September 30th – Boulder           No. 5 Kansas State 44, Colorado 21

Kansas State quarterback Jonathan Beasley combined for 361 yards of total offense as the 5th-ranked Wildcats humbled the winless Colorado Buffaloes, 44-21. Beasley hit on 15-of-25 passes for 293 yards and three scores as Kansas State raced to a 13-0 lead five minutes into the contest and never looked back.

Kansas State took control of the game from the outset.

Colorado failed to produce a first down until its third drive. Meanwhile, the Wildcats posted two touchdowns on only six offensive plays. The touchdowns covered only ten and three yards, but were set up by long plays by Aaron Lockett. The first touchdown was set up by a 49-yard punt return; the second by a 50-yard pass down to the Buff three yard line.

The Buffs did show some life as the first half progressed. A pair of Jeremy Flores field goals – covering 41 and 48 yards – made it a 13-6 game midway through the first quarter (the Wildcats’ second extra point attempt was blocked). That score held until the ten minute mark of the second quarter, when Beasley hit Quincy Morgan for a ten-yard touchdown and a 20-6 lead.

 Colorado pulled to within a touchdown at 20-13 late in the second quarter after true freshman Craig Ochs, in his first drive at the helm of the Colorado offense, directed a scoring drive with Ochs running it in himself from 17 yards out. Any hopes of a comeback, though, were quickly extinguished as the Wildcats put up another score less than one minute later, with a 74-yard completion setting up a three yard touchdown run. All hope for a comeback was extinguished when Kansas State scored right before the half to take a 34-13 lead into the break.

Before Colorado would score again, the deficit was 41-13. After giving up a 71-yard interception return for a touchdown, Ochs and the Colorado offense mustered together a nine-play, 80-yard drive, culminated with a two yard pass from Ochs to John Minardi.

“It’s pretty simple – we played bad, they played good”, oversimplified Gary Barnett. “We gave up so many big plays in the secondary. We didn’t get a great deal of a pass rush. We didn’t tackle very well.”

Senior defensive end Anwawn Jones did not mince his words, either: “We performed like a junior-college team … I mean we as a whole”.

If there was anything positive to be taken from the worst loss to Kansas State in the 56-game history of the rivalry, it was the efforts of freshman Craig Ochs. Ochs had been told that he would be given at least one series early against the Wildcats. “They told me if I played well, I’d stay in”. Ochs stayed in the game after directing Colorado on an 80-drive for its first touchdown in his first opportunity. “I guess they thought I played well enough.” On the day, Ochs completed 15-of-24 passes for 208 yards and one touchdown. Barnett immediately named Ochs the starter for the Texas A&M game.

While one freshman was getting his opportunity, though, another received a crushing blow. Marcus Houston, seen as the future of the Colorado ground game, did not play against Kansas State. A hip flexor injury sustained against Washington had turned out worse than thought, and it was announced after the Kansas State game that Houston would be out for three-to-eight weeks. Head coach Barnett indicated that if Houston did not recover quickly, he would apply to the NCAA on Houston’s behalf for a medical redshirt, preserving four years of eligibility for Barnett’s prize recruit.

Could it get any worse for CU?

Up next was Texas A&M, 3-1 after a 33-15 win over Texas Tech. The Aggies were also riding a 22-game home winning streak. After that came a matchup with 13th-ranked Texas.

An 0-6 start, the fear first mentioned by the Daily Camera’s Neill Woelk before the opener, now seemed like a distinct possibility.

End of an Era

One could argue that it came to an end in Ann Arbor in 1997, when Michigan thumped then 8th-ranked Colorado 27-3.

Or maybe it came to an end on a fourth-and-25 play against Nebraska on November 28, 1997. After leading a desperate comeback, quarterback John Hessler completed a pass to Phil Savoy, but the completion came up three yards short of a first down and Colorado fell, 27-24. The loss gave Colorado its first losing season in 13 years, and left the 5-6 Buffs out of the bowl picture.

For me, though, it came to an end officially on September 30, 2000.

“It” was the golden era of CU football.

A part of the national landscape of college football for over a decade, Colorado ceased to be relevant after the Kansas State blowout. One could explain away all of 1997 as an anomaly, and could even point to the three previous losses in 2000 as being only 10 points from an undefeated season.

But there was no explaining away the loss to Kansas State. The Buffs were beaten soundly by a better team. Colorado would now, and for the foreseeable future, merit national mention only when taking on a ranked foe. The link to the glorious run of the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s was over.

And sadly – oh, so sadly – the look of Folsom Field had become all too familiar. As in early 1980’s familiar. There were over 10,000 fans wearing opposing colors. It was odd to see the color being purple of Kansas State instead of the red of Nebraska or Oklahoma, but the Wildcat fans came to Boulder in droves. There were paper fights in the student sections, with spit wads being created out of the newspaper from the free game programs. The paper fights were diversions from what was going on down on the field, much the way beer fights and passing up girls through the stands had occupied us when we were students during blowout losses during the Fairbanks and early McCartney years.

I was confident that the 2001 Colorado football Media Guide would continue to connect the 2001 Buffs with the Colorado teams of the past (e.g., the 2000 Media Guide listed Colorado as having the 8th-best overall record in the NCAA, 1989-99; the 10th-best record in the previous 75 games; the 7th-best record in Conference games, 1989-99; and the 6th-best road record, 1988-99), but this was getting to be old news.

What put Colorado in the top ten in these categories were the efforts of teams long past. The reality was that since the beginning of the 1997 season, Colorado’s record was now 20-19. The Buffs had spent much more time out of the top 25 than in it. A coach had left for greener pastures, and expansion of facilities, promised since McCartney was head coach, were still on the drawing board.

As the Buffs prepared for their game against Texas A&M, a September to forget was behind them.

Unfortunately, there was little reason to expect much from October or beyond.

Game Notes –

– The largest crowd (51,896) to witness a Colorado/Kansas State game also bore witness to the first four game winning streak in the series by Kansas State, and the first time the Wildcats had ever beaten Colorado in consecutive games at Folsom Field.

– At halftime, Kansas State led the Buffs, 34-13.  The 34 first half points were the most by any Colorado opponent since Notre Dame led the Buffs 38-0 at halftime of their 55-14 rout in 1984.

– The 44 points posted by the Wildcats were the most ever against Colorado.  The previous high was reached in 1984, when the Wildcats routed the Buffs, 38-6.  The 44 points were the most by any Colorado opponent since Nebraska defeated the Buffs, 44-21, in 1995.

– The  loss was the first for Colorado at a Homecoming game since falling, 40-14, to Oho State in 1983.  The 16-game winning streak was the longest in school history.  Overall, Colorado was now 57-24-5 on games played on Homecoming.

– More perspective on Kansas State.  Coming into the 2000 season, the Wildcats had 387 wins in school history (Colorado: 608).  The 387 wins placed the Wildcats 99th out of 119 Division 1-A teams, listed between Toledo (391) and New Mexico State (382) … And now Kansas State had a four game winning streak against Colorado.

– Colorado’s last 0-4 start came in 1986.  The Buffs went on to defeat Missouri, 17-12, on the road in the fifth game, going on to a 6-1 conference record (including the epic 20-10 win over Nebraska) before falling to Baylor in the Bluebonnet Bowl to finish the season 6-6.

– While Kansas State had 446 yards of total offense in the rout, the Buffs did have 404 of their own. Craig Ochs, in his first playing time as a CU quarterback, went 15-for-24 for 208 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, also posting 38 yards rushing.

– Junior tight end Daniel Graham had seven catches for 100 yards against the Wildcats, one of only two 100-yard receiving games by a Buff receiver all season. Graham would go on to be named second-team All-Big 12 and honorable mention All-American, leading all Big 12 tight ends in receptions (33) and receiving yards (443).

– Kansas State would rise as high as No. 2 in the nation before falling to No. 8 Oklahoma, 41-31, in early October. The Wildcats would go on to win the Big 12 North, taking on Oklahoma (now No. 1) once again in the Big 12 title game. There, the Sooners won again, 27-24. A 35-21 win over No. 21 Tennessee in the Cotton Bowl completed an 11-3 season, with Kansas State finishing No. 9 in the final polls.

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