September 18th – Boulder          Colorado 52, North Texas 21

After going almost two complete games without an offensive touchdown, Colorado put up 586 yards in total offense in putting away North Texas, 52-21.  Joel Klatt completed 26-of-33 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns in guiding what had been an anemic Colorado offense since the first half of the Colorado State opener.  Bobby Purify amassed 112 yards and three scores on only 15 carries as the Buffs let their fans enjoy a victory prior to the last five seconds of the game for the first time in 2004.

In posting a 3-0 record for the first time since 1998, the Buffs’ offense finally clicked.  After spotting North Texas early 7-0 and 14-7 leads, the Buffs dominated.  Colorado scored on five consecutive possessions in the first half to take a 35-14 halftime lead.  Punter John Torp, pressed into service ten times against Washington State, had only two punts against the Mean Green.  “We felt like we could do just about whatever we wanted to out there”, said Gary Barnett.

Joel Klatt, held to 195 passing yards after two games (zero touchdowns, two interceptions), had the 11th-best passing day in school history against North Texas. At one point, Klatt completed 13 passes in a row.  “With Joel, we just need to do what we do,” said offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.  “We don’t need to get cute.”  Overall, Klatt connected with 11 different receivers, including two touchdown passes to tight end Joe Klopfenstein and a 21-yard scoring pass to Evan Judge.

The glass was also half empty, however.  The Colorado defense continued to struggle, this time against the run.  The Buffs were torched just 43 seconds into the game by a 57-yard scoring run by Mean Green freshman Jamario Thomas, who also scored on a 25-yard run later in the first quarter.  Overall, Thomas had 247 yards rushing, the third-most against the Buffs in Colorado history.  “We weren’t as sharp as we should have been,” said Barnett of the defense, “or as sharp as we’re going to need to be, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”

The Mean Green amassed 507 total yards, including 258 yards on the ground against a Colorado defense which had surrendered only 59 rushing yards to Colorado State and Washington State combined.  The Mean Green went 9-for-17 on third down attempts, but did manage only one score after the midway point of the first quarter, a fourth quarter touchdown after the Buffs had cruised to a 45-14 lead.  The Buffs’ defense was applying the “bend but don’t break” philosophy to the extreme.  Said Colorado defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, “We certainly learned a lesson, and it’s easier to learn when you win rather than when you’ve gotten beat.  This is a young team and we can learn tremendous lessons.”

Hopefully for the Buff faithful, those lessons would sink in during the upcoming bye week.  Colorado was heading into conference play 3-0, but that would not impress the Buffs’ next opponent, Missouri.  The Tigers were 2-1 after a 48-0 thumping of Ball State.  A fashionable pick to win the Big 12 North in the preseason, Missouri had opened the season ranked 18th, but had fallen from the rankings after a second week loss to unheralded Troy, 24-14.

Preseason All-American quarterback Brad Smith could run and pass, and with the Buffs giving up an average of 450 yards/game on defense, the Colorado defense had much to prepare for, and only two weeks to get better.

Time Spent in the Lead

Existing in the world of obscure football statistics is one which receives less attention than most: “Time spent in the Lead”.  Representing just what you think it would, Time Spent in the Lead catalogues how long each team spends in the lead during the game.  Normally, it is noted less often than “Pass Efficiency Defense” or “Passing Offense – Average per Attempt”.

Early in the 2004 season, though, “Time Spent in the Lead” attracted my attention.

The Buffs scored on the first drive of the game – the first drive of the season – against Colorado State.  The Buffs were caught by the Rams, briefly, at 17-all, but overall the Buffs spent 50:27 of game time in the lead, never trailing.  The results were not so dramatic against Washington State, with the Buffs taking the first lead in the second quarter, 3-0, never trailing in the contest.  Overall, Colorado spent 76:44 of game time in the lead to open the season, and, despite being on the brink of an 0-2 start, had yet to trail in a game.

With North Texas as the next opponent, I was intrigued as to the possibility of the Buffs starting 3-0 without ever facing a deficit.  Certainly, the Buffs were not good enough to take any opponent for granted, but the Mean Green from Denton had succumbed 65-0 to Texas, and had lost at home to Florida Atlantic.  A quick start by the Buffs, and the Buffs would have their first three game stretch of games without a deficit since 1996.  In fact, I was poised to send an email to Assistant Athletic Director / Media Relations Dave Plati, asking him if he knew of any season in the past when Colorado had opened the season with three games without trailing at any time during those contests (1995 being the only other candidate, at least as far back as 1978).

A quick score did occur in the North Texas game.  It came less than a minute into the contest, in fact.  Unfortunately, with 14:17 still to play in the first quarter, the scoreboard read:

“North Texas 7, Colorado 0″.

So much for that great search into the anomalies of Colorado statistics.

Still, for the game, the Buffs did hold a significant “Time Spent in the Lead” advantage, holding the lead for 41:02, compared to 8:22 of game time for the Mean Green.  Overall for 2004, Colorado had now held the lead for 117:46 of game time.  For comparisons sake, after the non-conference slate was completed in 2003 (with the Buffs at 2-2 on their way to a 5-7 campaign), the numbers were: Time Spent in the Lead, Colorado: 55:34; Time Spent Behind: 132.56.

Overall, I would rather have a more relevant statistic in the Buffs’ favor three games into 2004 (say, for example, a defense which was not giving up 452 yards/game). Still, the only statistic that mattered was the record, and Colorado was 3-0 for the first time in the Gary Barnett era as head coach.  No other team in the Big 12 North had come through the non-conference schedule without a defeat. (Kansas, the only other North undefeated team after week two of the season, lost 20-17 to Northwestern the week of the CU/North Texas game).

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Colorado had faltered on one statistic I was tracking going into the North Texas game.  Yet the Buffs had managed to pull out yet another win.

As it turned out, the only time that “Time Spent in the Lead” mattered was the second between 0:01 and 0:00 in the fourth quarter.

Game Notes:

– The 2004 game between Colorado and the Mean Green of North Texas marked the first time the Buffs had played a team from the Sun Belt Conference. Still, it was worthy of note that North Texas had an enrollment in 2004 of 34,000, trailing only Texas and Texas A&M for size amongst CU’s 2004 opponents.

– CU quarterback Joel Klatt set several team records in the game against North Texas. In completing 26-of-33 passes, Klatt set a school record for completion percentage (78.8%), passing the record set by Mike Moschetti against San Jose State (25-of-32, 78.1%, 9/11/99).  Klatt also set a record for the most yards passing in a quarter, 196, passing the record of 192 set by Koy Detmer against Oklahoma (10/17/92, a 24-24 tie) and again against Northeast Louisiana (9/16/95, a 66-14 win).

– On only two other occasions prior to the 2004 game against North Texas had an opponent rushed for more than the 247 yards posted by Jamario Thomas. David Winbush of Kansas ran for 268 against the Buffs on 11/7/98 (a 33-17 Kansas win), while David Overstreet had 258 yards for Oklahoma in the infamous 82-42 game (10/7/80).

– The 586 yards of total offense for the Buffs were the most since the school-record 767 yards were put up by CU against San Jose State in a 63-35 win on 9/11/99.

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