October 23rd – at Texas A&M          No. 17 Texas A&M 29, Colorado 26 OT

Texas A&M kicker Eric Pegram connected on a 19-yard field goal in overtime, lifting the Aggies to a 29-26 win over Colorado.  The Buffs’ opportunity to tie the game, or better yet, to pull out a road conference win, ended when Colorado fumbled on its overtime possession.  The 73,745 on hand at Kyle Field witnessed five lead changes and over 1,000 yards of offense in the hotly contested battle.

The scoring and the offensive output began slowly, as the Buffs forged a 3-0 lead in the first quarter on a Mason Crosby field goal. Colorado stretched the advantage to 13-7 at halftime on a 15-yard touchdown pass from Joel Klatt to Evan Judge.  Colorado looked to take command of the game early in the third quarter after taking the opening second half kickoff and marching 78 yards for a second Klatt-to-Judge touchdown connection.  The Buffs went for two after the score but failed, leaving the score at 19-7.

Rather than folding, the Aggies scored on their next four drives, including three Pegram field goals and a Courtney Lewis two-yard touchdown run to give Texas A&M a 23-19 lead with just 4:09 remaining in the game.  Then it was up to the Buffs to respond to the challenge.  Klatt led the Buffs on an 82-yard drive, culminating with a one-yard touchdown run by Bobby Purify, giving the Buffs a 26-23 lead with just 1:05 left to play.

Undaunted, quarterback Reggie McNeal drove the Aggies to the Buffs’ goal line, before A&M settled for a fourth Pegram field goal, this time from 20 yards out, to tie the game at 26-all as time expired.  In overtime, A&M again drove to the Colorado one-yard line before settling for a field goal, this time giving the Aggies a 29-26 lead.

On the third play of the Buffs’ possession, Bobby Purify ran around left end, picking up five yards and what would have been a first down.  However, the officials ruled that he had also fumbled on the play.  When linebacker Lee Foliaki came out with the ball, the game was over, and the Buffs were 1-3 in conference play.  “It was a great effort by our guys,” said Gary Barnett after the game.  “Our whole team hung in there across the board.  It’s hard to lose a game like this.”

It was especially hard on Bobby Purify.  The consummate team player, Purify was not consoled by his 130 yards on 20 carries on the day.  “I don’t know what I had stat-wise and it doesn’t even matter.  What matters is that we didn’t leave the field with a victory,” said Purify, whose yards against A&M moved him passed James Mayberry into the top five of all-time Colorado rushers.  It didn’t matter to Purify that his last carry against A&M, the 555th touch of his career, had resulted in only his eighth fumble.

It did matter to his teammates, though.  Joel Klatt, who had suffered a shoulder injury in 2003 similar to the one which Purify endured much of the season, was impressed.  “I’ve got so much respect for Bobby Purify,” Klatt said. “I know exactly how that shoulder injury feels.  He’s just gutting it out and playing extremely, extremely well.”

While it may have been of some comfort that the Buffs were not blaming one of their best and most respected players for the loss, the “L” was still on the ledger.  The Buffs, 3-0 to start the season, were now 4-3.  What was worse, Colorado was 1-3 in conference play.  No Big 12 team had won a division title with more than two losses.  It was time for the Buffs to start looking for a fifth and sixth win in order to become bowl eligible.

It didn’t appear that #5 would come in the next week, as the Buffs returned home to face 8th-ranked Texas.  The Longhorns were 6-1 on the season, having fallen only to 2nd-ranked Oklahoma.  A 1-4 conference record seemed like certainty, with the Buffs left to face November with a 4-4 record and an uncertain future.

Modern Technology

Keeping updated on the Colorado/Texas A&M game in 2004 reminded me how far technology had come in assisting the college football fan.

For out-of-state fans, keeping track of a favorite team has not always been easy.  Back in 1981, I did not learn of Colorado’s improbable 11-10 win over Oklahoma State until I saw the score in the Sunday paper (I was back in Bozeman for a wedding – the only home Colorado game I missed in my seven years in Boulder).  By the late 1980’s, ESPN had made tracking one’s team much easier.  The 28/58 update scrawl gave fans an update twice every hour.  Add in the CNN Headline News updates at 20/50 minutes past the hour, and a fan could learn of their team’s progress four times per hour (it did not hurt that Colorado was a ranked team during these years, or the updates would have been far less frequent).  Then there was the technology I had to employ to get updates on the 1992 game against Minnesota.  The Buffs were on the road for a night game.  There was no television coverage.  I paid to call into an 800 number to listen to the KOA radio broadcast the Buffs’ comeback from a 17-0 deficit to a 21-20 win.

In 2004, there were numerous outlets from which to follow one’s team.  From the Bozeman High School cafeteria, where I was relegated the Saturday of the A&M game while overseeing our Lion’s Club midget basketball practices, I had several outlets.  The cafeteria had cable, so I was able to get updates on ESPN, ESPN2, and ESPNews.  With Texas A&M being a ranked team, I was blessed/cursed with continuous information as the lead changed hands throughout the afternoon.

When the game got to the fourth quarter, though, I had a problem.

Lee and I had purchased a new bed earlier that morning.  We had made arrangements to pick up the bed at 3:30 p.m.  With Colorado/A&M having an 11:30 a.m. kickoff, 3:30 gave me a four hour cushion for the game.  Randy, my local Colorado convert, was meeting me at 3:30 with a company truck so that we could move the bed.  Also meeting me were our son, Adam, and our daughter-in-law, Mindy, who were going to take to their apartment our old bed once we got the new one home.  Everyone was converging at the outlet store at 3:30, and I had to be on the move.

What was I going to do now?

In my car, I turned on the radio, which had ESPN Radio on the air. I also called Lee, who was still at home.  I asked her to call up a website which was carrying game updates over the internet.  The CU internet site, while close to being “simultaneous”, was not exactly that.  (What’s more, during Colorado’s last overtime game, a 50-47 win over Kansas in 2003, it had spewed out incorrect information initially, leading me to believe that the Jayhawks had won, 47-44.)  Still, it was all I had at the moment.  Driving down the road, Lee gave me updates of the Aggie overtime drive.

Texas A&M had a first-and-goal at the Colorado one-yard line when I told Lee she could shut down the computer.

Not because I was sure the Aggies were going to score a touchdown.

Not because I was sure the Buffs would not be able to answer.

Not because I was sure the Buffs were going to lose.

It was because I already knew the Buffs had already lost.

While Lee was giving me updates, ESPN Radio broke in with the news of the Bobby Purify fumble.  The game was already over, even though the internet site had yet to post the final outcome.  I felt sorry for myself, but I felt even more sorry for Bobby Purify, who had overcome so much, but was now being reported as the reason for the Colorado loss.

I was at a stoplight when I got the news.  It was not exactly a “Where were you when Kennedy/Reagan was shot?” type of moment, but it was a moment I will remember nonetheless.   What could I do?  Alone in the car, I hung up the phone.  Staring at the darkening fall clouds which were threatening an early snow, I didn’t even notice the light had turned green.

There was nothing left to do but go and pick up the new bed.

Game Notes:

– Wide receiver Dusty Sprague set a red-shirt freshman record for receptions in a game, with eight against Texas A&M. The old record was set by Michael Westbrook, who had seven catches against Kansas State in 1991 (a 10-0 Colorado win).

– Texas A&M did not have a touchdown pass against the Buffs, ending a string of 24 games in which a Colorado opponent had a pass for a score. The previous record was all of 11 games, back in the dark days of 1983-1984. Ironically enough, it was against pass-happy Texas Tech that the Buffs had previously held an opponent without a touchdown pass (a 37-13 win for the Buffs on 10/26/2002).

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