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No. 2 Texas – Big 12 Championship Game – Gary Must Go

// Dec 3 - 2005

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December 3rd – at Houston Reliant Stadium           No. 2 Texas 70, Colorado 3

Big 12 Championship Game

The Texas Longhorns came into the Big 12 title game at Reliant Stadium in Houston on a mission to make it back to the Rose Bowl for the second consecutive year.

They left Houston smelling like Roses, as the Longhorns completely out-classed Colorado, 70-3.

Texas quarterback and Heisman trophy hopeful Vince Young accounted for four touchdowns, three by air and one on the ground, in leading the Longhorn rout. Running back Jamaal Charles scored three times as Texas scored all of its points in the first three quarters before settling back to wave at the crowd for the final fifteen minutes.

Any chance the Buffs had in making the game interesting evaporated after Colorado’s first drive. Taking the opening kickoff, Colorado drove into Texas territory. A Hugh Charles fumble ended the drive, though, and the Longhorns quickly responded. A seven play, 65-yard drive was culminated on a one yard Henry Melton dive, and the Longhorns were ahead to stay.

A second first quarter CU drive ended in a blocked field goal attempt, and the Buffs were not able to mount much on the day after that.

The only Colorado scoring “drive” of the day came after a Tom Hubbard interception with the Buffs down, 14-0. The Buffs started on the Longhorn five yard line, but actually went backwards three yards before Mason Crosby kept the Colorado school record for scoring in a game alive with a 25-yard field goal.

Already up 14-3, Texas turned the game into a rout with four second quarter touchdowns. Three of the four scoring drives began in CU territory, and the longest of the drives took only 2:48 of game clock. The halftime scoreboard read: Texas 42; Colorado 3.

In the third quarter, the rout became a mockery, as Texas added four more touchdowns before the third quarter was even half complete. Turnovers and a blocked punt for a touchdown left the 71,107 in attendance, almost all Texas fans, wondering if the Longhorns would post 100 points on the afternoon.

The dogs were then called off, at least on offense, as no points were scored by either team in the final quarter and a half. The Longhorn defense, though, did add injury to insult by taking Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt out of the game with a concussion after a late hit.

“A pretty numbing game,” said Gary Barnett in trying to come up with words to describe the indescribable. “Actually, numb would be a pretty good feeling right now.”

What had become of the team which was 7-2 and nationally ranked? “For some reason,” said Barnett, “we could not overcome that loss to Iowa State.” Echoed senior tight end Joe Klopfenstein: “Something’s mentally wrong with our team. But we haven’t been able to pinpoint what it is.”

Some found it easy to pinpoint what was wrong. Even before he left Reliant Stadium, Athletic Director Mike Bohn was peppered with questions about Gary Barnett’s future as the CU head coach. “Our focus right now has to be on our kids, especially (injured quarterback) Joel Klatt,” said Bohn. “We’re going to get on the plane, go home and then refocus our efforts on getting this thing right.”

The humbling loss and a three game losing streak dropped the 7-5 Buffs to the Champs Sports in a match-up against Clemson. The Tigers were 7-4, but had played well late in the season and were ranked 23rd in the nation. Clemson’s four losses were by a total of 14 points, with two losses coming in overtime. It would be a tough mountain for a reeling team to climb without any outside distractions.

But the team and its players were about to be handed the greatest distraction a team could face.

Here is the YouTube replay of the game, in two parts, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul (Part One):

 

And Part Two:

 

Gary Must Go

I had been on the fence. I had waffled, fearing the great unknown was worse than what was.

Better the devil you know, eh?

But after the 70-3 demolition by Texas before a national television audience at the Big 12 Championship game, the voices of the Buff Nation were becoming uniform:

Gary Must Go.

I defended Gary Barnett during the recruiting scandal. I bristled as the University of Colorado was routinely ridiculed in the national press for being a sterling example of how not to run a college football program, but I didn’t blame the coach. I cringed as the Buffs were dismantled by Oklahoma in title games, but glorified the rings handed out to the division winners.

The ugly losses which brought the curtain down on the 2005 regular season, though, were too much to ignore.

When the Buffs were 7-2, ranked, and on their way to a fourth division title in five years, the question was: “How can you not give an extension to a coach who has brought such success to the University?”.

Now, after three humbling losses by a total score of 130-22 (100-6 by Nebraska and Texas), the question was: “How can you give a contract extension to a coach whose losses reach historic proportions?”.

The four rings were great; no doubt about it. But if not for the kicking woes of Iowa State, the Cyclones would be the two-time defending Big 12 North champions, and there would be little left to defend in Barnett’s record. While winning the Big 12 North in 2004 and 2005, the Buffs had hardly been world beaters. Counting 2003’s 3-5 conference campaign, Colorado was a very pedestrian 12-12 in conference play from 2003-05.

Had Missouri’s Brad Smith stepped up, or had Nebraska stayed with Frank Solich as head coach, or had the aforementioned Cyclones been able to finish a game with a title on the line, the Buffs would have been without a ring since 2002, and the search for a new coach might have begun in 2004.

As mentioned earlier in this year’s notes, Dave Plati, CU Sports Information Director and my statistics God, had managed to massage the numbers for years. Now, though, they were starting to look a little threadbare.

A quick glance through the Barnett years:

In his “Usually in ‘em” feature in his weekly release, Plati mentioned that of the 62 losses suffered by Colorado between 1989 and 2005, 32 had been by eight points or less. Translation: only 30 times over 17 years (31 after the Texas loss), had the Buffs been beaten by more than two scores. Doesn’t sound too bad, does it? But before Barnett’s arrival (1989-98), there were only 10 such losses, and only two in which the Buffs were never really in the game (‘92 v. Nebraska; ‘97 v. Michigan).

What, then, could be said about the Barnett years?

11 years prior to Barnett: 10 losses of over eight points.

7 years under Barnett: 21 losses of over eight points.

(For the math challenged, that’s going from an average of less than one blowout a season to an average of three per season under Barnett).

From 1989-98, the Buffs defeated at least one ranked team each year (defeating at least three ranked opponents in six of those years).

Under Barnett, Colorado failed to defeat a ranked team in four out of his seven seasons (including 2004 and 2005, having now lost eight in a row to ranked opponents).

From 1987-98 – a span of twelve seasons – the Buffs lost to an unranked team only four times.

Under Barnett – in seven seasons – there were 15 such defeats.

From 1989-98, the Buffs had the seventh best record in the nation.

After the Nebraska loss, Colorado dropped out of the top ten in that Dave Plati created category (though it took Dave’s creative bookkeeping – dropping of other teams’ Division 1-AA victories – to prolong the streak as long as he could).

Perhaps the most painful, though telling, statistic, was always on the front page of the press release. “In the polls” bragged about how Colorado had been ranked in 185 of the past 277 polls dating back to the start of the 1989 season (or 67%). Before Barnett, though, the numbers were 151 of 168. Translation:

1989-98: 151 of 168, or 90% of the polls during that span.

Under Barnett: 34 of 109, or 31%.

I’ll admit to being obsessive about the numbers. I’ll admit to wanting to watch Barnett climb up the coaching charts, both at the school and nationally. I’ll admit to bragging about the Division titles whenever I was cornered about Barnett’s losses to ranked teams

But, after the collapse to end the 2005 regular season, it was becoming more and more apparent: enough was enough.

Barnett had clearly lost his team. How or why, I don’t know. The two touchdowns given up by the CU offense to the Iowa State defense had somehow paralyzed the Buffs’ offense. Colorado had now gone 10 quarters without a touchdown.

After the Texas game, both Athletic Director Mike Bohn and head coach Gary Barnett were quiet about Barnett’s future. “Our focus right now has to be on our kids,” said Bohn. “Our commitment right now is to them above everything else.”

Said Barnett on his future: “You can’t make emotional decisions right now. Tomorrow, things are more clear and Monday, things are more clear.”

Things were now very clear.

More clear than if the Buffs had defeated Iowa State or Nebraska to win the North division outright.

More clear than if Colorado had made a respectable showing against Texas.

Gary had to go.

One Response to “No. 2 Texas – Big 12 Championship Game – Gary Must Go”

  1. MajorBuff

    I remember sitting in the stands in the middle of the season(2005)talking with my brother about how we better enjoy this year because the cupboard would be bare the next year. I liked Barnett and I am glad he is doing the CU games on KOA but, he just was not a very good recruiter. After the 2001 season the teams talent level decreased every year after. I really believe the sex scandal only hastened his firing by a year or two.

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