October 23rd – at Iowa State           Colorado 16, Iowa State 12

One week after failing in every facet of the game against Texas Tech, the Colorado Buffaloes responded with sufficient resolve to hold off Iowa State, 16-12. In defeating the Cyclones for the 16th consecutive time, the Buffs gave Gary Barnett his first road win as the head coach at the University of Colorado.

But it did not come easily.

Substituting for Mike Moschetti, who was held out of the contest due to a concussion, redshirt freshman quarterback Zac Colvin made a successful starting debut. Colvin completed 14-of-23 passes for 116 yards, including a six-yard touchdown pass to tight end Dan Graham. Coach Barnett said Colvin “showed a lot of presence and poise … For his first start, with a team on the road that’s struggling like we have, it was a huge game.”

Colvin and the Buffs started the game, played in winds gusting to 25 m.p.h., without much of a spark. The Cyclones, playing with the wind, built a 6-0 first quarter lead with two Mike McKnight field goals.

Playing with the wind in the second quarter, Colorado responded with Jeremy Aldrich 45-yard field goal to make it a 6-3 game at the 10:43 mark. With their next possession, the Buffs took their first lead of the game with a Cortlen Johnson run of four yards, giving Colorado a 10-6 advantage. Iowa State then took its final lead of the game with a 21-yard touchdown pass from Sage Rosenfels to J.J. Moses with just 1:14 to play before halftime.

Down 12-10 after the Cyclones missed their extra point attempt, Colvin led the Buffs on a five-play, 49-yard drive to take the lead for good. A 33-yard kickoff return by Ben Kelly set up the Buffs’ offense, with Colvin hitting Daniel Graham for a six-yard touchdown with just 11 seconds remaining before halftime. A two-point conversion failed, leaving the score 16-12 at the break.

After the Buffs scored all 16 of their points in the second quarter, and it was up to the Buffs’ defense to make it stand up in the second half. The much-maligned Colorado defense contributed two second half interceptions (one each by cornerbacks Ben Kelly and Damen Wheeler), while twice forcing fourth down situations deep in CU territory. The first resulted in a fourth down stop, while the second resulted in a missed 41-yard field goal attempt by Iowa State kicker Mike McKnight.

In addition to Colvin’s play, the Colorado offense was aided by the return of a running game. Sophomore tailback Cortlen Johnson rushed for a career-high 185 yards on 31 carries, including a four-yard touchdown run in the second quarter. Johnson proved to be at his best in the clutch. Asked to run the ball six times in third down situations, Johnson converted all six rushes into first downs, including two runs late in the fourth quarter as the Buffs were attempting to run out the clock.

Meanwhile, Johnson’s counterpart, Iowa State’s Darren Davis, was held in check by the Colorado defense. The nation’s third-leading rusher coming into the game, Davis did post 172 yards on 31 carries, but was kept out of the endzone. Buff linebacker Jashon Sykes tracked down Davis on many of his carries, with Sykes’ 18 tackles on the afternoon garnering him Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week honors.

With the win, the Buffs found themselves tied with Nebraska for second place in the Big 12 North (the Cornhuskers lost that afternoon to Texas, 24-20. Kansas State, howeiver, remained unbeaten in conference play). Colorado’s 3-1 conference record was impressive, but the 4-3 overall record was not yet bowl worthy.

Up next was Oklahoma, re-born as a passing team under new head coach Bob Stoops. The Sooners were 4-2 on the season, and were coming to Boulder riding high after demolishing 13th-ranked Texas A&M, 51-6.

Game Notes –

– The scoreless second half was only the second in the four year history of the Big 12. Colorado was also a part of the other scoreless second half in Big 12 history, with Colorado and Kansas State failing to score in final two quarters in a game in Boulder in 1996 (a 12-0 CU victory).

– Each team only had four possessions in the second half, as both teams relied on their rushing attacks to carry their offenses in the gusty winds.

– Iowa State out-gained Colorado, 379-296, in total yards, and had a 34:31 – 25:29 advantage in time of possession.

– Zac Colvin’s debut extended an impressive run by Colorado quarterbacks making their first start.  Including Colvin, ten consecutive Buff quarterbacks, dating back to 1985, had now gone unbeaten (Koy Detmer’s debut in 1992 ended in a 24-24 tie with Oklahoma).  The last Buff quarterback to lose in his first game as a starter was Rick Wheeler, who lasted only one quarter before being injured in a 17-7 loss to Nebraska in October, 1985.

– While Colorado quarterbacks had a string of success in winning their first starts, very few were freshmen. Colvin joined Marc Walters as the only Buff freshmen to win their debuts as starters.

– Cortlen Johnson’s career-high 185 yards rushing represented the sixth-best rushing day by a sophomore in school history. Johnson earned 11 first downs, all rushing, the most by a non-quarterback since Rashaan Salaam had 12 first downs against Kansas in 1994. Six of the rushes came on third downs, as Johnson was six-for-six on converting third down rushes into first downs.

– With starter Brandon Drumm suspended for two games, sophomore fullback David Andrews received his first career start. Andrews started the season at defensive end, but moved back to the offensive side of the ball after the first month of the season.

– Iowa State came into the game against Colorado with a 4-2 record, but would not win another game the remainder of the season, finishing 4-7, 1-7 in Big 12 play.



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