September 20th – at Florida State           No. 10 Florida State 47, Colorado 7

The third-largest crowd in Florida State history, 83,294, witnessed “The Manhandle in the Panhandle”, as Florida State crushed Colorado, 47-7.

Seminole quarterback Chris Rix connected on 30-of-39 passes for a career-best 394 yards and two touchdowns against a tissue paper thin Buff secondary.

The Buffs did manage to stay close for a half. Chris Rix’s 37-yard touchdown pass to Craphonso Thorpe was matched by an 81-yard bomb from Erik Greenberg to Buff speedster Jeremy Bloom. Three Florida State field goals from short range (20, 26, and 27 yards) kept the Buffs within shouting range at halftime, 16-7.

Here is the YouTube video of the Greenberg-to-Bloom touchdown, the only CU highlight of the day (thanks to CU at the Gamer Paul for finding this snippet):


Another field goal and another long touchdown pass from Rix to Thorpe, this time covering 66 yards, padded the lead in the third quarter. Two short touchdown runs sandwiched between a blocked punt for a score gave the Seminoles 21 fourth quarter points and a 47-7 rout. On the day, the Buffs were held to only 275 yards of total offense, with the lone bright spot being the 118 yards rushing posted by sophomore tailback Brian Calhoun.

The Colorado defense, which had been stalwart in the UCLA game only two weeks earlier, surrendered 551 yards of total offense, 458 of that through the air. The Buffs’ offense, meanwhile, struggled. Erik Greenberg, making his first career start, was 14-of-30 for 192 yards, but was sacked four times.

The Colorado special teams also continued to add to the frustration, with two missed field goal attempts in the first half (when the game was still in question) to go with the blocked punt for a touchdown. “We are not ready for prime time,” said Gary Barnett. “That was a (butt) whipping. We played for a half and that was it.”

The Buffs, 2-2 heading into conference play, had to regroup on the heels of two blowout losses. “We have got to find some answers”, said Barnett. “I don’t want to overreact …. but we haven’t gotten better in the last two weeks and that alarms me.”

Jeremy Bloom, one of the few heroes of the FSU debacle, chimed in, “It’s never fun to lose, but when you get blown out in two weeks like we have, it’s embarrassing. That’s embarrassing to our program, embarrassing to our fans, embarrassing to all of us.”

The Buffs at least had a bye week before starting the conference season. While Buff players and fans licked their wounds, there was the consolation that Colorado was not the only team in the division with problems. Kansas State, ranked sixth in the nation, fell to unranked Marshall, 27-20, dropping the Wildcats out of the top ten. Another ranked division foe, Missouri, fell to unheralded Kansas, 35-14. Only Nebraska, at 4-0 with quality wins over Oklahoma State and Penn State to go with two cupcake victories, seemed ready to take control of the Big 12 North.

The schedule makers, after giving the Buffs four tough non-conference opponents, took pity on Colorado. The Buffs opened Big 12 play against Baylor on the road and Kansas at home. Baylor was 2-2, like Colorado, but against easier competition. The Bears had fallen to the likes of Alabama-Birmingham and North Texas (the latter by a score of 52-14). Colorado had defeated Baylor in five straight games, including the last two by shutouts. Given the option of all the opponents to open conference play against, Baylor would ordinarily be the choice.

But 2003 was not an ordinary year.


As I was leaving my hotel in Portland, Oregon, I mentally created a grading system for the outcome of the Colorado-Florida State game. A through F, the grade would be predicated on how well the Buffs, 19-point underdogs for the first time in recent memory, would hold up in Tallahassee.

I was in Portland the weekend Colorado traveled to the state of Florida for the first time since the 1991 Blockbuster Bowl. I was about 3,000 miles from Doak Walker stadium, or about as far away from Tallahassee as the Buffs’ defenders were from the FSU receivers for most of the game. Intellectually, I knew that the Buffs were likely in for a long afternoon – a sophomore quarterback making his first career start, coupled with a porous defense facing a lightening-quick offense. Still, the memories of the 2002 Buffs being dismantled by USC, 40-3, only to bounce back and win on the road against UCLA the following week, were still fresh.

Hope springs eternal.

My grading system was very lenient. An “F” grade would only be awarded if the Buffs were shutout. Colorado had a streak of 175 consecutive games, dating back to 1988, in which the Buffs had scored. The streak was the ninth longest active streak in the country, and I kept track of that increasing number weekly throughout each season.

A “D” grade meant that the Buffs lost, and did not beat the 19-point spread.

A “C” would be awarded if the Buffs lost, but beat the spread.

A “B” would reflect a close game, win or lose.

An “A” would result from a convincing bounce-back win.

The Colorado/Florida State game was not televised in Portland, and the buzz (such as there was in Portland, a city which is largely, if not wholly, indifferent to college football), was about the Oregon game in nearby Eugene, where the 22nd-ranked Ducks were hosting the 3rd-ranked Michigan Wolverines. The Buff game started at 12:30 PST, so I was able to check in with ESPN News on the status of the game before I left to meet up with my son, Adam, and his fiancee, Mindy, for a 1:30 lunch. The score when I left was 7-0, Florida State, late in the first quarter. Not bad, I thought. Colorado hadn’t scored, but the Buffs were not being routed early.

Then the statistics of the game were posted, and one entry made my heart sink:

“Missed FG – CU: Eberhart, 22”.

At first glance, the stats sheet looked promising. Brian Calhoun already had over 80 yards rushing. Great, I thought. But if the Buffs’ running game was being successful, why hadn’t the Buffs’ scored?

“Missed FG – CU: Eberhart, 22”.


I left the hotel disheartened. You did not make mistakes in the red zone against a top ten team on the road. CU needed to score at every opportunity, and to get inside the ten yard line and not come away with a touchdown was costly. No to score at all was lethal.

Even though I would not hear the final score until almost two hours after the game was over, I felt resigned to the outcome as I drove off to meet Adam. Later, hearing the final of 47-7, the lopsided number was somehow easier to swallow as one bitter pill. It was easier than living through each moment of the gut-wrenching agony that had been the Washington State meltdown.

At least the Buffs scored, so their effort did not rate an “F” on my scale. But the result was about as close to a shutout as the Buffs could come.

Make it nine blowout losses in the 54-game Barnett era. One game out of every six.


Game Notes

– The 83,294 on hand for the Colorado/Florida State game represented the sixth largest crowd to witness a CU game (the other five being three games at Michigan and two at Ohio State).

– Florida State quarterback Chris Rix became one of only a handful of players (but the second in 2003) to amass over 400 yards of total offense against CU, joining Bradlee Van Pelt of CSU.

– The 458 passing yards by Florida State set a team record for yards allowed (old record: 439 v. Kansas State, a 45-32 Colorado win, 11/22/69). (Note – this does not include bowl records. Fresno State in the 1993 Aloha Bowl passed for 523 yards).

– The Buffs allowed an opponent to score over 40 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1983, and suffered CU’s worst overall loss since a 52-7 drubbing by Nebraska in 1992.

– Derek McCoy had five catches against Florida State, giving him 94 for his career, moving McCoy into 10th place on that list, passing Dave Hestera (91).



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