 2002 look eerily like 2001, when the Buffs suffered a big loss to a Southern division team (Texas), only to come back to win the re-match in the Big 12 title game.
But the Buffs had to take care of business in the north first.
- Quarterback Robert Hodge three 37 passes v. Oklahoma, completing 18, both career highs.
- Derek McCoy’s two-point conversion was the fourth of his career, setting a Colorado record (the previous record was three, set by quarterback Clyde Crutchmer, 1973-74).
- Colorado actually out-gained Oklahoma on the day (378 yards to 305), but suffered from the fact that the combined length of the Sooners’ three touchdown drives was only 72 yards. In fact, the 12 first downs allowed by the Colorado defense was its best effort of the season, and the lowest total allowed since allowing only six first downs v. Baylor in 1999 (11/13/99 – a 37-0 win).