October 29th – @ Kansas State Colorado 23, Kansas State 20
Mason Crosby kicked a 50-yard field goal with six seconds remaining to give Colorado a 23-20 win over Kansas State.
The victory was the second last minute win in a row over the Wildcats, as the Buffs had handed Kansas State a 38-31 setback in Boulder on a Joel Klatt to Ron Monteilh 64-yard touchdown with five seconds left in 2004. The Colorado win, combined with a loss to Kansas by Big 12 North co-leader Missouri, gave the Buffs sole possession of the Big 12 North lead with a 4-1 league record.
Leading the Buffs was Joel Klatt, whose 272 passing yards on the blustery afternoon gave the senior quarterback 6,579 career yards, surpassing Kordell Stewart’s record of 6,481 yards (1992-94). Klatt’s latest record was the 32nd in his career at Colorado.
The game started out well for the Buffs, with Colorado scoring in just five plays to open the contest. A 64-yard pass from Klatt to tight end Quinn Sypniewski set up the Buffs at the Wildcat one-yard line. On the next play, Lawrence Vickers did the honors, and the Buffs were up 7-0 less than 90 seconds into the game.
Kansas State responded with a field goal drive to cut the lead to 7-3, and then took a 10-7 lead on the first play of the second quarter on a two yard run by Thomas Clayton. The remainder of the second quarter belonged to Colorado, though, as the Buffs took advantage of the 23-32 mph winds behind their backs to score the next 13 points of the game. A 52-yard field goal by Crosby tied the score. A few minutes later, after a Kansas State fumble, the Buffs took a 13-10 lead on a 42-yarder by Crosby. A short punt on the Wildcats’ ensuing possession set the Buffs up at the Wildcat 36-yard line. After a five yard run by Hugh Charles, Klatt connected with wide receiver Evan Judge on a 31-yard score to up the advantage to 20-10.
When Klatt hit Joe Klopfenstein for a 20-yard gain late in the second quarter to set the new passing record, the Buffs seemed to have the game under control. Colorado was up 20-10 and driving, with a first down at the Kansas State 25-yard line with just over a minute to play before halftime. Instead of issuing the knockout blow, however, Klatt was sacked on the very next play, fumbling the ball back to the Wildcats, setting the stage for a wild second half.
The third quarter gave the wind and the momentum back to Kansas State. The Colorado defense had surrendered 10 points in the third quarter all season, but surrendered 10 points to the Wildcats on a three yard run by quarterback Allan Evridge and a 52-yard field goal by Kansas State kicker Jeff Snodgrass.
The 43,890 purple-clad fans on hand in Manhattan likely spent most of the fourth quarter wondering which team would take an interest in winning the game. Tied at 20, the Buffs continued to make mistakes. On the day, Colorado committed 11 penalties for 116 yards, keeping the Wildcats in the game. Kansas State did not fare much better, and when the Buffs lined up to punt the ball back to the Wildcats with just over a minute to play, it seemed that the game would be heading into overtime.
Colorado punter John Torp, who would master the windy conditions to average 46.2 yards/punt on the afternoon, punted the ball to Wildcat returner Jeremy Moriera, who fumbled the ball at the Wildcat 26 yard line. The fumble was recovered by Buff defensive back Terry Washington with 1:08 on the game clock. Two kneel downs by Joel Klatt lost seven yards, but it made no difference to Mason Crosby, who kicked the 50-yard game winner with plenty of room to spare.
“I don’t usually lose six yards so you can kick a 50-whatever yard field goal,” said CU head coach Gary Barnett. “But the kid, he’s a stud.” The “kid”, also known as “Golden Toe”, “Lead Foot” and “Hef” (in reference to his being named to the Playboy Pre-Season All-American team), gave credit to the entire team. “This team this year, we have so much heart,” said Crosby. “We play to the very end, so I know I’m going to get those chances if the game is close.”
The game was only the second close game of the year for the Buffs, both victories (counting the Crosby 47-yard game winner over Colorado State to start the season). The other six Colorado games, four wins and two losses, had all been blowouts. Still, the win over Kansas State made Colorado bowl-eligible with a 6-2 overall record.
The win, coupled with a 13-3 loss by Missouri at Kansas, gave the Buffs the outright lead in the Big 12 North race. Still, Missouri was just a game behind at 3-2, and would take the tie-breaker edge over the Buffs if the Tigers were to win in Boulder. The loss put Kansas State at 4-4, 1-4, out of the title hunt, and in danger of posting a second consecutive losing season for the first time since 1989-90.
In consecutive weeks, the Buffs had eliminated Kansas and Kansas State from the race to the Big 12 Championship game. A win over Missouri at home would give Colorado a two game lead on the division with only two games left to play. A loss to Missouri would make the Buffs scoreboard watchers for the remainder of the season.
The Process of Elimination
Joel Klatt had said it after the 44-13 win over Kansas: “We still control our own destiny,” said Klatt. “We’re trying to eliminate one North team every week.”
Two weeks down. Two rivals eliminated.
In a quirk in the scheduling, the Buffs faced all five Big 12 North division opponents to end the year for the first time since the conference had been formed in 1996. A 2-1 record against the Big 12 South set the Buffs up for controlling their own destiny against the rest of the division.
A 44-13 win over Kansas gave the Jayhawks an 0-4 conference mark, all but mathematically eliminating Kansas. The less than stellar 23-20 escape from Manhattan dropped the now 1-4 Wildcats from contention. Missouri dropped to 3-2 on the same afternoon the Buffs fought the wind and themselves against the Wildcats, while Nebraska dropped to 2-3 in conference play with a 31-24 home loss to Oklahoma. Only Iowa State improved its lot on the day, surprising Texas A&M with a 42-14 rout of the Aggies at College Station to raise its record in conference to 2-3.
For the 4-1 Buffs, the math was simple. Win the next two games, against Missouri at home and against Iowa State on the road, and the Nebraska game, as had been the case in 2002, would be irrelevant to the division race. The Buffs in 2002 already had their tickets to the title game punched before traveling to Lincoln in 2002 (though the 28-13 win didn’t hurt), and having the luxury of celebrating Joel Klatt’s last home game as a Buff without worrying about needing to win in order to clinch the Buffs’ fourth division title in five years would be welcomed by the Buff faithful.
Still, there were nagging concerns.
The Buffs were 11th in the Big 12, and near the bottom nationally, in penalties and penalty yardage, and that was before the 11 penalty, 116-yard nightmare at Kansas State. The Buffs had a 20-10 lead on the Wildcats, and were driving for more, before a late second quarter fumble shifted the momentum. Fact was, if not for the fumble by the Wildcat punt returner and the strong leg of Mason Crosby, the Buffs would have been looking at an overtime game, on the road, with unknown consequences. The Colorado special teams had bailed out the Buffs for a second straight week.
And who knew which Missouri team would show up in Boulder? Would it be the Tiger team which had toasted Nebraska for 41 points and 523 yards of total offense the week before, including 480 yards of total offense (246 passing, 234 rushing) by all-everything quarterback Brad Smith? Or would it be the Tiger team which put up 180 total yards (141 passing, 38 rushing by Smith) in a 13-3 loss to Kansas?
The game would be in Boulder, where Colorado was 4-0 at Folsom Field for the first time since 1999. A Colorado victory would make the now 25th-ranked Buffs the odds on favorite to win the North. A Missouri win would give the Tigers the best chance to win the division.
The process of elimination continued.
- Senior wide receiver Evan Judge had six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. Judge became the first Buff to have over 100 yards receiving since Joe Klopfenstein had 134 yards receiving against UTEP in the Houston Bowl, (12/29/04).
- Mason Crosby hit two field goals over 50 yards against Kansas State, giving him three for the year and nine for his career (the CU high for a career was three before Crosby came to Boulder).
- Colorado played Kansas and Kansas State in back-to-back games for the 18th time (and for the fifth straight season). The 2005 sweep marked the 10th time the Buffs had won both games (six splits, with the Buffs being swept just twice).