October 6th – at Kansas State         Colorado 16, No. 12 Kansas State 6

The Buff players handed 3rd-year head coach Gary Barnett his first big win as CU head coach, manhandling Kansas State, 16-6.

The Buffs allowed only a late fourth-quarter touchdown to a team which had torched the Sooners for 37 points in Norman a week earlier.  In moving to 2-0 in Big 12 play, the Buffs made a statement.  “I felt like we dominated them all around,” said CU redshirt-freshman defensive tackle Brandon Dabdoub.  “I think we showed the Big 12 and the whole country we’re for real.”

The Buffs’ defense limited the Wildcat offense to just 196 total yards.  Kansas State quarterback Eli Roberson, who passed for 257 yards against Oklahoma, hit just 10-of-29 passes for 107 yards and two interceptions.  He was also sacked six times by the Buffs, including two sacks each by sophomore defensive end Matt McChesney and junior defensive end Tyler Brayton.

But the Buffs’ offense was merely adequate against the Kansas State defense, which entered the game ranked eighth nationally.  Quarterback Craig Ochs connected with tight end Daniel Graham from 21 yards out in the second quarter to give the Buffs a 7-0 halftime lead. Graham’s circus catch would be the only contact the Buffs would have with the Wildcat endzone on the day.  It was then left to Jeremy Flores to extend the lead, hitting on field goals of 31, 20, and 22 yards.

Flores’ last field goal came with 2:37 left in the game, and capped a final flourish by the Buffs which was indicative of their play on the day.

With just under six minutes left, the Wildcats took possession at their own 31-yard line.  With their team trailing 13–6 (K-State missed the extra point attempt on its fourth quarter touchdown), the 51,101 purple-clad faithful on hand expected a quick score from their explosive offense to tie the game.

Instead, the Colorado defense rose to the occasion.

On first down, Brayton sacked Roberson for a nine-yard loss.  On second down, junior linebacker Joey Johnson stopped a screen pass for a two-yard loss.  Sophomore defensive end Marques Harris then sacked Roberson on third down, and the Wildcats were forced to punt.  Roman Hollowell returned the ensuing punt 41 yards deep into Wildcat territory, setting up Flores’ third field goal and the game’s final points.

“Obviously, it was important for this season,” understated Gary Barnett after the game.  “When something’s really important to you and you’re really committed, anything can happen, and that’s what happened today.”

There was no time for anything but a quick locker room celebration, however.  Texas A&M and Texas were up next on the schedule, and both were ranked.  Texas A&M was 5-0 on the season, 2-0 in Big 12 play.  But the Aggies were less than impressive in some of their outings, and were struggling to get past hapless Baylor, 16-10, while the Buffs were taking on Kansas State.  The game would be in Boulder, and the Buffs would have to be ready in what promised to be a defensive showdown.

 Ethan McLean Geiger

The call came just after the ESPN ticker announced that the CU/KSU game had gone to halftime.  I was at home in Bozeman, relegated to watching coverage of other games while I waited for updates on the Buffs.

The call was not a surprise. In fact, it was expected.  I had delayed taking the dogs out for a halftime walk in anticipation of the phone ringing.  I had spoken with Brad on Thursday, and he had indicated that he would call during the game on Saturday to give me a report (the game was being televised in the Denver area).

I checked the caller ID box as I went to pick up the phone, expecting to see Brad’s home telephone number appear.

But it wasn’t Brad’s home phone number.

It was the phone number of a hospital.

It was Brad on the other end of the line, and Brad had called to talk about the game.  Brad did want to discuss how well CU’s defense had played in the first half in leading CU to a 7-0 advantage.  But there was a difference.  Brad was calling from the hospital, where he was holding his sleeping newborn son in his arms.

Ethan McLean Geiger was born early on October 6, 2001.  While mother and child were both doing well, they were understandably tired and were resting while Brad watched the CU game.

The proud father couldn’t help but to point out that when they brought Ethan back to the hospital room, CU scored its first half touchdown.  For Brad, this was a sign of good things to come.  In deference to the moment, I resisted the temptation to remind Brad that on his wedding day in 1997, another noteworthy day in his life, the Buffs had been humiliated 27-3 against Michigan. Arguably, the CU loss to Michigan in 1997, when the Buffs were ranked 8th in the nation, marked the end of an era.  The Buffs fell out of the top ten in the national polls after the loss, and had not returned since.  The October 6, 2001, win over Kansas State, on the other hand, was being lauded as CU’s biggest road victory since the Buffs had defeated ninth-ranked Kansas State in Manhattan in 1996, or perhaps even the greatest since the “Miracle in Michigan” in 1994.

Was this win the beginning of the “Return to Dominance” which had been forecast by Gary Barnett upon his return to Boulder in 1999?

Was Barnett’s record, now 14-14 with the Buffs, to remain on the upswing from here on?  Was the four-year wait for Ethan to arrive the reason for the Buffs’ struggles?

In any event, the Colorado Buffaloes were now 1-0 in the Ethan McLean Geiger era, and had started with a noteworthy win.  Who was I to argue with fate?

“Well done, Ethan”, I thought.  Now I was just hopeful that he would be able to keep up his good work.  Another ranked opponent was only a week away.

Game Notes:

– With the win over 12th-ranked Kansas State, Colorado returned to the polls. The No. 20 ranking was the first for the Buffs since opening the 2000 season. The 22-week drought was the longest for CU since the 1987-’88 seasons.

–  The Buffs win in Manhattan marked the first loss by the Wildcats to an unranked team in 58 games, a streak which went back to 1989.

– Linebacker Jashon Sykes, who had foregone an opportunity to go to the NFL so that he could return to Boulder for his senior season, did not play against Kansas State. Sykes had been diagnosed with a herniated disc in his upper neck, and was out for the season (Sykes would go un-drafted in 2002, but would sign on as a free agent with the Denver Broncos, playing three seasons).

– The Buffs’ win over the 12th-ranked team in the country was the first such win for the program since CU knocked off the 9th-ranked team in the nation, also Kansas State, back in 1996.

– While the Buffs and Wildcats were struggling to score, there was a noteworthy game going on a few hundred miles to the east. On October 6, 2001, Middle Tennessee State defeated Idaho, 70-58. The 128 points set a new NCAA record for a game between two 1-A teams, eclipsing the 124 points put up in Oklahoma’s rout of Colorado in 1980. After over 20 years, a long-standing record, with CU name on the short end, was finally off the books.


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