December 7th – Reliant Stadium-Houston           No. 8 Oklahoma 29,  No. 12 Colorado 7

Big 12 Championship Game

Quarterback Nate Hybl threw two touchdown passes and Quentin Griffin ran for a championship record 188 yards and two scores as the Oklahoma Sooners dominated the Buffs, 29-7, to win the Big 12 title for the second time in three years.

Hybl threw touchdown passes of three yards to Trent Smith and 21 yards to Mark Clayton as Oklahoma built a 13-0 halftime lead. Colorado’s anemic offense produced only two field goal attempts in the first half, but still could not score. Buff kicker Pat Brougham missed field goal attempts of 41 and 32 yards as the Buffs were shut out in the first half for the third time in 2002. The only bright spot for the Buffs’ offense was running back Brian Calhoun. Calhoun earned the start as Chris Brown missed his second straight game with a bruised sternum. Gaining 85 yards on carries of 37, 25, and 23 yards, Calhoun posted 115 yards by halftime, but the Buffs had no points to show for Calhoun’s efforts.

For a brief moment in the third quarter, it appeared that Colorado might make a game of the Championship. Less than two minutes into the period, Jeremy Bloom returned a punt 80 yards for a touchdown to cut the Sooners’ lead to 13-7.

Here is the YouTube video of Jeremy Bloom’s punt return for a score, what turned out to be the only CU highlight of the championship game. (Thanks to CU at the Gamer Paul for giving Buff fans one good memory from this game):


After a defensive stand, Colorado took the ball downfield once again, only to witness Pat Brougham miss his third field goal attempt of the game, this time from 33 yards out.

Oklahoma then went on to score the remaining 16 points of the contest. Quentin Griffin did most of the damage, scoring on a 36-yard run late in the third quarter, then polishing off the Buffs with a 27-yard score late in the game.

“We stepped into our worst nightmare,” said tackle Justin Bates. “We just gave it away. It was worse than Norman. We worked our butts off to get to this point, but we just didn’t play Colorado football tonight.” On the evening, the Buffs managed just nine first downs, running only 47 plays. Brian Calhoun finished with 122 yards rushing, but only seven in the last two quarters.

“I take full blame for today’s loss,” Brougham said of his three missed field goals. “No one really got on me about it and I appreciate that.” In Brougham’s defense, quarterback Robert Hodge noted, “We just couldn’t finish our drives. Part of that’s my fault. I couldn’t make the play when I had to. It’s tough when you get drives and it doesn’t end with points over and over.”

Much had been made in the week leading up to the title game of the traded barbs between Gary Barnett and Oklahoma head coach Mike Stoops after the 27-11 win by the Sooners five weeks earlier in Norman. Commenting on the Buffs turnovers in the first game, Barnett and several players noted their wish to play the Sooners again in the title game. Stoops retorted that there were no “mulligans” in college football, and that teams had to be ready to play each game. After an undefeated three game run through Big 12 North opponents put the Buffs back in the Sooners’ sights, the “mulligan” opportunity was afforded the Buffs.

Said a disappointed Gary Barnett after the 29-7 pounding: “We just hit our mulligan out of bounds.”

History Doesn’t Repeat Itself; It Rhymes

The formula was there. The 2001 Colorado Buffs had established the “CU Way” to a Championship:

1) Be upset in the opener in a close loss (Fresno State – 24-22)

2) Right the ship with victories – some close, some impressive (CSU – 41-14; K-State – 16-6; Texas A&M – 31-21)

3) Lose badly to a Southern division foe (Texas – 41-7)

4) Recover and run the table against Northern division foes (ISU – 40-27; Nebraska – 62-36)

5) Win re-match against Southern division foe  (Texas – 39-37)

The 2002 Colorado Buffs had followed the script fairly closely:

1) Be upset in the opener in a close loss (CSU – 19-14)

2) Right the ship with victories – some close, some impressive (UCLA – 31-17; K-State – 35-31; Texas Tech – 31-13)

3) Lose badly to a Southern division foe (Oklahoma – 27-11)

4) Recover and run the table against Northern division foes (ISU – 41-27; Nebraska – 28-13)

 All that was left for the 2002 squad was to complete step 5) Win re-match against Southern division foe.

All that the 2002 Buffs had to do to erase the memories of a 1-2 start was pull off another title game upset. A win would mean back-to-back titles, back-to-back 10-win seasons, and another BCS bowl bid.

The Sooners were all for history repeating. But the Sooners found more recent history more to their liking, again dominating the Buffs on the way to a 29-7 win. As Gary Barnett put it: “We got beat at our own game. We got out-physicaled in this game. They took the ball and ran it right down our throats.”

If there was any consolation to be taken from the humbling loss to Oklahoma, it was that the Buffs would not be facing a top ten team in a BCS bowl game. The Championship game loss relegated the Buffs to the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio, Texas, designated as the 4th Big 12 Bowl game (behind the BCS, Cotton Bowl, and Holiday Bowl). Colorado, the Big 12 runners-up, were not guaranteed the No. 2 spot in the bowl pecking order. Once the champion was crowned, the Cotton Bowl had its pick of Big 12 teams, opting for 9th-ranked (and virtually hometown) Texas Longhorns. The Holiday Bowl then chose 6th-ranked Kansas State. This left the Alamo Bowl for No. 14 Colorado, and a date with Wisconsin.

The unranked Badgers were 7-6, losing six of their last eight games. Wisconsin had been ranked as high as No. 19 after a 5-0 start. A 2-6 conference record, though, had dampened a promising season. Four of the Badgers losses were to ranked teams, including a tough 19-14 loss to No. 2 Ohio State, but the eighth place finish in conference play could not be ignored.

The Buffs now had to figure out a way to end a season on a high note. A ten win season would leave Colorado close to a top ten finish.

Not bad considering the Buffs were left for dead after opening 1-2.

Not bad considering the Buffs lost their starting quarterback, first to a concussion and then to a defection.

Not bad considering the Buffs were now holding a two game winning streak over Nebraska.

And all Colorado had to do to achieve their tenth win was handle a Big Ten team which had been handled for most of the fall by their conference competition. The Buffs could end the season with a flourish, and would not carry the bad taste in their mouths which had lingered after a 38-16 defeat by Oregon in the 2002 Fiesta Bowl.

Guess not.


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