October 1st – at Oklahoma State           Colorado 34, Oklahoma State 0

Posting a shutout for the second time in three games, the Colorado defense led the way to a surprisingly easy 34-0 romp over Oklahoma State in Stillwater.

The Buffs held the Cowboys to only 208 yards in total offense, posting a second shutout in a season since the 1991 and 1992 Buffs accomplished the same feat.

The afternoon started out well for Colorado. On the Buffs’ first play from scrimmage, sophomore running back Hugh Charles raced past the OSU defense for 74 yards and a 7-0 Buff lead. The run came just 18 seconds into the contest, the second-fastest score from scrimmage in Colorado history. On the day, Charles would account for 132 yards and two touchdowns, both career bests.

Colorado would not score again until there were only two seconds remaining before halftime, with Mason Crosby hitting from 48 yards out to give the Buffs a 10-0 lead at the break. The lead could have been much greater, as the Colorado defense was stymying the Oklahoma State offense. However, a Byron Ellis fumble in Cowboy territory, together with a blocked 44-yard field goal attempt by Crosby, combined to keep Oklahoma State in the game.

The game quickly turned into a rout in the third quarter.

Defensive end Abraham Wright intercepted a pass by Cowboy quarterback Bobby Reid, giving the ball to the Colorado offense on the Cowboy 29-yard line. Three plays later, the Buffs were up 17-0 after a 15-yard scoring run by Hugh Charles.

A quick three-and-out by the OSU offense gave the ball right back to the Buffs, who marched 59 yards in six plays, culminated by a touchdown pass from Joel Klatt to tight end Joe Klopfenstein for 11 yards and an insurmountable 24-0 Buff lead.

For the remainder of the afternoon, all the near-sellout crowd of 47,908 in Boone Pickens Stadium could do was to wonder whether the home team could avoid its first home shutout since 1991.

Backups played most of the fourth quarter for the Buffs, with the only offensive points coming on a 42-yard field goal by Mason Crosby with 2:07 left. Down 27-0, Oklahoma State mounted one final drive, but Reid was picked off by freshman CU linebacker Marcus Burton, who raced 99 yards for a touchdown with only 24 seconds to play to make the final score 34-0.

The Buffs’ offense, led by Hugh Charles, was efficient if not spectacular.

Joel Klatt passed for only 151 yards and one touchdown. The Buffs committed another eight penalties (for 95 yards), giving Colorado an even forty penalties through four games. “It’s the way it has been all year,” said Joel Klatt, “We kill ourselves with penalties and mistakes. To our credit, we didn’t let that haunt us in this game like it has in past games.”

With the victory, Colorado raised its 2005 season record to 3-1. More importantly, the Buffs were now 1-0 in Big 12 conference play.

The Buff defense was playing well, surrendering only 51 points in four games (12.75 points/game, good for 12th in the nation). After giving up only 208 total yards to the Cowboys, the Colorado defense was now the talking point for the team, ranked nationally in not only scoring defense, but rushing defense (11th best overall), and total defense (22nd). It was not a coincidence to many that the defensive coordinator for these Buffs, Mike Hankwitz, was the same defensive coordinator the last two times, in 1991 and 1992, that the Buffs posted two shutouts in one season. In his second year back with Colorado, Hankwitz had the Buffs and their fans believing again.

Up next was Texas A&M.

The Aggies were also 3-1, 1-0 on the season, but had taken a roller coaster ride to get there. Opening with a tough 25-24 loss to Clemson on the road, Texas A&M had fallen out of the polls after being ranked 17th in the pre-season. Comfortable wins over in-state patsies SMU and Texas State set the stage for the conference opener against Baylor. Baylor was also 3-0 heading into the contest, but the wins were over SMU, Samford, and Army. What should have been a rout turned into a 16-13 overtime win for the Aggies.

Texas A&M had defeated Colorado in overtime in 2004, 29-26, in College Station. The Buffs were once again in search of national respect. A win over the previously ranked Aggies would go a long way towards that goal.

Cautious Optimism

The phrase, “cautious optimism”, came up twice in my world the weekend of the Colorado/Oklahoma State game, both having connections to the Buffs.

The Colorado game against Oklahoma State was not televised, giving me less to write about than I would have had had I been able to witness the game first hand. As a result, I took the coincidence as a sign to detail the “cautious optimism” references.

The first occasion took place before the CU game had ended. The Buffs were up 24-0, and had matters well in hand, but the game was still in the third quarter, and crazier things had happened than a comeback by a seemingly defeated Buff opponent. As I was on the Internet, monitoring the game, I missed a call from Mac Keith, our daughter’s long time boyfriend (and future husband). Mac had just gotten back from taking the Law School Admissions Test (LSAT), and was calling to tell me about it.

Being an attorney, and having lived through the LSAT myself, Mac had called me several times over the previous weeks and months as he prepared for the test. He did well on the practice tests, but there was no substitute for the stress of the actual test. Mac, though, reported that he was “cautiously optimistic” about his results. He managed to get through the test panic-free, and had time to finish each section. That was about all you could ask from such an ordeal.

The relevance to CU football?

It just so happened that on another October 1st, this one in1983, (22 years earlier – to the day) I took the LSAT. It was the day Notre Dame came to Boulder, and I took the test before heading over to the game. Fortunately for Buff fans, the 2005 Buff players fared better than the 1983 group, as Colorado on that October afternoon fell to the Irish, 27-3.

The latter use of “cautiously optimistic” came with my Sunday morning review of the coverage of the Colorado/Oklahoma State game.

“Cautious Optimism is in Order” was the title to the column penned by Neill Woelk of the Boulder Daily Camera. Woelk cautioned the Buff faithful from reading too much into the Buffs’ win over the Cowboys. The Colorado offense was still struggling, there were way too many penalties, and the Buffs had yet to stretch a defense with the passing game.

All very true. Even with a 34-0 win, the Buffs had no reason to take the Texas A&M game for granted.

How could we? Only two days earlier, with the Miami debacle the last on-field valuation of the status of the Colorado football team, there was no reason for Colorado and its fans to look past Oklahoma State, much less Texas A&M.

Now, fresh off of a second shutout in three weeks, and with the Aggies looking more vulnerable than they had a month earlier, cautious optimism once again crept back into the mind-set of the faithful. A win over A&M would give the Buffs a 2-0 conference start. Even a competitive game against the 2nd-ranked Longhorns the following week could be used as a springboard to propel the Buffs into the final five games against Northern Division foes with – what’s that phrase?

Oh, yeah. “Cautious Optimism”.

Game Notes

– The two shutouts in 2005 matched the efforts of the 1991 and 1992 teams. In 1991, Colorado shut out Minnesota, 58-0, and Kansas State, 10-0. In 1992, the Buffs shutout Missouri, 6-0, and Oklahoma State, 28-0. The last time CU posted three shutouts in a season? 1977.

– Scoring in 18 seconds against Oklahoma State was only the second-fastest score ever. The fastest CU touchdown from scrimmage occurred in 1996, when Rae Carruth scored on an end around from 28 yards out 13 seconds into a 24-10 win over Texas A&M (9/28/96).

– The listed capacity of OSU’s home field was listed in 2005 at 48,000, though 50,100 witnessed a 33-29 win by the 20th-ranked Cowboys over the 24th-ranked Buffs in 1997.

– Marcus Burton’s 99-yard interception return was not the longest in CU history. On three occasions, a Buff player has been credited with a 100-yard return on an interception, the most recent prior to 2005 being Steve Rosga’s pick v. Oklahoma State, 10/12/96, (a 35-13 Colorado win).

– Burton’s interception return was the longest play, though, ever posted by a freshman, surpassing the old record of 94 yards, set by Jeremy Bloom on a touchdown pass from Robert Hodge v. Kansas State, a 35-31 Colorado win (10/5/02).

– In 2005, Mike Hankwitz was on his second stint as defensive coordinator at Colorado, having filled that post from 1988-‘94.

– The only other Big 12 North team to open with a win in conference play on October 1st was Nebraska, 4-0, 1-0, after a 27-20 two-overtime at home against Iowa State.



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