November 5th – Boulder          No. 25 Colorado 41, Missouri 12

Senior running back Lawrence Vickers rushed for 85 yards and four touchdowns, leading Colorado to a 41-12 win over Missouri in Boulder.

The victory put the Buffs in the driver’s seat in the race for the Big 12 North Division crown, giving Colorado a two game lead on the division with two games to play. Brad Smith, who would become the NCAA’s all-time leading rusher for quarterbacks during the game, was held to just 16 yards on 13 carries as the Colorao defense surrendered only one touchdown drive on the afternoon.

The first touchdown run for Vickers came on the Buffs’ second possession of the game. Covering 94 yards in just seven plays, Colorado scored on a Vickers’ one yard run midway through the first quarter. Missouri answered, however, with an 80-yard drive of its own, with Brad Smith hitting receiver William Franklin from 20 yards out. A missed extra point left Colorado in the lead, 7-6.

The remainder of the first half belonged to the Buffs.

Vickers scored on runs of 20 yards and two yards to give Colorado a 21-6 cushion, and Mason Crosby hit on a 56-yard field goal late in the half to give Colorado a 24-6 halftime edge. As the Buff offense hit stride, so too did the CU defense, holding the Tigers to 60 yards of total offense in four second quarter possessions.

Despite the 24-6 lead, the third quarter began ominously for Colorado.

After holding Missouri to a punt on the Tigers’ first possession, Colorado looked to put the game away. Instead, a fumble by Joel Klatt at the Buff 12-yard line was returned by Tiger defensive lineman Jamar Smith for a Missouri touchdown. Even after Missouri missed on a two-point conversion attempt, the score was now 24-12, and the Colorado home crowd of 49,196 shuffled about restlessly. There was still 13:39 left in the third quarter, and the momentum had decidedly swung over to the Tigers’ side of the field.

The Buffs’ offense, though, responded to the challenge.

Aided by a roughing the kicker penalty on Buff punter John Torp, the Buffs put together an 80-yard, 14-play drive, culminated in a six-yard touchdown pass from Joel Klatt to tight end Quinn Sypniewski. The six minute drive made the score 31-12 midway through the third quarter, and the momentum was back in Colorado’s hands.

Lawrence Vickers’ fourth touchdown came early in the fourth quarter on a seven yard run after an interception by Buff cornerback Gerett Burl. CU’s final points came a few minutes later on a 43-yard field goal by Mason Crosby, putting the finishing touches on a 41-12 rout.

Colorado head coach Gary Barnett could not say enough about his senior “V-back” – with the “V” standing for versatile – Lawrence Vickers. “He’s on punt return but he didn’t want out. He’s on punt coverage but he didn’t want out of that,” said Barnett. “He wanted to be in the game ever snap and you love an attitude like that.”

Vickers was pressed into service when the two sophomore running backs who had seen the most playing time, Hugh Charles and Byron Ellis, were hobbled by injured ankles. In 2004, playing with Bobby Purify, Vickers had rushed for 248 yards on 60 attempts, with another 274 yards coming as a receiver. Rather than see his numbers increase in 2005, the senior from Houston was seeing the ball less, covering 133 yards on the season coming into the Missouri game. The 18 carries and 85 yards were both career highs.

“I was motivated,” said Vickers, whose four touchdowns were the most by a Buff back since Chris Brown had six scores against Nebraska in 2001. “I love carrying the ball.” Speaking about himself in the third person, the senior captain noted, “Sometimes Mr. Versatile has to step up to the challenge. I’ll fill any role. I’ll run, I’ll block, but will always keep them on their toes.”

In addition to Vickers, several other Buffs had notable days.

Joel Klatt set yet another record, this one for consecutive passes without an interception. After completing 23-of-31 passes for 253 yards, one touchdown, and no interceptions, Klatt’s streak of passes without an interception stood at 122 passes, out-distancing the record of 104 set by quarterback Craig Ochs over a four game stretch in 2000. Tight end Quinn Sypniewski, he of the two medical redshirt years, played in his 49th regular season game, passing Derek McCoy, who had played in 48 games (2000-03). Also, kicker Mason Crosby hit another 50-yard plus field goal, this one from 56 yards out, giving him nine during regular season games (Crosby would also hit a 54-yarder in the Houston Bowl), and his 11 points in the game gave him 215 for his career, passing Bobby Anderson (212) for third place on the CU all-time list.

While the Colorado records were significant, an NCAA record also fell on the blustery afternoon in Boulder.

Missouri quarterback Brad Smith got the five yards he needed to pass Antwaan Randle-El’s NCAA record for yards rushing by a quarterback (3,895), but Smith’s 16 yards on 13 carries were hardly numbers worth celebrating. The Colorado defense held Smith to just 176 yards of total offense. The 59 yards rushing by Missouri marked the seventh time in nine games in which the Buff defense held the opposition to under 100 yards rushing in a season, a new school record.

The win put Colorado at 7-2, 5-1 in the Big 12. Missouri fell to 5-4, 3-3, and was all but mathematically eliminated from the race. Also falling from contention on the day was Nebraska (5-4, 2-4) after losing to Kansas, 40-15. The loss to the Jayhawks was the first for the Cornhuskers since 1968, ending the second longest streak in NCAA history.

Not yet eliminated from the race to the Big 12 title game was Iowa State.

The Cyclones raised their record to 6-3, 3-3, with a 45-17 dismantling of Kansas State. Iowa State was playing its best football of the season, coming off of a 42-14 rout of Texas A&M the week before. If Iowa State were to beat Colorado in Ames, defeat Kansas in its finale, and have Colorado fall to Nebraska in the Buffs’ final regular season game, the Big 12 North title would go to the Cyclones.

The Buffs, fresh off of their big win, moved up to 22nd in the polls.

Clinching the North title, though, was what was on the players’ minds. “Our motto has kind of been ‘take care of the North and win games in November’,” said senior linebacker Akarika Dawn, who matched a career-best with 10 tackles against Missouri, “and that’s our only focus right now.” Added Joel Klatt about the Iowa State game, “I think next week you’ll see a team even more jacked up to play, because (winning championships) is why we’re here.”

A loss to Iowa State would not doom the Buffs’ chances for a fourth title in five years, but a win would clinch the division with the Nebraska game still left to play. It would also cement the Buffs’ standing in the polls for several more weeks, improving Colorado’s bowl prospects.

One more win to go …

… how elusive it would become.

“V” is not only for “Versatile”

Senior running back Lawrence Vickers would never be mistaken for a wall flower. The ever popular, ever quotable Buff captain was a true leader of the 2005 Colorado football team. Even though his numbers in terms of carries and receptions had fallen off in 2005, his importance to the team had not.

Right after the Buffs had defeated UTEP, 33-28, in the 2004 Houston Bowl, Vickers, a Houston native, proclaimed that the Buffs would return to Houston in 2005. Not for the lower tier Houston Bowl, but for the Big 12 Championship game, which was to be played in the same Reliant Stadium. “No if’s, ands, or buts about it,” said Vickers. “We’re coming back. We’re going to be really, really great next year. We have too many players coming back for us not to be.”

Bold words for a team coming off of an 8-5 campaign (and only 4-4 in conference play), and staring at a schedule which included road games at Miami and Texas. The preseason magazines in 2005 were filled with prognostications about the resurgence of Nebraska, Missouri, and Kansas State in the Buffs’ division. Some picked the Buffs to win their fourth title in five years, but Colorado was not the trendy choice. In 2004, the division had produced the first Big 12 division champion with a 4-4 conference record, and the North would be a wide open race.

Now Colorado was on the brink of winning that return trip.

A team meeting had been called by the Buff players after the Kansas State game, a 23-20 victory. The win left Colorado alone at the top of the division, but the players felt the need to stress the need to play better if the plans of a return date with Texas were to be realized. That meeting said a great deal about the players, about the 20 seniors on the team, and about the four senior captains – defensive tackle James Garee, linebacker Brian Iwuh, quarterback Joel Klatt, and running back Lawrence Vickers.

Vickers, did refer to himself in the third person in his post-game interviews. However, “Mr. Versatile” was also quick to praise his teammates. “It really wasn’t me, though,” said Vickers. “It was the O-line telling the coaches to keep pounding the ball,” adding, “I didn’t get the touchdowns, all of us got the touchdowns. I couldn’t have done it without the other guys.” Still, Vickers couldn’t help but note, “And of course, anytime Mr. Versatile gets to do his thing, it’s all good. All around it was a good day.”

A win over Iowa State would certify 2005 as a good year. Mr. Versatile’s prediction of a return trip to Houston would become a reality.

Colorado’s “V-back” stood for more than “versatile back”.

The “V” stood for “Vickers”.

It also stood for “Victory.”

Game Notes

– Lawrence Vickers’ four touchdown runs marked the 15th time in CU history that a Buff back had four rushing scores in a game, but only the second in the ten years of the Big 12.

– Joel Klatt also had personal strings of 90 consecutive passes without an interception in 2002 -‘03, and another string of 93 passes snapped earlier in 2005 against Texas. Passing the record of 122 consecutive passes without an interception marked the 33rd record for Klatt in the CU books.

– Another Klatt record set against Missouri: consecutive pass completions to start a game (12), besting the old record of eight (held with Kordell Stewart and Koy Detmer).

– Prior to holding its seventh opponent of the season under 100 yards in rushing in a season, the previous defensive best was six games, held by the 1994 team which finished 11-1 and ranked 3rd in the nation.

– The Kansas victory over Nebraska, the first since 1968, was the second longest streak between two teams. The longest streak in NCAA history belonged to Notre Dame, which had defeated Navy in every game played between the two teams since 1964 (a span of 41 games heading into 2005). After Nebraska’s 36 game streak was snapped, the second longest active streak was Tennessee over Vanderbilt – 22 straight games (a streak which would also come to an end a few weeks later when Vanderbilt defeated Tennessee, 28-24).

– Senior linebacker Akarika Dawn would go on to set a new club record for games played by a defensive player, 51, besting the 46 played by Tyler Brayton, 1999-2002.

– Unfortunately for Vickers and the Buffs, after the 85-yard, four touchdown effort against Missouri, the V-Back from Houston would only rush for 40 yards in the Buffs’ final four games, with no touchdowns … So went Mr. Versatlie, so went the Buffs ….


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