November 15th – at Iowa State           Colorado 44, Iowa State 10

Colorado extended its road winning streak against Iowa State to ten games in routing the Cyclones in Ames, 44-10.

Joel Klatt threw for two first half touchdowns, and Brian Calhoun scored on two short runs as the Buffs raced to a 37-0 halftime lead before cruising to the win.

Just over six minutes into the game, the Buffs were on the scoreboard. A 42-yard scoring pass from Klatt to D.J. Hackett gave Colorado an early 7-0 lead. Later in the first quarter, running back Daniel Jolly scored on a two-yard run, and the Buffs had all the points they would need.

Any plans the 36,977 on hand had of going home happy ended with a 23-point Buff onslaught in the second quarter. Two four-yard Brian Calhoun touchdown runs were sandwiched between a 20-yard Klatt to John Donahoe score and a 26-yard Mason Crosby field goal (one of the extra point attempts was missed).

The four second quarter scores gave Colorado a commanding 37-0 halftime lead.

The only remaining drama for the second half – Would Iowa State actually score for the first time in three games? – ended early on, as the Cyclones posted a field goal on their opening drive. Each team had a touchdown thereafter, with the Buffs’ score coming on a one yard run by fullback Lawrence Vickers, resulting in the 44-10 final.

“I felt we played aggressively today on both sides of the ball,” said Gary Barnett. “We went in there and really took care of business in the first half”.

As for the defense, which surrendered fewer than 30 points for the third consecutive game, there was renewed enthusiasm. “I think at the beginning of the season we were too worried about making mistakes and we weren’t playing as fast as we needed to play,” said junior defensive tackle Brandon Dabdoub. “Now, we’re playing fast, and when you’re playing fast there’s really nothing (the other team) can do.”

The 5-6 (3-4 in conference play) Buffs would now have a week off before facing Nebraska the day after Thanksgiving.

The Cornhuskers were 8-3 overall, but were coming off a humiliating 38-9 loss to Kansas State. Nebraska nominally had nothing to play for but a better bowl game, as the Wildcats had cemented their claim to the Big 12 North title. In fact, the Husker Nation was in turmoil. The Cornhuskers were a very pedestrian 15-12 since the 62-31 debacle at Folsom Field two years earlier, and were faced with the prospect of losing three straight to Colorado for the first time since the Eisenhower administration.

The 5-6 Buffs, meanwhile, had everything to play for. A 6-6 record. A bowl game. A three game winning streak to build on for 2004. The Buffs would be at home, playing before a home crowd bursting with renewed enthusiasm. A loss, however, would end the Buffs’ season with a 5-7 record, only the third losing season for Colorado in 20 years, but the second for Gary Barnett in four seasons.

The game would be important for both schools, though the biggest story from the contest would not come until the day after the fans went home.


Bowl Talk

After the Buffs lost to Texas Tech to fall to 3-6, the CU company line was to play each of the three remaining games one at a time, and pay no attention to the fact that another loss would result in Colorado’s second losing season in four years. “We have to win,” said senior center and captain Marwan Hage after the 26-21 loss to the Red Raiders. “I want to win. I’m not used to losing, man. I don’t know how to do it, how to live. I need to win.”

A three game winning streak would mean a 6-6 record and bowl eligibility (although no bowl guarantee, despite the Big 12’s eight bowl game contracts). Such talk seemed foolhardy for a team which had dropped three in a row and six of its last seven games.

The win over Missouri brought a renewed sense of optimism. A win over a ranked opponent, one with an explosive offense, was a good win. The defense, maligned earlier in the season, was improving each week. Sophomore defensive end James Garee, stated after defeating the Tigers: “We did come together a little late. But it’s OK. We’re coming together now and we’re going to win out.” Sophomore wide receiver Jeremy Bloom chimed in, “When things are clicking, I don’t think there’s a team that could beat us,” before amending himself, “I know there’s not a team that could beat us.”

There still remained, however, a road game against Iowa State and the home finale against Nebraska.

Iowa State was 2-7, and had been shut out in its two previous games, 28-0 by Nebraska and 45-0 by Kansas State. Still, the game was in Ames, and the Buffs were 0-4 on the road in 2003. Nebraska, heading into its clash with Kansas State the same weekend of the CU/Iowa State game, was 8-2, and had aspirations of a Big 12 North title and an improvement on its No. 18 ranking. One win in seven weeks would not guarantee the Buffs would not fall back to their losing ways.

After a 44-10 spanking of Iowa State, coupled with a crushing defeat of the Cornhuskers by Kansas State, 38-9 (Nebraska’s first loss at home to Kansas State since 1968), running the table was no longer out of the question. The Buff defense, buried at the bottom of NCAA statistics all season, had finally come around and played a complete game. After giving up over 40 points a game over a five week span (tying an ignoble team record), the Buffs’ defense had surrendered, in succession, 34 points, then 26, then 16, and now 10.

Defeating Nebraska for the third straight season for the first time since 1956-58 now had the ring of plausibility. And with a win, the Buffs would have their three-game winning streak and bowl eligibility.

What would be at stake Thanksgiving weekend for Colorado? Defeating the Cornhuskers and turning a season of disaster into a season with a bowl game and optimism for 2004. That possibility made the trip to Boulder from Bozeman a little shorter than it would have been the case if the Buffs had mailed it in after the Texas Tech loss.


Game Notes

– Prior to blowing out Iowa State, the largest lead the Buffs had enjoyed all season was 14 points.

– The eight points scored by kicker Mason Crosby gave him 48 on the season, tying him with kicker Tom Field (1979) and running back Herchell Troutman (1994) for the freshman record. Crosby would go on to set the new mark at 52 with four points against Nebraska.

– The 223 total yards of offense posted by Iowa State was the lowest total since the Buffs gave up only 196 to Kansas State in 2001 (a 16-6 Colorado victory).

– Iowa State was a lost season for the Cyclones. After opening 2-0 with non-conference victories over Northern Iowa and Ohio, Iowa State lost to in-state rival Iowa, then proceeded to lose all of its Big 12 games. After falling to the Buffs in their home finale, the Cyclones went on the road, falling to Kansas, 36-7, and Missouri, 45-7, to close the season 2-10 (0-8 in Big 12 play).


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