October 4th – at Baylor           Baylor 42, Colorado 30

The Baylor Bears, winners of just four games in seven Big 12 seasons, and losers of 37 out of their last 38 conference games, stunned Colorado at home, 42-30.

Baylor coach Guy Morriss, in his first season at the helm of the Bears, raised his record to 3-2, giving Baylor as many wins in five games as the Bears had earned in any of the past six seasons.

The game started slowly for both teams, but quickly heated up.

After a scoreless first quarter, Colorado took a 17-14 halftime advantage with three scores from close in – a 28-yard Mason Crosby field goal; a one-yard Daniel Jolly run, and a four-yard toss from Erik Greenberg to Derek McCoy.

The Buffs appeared ready to take command of the contest early in the third quarter. Brian Calhoun capped a 75-yard Buff drive to open the second half with a three-yard touchdown run to give the Buffs a 23-14 advantage (the point after attempt failed).

A Baylor blitz soon followed, however, as three touchdowns were scored by the Bears in only three minutes.

First, the Bears scored on an eight-yard pass from quarterback Aaron Karas to Shane Williams to cut the CU lead to 23-21. A few plays later, an Erik Greenberg fumble was picked up and returned by Jamaal Harper for a seven yard touchdown. Only two snaps later, another Greenberg fumble was recovered by the Bears. It took only four plays for the Bears to score from 21 yards out. With nine minutes to play in the third quarter, the score had been: Colorado 23; Baylor 14. Then, with five minutes to play in the third quarter, the score was now: Baylor 35; Colorado 23.

The Buffs did not quit, though, bouncing right back on a second Greenberg-to-McCoy touchdown to bring the Buffs to within 35-30. On the first play of the fourth quarter, the Colorado answer to the Baylor scoring barrage was halted, as Brian Calhoun was thrown for a two yard loss on fourth-and-goal from the Baylor one yard line. The Bears then marched 97 yards for the final score, giving Baylor a 42-30 win.

“It’s a hard thing to swallow,” said Gary Barnett. “We didn’t play very well. We just had a lot of mistakes.”

The Buff defense, in addition to surrendering over 40 points for a third straight game, gave up 410 yards of total offense. Quarterback Aaron Karas (207 yards passing, three scores), wide receiver Robert Quiroga (113 receiving yards) and running back Rashad Armstrong (166 yards rushing) all set career-best performances in one category or another.

The much-maligned CU pass defense, starting two freshmen, Sammy Joseph and Terrence Wheatley, was porous, but was not entirely to blame. When the Buffs needed a stop in the fourth quarter, Baylor was able to cover 97 yards – all on rushing plays – to put the game out of reach.

The Colorado offense was a contributing factor to the defeat as well.

The Buffs did rack up 456 yards of total offense, and did have two 100-yard receivers in Derek McCoy (six catches for 171 yards) and D.J. Hackett (4-143), but also had five turnovers. The Buffs held on to the ball for only 22:44 of game time, compared to 37:16 for the Bears.

The 2-3 Buffs (0-1 in conference play) had had a bye week to prepare for Baylor, but did not have another bye week to try and correct their new set of problems. Colorado returned home to face a Kansas squad coming to Boulder with a surprising 4-1 record. The Jayhawks, 2-10 in 2002, were on a four game winning streak which included an eyebrow-raising 35-14 win over Missouri to open conference play. Under second-year head coach Mark Mangino, Kansas had already bested the number of wins accumulated in 2001 or 2002, and had won only its second conference game in its last 21 attempts.

What’s more, the Jayhawks were idle during the Colorado/Baylor game, giving Kansas an extra week to prepare for the Buffs.

The bye week had not worked out for Colorado. Perhaps it would not work to the benefit of Kansas.


Bye-Bye Week

The CU Buffs had a bye week between the Florida State blood-letting and the conference opener against Baylor. The off week, it seemed, could not have come at a better time. Having been mauled in consecutive weeks by Washington State and Florida State, the Buffs needed a week off.

It was a good time to let wounds heal. Time to reassess.

Time to get back to basics.

Rather than allow the players to relax prior to traveling to Waco, Texas, to face the Bears, head coach Gary Barnett put the team through a series of drills the players referred to as “The Bloodbath Trilogy”.  The drills were meant to be a return to basics for a team ranked 104 (out of 117) in rushing offense in the nation, 107th in scoring defense, 108th in total defense, and 115th in passing defense. “Those drills helped us,” said senior linebacker Sean Tufts. “We just lined up and played football. It’s almost like two-a-days again.”

Fortunately for Colorado, the schedule makers had been kind. After running the non-conference gauntlet 2-2, the two-time defending Big 12 North champions would face Baylor in their first game in conference play. The Bears were as close to a bye week a Big 12 team could ask for while still actually taking the field. The Bears had lost 37 of their previous 38 conference games, and had won only four conference games since the league had been formed in 1996. The last two times Colorado had played Baylor, the Buffs had shut out the Bears.

Looking for a confidence boost? Play Baylor.

Baylor 42, Colorado 30.


Now what?

So much for getting back to fundamentals. So much for regaining confidence. So much for having any chance at three-peating as Big 12 North champions. Colorado now faced not only the reality of its first three-game losing streak since the 3-8 2000 season, but also the reality of being the underdog in most of the remaining conference games.

“Nobody played well,” said defensive tackle Brandon Dabdoub. “It just seemed like we were flat.”

How was that possible? Weren’t the Buffs all about getting back to basics in their bye week? “Baylor played fundamental football and we made fundamental mistakes,” said Barnett. “It’s a hard thing to swallow.”

Wait a minute. Wasn’t “The Bloodbath Trilogy” about getting back to basics? Back to fundamentals? Wasn’t the bye week about getting over the mistakes of the non-conference slate and putting all of the team’s energy into defending its Big 12 North title? Wasn’t the non-conference devastation about priming the players for conference play?

Wasn’t ……? Oh, never mind.

Twice in the last twelve months Gary Barnett had brought his career record back to the .500 mark. After defeating Nebraska in 2002, Barnett was 64-64-1 (including his record at Northwestern). Losing to Oklahoma in the Big 12 title game and Wisconsin in the Alamo Bowl sent Barnett back under .500. Opening the 2003 campaign with wins over CSU and UCLA, though, put Barnett at 66-66-1. After a three game losing streak that showed no signs of slowing in momentum, pursuit of the elusive .500+ record was now more dream than reality.

The Buffs would need to work overtime to get back on the “W” side of the ledger.


Game Notes

– Baylor’s 42 points were the most for the Bears in a Big 12 game since putting up 49 against Iowa State in 1996, the conference’s first season.

– Brian Calhoun’s score was the first rushing touchdown of his CU career.

– Before being replaced by Joel Klatt, Erik Greenberg passed for 346 yards, a career high, and the most ever by a CU passer against Baylor.

– When Sammy Joseph and Terrence Wheatley opened at cornerback against Baylor, it marked the first time in CU history that a pair of freshmen had started in the same position in the same game.

– The Derek McCoy/D.J. Hackett 100-yard games marked only the 11th time in school history (but the second time in 2003) that the Buffs had a pair of 100-yard receivers in the same game.

– Jeremy Bloom had 250 yards in total returns (143 kickoff, 107 punt), marking the first time in CU history that a Buff player had over 100 yards in both categories in the same game.

– The Buffs 2-3 mark gave Colorado its first losing record since starting the 2002 season 1-2. The three game losing streak was the longest since opening the 2000 season 0-4.

– The Colorado game was the high-water mark for the 2003 Baylor Bears. After reaching a 3-2 mark for the season (1-0 in Big 12 play), the Bears would go on to lose the remainder of their conference games, finishing 3-9, 1-8 in Guy Morriss’ first season in Waco.


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