The Jayhawks put together an impressive 8-play, 80-yard drive on their first possession, capped by a John Randle 2-yard touchdown run to open the scoring. Kansas S Rodney Harris picked off Colorado quarterback Joel Klatt on the next series, and Kansas scored just three plays later to open with a 14-0 lead before four minutes had elapsed on the clock.
"We came out lackadaisical," said CU head coach Gary Barnett. "We put ourselves in a hole and had to fight back."
That fight began when DT Vaka Manupuna forced a fumble and sophomore S Dominique Brooks scooped up the loose ball and took it 41 yards for a touchdown midway through the first quarter. Mason Crosby added a 19-yard field goal before halftime to make it 14-10 Kansas.
Colorado had the first possession of the second half, but the Buffs have been horrid on their third quarter opening drives this season. Saturday, Klatt and Co. reversed that trend, and the junior quarterback hit 6-of-6 passes, leading the Buffs on an 8-play, 70-yard scoring drive. It was capped by a 4-yard scoring pass to TE Joe Klopfenstein, and was just the second time CU had scored on its first possession of the third quarter this season.
As he has all year, CU punter John Torp came up big on CU's next series, pinning KU at its 1-yard line with a 61-yard boomer. The CU defense held Kansas, and forced them to punt from deep inside their own territory. Stephone Robinson gave the Buffs the go-ahead touchdown when he returned KU's punt 48 yards for the touchdown. It was the first time a CU punt returner hit paydirt since the 2002 Big 12 title game when Jeremy Bloom returned one against the Sooners.
"Stephone Robinson's punt return was as big as anything that happened in this game," Barnett said.
RB Lawrence Vickers added the insurance score, a 4-yard TD run late in the fourth quarter.
"It's good to get the bad taste out of our mouth," Barnett said of the win. "I was real proud of the way we played in the second half. We played with spirit and energy."
Despite the win, which moved CU to 5-4 overall, 2-4 in conference, the Buffs were far from perfect. Colorado gave up three interceptions. Two of those went to Charles Gordon.
Of note, however, was the fact that CU was penalized just three times for 17 yards, their lowest number of penalties on the year. The Buffs gave up 342 yards to the Jayhawks, also a season low given to an opponent by the Colorado defense.
"Consistency is still what we're looking for and working toward on both sides of the ball," Barnett said.
CU quarterback Joel Klatt dives on a fumble in Saturday's 30-21 win over Kansas in Lawrence.
Photo by AP
Kansas coach Mark Mangino said after the game, "I'll give credit to Coloardo. It was a good game. They made plays in the second half and we did not. And they played well enough to win."
Still in the Hunt
Despite losing four its past six games, all in the Big 12, the Buffs are in the thick of the Big 12 North Division race. If Colorado wins its final two games — vs. Kansas State (Nov. 13) and at Nebraska (Nov. 26), AND Iowa State loses one more game — at Kansas State (Nov. 13), or vs. Missouri (Nov. 27) — AND Missouri finishes with five losses in conference (they are 2-4 with a game vs. Kansas, Nov. 20, and at Iowa State, Nov. 27, remaining), THEN CU would win the North.
If a three-way tie occurs, there are several tie-breakers that come into play.
"After we lost a few big games, we still knew we had a chance for bigger things," said junior tight end Joe Klopfenstein. "We have needed a lot of games to go our way and every week that just seems to happen. We just have to keep doing our part and winning, and we'll see what happens."
Speaking of Klopfenstein
The tight end hadn't been in the end zone with the ball in his possession since the North Texas game. Saturday, however, he found himself part of the game plan once again and hauled in three catches for 24 yards. He was also on the scoring end of a four-yard pass from Joel Klatt in the third quarter.
"It was nice to get back involved in the offense," Klopfenstein said. "Those were some pretty big plays in the game, and it is always nice to make those kind of plays.
"The touchdown was kind of an unexpected play after we ran so much that drive. I was hiding off to the right and they didn't see me sneak away to the other side."
Although they wouldn't say it publicly this past week, the Buffs saw the Kansas contest as a "must-win game." Colorado was demoralized after the loss at home to Texas, and a loss on the road at Kansas could have been nearly impossible to recover from, if CU still intended to get to six wins and bowl eligibility.
"We came in here with our backs against the wall, knowing that unless we win we were pretty much done (in the North race)," senior DT Matt McChesney said. "We made the plays when we had to and responded well. I think the ball bounced our way for the first time in a long time."
McChesney, who celebrated his 23rd birthday Saturday, made the hit on KU starting quarterback Jason Swanson in the first quarter, causing Swanson to leave the game for the rest of the afternoon. Swanson was replaced by John Nielsen, who ended with 21-of-31 for 183 yards, one TD and one INT.
"He didn't look too happy when I got off of him," McChesney said of Swanson. "I wasn't trying to hurt anyone our there, but I got a pretty good lick on him. (John Neilsen) came in and executed the offense pretty well for the most part. I think when he gets the opportunity to really play, he will be good."
Rallying from a 14-point deficit marked the sixth largest comeback in program history. Four of CU's top 17 comebacks have come vs. the Jayhawks.
S Dominque Brooks returned a fumble for a touchdown, and PR Stephone Robinson took a punt return to the house, as well. That gives the Buffs six returns for touchdowns on the season. That ties Colorado with Miami for most returns for scores in the country at this point in the season. Colorado has 34 returns for TDs since the start of the 1999 season, fifth most in the nation over that time period.
Climbing the Stat Charts
LB Jordon Dizon was credited by KU press box officials for three tackles. CU coaches will review film and revise that number if necessary over the weekend. For now, however, Dizon has 64 stops on the season. He needs four more to break the season tackles record by a true freshman, currently held by Dizon's teammate J.J. Billingsley (67 in 2002).
QB Joel Klatt threw one touchdown pass Saturday, giving him six on the season, and tying him on the career chart with Darian Hagan and Steve Vogel at 27. With 155 yards of total offense in the game, Klatt has 4,119 and passed Eric Bieniemy on the career list in that category.
Also passing a former great Buffalo running back on a career list, TB Bobby Purify ran past former teammate Chris Brown in rushing yards Saturday. After Purify's 52 yards vs. the Jayhawks, he now has 2,724 career rushing yards, while Brown has 2,690. With just 11 receiving yards, Purify would become the first Buff to go for 500 receiving and 2,500 rushing in their career.
No Injury Report
A CU official said Colorado will not release injury information this week because the Buffs' next opponent, Kansas State, does not release injury information.