November 12th – at Iowa State Iowa State 30, No. 22 Colorado 16
Iowa State took advantage of strong winds and two defensive touchdowns, using both to upset No.22 Colorado in Ames, 30-16.
In a game delayed at the start due to a tornado in the region, the Cyclones blew some ill wind of their own, returning a fumble and an interception 66 yards apiece to provide the final margin. With the win, Iowa State kept its hopes for a Big 12 North Division title alive.
The opening kickoff for the evening contest was delayed for over half an hour due to concerns surrounding a local tornado and accompanying lighting. The storm did not bring rain, but did bring wind gusting up to 45 mph, with the wind becoming the story of the first half. Colorado, playing against the wind in the first quarter, started its first four drives on its own 20 yard line. Four possessions: a total of 15 yards.
Meanwhile, the Cyclones took advantage of having the wind at their backs, building a 13-0 advantage. Iowa State kicker Bret Culbertson kicked two short field goals (including one on the second play of the second quarter, culminating a 54 yard drive) between a Bret Meyer to Ben Barkema 27-yard touchdown pass.
The second quarter, with the wind at Colorado’s back, was a different story. Out-gained 131-to-15 in the first quarter, the Buffs had 142 yards in the second quarter to just 14 for the Cyclones. Colorado pulled to within 13-10 at halftime on a one-yard run by Hugh Charles and a 31-yard field goal by Mason Crosby.
The Buffs tied the game at 13-13 early in the third quarter after a blocked punt set up the Colorado offense. A 42-yard field goal by Crosby against the wind gave the Buffs momentum which was short-lived. Just over a minute later, the Cyclones were on top, 16-13, as Iowa State quickly drove down field after the CU score.
The remainder of the game was not weather related, but Colorado error related. Three turnovers sealed the Buffs’ fate. The first came midway through the third quarter. Trailing 16-13, the Buffs drove to the Cyclone 12-yard line. There quarterback Joel Klatt threw an interception, ending the Buffs’ drive.
Then, with just 44 seconds remaining in the third quarter, Buff cornerback Lorenzo Sims recovered an Iowa State fumble at the Cyclone 34-yard line. With the ball in Cyclone territory and about to get the wind at their backs, it appeared that the Buffs were ready to take control. On the very next play, though, Lawrence Vickers fumbled, with the ball returned by Cyclone Steve Paris 66 yards for a touchdown and a 23-13 Iowa State lead.
A 57-yard field goal by Mason Crosby on the Buffs’ next possession made the score 23-16 with 11:25 still to play. Colorado seemed poised to send the game into overtime late in the game. After driving from its own 11-yard line to the ISU 27, there still remained almost two minutes for the Buffs to tie the score. Instead, the close game became a rout when Klatt threw his second interception, this one returned 66 yards by Brent Curvey for the 30-16 final.
“To have two of your best players, Lawrence (Vickers) and Joel (Klatt), have that kind of game … that’s a nightmare for them,” said Gary Barnett. “I said the difference would be who turned it over the most, and that’s what happened. That was the story. That was the game.”
“I can’t turn the ball over like that,” said Klatt, who had just his second interception in the red zone in his career (compared to 24 touchdown passes) with his third quarter interception at the Iowa State eight-yard line. “It’s definitely a bitter pill. This team wanted nothing more than to come in and win this ballgame.”
The two long defensive touchdowns overshadowed a strong effort by the defense. Iowa State was held to just 36 yards rushing, and 287 yards overall (just 156 after the first quarter).
Still, the loss kept the Big 12 North race alive. Colorado, at 7-3, 5-2, still controlled its own destiny. A win over Nebraska would clinch the Buffs’ fourth North title in five years. A Colorado loss, though, would give new hope to Iowa State and Missouri. If the Buffs fell to the Cornhuskers, Iowa State would win the North win a win over Kansas. Missouri needed both the Buffs and Cyclones to lose, as well as a win over Kansas State in its finale.
“This was the biggest opportunity we had,” said linebacker Jordon Dizon of the loss to the Cyclones. “We just thank God we have another one in two weeks.”
Gone with the Wind
It didn’t feel right.
Normally, during the college football season, I love Tuesdays.
Tuesday is highly anticipated, especially if the Buffs had won their game the weekend before. On Tuesdays, CU Sports Information Director Dave Plati puts out the Media Release for the upcoming Colorado game. Starting at around 40 pages at the beginning of the season, it usually ballooned to around 60 pages by season’s end, what with all the new information concerning the ongoing campaign.
It was my usual practice on Tuesdays to download and print out the following: the Colorado media release, along with the updated statistics; the Big 12 media release; and the media press release from that weekend’s opponent. I would spend the next few days pouring over the statistics, savoring the news when the Buffs won, while doing little more than skimming the information after a Buffs’ loss.
But on the Tuesday before the Iowa State game, going over the release, it didn’t feel right. I had this sense of trepidation about the game I couldn’t place. Sure, the Buffs had won three in a row. Yes, the Buffs were 20-3 against opponents from the North since the 2000 season, and had won 20-of-21 against the Cyclones dating back to 1983.
It wasn’t until Thursday night before the Iowa State game, though, that it hit me. I was out walking our dog, Mouse, when the queasiness began to make sense.
We didn’t have to win this game.
No, that wasn’t news.
Ever since the clock ticked down to 0:00 against Missouri, it had been mentioned in every story about Colorado that the Buffs only had to win one of its remaining two games to clinch a berth in the title game.
Rather, what occurred to me was that in recent years, whenever the Buffs had to win a game, I mean had to win, they had come through. Colorado went 3-0 to finish out 2004, including two road wins, to claim an improbable title. Finishing out 2005 with the five Northern rivals, the Buffs had gone 3-0 to start conference play, pushing Colorado to the top of the division.
But Colorado did not have to defeat Iowa State to maintain control of its own destiny.
Rather, the Iowa State game was another one of those “statement” games which had come back to haunt the Buffs.
The 2004 Big 12 title game had been an opportunity for Colorado to re-establish itself on the national stage. Result: Oklahoma 42; Colorado 3. Similarly, the Miami game earlier in the 2005 season was a “statement” game. Result: Miami 23; Colorado 3. Then, after opening with two wins in conference and the first national ranking in two years, the Buffs had the chance to garner some national respect against the Longhorns in Austin. Result: Texas 42; Colorado 17.
Iowa State was certainly not in the class of Oklahoma, Miami, nor Texas. But the stakes were similar.
The Buffs entered the contest with a 7-2 record and a No.22 ranking. Wins over Iowa State and Nebraska would give the Buffs a 9-2 overall record, 7-1 in conference. A ranking around No.15 heading into the rematch against Texas in the Big 12 title game was not out of the question. Even a respectable showing against the Longhorns in the title game would likely keep the Buffs ranked heading into a bowl game. A win there would guarantee a ranking in the final polls for the first time in three years, and a likely mention in the preseason 2006 polls.
Yet, with all that before them, the Buffs fell flat.
Colorado’s only first down in the first quarter came after an Iowa State penalty. A week after making a conscious effort to cut down on their own penalties (and succeeding against Missouri), the Buffs resorted to their old ways, committing 10 penalties for 90 yards against the Cyclones. The three turnovers ultimately doomed the Buffs, but Colorado was also ineffective in taking control of the game, netting only 79 yards rushing. The Buffs converted only 3-of-14 third down chances, and went 0-for-2 on fourth down.
“The ring was out there and we failed to grab it,” said Gary Barnett. “We missed an opportunity is what happened.”
Situation normal for the Buffs.
The only good news to come out of the wind tunnel at Ames?
The Buffs now had to beat Nebraska.
– The loss to Iowa State snapped a seven game win streak by the Buffs against Big 12 North competition.
– Buff punter John Torp had one of his worst games in a CU uniform, punting six times for a 32.0 yard average.
– Joel Klatt’s interception broke a string of 139 straight passes without a pick, another CU record. Klatt also went over the 7,000 yard passing plateau (7,116 by game’s end), becoming the first Buff to reach that mark.
– Lawrence Vickers’ fumble in the Iowa State game was just the second of his career, and the first since early in 2003.
– For the 2005 season, the Buffs would go on to smash old penalty records, both for penalties accepted (116, up considerably from the 97 penalties called on the 1996 squad, which held the old record), and yards penalized (1,040, surpassing the 882 yards marked off against the 1997 Buffs).