October 7th – at Texas A&M           Colorado 26, Texas A&M 19

Making his first college start, true freshman quarterback Craig Ochs led Colorado to a 26-19 upset win over Texas A&M at College Station.

In becoming just the second true freshman quarterback in CU history to post a win in his first career start (Marc Walters being the other) Ochs passed for one touchdown and ran for another as Colorado won its first game of the 2000 season.

Colorado jumped out to a 12-0 lead against the Aggies who came into the game with a 3-1 record. Ochs capped a 12-play, 94-yard drive with an 18-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. A few moments later, the Buffs’ lead was up to 9-0, as the Aggies’ next possession ended with a punt … and a ball snapped out of the endzone on the punt attempt.

Following the free kick, Ochs led the CU offense on a five play drive which covered 42 yards before Mark Mariscal was called upon for a 45-yard field goal attempt. Mariscal’s kick was good, and winless Colorado had a 12-0 lead early in the second quarter.

Matters quickly unraveled late in the second quarter, though, as a blocked field goal attempt and an Ochs’ fumble led to 13 A&M points over a 1:29 span just before half. Texas A&M quarterback Mark Farris hit Robert Ferguson for a 46-yard touchdown with just 2:14 left before halftime to get the Aggies on the scoreboard. Colorado then fumbled the ball back to A&M, and the Aggies – aided by a questionable pass interference call – drove 30 yards in seven plays, capped by a two-yard touchdown run by Richard Whitaker. Texas A&M went for a two-point conversion, but the attempt failed, leaving the teams with a 13-12 halftime score.

Rather than succumb, however, Colorado scored 14 of the game’s next 17 points, taking a 26-16 lead on two Cortlen Johnson touchdowns.

The first score came late in the third quarter on a one yard run, capping a three play drive of only four yards, set up by a blocked punt by freshman defensive end Marques Harris. The second Johnson score came after a Texas A&M field goal had cut the lead to 19-16. Ochs hooked up with Johnson for a 52-yard catch and run which put the Buffs up 26-16 early in the fourth quarter.

The game was then left to Colorado’s much maligned defense … could the 0-4 Buffs hold the lead?

After the second Johnson touchdown, the Aggies quickly drove to the Colorado five yard line before settling for a field goal to cut the Buffs’ advantage to 26-19 with 8:29 still to play. On it’s last possession, A&M drove as far as the Colorado 17-yard line. With two minutes remaining, however, a fourth-down pass fell incomplete, and Colorado had its first win of the 2000 season.

Craig Ochs passed for 239 yards for Colorado, connecting on 15-of-29 passes. Cortlen Johnson ran for 99 yards on 31 carries, including his one-yard touchdown plunge in the third quarter. Johnson also contributed two catches for 73 yards, including his 52-yard score.

“For a freshman to come in here and play like he did today showed incredible poise,” Colorado coach Gary Barnett said of Ochs. “But he’s not your average freshman. To come in here and win in these conditions in front of a hostile crowd speaks volumes for the kind of player he can be.”

Colorado was now 1-1 in Big 12 Conference play, but only 1-4 overall. Still, things were looking up. The six-week gauntlet to open the season (against five top 15 teams) was nearly over. And now, the sixth and final game of the run, this one against Texas, did not now seem to be an automatic loss.

The Longhorns had opened the 2000 campaign as one of the preseason favorites to win the Big 12 Conference, if not compete for the national championship. But Texas had been tripped up by Stanford, 27-24, the second week of the season to fall out of the top ten. Ranked 11th going into its game against 10th-ranked Oklahoma, Texas laid an egg. While Colorado was putting an end to Texas A&M’s 22-game home winning streak, undefeated Oklahoma was putting an end to Texas’ title hopes, drubbing the Longhorns, 63-14.

No one knew which teams would show up in Boulder seven days later.

Would Colorado be buoyed by its first win, or would there be a reality check applied by the Longhorns?

Would Texas be deflated …. or angry?



Game Notes –

– Ochs was only the sixth freshman to ever start a game at quarterback at Colorado, and only the third true freshman. The other two true freshman had fared well, with Marc Walters picking up a 49-3 win over Kansas State in 1986, with Koy Detmer playing to a 24-24 tie against Oklahoma in 1992.

– The victory over Texas A&M allowed Colorado to avoid only the third 0-5 start in school history.

– The win also gave Colorado a 3-1 edge in the series with Texas A&M, including a 2-0 record in games played in College Station.

– In something of an indictment of the Colorado passing game in 2000, the 52-yard touchdown catch and run by running back Cortlen Johnson was the longest scoring pass of the season for the Buffs.

– Colorado was out-gained Texas A&M, 362 yards to 351. The 362 yards of total offense surrendered, however, was the lowest total of the season for the Buff defense.

– Freshman linebacker Sean Tufts earned his first career start against Texas A&M, replacing Jashon Sykes in the lineup. Sykes, though, got the message, coming off the bench to lead the team in tackles against the Aggies, with 13. Sykes would go on to start every other game the remainder of the 2000 season, finishing second on the team in tackles (111) to Michael Lewis (117).

– After falling to the Buffs, the Aggies would right their ship … at least temporarily. Texas A&M rebounded to win its next four games to run its record to 7-2 (and a No. 23 national ranking). The Aggies then lost a tough game to No. 1 Oklahoma, 35-31, which sent the 2000 season in a different direction. Texas A&M, up to No. 21 the following week despite the loss, then lost to No. 12 Texas, 43-17, finishing the season with 43-41 loss to Mississippi State in the Independence Bowl to finish a 7-5 season with a three-game losing streak.



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