November 9th – at Missouri           No. 18 Colorado 42, Missouri 35 OT

The Colorado Buffaloes kept their Big 12 destiny in their own hands, but just barely, defeating Missouri in overtime, 42-35.

Chris Brown scored his third touchdown of the game from a yard out in the Buffs’ possession in overtime, with Missouri’s overtime possession ending in a fumble recovery by Colorado linebacker Kory Mossini. The win over the Tigers left the Buffs (7-3, 5-1 in conference play) one win away from capturing a second consecutive Big 12 North title.

Colorado opened up a comfortable 27-7 lead early in the third quarter, scoring on its first five possessions of the game. Quarterback Robert Hodge hit Derek McCoy for a 47-yard score just 3:17 into the contest. A 45-yard field goal by Pat Brougham gave the Buffs a 10-0 cushion late in the first quarter. After Zach Abron scored on a 30-yard run for Missouri to cut the Colorado advantage to 10-7, the Buffs scored the next 17 points of the game. Chris Brown scored from 10 yards out, Pat Brougham kicked another field goal, and Robert Hodge snuck in from the one to give the Buffs a 27-7 lead early in the third quarter.

Instead of settling for the rout and a fifth loss of the season, the Tigers rallied. Led by freshman quarterback Brad Smith, the Tigers roared back. Smith hit tight end Justin Gage from 27 yards out after the Hodge score to reduce the Buff advantage to 27-14. Then Hodge made one of his few mistakes on the day, being intercepted by senior rover back Tauras Ferguson, who raced untouched for a 43-yard touchdown to cut the Buff lead to 27-21 late in the third quarter.

Unable to regain momentum, the Buffs punted the ball back to the Tigers, and Smith took quick advantage. Smith hit Gage for a second score on Missouri’s next drive, this time from a yard out, and less than a quarter after leading 27-7, the Buffs found themselves down, 28-27.

If ever there was a time to see if the Buffs had the stuff champions were made of, it was now.

And the Buffs’ offense responded.

Colorado put together a 16-play, 85-yard drive, complete with a third down conversion deep in CU territory, as well as a fourth-and-one run by Chris Brown for five yards from the Missouri 23. With 4:43 remaining, Chris Brown finished off the drive with a five yard run over left tackle. Hodge completed a two-point conversion pass to tight end Quinn Sypniewski, and the Buffs regained the lead, 35-28.

Then it was Missouri’s turn to put together a drive. The Tigers went 67 yard in 11 plays to tie the score with less than two minutes to play. The Buffs and Tigers would go to overtime tied at 35, the second overtime between the two teams in four years.

In overtime, the Buffs did not make any attempts at deception. Chris Brown ran for 21 yards in the Buffs first three plays, took a play off, and then scored from a yard out to give the Buffs a 42-35 lead. The lead would hold up when, on third-and-10 from the 25 on Missouri’s overtime attempt, Brad Smith hit running back Darius Outlaw, who fumbled when hit by J.J. Billingsley. Linebacker/strong safety Kory Mossini recovered for the Buffs, and Colorado had a hard fought 42-35 win.

“In November, they’re all hard”, said Colorado coach Gary Barnett. “Right now, we’re just biting and scratching and finding a way to win.” Ever humble, Brown, who had 211 yards and three touchdowns on the day to lead the Buffs, was modest in his assessment of the game. “It was a good win because it keeps us on top of the Big 12 North,” said Brown. “And we need another one.”

For the Buffs, there was little focus on blowing a 20-point lead. Discussion centered on the team’s resilience. “We knew that it was going to happen during the season,” quarterback Robert Hodge said. “It was good to get that under our belts, a win where we came from behind.”

While the Buffs were on their flight home from Columbia, the Buffs’ next opponent, Iowa State, was being crushed by Kansas State, 58-7. Colorado, on top of the Big 12 North with a 5-1 league record (7-3 overall) could clinch the North Division title with a win over the Cyclones. A loss to ISU, coupled by a win over Nebraska by the Wildcats, would mean that the Buffs would likely have to win in Lincoln for the first time since 1990 to secure a trip to Houston and the Big 12 title game. A Colorado loss and a Kansas State win would leave the two teams tied with 5-2 conference marks. The Buffs would have the Cornhuskers left, while Kansas State would still have Missouri to play.

The Buffs knew what they had to do. A win over Iowa State, at home, would mean a repeat of their division championship. A loss would mean that the race was once again up for grabs. If Colorado was to be a team of destiny, winning the title at home was certainly the best option.

The Road Often Traveled

The 2002 Colorado Buffs never chose the easy road.

A top ten team to start the season, the Buffs chose to sleep through an agonizing loss to Colorado State, only to fall to 1-2 and out of the polls after being routed at home by USC. It looked all too similar to the 3-8 nightmare season of 2000.

Rather than fold, the Buffs persevered, rebounding with important wins over UCLA and Kansas State. After running the Kansas, Baylor, Texas Tech gauntlet unscathed, the Buffs took a leisurely trip to Norman, shooting themselves in the foot repeatedly in a 27-11 defeat. Once again, it was time for the Buffs to decide whether they were playing for a title or a better bowl game locale.

Up next was a road trip to Faurot Field at Missouri, where the Buffs have encountered many a strange game. The Tigers were hard to figure. A 4-7 team in 2001, second year head coach Gary Pinkel seemingly had Missouri headed in the right direction behind freshman quarterback Brad Smith. Missouri had an impressive win over defending Big Ten champion Illinois, but had also inexplicably fallen to Bowling Green. A respectable 4-4 on the 2002 season, the Tigers needed two wins in their final three games to be bowl eligible. The Buffs knew to expect a dogfight.

And they got one. After racing out to a commanding 27-7 lead, the Buffs put their game into cruise control, and a quarter later were trailing, 28-27.

Then the Buffs did that thing again. That thing which was making the 2002 season something special.

Just when you thought the Buffs would fold, they came back. The 16-play drive, covering 85 yards and 8:33 of game time, was a thrilling capsule of the Buffs’ season. A third down screen pass completion, followed by a shovel pass for a first down, followed by Chris Brown and Chris Brown and Chris Brown.

The call of the season may have taken place on that drive. Fourth-and-one at the Missouri 23-yard line. A field goal would have given the Buffs a 30-28 lead, but with plenty of time left for the Missouri offense to win the game. Instead of the field goal attempt, Gary Barnett listened to assistant coach Jon Embree, who lobbied for going for the first down. Collecting five yards on a Chris Brown run, the Buffs scored a few plays later.

In overtime, the Buffs took care of business. The offense did what it had to do – make way for Chris Brown. Then the defense, which hadn’t stopped the Tigers since the first half, finally made the decisive stop to win the game.

On his game saving recovery, Kory Mossini said, “I was going to hit him (Darius Outlaw), and the ball popped past me. I was on my hands and knees scrambling to get that ball. That’s the fastest I’ve ever crawled.”

Mossini’s imagery sounded like the Buffs’ 2002 campaign in a nutshell – “The fastest they had ever crawled”. Out of context, fast crawling sounds like a contradiction.

But to the 7-3 Buffs, off the mat and in line for a second trip to the Big 12 title game, it was an appropriate metaphor.

Here is a link to  the YouTube video of the game, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul.

Game Notes

– The overtime game v. Missouri was the third ever for Colorado. The Buffs beat the Tigers in overtime in 1999, 46-39, going on to lose to Nebraska later that season in OT, 33-30. The Missouri game was the first overtime contest for the Buffs on the road.

– The Missouri game marked the first time in Colorado history that the Buffs had a 200-yard rusher (Brown, 211), another 100-yard rusher (Purify, 119), and a 100-yard receiver (McCoy, 118) in the same game.

– The Buffs’ 575 yards of total offense v. Missouri would be the high for the season, and the most since posting 582 yards v. Nebraska in 2001 (a 62-36 win, 11/23/01).

– The Buffs’ longest non-scoring plays of the season occurred v. Missouri. Chris Brown’s 52-yard run was the longest non-scoring run of 2002, while the 51-yard Robert Hodge to Derek McCoy completion was the longest non-scoring pass play of the season.


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