October 18th – at Kansas State           Kansas State 49, Colorado 20

Kansas State quarterback Eli Roberson threw for three touchdowns and ran for two more in leading the Wildcats to a 49-20 rout of Colorado.

Roberson’s final touchdown, a one-yard run with 35 seconds remaining, capped a 34-7 second half domination of the Buffs.

In allowing over 40 points in a fifth consecutive game, the Colorado defense collapsed after a decent showing in the first half. The Buffs actually got on the board first, with a six-yard Daniel Jolly score in the first quarter. A blocked John Torp punt rolled out of the Buff endzone a few minutes later made the score 7-2, Colorado. A few minutes later, Eil Roberson scored on a two yard run to give the Wildcats a 9-7 lead.

It appeared that 9-7 would be the halftime score, but with under a minute left to play in the second quarter, Roberson connected with Davin Dennis for 40-yard touchdown. The score stayed at 15-7 when the PAT attempt was blocked. Building on the Buff momentum, Buff return specialist Jeremy Bloom returned the ensuing kickoff 87 yards for a touchdown. When the Buffs’ two-point conversion attempt failed, the halftime scoreboard read: “Kansas State 15; Colorado 13”.

Going into the second half, the Buffs’ defense had allowed the Wildcats only 96 yards of total offense. “I thought we had a chance at that point,” said CU defensive coordinator Vince Okruch. “I felt like if we settled down and did what we were doing, we had a chance to win the damn game.”

Two chances, in fact.

Fat and slim.

Kansas State gained 288 yards in the second half and scored touchdowns on three of its four drives. The Wildcats opened the second half scoring with a 10-yard pass from Roberson to James Terry, and padded the lead less than two minutes later after a second John Torp punt was blocked. This time the ball was recovered in the endzone by the Wildcats for a touchdown. Five minutes into the second half, the score was 29-13, and the rout was on.

The Colorado offense, which had looked promising in the Buffs’ opening drive, did not score again until 5:55 remained in the game.

A 35-yard pass from Joel Klatt to D.J. Hackett came only after Kansas State had posted two more scores, and the game was out of hand. Roberson’s last minute touchdown, with 35 seconds to play, came from a yard out. Roberson had been instructed to take a knee to end the contest, but Roberson ran the ball in anyway, making the final, 49-20.

“It was more frustration on my part than anything,” said Roberson of his last score. “The linebackers came down on me and made a good hit, and that made me kind of frustrated. So I did it again, just to show them that we could get the ball in.”

Whether 42-20 or 49-20, the Buffs were in disarray.

Losers of four out of their last five games, all by double digits, the thoughts of a third straight Big 12 North title had to be muted. “They didn’t do anything out of the ordinary – nothing we hadn’t seen before,” said CU senior defensive end Gabe Nyenhuis said of Kansas State. “We didn’t execute, and we made little mistakes that killed us.”

The Buffs’ defense had played its part in the Colorado demise, but the remainder of the team contributed to the loss as well. The Buff offense went over three quarters without producing any points. The Buff special teams did score on Bloom’s kickoff return, but there were the two blocked punts, to go with two missed field goals by Mason Crosby. Colorado also committed nine penalties overall.

“The source of our biggest problem is that we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Barnett. “Not to take anything away from Kansas State, but we just took ourselves out of opportunities way too often with penalties and two blocked punts.”

The battered Buffs did not have much time to regroup.

The 3-4 Buffs (1-2 in Big 12 play) now returned home to face No. 1 Oklahoma. The Sooners, who had defeated the Buffs twice in 2002, were 7-0 in 2003, including routs of then No. 11 Texas, 65-13, and the only common opponent to that date, UCLA, 59-24 (which the Buffs had gotten past, 16-14, in September). After scoring over 50 points in four straight games, Oklahoma had settled for a mere 34 in a 34-13 win over Missouri heading into the contest against the Buffs.

“Can’t be down too long,” said tailback Brian Calhoun after the Kansas State meltdown. “Or Oklahoma’s going to put up 90 on us.”

Not exactly what the CU faithful were hoping to hear.


Northwestern Revisited – Barnett Part II?

In 1993, in his third season as head coach at Northwestern, Gary Barnett’s Wildcats posted a 3-7-1 record. In 1994, Northwestern became the story of the year in college football, going undefeated in Big Ten Conference play, finishing the year 10-2 after a Rose Bowl loss. The following year, the Wildcats shared the Big Ten title, finishing with a 9-3 record after a bowl game loss.

Why recite Gary Barnett’s history at Northwestern?

Compare the above with ….

In 2000, in his second season as head coach at Colorado, Gary Barnett’s Buffs posted a 3-8 record. In 2001, Colorado became the story of the year in college football, winning the Big 12 title game over Texas, finishing the year 10-3 after a Fiesta Bowl loss. The following year, The Buffs again made the title game, losing to Oklahoma, finishing with a 9-5 record after a bowl game loss.

Notice any parallels?

If those who fail to learn from the past are doomed to repeat it, then Colorado fans got what they deserved in the 2003 Buffs.

Failing to build upon the national recognition bestowed upon Northwestern, Barnett’s final two teams in Evanston finished their seasons 5-7 and 3-8. Yes, Barnett had taken the Wildcats to their first bowl game in 47 years, and yes, the two winning seasons he posted in 1995-96 matched the two winning seasons the Wildcats had put together in the previous 31 seasons, but the back-sliding the program took in 1997-98 could not be ignored. After going 15-1 in Big Ten play in 1995-‘96, the Wildcats went 3-13 the following two seasons.

What about the 2003 Buffs?

Tyler Brayton and Donald Strickland had graduated, and Marques Harris had been lost for the season with a broken leg in the UCLA game. Otherwise, these were largely the same defensive Buffs which had given up 294 points in 2002, (22.6 points/game), ranking CU 39th in the nation. In 2003, the Buffs had given up 281 points in seven games, with high-powered Oklahoma and Texas Tech up next on the schedule. Only once before in school history had Colorado given up over 40 points in five consecutive games, and that was the pathetic 1-10 1980 version of the Buffs. Only the 1980 Buffs had given up over 40 points per game on average over the course of a full season.

When I was making out travel plans for the 2003 season, it was a given that I would be coming down to Boulder for the Oklahoma game. I even liked the karma of the date – October 25th. For CU faithful, October 25th holds a special place in our hearts, for it was on that day in 1986 that 2-4 Colorado shocked the world of college football in upsetting undefeated and 3rd-ranked Nebraska, 20-10.

Visions of the Buffs facing a top-ranked Oklahoma, with the nation watching, danced in my mind as I circled the date as a must-see game. What a great time for a repeat performance! The Buffs would be underdogs, probably have a record of 5-2 or at worst 4-3, and would be able to launch themselves back into national prominence with a win.

As late summer dreams turned into fall’s reality, though, October 25th offered no such delusions. Rather than 1986, my memories shifted to six years earlier. Another memorable game, this one involving Oklahoma instead of Nebraska.

82-42. The second of what would turn out to be five consecutive games allowing 40 points or more during the 1980 season. An unstoppable offensive machine against a paper-thin defense. If history were to be made on October 25, 2003, it was more likely to evoke memories of 1980 than 1986.

Gary Barnett was not fired by Northwestern after posting two losing seasons on the heels of two Big Ten championship campaigns. No one can say whether the Barnett era in Evanston would have seen another resurrection, or a fall from grace. Barnett was hired away by Colorado before time and history were allowed to write the next chapter.

In 1997, Gary Barnett went 5-7 with the Northwestern Wildcats. With only one team left on the schedule with a record worse than Colorado’s 3-4 mark (Iowa State, at 2-5), all of the sudden 5-7 wasn’t looking too bad to the Buff Nation.

Was a 3-8 2004 campaign to follow?

Was this the beginning of the end of the Barnett era?


Game Notes

– The safety against the Buffs in the Kansas State game was the first in just over a year. Chris Brown was tackled in the endzone by Kansas on October 12, 2002, a 53-29 CU win.

– Jeremy Bloom’s 87-yard touchdown against Kansas State was his only career kickoff return for a score (he had two punt return touchdowns).

– The Buffs had two punts blocked in the same game for the first time since 1958 (a 27-16 win over Nebraska, 10/25/58), and for only the fourth time in school history.

– The 20 points scored by the Wildcats in the fourth quarter marked the sixth time in 2003 that a team had put up 20 or more points on the Buffs in a single quarter.

– Mason Crosby’s missed 53-yard attempt in the second quarter was his first miss of the season. His five conversions to start his career was one shy of the six consecutive makes by Jeremy Aldrich (1996-‘97).

– The very first Colorado football team, in 1890, gave up an average of 54.25/game in going 0-4. Of course, even that statistic must take into account a 103-0 drubbing at the hands of Colorado Mines that season. For the other three games, Colorado gave up an average of 38.0 points/game, scoring only 4 points themselves for the entire four game season.

– Kansas State had opened the 2003 season with a No. 7 national ranking, going 4-0. Three straight losses before the Colorado game, however, dropped the Wildcats out of the polls. The 49-20 thumping of the Buffs, though, righted the KSU ship. The Wildcats went on to win the remainder of their regular season games, finishing 10-3 and earning a berth in the Big 12 championship game. Facing No. 1 Oklahoma, No. 13 Kansas State surprised the nation, taking out the Sooners, 35-7. The Big 12 title earned the Wildcats a berth in the Fiesta Bowl. Against No. 8 Ohio State, the Wildcats fell, 35-28, finishing the 2003 season with an 11-4 record and a No. 14 final ranking.


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