October 5th – Boulder           Colorado 35,  No. 13 Kansas State 31

Showing a big-play ability largely muted in non-conference games, the Colorado offense hit its stride in leading the Buffs to a 35-31 win over No. 13 Kansas State. The Buffs scored on plays of 71, 85, and 94 yards in rolling to 483 yards of total offense against the nation’s fifth-ranked defense.

Quarterback Robert Hodge connected on 13-of-20 passes for 289 yards and three touchdowns in making a successful return to Folsom Field. After enduring a devastating debut against USC (1-of-9, 20 yards, one interception), Hodge connected on a 71-yard scoring pass to Brian Calhoun, a record-setting 94-yarder to Jeremy Bloom, and a one-yard toss to Jesse Wallace.

“He keeps getting better, and I’ve told a lot of people about what a great deep ball he throws, and he proved that today,” said Gary Barnett after the game. “He’s getting more and more confident, and played really well.”

The CU offense sparkled early. On the Buffs’ first drive of the game, Hodge hit Derek McCoy in stride for 41 yards, with Chris Brown scoring on a one-yard run to give the Buffs a 7-0 lead. On Colorado’s next series, Hodge connected with freshman Calhoun for 71 yards and a 14-0 advantage. It appeared that the Buffs were on their way to a rout of the undefeated Wildcats.

Here is the YouTube video of Calhoun’s first collegiate touchdown. Gotta like Brent Musberger’s, “Oh, what a game plan!” call. Thanks to CU at the Gamer Paul for the highlight:


Kansas State would not go quietly, though. The Wildcats scored twice early in the second quarter to tie the game and silence the 52,584 crowd on hand for Homecoming.

With 5:54 left before half, Chris Brown, who would post 167 yards on 26 carries on the day, gave the home fans something to cheer about with an 85-yard scoring run. Just before half, the Buffs were backed up at their six-yard line. Rather than be conservative, Colorado opted for the long ball, with Hodge hitting Jeremy Bloom for a 94-yard touchdown and a 28-14 halftime lead.

The Buffs opened the second half with a third unanswered touchdown, with Hodge hitting sophomore tight end Jesse Wallace from a yard out. Colorado had a 35-14 cushion, and there was no reason to believe the Wildcats would be able to stop the Buffs from scoring at will and rolling to a huge win.

Wallace’s touchdown, however, would be the final points for Colorado. Meanwhile, the rushing attack for Kansas State, led by quarterback Eli Roberson (178 yards, one touchdown) and running back Darren Sproles (121 yards, three scores), systematically brought the Wildcats back. Sproles scored on an 80-yard run less than a minute after the Wallace touchdown, and scored again before the end of the quarter to pull K-State to within 35-28.

After an offensive display through three stanzas, neither team could generate much offense in the fourth quarter.

Twice the Wildcats had the ball deep inside Colorado territory, with the first incursion thwarted on fourth down by a huge hit by senior defensive back Donald Strickland. Kansas State faced fourth-and-two at the CU four yard line. Darren Sproles took a pitch from Eli Roberson, making for the left corner of the end zone just in front of the Colorado student section. Strickland, leaving his receiver, met Sproles at the four yard line, dropping the tailback for no gain. “Wow, what a hit”, gushed Colorado defensive coordinator Vince Okruch, ” ‘Strick’ was on (Sproles), he couldn’t make a move. And that play save the game for us.”

Kansas State would have one more chance. Following a short Buff punt, the Wildcats quickly drove back into the red zone. With the game on the line, Roberson was sacked, forcing Kansas State to kick a field goal. The Buffs then were able to run out the clock (with a pass interference call on third down allowing Colorado to maintain possession late).

“We made every mistake you can think of, but we were able to fight,” said a relieved Barnett. “We hung in there and found a way to make big plays.”

Colorado was now 3-2 on the season, but, more importantly, 1-0 in Big 12 play. Up next were the only two remaining conference opponents who did not appear to have any reason to make post-season plans, Kansas and Baylor. A 3-0 conference mark heading into the teeth of conference play would be helpful. Still, the 2002 Buffs had just put together their first back-to-back wins of the season, and could not afford to look past anyone.

In fact, the Buffs were only 4-3 in the past seven years against Kansas (2-4, 0-2 in conference play), and had lost their past two contests in Lawrence.

Onward and upward.

YouTube video of Jeremy Bloom’s touchdown and Donald Strickland’s hit (thanks to Paul for these video finds!):


YouTube video of Chris Brown’s score:


I took with me every form of CU clothing at my disposal – CU t-shirt, CU polo shirt, CU sweatshirt, CU windbreaker, and CU winter coat.

The Saturday forecast earlier in the week had been for 51 degrees and rain, so I wanted to be prepared for miserable conditions. As it turned out, it was polo shirt weather, a perfect fall day for the Buffs to put together a win for Homecoming. Altogether, we had seven tickets for the game, and I was able to meet up with old friends Kyle and Kim Pettine for the first time since the 1993 Fiesta Bowl. Everything was in place for an enjoyable day.

Well, there was one problem.

I didn’t know how the Buffs were going to win.

With a new quarterback and one of the nation’s toughest defenses coming to Boulder, I was fearful that the Buffs would not be able to score enough points to win. I was even worried that the Buffs’ 162-game streak without being shutout was in jeopardy.

Perhaps that’s why my ticket says 79th row and not the sideline.

The Buffs scored early and often, becoming the first Buff squad ever to have touchdowns of over 70, 80, and 90 yards in the same game. Robert Hodge’s passer rating on the day was 235.88. This number means nothing, except in the context that it was the sixth highest such rating in Colorado history. Only Darian Hagan, Kordell Stewart (twice), and Koy Detmer (twice) had statistically better days than Hodge’s 13-for-20, 289-yard, three-touchdown, no interception effort.

“We always had confidence in him and his play”, said Chris Brown of Hodge, “and now he is showing everybody else what he can do.”

For his part, Hodge credited his teammates. “I got a chance to become more confident with playing on offense and the guys were behind me today. I don’t know what people think of me, but I just want to go out there and play.”

Hodge was taking the Colorado passing game to a new level, giving the Colorado offense balance to offset the dominating rushing attack led by Chris Brown. With conference cellar-dwellers Kansas and Baylor up next, there was a chance now for the Buffs to make an early statement in the conference race, as well as to climb back into the national spotlight. The CU/Kansas game would be the first of the season for the Buffs which would not be televised. It was also the first Colorado game of the year where at least one of the participants was not ranked. This being the case, it would take not only a win, but a big win, in order to grab national attention.

Enter Chris Brown.

Here is a link to the YouTube video of the game. It was an ESPN Classic, and was cut down to about 90 minutes, so not all of the game is shown.

Game Notes

– The 94-yard Hodge to Bloom touchdown eclipsed the longest pass play in Colorado history by two yards, besting the 92-yard touchdown pass from Koy Detmer to Charles Johnson (v. Oklahoma, 10/24/92). CU’s longest play ever was a 95-yard touchdown run by Emerson Wilson (v. Kansas State, 11/20/54).

– Hodge’s first career touchdown pass (covering 71 yards) was the not the longest ever for a first passing TD, ranking fourth. Sal Aunese’s79-yarder to Drew Ferrando (v. Colorado State, 10/3/87) ranked as the longest first touchdown pass.

– Statistically, the best day ever for a Colorado quarterback was by Darian Hagan in a 52-17 win over Iowa State (10/14/89). Hagan passed only ten times, but completed eight for 187 yards and two touchdowns. Hagan’s rating for the day: 303.1.

6 Replies to “No. 13 Kansas State – Hodge-Ball leads Buffs to upset”

  1. I should be working but can’t stop watching the Youtube videos of the game. This recap brought back a lot of good memories. My wife bought tickets to this game for my birthday – one of my favorite afternoons in Boulder!

    Thanks Stuart!

    1. Thank you, Clark.
      The Archives are all about what you are talking about – reliving and sharing favorite games.
      You made my day!!


  2. I grew up watching the 80’s and 90’s Buffs from the top row of the stadium in section 216. I spent my Saturday afternoons watching the game, using the binoculars to look at everything but the game, yelling, stomping on the metal stands, and looking over the edge to watch the halftime crowds seeking beer and hot dogs.

    In 2002 I was a junior at CU and my usual crew was accustomed to showing up early to secure first row seats in section 114 – I rather enjoyed the change in perspective. My game time activities had transitioned to purely watching and yelling, win or lose my voice usually came back by Monday.

    This game was no exception. There was no shortage of excitement throughout the game, so, by the fourth quarter when the Buffs were clinging to the lead and the Wildcats faced 4th down on the 4 my voice was beginning to give way. The crowd behind us was as loud as ever when Sproles popped out of the backfield headed straight for us and the tying score.

    Next, Donald Strickland made me appreciate those first row seats as never before or since. Not 30 feet from where I stood he laid a lick on Sproles that drowned out the crowd and I didn’t need any binoculars to see Sproles get introduced to the grass at the 4th yard line. I would have heard that hit from the top of 216, but, in row 1 – it was unforgettable. “Wow, What a hit” indeed.

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