October 26th – Boulder           No. 21 Colorado 37, Texas Tech 13

Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury came to Boulder as the nation’s leader in pass completions, attempts, yards passing and touchdowns. Kingsbury left town with a sore arm, no touchdowns, and a loss, as the Colorado defense rose to the occasion in leading the Buffs to a convincing 37-13 win.

Kingsbury did get his yards, 268 in all, but on 36-of-65 passing and no touchdowns. The Red Raider quarterback had been intercepted only six times in 419 attempts in leading Texas Tech to a 5-3 record, but was picked off four times by the Buffs. “To state the obvious, that was a heck of a defensive effort,” stated Colorado head coach Gary Barnett. “All week everybody was talking about their offense and their quarterback, and our defense just sat back quietly and waited for the challenge.”

Texas Tech took a 3-0 lead on its first possession of the game, aided by two Colorado penalties. After a 46-yard kickoff return by Roderick Sneed, the Buffs responded with a 48-yard field goal by Pat Brougham to tie the score. Colorado took a 10-3 lead thanks to a 41-yard interception return to the Red Raider five yard line by linebacker Kory Mossini, setting up a three-yard scoring run by Chris Brown.

Tech tied the score on a two-yard run by Taurean Henderson late in the first quarter, and then took its second lead of the game, 13-10, early in the second quarter on a Robert Treece 42-yard field goal. A short punt gave CU good field position late in the half, with Robert Hodge hitting Derek McCoy from 14 yards out with 13 seconds remaining to give the Buffs a 16-13 halftime edge (Brougham missed the extra point).

While the first half was a back-and-forth battle, the second half was all Colorado.

Bobby Purify turned a short Robert Hodge pass into a 36-yard touchdown to raise the score to 23-13 early in the third quarter. Then the defense took over. Texas Tech crossed midfield only once in the second half, while the Buff defense out-scored both offenses. First, safety Medford Moorer intercepted a Kingsbury pass and returned it 51 yards to up the CU edge to 30-13. The icing on the cake came late in the fourth quarter, when senior defensive tackle Tyler Brayton caused Kingsbury to fumble, then rumbled 14 yards with the fumble to make the final 37-13.

With the defense making a statement, the 149 yards put up by Chris Brown were almost overlooked. Brown raised his season total to 1,303. Leading the nation in rushing after eight games, Brown was starting to receive some mention in Heisman trophy circles. With undefeated and 2nd-ranked Oklahoma up next, the national spotlight would be on Colorado. If Brown could continue keep his streak of 100-yard plus games in tact, and if the Buffs could pull off an upset in Norman, Chris Brown would find himself in the thick of the Heisman race.

But the Sooners had one of the nation’s best defenses. Oklahoma was ranked 12th in the nation in rushing defense (99 yards/game), 6th in the nation in passing defense, and 2nd in total defense and scoring defense.

Brayton’s Line in the Sand

It is not often that a team’s season can be altered so dramatically by an off-the-field incident. Yet, moments before the UCLA game, such a moment took place in the Colorado locker room. The Buffs were 1-2, reeling from a 40-3 demolition at the hands of USC. Unranked after being a preseason top ten pick, the Buffs faced undefeated and 20th-ranked UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. A 1-3 record was a distinct possibility, with undefeated Kansas State up next on the schedule. The memory of the 3-8 2000 campaign, when the Buffs never recovered from an 0-4 non-conference slate, was on everyone’s mind.

The Buffs were just about to head onto the field for the opening kickoff. Senior defensive tackle Tyler Brayton looked around the locker room, and he didn’t like what he saw. In Brayton’s view the Buffs, in their opening warmup on the field, had the look of a team prepared to lose. Brayton was a team captain, but was not one to make speeches. Still, he was not about to let this team, his team, go out onto the field not prepared to win. Brayton took a piece of tape and placed it across the doorway. In essence, Brayton declared to the team that only CU players who had come to play that day needed to cross that line.

The Buffs responded with a 31-17 win, and had not looked back since, reeling off five straight wins. Brayton’s ultimate reward came at home against Texas Tech. With 4:22 remaining and the Buffs comfortably ahead, 30-13, Brayton sacked Red Raider quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. Brayton caused Kingsbury to fumble, picked up the fumble himself, and carried the ball 14 yards for his first collegiate touchdown. In unfamiliar territory, Brayton did not know what to do with the ball, so he threw it deep into the student section. Under the puritanical rules of the NCAA, Brayton was immediately flagged for a 15-yard celebration penalty. “I’ve never scored in college,” Brayton said in his defense. “I didn’t know what to do. It was crazy.”

The Buffs ultimately made the 35-yard extra point, so there was no harm in Brayton’s spontaneous celebration. The Buffs now had a five game winning streak. Colorado was 4-0 and alone atop of the Big 12 North division. The Buffs’ ranking was back up to No. 13. Colorado’s 6-2 overall record may not have been what the Buffs and their fans may have envisioned in August, but as the calendar turned to November, all of the Buffs’ preseason goals were still before them, including a repeat as champions of the Big 12.

The future? Who knew? With a win over Oklahoma, the Buffs would climb back into the top ten in the polls, and be positioned to mess with the BCS computers just like in 2001. If Colorado were to run the table, finish 11-2 (including winning a likely re-match with Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game), the Buffs could once again make the argument that they should play in the national title game despite having two losses.

While there is no way of knowing how the Buffs’ season would have unfolded without Brayton’s speech, it was undeniable that Colorado was 5-0 after his ultimatum.

Now it was on to Norman, Oklahoma, to determine whether the Buffs would be a player in the national championship sweepstakes.

Game Notes

– The 65 passes by Klingsbury set a record for the most passing attempts v. Colorado. The previous record was 64 pass attempts, set by Brandon Stewart of Texas A&M – 9/28/96 – in a 24-10 Buffaloes’ victory. Klingsbury’s 36 completions fell short of the record 39 set by Adam Hall of San Diego State eight weeks earlier.

– The four interceptions by the Colorado defense was the most by the Buffs since nabbing four v. Oklahoma (in a 38-24 Buff win, 10/30/99).

– Defensive back Clyde Surrell had 17 tackles v. Texas Tech (15 solo), both highs for the Colorado defense in the 2002 season.

– Roderick Sneed had kickoff returns of 48 and 64 yards v. Texas Tech, the latter being the longest for any Buff since Ben Kelly had two 100-yard kickoff returns for scores in 1999.

– The Buffs scored over 30 points for the fifth straight game, the best such streak since doing six in a row in 1994-95.

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