Buffs Bring Home Big 12 Championship

Using the same formula that worked the week before, the tenth-ranked Colorado Buffaloes knocked off their second top five team in eight days, beating the third-ranked Texas Longhorns 39-37 to win the Big 12 Championship in Irving, Texas. The win avenged a 41-7 beating Colorado absorbed at the hands of the Longhorns earlier in the season. The Buffs, now 10-2, have won six straight games since that loss, heading into Bowl season.

Run the ball, control the line of scrimmage, and don't make mistakes. After knocking off top ranked Nebraska with that game plan a week earlier, the Buffs tried the same approach – and it worked again. Chris Brown rushed for 180 yards and three touchdowns, leading a powerful ground game that racked up 223 yards and controlled the clock – helping secure the school's first Big 12 football title. It was Colorado's first football championship of any kind since they shared the national title with Georgia Tech 11 years ago. Colorado, 3-8 a year ago, is now likely headed to the Fiesta Bowl to play PAC 10 Champion Oregon.

"This team did it the way you're supposed to do it," a visibly relieved Head Coach Gary Barnett told reporters after the game. "They won the Big 12, and they did it with a lot of heart."

Capitalizing on four Texas turnovers – three interceptions and a fumble – from starting QB Chris Simms, the Buffs scored 22 second-quarter points to build a 29-17 lead at the half. Earlier, Texas had taken a 7-0 lead and was marching again when CU linebacker Aaron Killian stepped in front of an errant Simms pass and returned it 73 yards to the Texas 12. From there, Brown cashed it in with a 10-yard touchdown run. The game was tied, but momentum was clearly parked on CU's sideline. Simms threw two more picks that led directly to Buffs scores, including a 64-yard return for a TD by Medford Moorer. After Texas intercepted a long pass from Quarterback Bobby Pesavento, Simms fumbled on the next play while being sacked, and Matt McChesney recovered, leading to a 22-yard scoring pass from Pesavento to All-America tight end Daniel Graham.

Quarterback Major Applewhite, the Longhorns former conference player-of-year turned clipboard holder, tried to rallied Texas in relief of Simms, hitting B.J. Johnson with a 79-yard TD pass late in the first half to make it 29-17 at halftime.

Brown's third TD gave the Buffaloes a 36-17 lead with 11:32 remaining in the third quarter. Two Texas field goals narrowed the gap, and Colorado led 36-23 with ten minutes left in the fourth quarter, and had played a virtually mistake-free game to that point. But disaster struck with just under 10 minutes to play. Facing a fourth and three near midfield, the Barnett sent third team QB Robert Hodge into the game in punt formation. Hodge's pass on the fake punt didn't fool anyone, and the Longhorns Roderick Babers picked off the pass, and raced back 54 yards for a touchdown that drew Texas within six at 36-30 with 9:10 left in the game.

That left it up to the CU offense to re-gain control of the game, and they did. They controlled the ball for more than seven minutes, converted a key fourth and inches, finally getting a field goal. After having run nearly five minutes off the clock, the Buffs faced another fourth and three near midfield. This time they punted, and disaster struck Texas. A strong rush nearly blocked the punt, but in the process, the ‘Horns roughed punter Mark Marischal. The penalty gave Colorado a first down, and three plays later, Jeremy Flores booted a 43-yard field goal that gave CU a nine-point cushion with just under two minutes left. Applewhite led the Longhorns to another touchdown, a one-yard pass to Johnson with 31 seconds remaining. But the ensuing on-side kick was recovered by Graham, who had just the one catch in the game. The Buffs ran out the clock and began the celebration.

"I'm just thankful that Jeremy Flores got my butt out of the sling," Barnett quipped afterwards. "I'm a believer in the system. Wherever we go (to a Bowl), I'll led the polls decide that."


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