Lightning Strikes in Opening Victory

<b>Gary Barnett</b> and Colorado finally get the opening day monkey off their backs in beating state-rival Colorado State 42-35. New CU quarterback <b>Joel Klatt</b> had an incredible coming out party in the win with 402 yards passing and four touchdowns. What went right? What went wrong? We'll tell you all about it inside.

What went right: With one stellar performance, the previously-inexperienced Joel Klatt erased months of quarterback competition and years of quarterback frustration from the likes of Mike Moschetti, Bobby Pesavento, Craig Ochs, Zac Colvin and Robert Hodge. All decent quarterbacks, but, nonetheless, thank you Mr. Klatt.

Klatt, the former minor league baseball player, started slow but got stronger (both physically and mentally) as the game progressed. When all was said done, Klatt threw for 402 yards and four touchdowns to lead the Buffs to a thrilling 42-35 victory over Bradlee Van Pelt and the Colorado State Rams.

The numbers were only half the story for Klatt, who repeatedly rallied his troops in the second half as the game's momentum ebbed and flowed. With CSU pressing in the third quarter and the Buffs clinging to a seven-point lead, Klatt hit Derek McCoy for a 78-yard touchdown that temporarily took the wind out of the Rams' sails.

Following a lightning-induced delay and a couple of scoring drives from Van Pelt and the Rams, Klatt had yet more tricks up his sleeve. Poised beyond his years, Klatt hit McCoy and Jeremy Bloom for two big gains that placed the Buffs on the Rams' four-yard line. Two plays later (one of which was nullified by a penalty), Bobby Purify scampered nine yards for the go-ahead touchdown.

Head coach Gary Barnett couldn't have asked for a better 2003 debut from his quarterback or his impressive group of wideouts. McCoy, Bloom, D.J. Hackett and John Donahoe all played major roles in the victory. Hackett led all Buffs receivers with 10 receptions for 103 yards and a touchdown. McCoy finished with two scores and a 192 yards receiving, while Donahoe nabbed a 45-yard touchdown reception at the end of the first half.

But make no mistake about it, this was Klatt's coming out party. His numbers were gaudy, but the way in which he carried himself and led his team should be plenty for Buffs' fans to smile about.

What went wrong: As good as Klatt was, the defense was equally inept. Van Pelt repeatedly found wide-open receivers and the talkative quarterback made the Buffs pay all night. Keep in mind, this was against the same Colorado defense that dominated training camp and was expected to keep opposing offenses off the board.

Tackling was horrible – Van Pelt was hit two or three times on his way to a game-tying, 30-yard option run late in the four quarter – and reads were also bad. Cornerbacks Phil Jackson and Sammy Joseph were consistently being turned around, leaving Rams' receivers free to do their business. However, Joseph made up for his mistakes with a key fourth-quarter interception.

Marques Harris made some plays (and rattled Marcus Houston's cage a few times), but the front seven as a whole was invisible. Van Pelt was rarely pressured and the Buffs failed to record a sack.

Three Stars of the Game

1. Klatt. If this is a sign of things to come, days of mostly running the ball in Boulder might be over. At the very least, Klatt's presence under center creates a more balanced attack.

2. Hackett. Hackett set some career highs, but that's not why he made this list. His effort on his 10-yard touchdown reception was spectacular. He caught the ball just inside the five, took a hit, but still managed to right himself and dive for the line. The play gave the Buffs a 21-14 lead.

3. Van Pelt. The guy may talk a lot of trash, but he is a very talented football player. He's also a great leader, which showed with his second-half rally.

Injury report: The Buffs listed no major injuries from the game.

The Big Picture: The win was a huge one for Barnett and his team for many reasons. It finally gave Barnett a season-opening win and, what's more, it came against the hated Rams, who had won three of four.

In addition, it gave the young team something to build on. With two home games upcoming before the club heads to play at Florida State, the Buffs can build on its week-one win. Mentally, the victory proves to the club that it can compete with very talented teams.

Who's next? The UCLA Bruins and its gaggle of former CU assistant coaches/player come calling this week. New head coach Karl Dorrell has his work cut out for him, as the Bruins embark on a new chapter in its history. The Folsom Field crowd won't make things easy for an offense that will be playing without one of its top players in wide receiver Tab Perry, who is academically ineligible for the season. The defense, however, is a senior-laden group and it will test Klatt and Co.

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