October 27th – atTexas Tech           Colorado 31, Texas Tech 26

Senior cornerback Terrence Wheatley tied a school record with three interceptions in a game, leading the Buffs to a 31-26 win over Texas Tech in Lubbock. Linebacker Jordon Dizon picked off a fourth pass from Red Raider quarterback Graham Harrell, returning his interception 42 yards for a touchdown, as Colorado improved its chances of going bowling with its fifth win of the season.

The Buffs’ game plan against the potent offense of Texas Tech was clear from the outset: don’t give up big plays on defense; ball control on offense.

This scheme worked out perfectly early on, as Colorado jumped out to a 14-0 lead. The Red Raiders were able to move into Buff territory on the opening drive of the game, but stalled just over midfield. Colorado then put together a ten-play, 91-yard drive, culminated by a 31-yard touchdown run by tailback Hugh Charles to take a 7-0 lead.

After Texas Tech missed a 42-yard field goal attempt, Colorado strung together another impressive drive, this one covering 75 yards. On fourth-and-goal at the Tech two yard line, CU head coach Dan Hawkins went for the touchdown instead of the field goal. A Cody Hawkins pass was nearly intercepted (and would have been returned 100 yards for a tying score), but instead found tight end Riar Geer, raising the Buff lead to 14-0 early in the second quarter.

On the Red Raiders’ next possession, Terrence Wheatley intercepted his first pass of the afternoon, returning the ball to the Tech 20-yard line. The Buffs could not capitalize, however, as Kevin Eberhart missed a field goal from 25 yards out. Two Texas Tech field goals, the last coming on the last play of the first half, left the score 14-6, Colorado, at halftime.

For the Buffs, the second half started out as well as the first.

Colorado’s opening drive resulted in a 44-yard field goal by Eberhart to up the lead to 17-6. Two plays later, the lead was up to 24-6, as Jordon Dizon intercepted Graham Herrell’s first offering of the third quarter 42 yards for a Colorado touchdown. For Dizon, who was named as one of the nine semifinalists for the Butkus Award earlier in the week, it was his second interception of the season, and his first points as a Buff.

Still, against a team which came into the contest averaging 45 points and over 500 yards of total offense a game, there was still too much time left for the Buffs to start celebrating. It took Texas Tech only five plays and 1:30 off the third quarter clock for the Red Raiders to claim their first touchdown of the game, with Herrell connecting with receiver Eric Morris for a 31-yard touchdown to pull Tech to within 24-13.

With the 49,084 in attendance into the game for the first time, it would have been the appropriate time for the inconsistent Buffs to start making mistakes. Instead, the CU offense put together a time consuming, 13-play, 75-yard drive. Cody Hawkins hit Hugh Charles on a six-yard touchdown pass to put the Buffs back up by three scores, 31-13, with 4:00 left in the third quarter.

Against most teams, an 18-point lead with nineteen minutes to play would have seemed safe, but Texas Tech was not most teams. Just before the end of the quarter, Herrell hit freshman phenom Michael Crabtree from 19 yards out to make the score 31-19 (the two-point conversion attempt failed). The pass went right through the hands of Terrence Wheatley, who was in a dogfight with the record-breaking Crabtree all afternoon.

In each of its next two possessions, the Colorado offense went nowhere, as the Texas Tech defense finally made a stand. However, each time the Buff defense came to the rescue. More precisely, Terrence Wheatley came to the rescue, as the senior cornerback twice intercepted Graham Herrell to help preserve the Buffs’ lead.

When Texas Tech finally did manage to score, it took them 17 plays, three fourth down conversions, and over four minutes of precious clock time to accomplish the feat. An onsides kick was recovered by Colorado with just over two minutes to play, and the Buffs were able to run out the clock from there on to preserve the 31-26 win.

On the day, Texas Tech amassed 470 total yards. Red Raider quarterback Graham Harrell completed 46 passes in 62 attempts for 431 yards. Conversely, Colorado was held to 349 yards of total offense, and quarterback Cody Hawkins threw for only 123 yards. Still, Harrell had the four interceptions, and Hawkins had his first interception free game of his career. Texas Tech had no running game to speak of, while the Buffs had 217 yards on the ground, led by Hugh Charles, who had 121 yards on 20 carries.

“It was another day at the office,” said Charles, who had his fifth 100-yard game in the past six outings for the Buffs, and the 10th 100+ game of his career. “It was great to be back in Texas (the senior came to Boulder from Keller, Texas) and see some of my friends and family at the game. I get a lot of motivation from them.”

The road win over Texas Tech gave the Buffs their fifth win of the season. At 5-4 (3-2 in the Big 12), Colorado was one win away from being bowl eligible, with two of the final three games to be played at home.

Up next for the Buffs was a game against Missouri in Boulder. The Tigers would come to Boulder as a top ten team, moving up to No. 9 in the polls after raising their record to 7-1 in defeating Iowa State, 42-28.

Iowa State (1-8, 0-5) and Nebraska (4-5, 1-4) seemed like much better options for the Buffs to seek out their sixth win. On the other hand, a win over a top ranked team could potentially propel a 6-4 Colorado team into the polls for the first time in two seasons.

Dare to dream.

Top Ten Lists

The win over Texas Tech was huge in many respects. First and foremost, it put the Buffs in a position to go bowling at the end of the season. That the bowl was likely to be a lower-tier bowl was irrelevant. Extra practices for such a young team would be worth its weight in gold. Second, the win demonstrated the continued growth of the program. There was much to be excited about for the future, with positive spin and press to be the new norm, not the exception.

Lost in all the excitement about the future, though, were the accomplishments of the small band of Buff seniors. The CU football class of ‘07 has only 17 seniors, but they had placed their names among the elite in the history of Colorado football.

With his 121 yards rushing against Texas Tech, Hugh Charles moved into the top ten in career rushing yards at Colorado. His new total of 2,352 moved him past Lamont Warren and Lee Rouson into 9th place, just 15 yards behind Bobby Anderson. Charles also spent his Saturday in Lubbock moving into the top ten in the all-time Yards-from-Scrimmage list. His 121 yards rushing, coupled with his 26 yards receiving, gave Charles a career total of 2,828 yards from scrimmage. This new total was good enough to pass James Mayberry, Rae Carruth, and Chris Brown, placing Charles 8th on the all-time list. In a third category, All-Purpose yards, Charles moved into 16th place all-time, but was only 121 combined rushing and/or receiving yards away from being in the top ten in that category as well.

Also on the offensive side of the ball, senior wide receiver Dusty Sprague was poised to join the top ten in two receiving categories. Three more catches and 110 more receiving yards, and Sprague would move into the top ten on both lists.

Not to be outdone, there were two performers on the defensive side of the ball who would not soon be forgotten by Buff faithful. Senior linebacker Jordon Dizon, who made the national highlights with his interception return for a touchdown against Texas Tech, also became only the fifth player in CU history to record 400 tackles in a career. Dizon was also poised to join the top ten in CU annals in another category, Tackles-for-Loss. One of the favorites for Butkus Award, given annually to the nation’s top linebacker, Dizon led the nation in tackles on the season.

And then there was Terrence Wheatley. Wheatley’s three interceptions against the Red Raiders gave him 14 on his career, good enough for a tie for third place on the all-time list. Wheatley needed one more interception to break his tie with Dick Anderson and move into a tie with Chris Hudson for second, and two more to tie the all-time leader at CU, John Stearns. Wheatley was also in the top ten all-time in Pass Deflections, and, with 82 yards in kickoff returns against Texas Tech, moved past Walter Stanley and M.J. Nelson into second place on the all-time kickoff returns list.

Throw in Stephone Robinson, a senior who made his mark in moving to seventh place in both punt returns and kickoff returns – mostly prior to the 2007 season – and you had a great senior class of contributors. While the future of the program looked bright, and while there were freshman class records being set weekly by the likes of Cody Hawkins, Scotty McKnight, and Josh Smith, there was much to be thankful for from this class of seniors.

Extra Points

—  Terrence Wheatley had three interceptions against Texas Tech, tying a school record. The latest of the seven other occasions occurred in 1982, when Victor Scott had three interceptions against Oklahoma State, a game which ended in a 25-25 tie;

— Wheatley’s two interceptions in one quarter (the fourth) also tied a school record. Wheatley became the tenth CU player to turn the trick, the most recent of the other nine accomplished by Terrence Wood in 2000 against Colorado State (a 28-24 loss);

— Cody Hawkins threw for a touchdown pass for the ninth consecutive game, tying a school record set in 1996 by Koy Detmer. Hawkins 2,090 passing yards and 15 touchdowns are both freshman season records;

— Hawkins also made news for what he didn’t do. The game against Texas Tech marked the first time this season in which Hawkins did not throw an interception;

— With 56 yards receiving against the Red Raiders, Josh Smith took over the lead from Scotty McKnight for the freshman season receiving record. Smith had 399 yards receiving on the year; McKnight had 393 (the previous record for a freshman receiver for a season was 343 yards);

– The Buffs’ win in Lubbock represented the first win for Colorado on the road against the Red Raiders. All of the previous eight games in the series had been won by the home team.

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Pregame Preview

Five reasons why you should have “Breakfast with the Buffs” this Saturday:

1) Game time. 10:11 a.m., MDT. The Buffs are 3-0 in games which have kicked off at 1:30 p.m. or earlier (CSU, Miami (Ohio), Oklahoma). Considering that the Buffs have four wins on the season, this is a good stat to cling to when looking for hopeful signs. Cody Hawkins was quoted after the Kansas State game about being bored at the hotel in Manhattan, waiting for the late (after 8:00 p.m.) start, noting that their hotel didn’t even have ESPN2 to keep the players occupied with other games. Won’t be a problem in Waco – get up, have breakfast, have meetings, get on the bus, suit up, and go. Here’s hoping for a fast start for the Buffs (and here’s also hoping that the Red Raiders – and their fans – are slow in getting started on their Saturday at home).

2) Momentum. In this case, negative momentum. Both teams are coming off of losses to ranked teams, but the Texas Tech loss to Missouri may have hurt more – and not just because the 41-10 score was more lopsided. My reasoning: Texas Tech can (rightfully) brag that they are the only team in the Big 12 which has been bowl eligible every season of the league’s 12 year existence. Once again in ‘07, the Red Raiders have six wins, and, barring a major meltdown, will be bowling again this December. What has this got to do with the Missouri loss? Well, heading into the game agains the Tigers, the Red Raiders were 6-1, and were ranked 22nd in the nation. There was reason for Tech fans to have delusions of grandeur, and a seat at the big boys’ table of college football. After the big loss to Missouri, Texas Tech is back amongst the “others”, and, with games against Oklahoma and Texas still to come, will not likely be playing for the Big 12 title (the Red Raiders have never won the Big 12 South). This means another season ending trip to the Insight.com, Houston, Tangerine, or GalleryFurniture bowls (all of which Tech has played in this decade). The loss to Missouri means that Tech is once again good, but not great, and has lost some of what they were playing for. Meanwhile, the Buffs have everything to play for in just trying to get to bowl eligible status. Got to give the Buffs the edge here.

3) Turnovers. The Buffs are tied for 106th in the nation (with Baylor and Nebraska) in turnover margin, coming into the Red Raider game at minus-nine for the season. This has got to break Colorado’s way at some point (doesn’t it?). What better weekend to do it than against a team which has turned the ball over 16 times on the season (74th in the nation), but which, when it doesn’t turn it over, usually scores (4th in the nation in scoring offense; 2nd in the nation in converting third downs – 52.5%). For Colorado to stay with Texas Tech, the Buffs are going to need help from generous hosts.

4) 30-6. There was no reason to believe that the 2006 Buffs, with a school-record tying ten game losing streak, would not set the record at 11 against Texas Tech. Instead, Colorado won its first game of under Dan Hawkins in dominating Tech, 30-6, in the seventh game of 2006. The Buffs held the Red Raiders to 245 yards passing, did not commit a penalty, and forced five Texas Tech turnovers (see: No. 3, above). The results of last season’s game has to give the Buffs some confidence heading into Waco, and give the Red Raiders and their fans some pause.

5) Football Saturday. Even though Buff fans are down after losing a second game in a row, there is still reason to be a big football fan this Saturday. The CU/Texas Tech game can kickoff a great day for couch potatoes everywhere. Get this: nine of the top ten teams in the AP poll are playing this weekend (No. 4 Oklahoma is idle). Those nine teams are all playing other ranked teams!! Two games (No. 2 Boston College v. No. 8 Virginia Tech on Thurs.,; No. 5 Oregon v. No. 9 USC on Sat.) involve top ten head-to-head matchups. Not until bowl season will there be this many marque matchups in one weekend. So, sit back and enjoy. CU/Texas Tech is just the appetizer for a feast of good college football!

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