November 4th – at Missouri           Colorado 28, Missouri 18

On the 10th anniversary of the “fifth-down” game, there was little national attention directed at the Colorado/Missouri game. Both teams were 2-6, and, for the second week in a row, Colorado was facing an embattled head coach, this time in Missouri’s Larry Smith.

For the second week in a row, the Buffs did little to aid the cause of the opposing coach, defeating the Tigers 28-18.

Colorado took control early.

Desperate times call for desperate measures, as was evident by Missouri’s onside kick attempt to start the game. The Buffs recovered, though, with linebacker Andy Peeke falling on the ball at midfield. The Colorado offense next took advantage of the good field position to take a 7-0 lead. Junior fullback Scott Nemeth scored his first career touchdown on a one-yard plunge to complete the eight play drive just 2:02 into the contest.

Four plays later, sophomore linebacker Joey Johnson blocked a Missouri punt. John Minardi returned the punt 36 yards for a score and the Buffs were on top, 14-0, with 11:39 still left in the first quarter.

A couple of drives later, Drew Wahlroos collected one of his three sacks on the day, forcing a fumble in the process which was recovered by Donald Strickland at the Missouri 12-yard line. On the very next play, quarterback Craig Ochs connected with junior defensive tackle Justin Bannan on a tackle-eligible pass for a 12-yard score, and the Buffs were up 21-0.

The Tigers finally got on the board after a 90-yard scoring drive, but the score remained 21-6 after the extra point attempt hit the upright. Later in the second, the Buff defense again set up the offense, with Phil Jackson returning an interception 30 yards to the Missouri 16 yard line. On the second play of the ensuing “drive”, Ochs hit Eric McCready for a 15-yard touchdown. McCready’s first career score gave the Buffs a 28-6 advantage at halftime.

But there was no such thing as an easy win for this 2-6 team.

The remainder of the game the Buffs held on for dear life, going scoreless for 35 minutes as the Tigers crawled back into contention. The Colorado offense suffered from the loss of Ochs, who left the game with a sprained foot at halftime. Zac Colvin went only 3-for-10 for 25 yards as Ochs’ replacement, and Colorado was held to only 201 yards of total offense. In the second half, the Buffs had a grand total of 24 yards of total offense, including a minus-one yard effort in the fourth quarter.

Preservation of the win, then, fell to the Buff defense. Despite giving up 405 yards of total offense, the Buffs held the Tiger offense to two touchdowns. The Buffs did give up one third down touchdown to make it a 28-13 game, then a 34-yard field goal early in the fourth to cut the lead to 28-16. The only other points of the game, though, came when Buff punter Jeremy Flores stepped out of the end zone with 6:46 remaining, getting the Tigers to within ten, at 28-18, but Missouri would not score again, giving the Buffs a much-needed ten-point victory.

Along the way, Missouri quarterback Darius Outlaw fumbled twice, was intercepted three times, and was sacked 14 times for a loss of 96 yards. The 14 sacks set a Big 12 record, besting the 10 sacks posted by Nebraska against Iowa State in 1996.

“It was fun”, said freshman defensive end Marques Harris, who had two sacks. “Every time you look down and (Outlaw) is on the ground, and he’s slower and slower getting up, it makes you feel like you’ve done your job.”

The Buffs had collectively done their job in consecutive games for the first time all season.

The 3-6 overall record was still depressing, but the 3-3 conference mark gave reason for optimism. The remaining schedule included a home game against 6-3 Iowa State and a road matchup against Nebraska. The Buffs had not lost to ISU since 1983, but had not beaten the Cornhuskers since 1990, so if the Buffs were to have a .500 Big 12 conference mark, the win would probably have to come at home.

Game Notes –

– The Buffs’ score on their opening drive marked the third game in a row Colorado had scored on its first possession.

– John Minardi’s return of a blocked punt for a touchdown was the first for the Buffs since Dan McMillan took a blocked punt for a score against Iowa State in 1982.

– There was no “fifth-down”, but there was controversy. The Ochs/Bannan touchdown came, in fact, on an illegal formation. On the play, Bannan reported as an eligible receiver, and lined up as a tackle. He was “covered” by tight end Quinn Sypniewski, meaning that Sypniewski was outside of Bannan on the line of scrimmage, making Bannan ineligible. Sypniewski was supposed to go in motion on the play, thus “uncovering” Bannan and making Bannan an eligible receiver, but the freshman tight end failed to go in motion.

– The 14 sack effort against Missouri was a Big 12 record, and also set a new school record. The Buffs’ previous best came against Iowa State in a 1969 game, when the Buffs recorded a total of 12 sacks.

– The Colorado defense also set a new school record in the category of “Tackles for Loss”. The Buffs had 18 (for 104 yards) in the Missouri game, besting the school record of 14 (also set in the 1969 game against Iowa State).

– Missouri had its chances, running 94 plays, the sixth-highest total for any opponent in Colorado history. The Buffs, meanwhile, held the ball for only 66 plays.

– Craig Ochs threw an interception on the final play of the first half, ending a streak of consecutive passes without an interception at 97, three short of the school record of 100 set by John Hessler in 1995.

– Missouri would go on to defeat Baylor the week after the Colorado game, but would not win again, finishing the season with a 3-8 overall record (2-6 in Big 12 play). The 2000 season proved to be the last for Larry Smith, who was fired after compiling a 33-46-1 record in seven seasons coaching the Tigers. Smith was replaced for the 2001 season by Gary Pinkel, who was still the coach of the Tigers when Missouri left the Big 12 for the SEC in 2012.



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