September 13th – Boulder           Washington State 47, No. 17 Colorado 26

Washington State scored early and often, cruising to a 47-26 thrashing of Colorado before 48,146 disbelieving Buff fans.

The Cougars scored 20 first quarter points, then posted 24 more in the third quarter to squelch any hopes of a Colorado comeback. In mauling the Buffs, Washington State became the first opposing team to post over 45 points in Boulder in twenty years.

The carnage started early.

Quarterback Matt Kegel hit Sammy Moore on a 74-yard bomb to put Washington State up 7-0 less than five minutes into the game. A three-yard touchdown pass from Joel Klatt to Joe Klopfenstein brought the Buffs to within 7-6 (the extra point attempt was blocked), but two long plays padded the Cougars’ lead. A 77-yard touchdown pass, coupled with a 41-yard interception return for a score gave Washington State a 20-6 lead after one quarter.

The second quarter witnessed the Buffs make a small comeback.

Sophomore quarterback Erik Greenberg, substituting for an injured Joel Klatt, connected with Derek McCoy from 46 yards out, bringing the Buffs to within seven at 20-13, but the Buffs were not to score again until the score was up to 44-13. The Cougars ran the second half kickoff back for a touchdown, and, aided by Colorado turnovers, put up two more touchdowns before the second half was five minutes old. Two consolation touchdowns by the Buffs (once again by Klopfenstein and McCoy) made the final only a tad more respectable.

The Buffs were close in statistics, being out-gained only by a margin of 463-445. But … Colorado turned the ball over five times, gave up two touchdown passes of over 70 yards, and had an interception and a kickoff returned for scores. Joel Klatt’s shoulder injury played a role, but the Buffs were clearly outplayed in every facet of the game.

“We gave up a lot of big plays, a lot of stupid plays,” said Gary Barnett. “You can’t do that against teams like this and expect to win.” Barnett went on to blame the loss, at least in part, on the Buffs’ youth. “Fifty of the seventy players who travel are freshmen or sophomores,” Barnett explained, “and winning those first two games gives you a false sense of who you are.”

Who the Buffs were in 2003 were a 2-1 team left with only a week to regroup before taking on another worthy opponent.

The Buffs, not surprisingly, fell out of the rankings after the lopsided loss to Washington State. Yet there was chance for redemption. Florida State was undefeated, ranked 10th in the nation after a close 14-13 win over Georgia Tech. The first-ever meeting between the two schools was to take place in Tallahassee, and a win in hostile territory would propel the Buffs back into the national spotlight. A loss, on the other hand, would give the Buffs a 2-2 non-conference mark heading into Big 12 play, where three of the five Big 12 North opponents (Kansas State No. 6, Nebraska No. 15, Missouri No.23) were ranked.

The Buffs, though, would play Florida State on the road without starting quarterback Joel Klatt (shoulder), and starting tailback Bobby Purify (ankle).

Not exactly a recipe for success against a top ten team.

Blown Out – Again

Movie goers who attend horror films do so because they like to be scared. Traffic jams occur around the most minor of roadside accidents because we can’t help but look. It is just our way, whether it is human nature, or our rebellion against it, that drives us to make ourselves feel uncomfortable.

For Buff fans, the roll call of numbers was painful, but refused to be ignored:

1999: 41-14; 31-10.

2000: 44-21.

2001: 41-7; 38-16.

2002: 40-3; 29-7.

2003: 47-26.

The blowout losses suffered by Gary Barnett’s Buffs stand out on his Colorado resume like a sore that will not heal. Buff fans kept hoping it would somehow go away, but somehow we kept picking at it, knowing that calling attention to it will just make it last all the longer.

Washington State 47, Colorado 26.

For the eighth time in Gary Barnett’s 53-game tenure as CU’s head coach, the Buffs were beaten by more than three touchdowns. Even in the Buffs’ 2001 Big 12 championship run, Colorado was mauled twice, first being blasted by Texas, 41-7 in the regular season, then succumbing 38-16 to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl.

The 2003 Buffs were supposed to be young on offense, solid on defense. Joel Klatt was a question mark, as was the offensive line. The defense, however, was supposed to hold down the fort until the offense could gel. The opening two wins gave everyone a false sense of security. The Colorado offense had shown surprising effectiveness through the air in the victory over CSU, while the defense made strides in the close win over UCLA. Washington State was no better than the Rams or the Bruins, so a win at home, with both units in sync for the first time, seemed a realistic goal.

Then came the meltdown against the Cougars.

Everything went wrong. The defense could not stop a drive. The offense, even before Joel Klatt went out with an injured shoulder, was marginal, then down-shifted into completely ineffective. The special teams, which had been a pleasant surprise in the Buffs’ first two games, with freshmen manning both kicking positions, showed its youth and inexperience.

“We just had a total breakdown,” lamented Barnett after the game. “Games like this are possible, especially when you have a young team.”

Okay, so the 2003 Buffs were young, but had two seniors starting in the secondary which was being torched by every team the Buffs faced. Barnett’s quote also begged the question: When were the Buffs ever going to be old and mature? The pattern of Barnett’s teams indicated that CU would lose again in ‘03 by more than three touchdowns. Who would do the honors? Florida State, Kansas State, Oklahoma, and Nebraska all loomed ahead on the schedule.

The irony in reviewing the CU record under Barnett was that in only one of his first four seasons did the Buffs fail to lose twice by lopsided margins. That would be 2000, when Colorado would fall to its worst record in 16 years, 3-8, but did manage to stay competitive in all but one of its losses.

So were those the options? Suffer no more humiliating defeats in 2003, but finish with a losing record, or rally to have a winning season, but with the knowledge that there was at least one more blowout loss in the offing.

Waking up on Sunday morning with the hangover of the complete breakdown against Washington State, it was tough to ask CU fans to contemplate another horror film like that which had been endured against the Cougars. If offered a winning season and a chance at a third straight Big 12 North title as a trade off for another blowout loss, though, most Buff fans would have the same response:

Bring on Florida State!


Game Notes

– The 47 points were the eighth most ever by a Buff opponent in Boulder. It was the highest total since Missouri pasted the Buffs, 59-20, in 1983.

– With the loss to Washington State, Colorado fell out of the national rankings, beginning a dry spell which was to be the longest since the Buffs went from 1978 – 1988 without being ranked (the Buffs would not be ranked again until midway through the 2005 season).

– Erik Greenberg’s second ever pass as a Buff was intercepted and returned for a touchdown. His fourth-ever pass went for a CU score.

– McCoy and Klopfenstein set marks with their efforts. McCoy’s 11 catches tied the school record for receptions in a game, while Klopfenstein’s two touchdowns marked the first two TD reception game for a tight end since 1996 (Brody Heffner Liddiard v. Iowa State, a 49-42 CU win).

– Between Klatt and Greenberg, the Buffs passed a school-record 55 times, eclipsing the record of 52 set v. Kansas State (a 33-10 loss, 11/20/82).


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