Buffs Top Iowa State to Clinch Big 12 North

Colorado has earned a chance to defend its Big 12 title. D.J. Hackett Colorado wide receiver D.J. Hackett pulls in a touchdown pass in front of Iowa State cornerback Johnny Smith. <BR><BR> Bobby Purify ran for 174 yards and a touchdown as the 17th-ranked Buffaloes clinched Big 12 North title with a 41-27 win over Iowa State on Saturday night.

Safety Medford Moorer returned a fumble 71 yards for a TD with 5:12 left to help Colorado (8-3, 6-1 Big 12) advance to the conference championship game again. The Buffs beat Texas in last year's title game.

Purify scored on a 5-yard touchdown run with 1:43 remaining to seal the win.

Colorado will meet the winner of next week's Texas Tech-Oklahoma game in the Big 12 championship Dec. 7 in Houston.

The Buffaloes managed to hold off Iowa State (7-5, 4-4) despite losing Chris Brown in the third quarter. Brown, the nation's leading rusher, departed with a bruised sternum after running for 127 yards and a touchdown on 25 carries.

To claim the division title, Colorado needed a win over either Iowa State or Nebraska, whom the Buffs play in Lincoln on Neb. 29.

"We didn't want to leave it up to going to Lincoln,'' offensive guard Wayne Lucier said. "We said all along, `Let's end it this week.' ''

Robert Hodge's second touchdown pass of the game, a 6-yarder to a diving Derek McCoy, put the Buffs ahead 27-20 with 10:20 remaining.

With 6:02 to go, Colorado's Marcus Houston, playing for the first time since injuring his knee in the season opener, fumbled, and Iowa State linebacker Brandon Brown recovered at the Colorado 25.

Two plays later, however, Cyclones quarterback Seneca Wallace, in the shotgun formation, fumbled the snap. Moore scooped it up and ran it back for the score and a seemingly comfortable 34-20 lead.

Iowa State countered with a touchdown just 1:16 later as Wallace completed all four of his passes for 64 yards and ran the final 6 yards himself for the score, cutting the deficit to 34-27.

Purify, who got the bulk of the carries after Brown left the game, responded by carrying all six times on a six-play, 80-yard scoring drive. His 50-yard run down the left sideline set up his score four plays later.

"Medford's fumble return was huge,'' Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "Then they come right back down and score. And then Bobby almost takes it back down there himself on that 50-yard run.''

Hodge said Purify "doesn't get the carries that Chris gets, so people don't see how great a player he can be. When this team needed him, he stepped up and played great.''

Wallace had 367 total yards, including 265 yards on 24-of-35 passing.

Iowa State coach Dan McCarney said Brown and Purify "are two great backs. I don't see many teams in the country that Purify couldn't start for. In the end, I think they just wore us out. Colorado's rush game in the fourth quarter was the difference.

"I want my team to learn from today and know that we've closed the gap immensely in this league, but know that we've got a ways to go if we're going to be out there celebrating a Big 12 North championship.''

Brown ran for 124 yards and a TD in the first half as Colorado took a 17-14 lead.

After Colorado's Pat Brougham kicked a 43-yard field goal, Wallace had a 48-yard run to set up Michael Wagner's 5-yard scoring run.

Brown had runs of 22 and 21 yards, and Purify had a 22-yarder late in the first quarter on a drive that culminated in Hodge's 8-yard scoring pass to D.J. Hackett for a 10-7 lead.

Colorado squandered a prime scoring opportunity moments later. Wallace fumbled when he was sacked by Donald Strickland, and Colorado's DeAndre Fluellen recovered at the 11-yard line. But after two running plays and an incomplete pass, Pat Brougham attempted a 25-yard field goal, which clanged off the right upright.

Lance Young, who earlier in the quarter had dropped an apparent touchdown pass, caught Wallace's 50-yarder for a touchdown to put the Cyclones back ahead 14-10.

Hackett's leaping 31-yard reception set up Brown's 5-yard scoring run a little more than two minutes before halftime.

The Cyclones then drove to the Colorado 21, but Wallace's pass was intercepted at the goal line by Phil Jackson.

After a quick exchange of turnovers early in the third quarter, Iowa State went ahead 20-17 on Joe Woodley's 1-yard run. JaMaine Billups' 39-yard fumble return helped set up the score, but the extra-point attempt was blocked.

Colorado responded with a 40-yard field goal by Brougham. On that drive, Brown was injured.

Brown has 1,742 yards rushing this season and a per-game average of 158.4.

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