Horns Look For Rocky Mountain High

For Texas coach Mack Brown, happiness is Lubbock, Texas in his rear view mirror.

Following his team's most complete victory of 2004 at Texas Tech, Brown's biggest concern is to put the 51-21 win in the record books so that the surprisingly lopsided outcome won't beat his heady Horns in the Rockies. Two weeks ago, Texas coaches worked to ensure that the Longhorns did not allow the OU loss beat them twice and consequently forged an ugly win over Missouri. To a man, the Horns were practically giddy this week so Brown said coaches worked them twice as hard. You can coach them harder after a win, Brown said, and lest we forget...

"We're dealing with teenagers. So, when people question them, they go fight. When they get bragged on, they swell up. This is a dangerous, dangerous week for us."

How dangerous is this 4-3 Colorado team that snatched defeat from the jaws of victory at Texas A&M last weekend? Desperate for a return to dominance, and no less eager to give media something to talk about other than the allegations of sexual assault and recruiting violations leveled at the program, the Buffs jumped to a 3-0 non-conference mark but have since dropped three-of-four to Big 12 teams. All four of CU's wins this year have come against teams that currently sport losing records.

Yet Colorado (1-3 in league play) can still control it's own destiny if it beats Texas in Boulder and Nebraska knocks off Missouri in Lincoln.

"They understand they are still in the mix for the Big 12 North, but they have to win out," Brown said. "So this game is key for them like it is for us."

Thing is, Colorado has now lost seven straight to Big 12 South teams. And the Horns represent their last chance to upend a southern division foe this year.

"It's the next 'must-win' game and that's what we told the players," Brown said.

BY THE NUMBERS

Colorado holds a 7-6 series lead over Texas. Of all opponents that Texas has faced more than 12 times, Colorado is the only team to hold a series edge. Texas snapped a six-game Colorado series winning-streak with that 28-14 win in Boulder in 2000. Brown holds a 2-1 advantage over CU, but that one loss ranks as the costliest in Brown's seven-year tenure at Texas. With not only a Big 12 Title but a possible National Championship game berth on the line, Texas dropped a 39-37 heartbreaker on December 1, 2001, to the same Buffalo team that Texas shellacked 41-7 in Austin just six weeks earlier.

"It shows you what turnovers can do to crush you," Brown said.

QB Chris Simms was responsible for four turnovers (three INT, one fumble) while FS Phillip Geiggar's roughing penalty against Mark Marsical kept alive a CU drive that resulted in a game-clinching FG. It marked the third time in seven years that Texas scored 30+ points against the Buffs and still lost.

"I saw Phillip Geiggar in the corner with his head down," Brown recalled. "I saw the same thing happen to Brett Robin when Roy Williams jumped over him and hit Chris Simms when OU beat us that same year. He’ll learn from it, and he has."

Texas is 4-1 against Colorado when the Buffs are unranked.

NUMBERS MEAN NOTHING

One of the little tidbits that Colorado included in this week's media packet is that Texas is rated No. 11 and CU is No. 14 in terms of most experienced D-I coaching staffs (based exclusively on head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator). Atop the list? Penn State, followed by UNLV. Conspicuously missing from the Top 14 listed are Oklahoma, Miami, Auburn, Georgia, California and Utah. Sometimes 'experienced' just means 'old.'

COLORADO OFFENSE

The Buffs are looking to re-establish their smashmouth, power running attack that put them in the Big 12 title game in 2001 and 2002, not to mention its 1990 national championship season.

So far it's been a slow-go, even with TB Bobby Purify's on-again, off-again return to the backfield after missing the entire 2003 season due to an ankle injury. Purify suffered a shoulder sprain in Colorado's 17-9 loss at Missouri and has missed six quarters this season due to various injuries. However, he reeled off a season-best 41-yard run from scrimmage and 130 total rushing yards against Texas A&M last week before fumbling in overtime to seal the 29-26 loss in College Station.

"Their offense is very similar to Oklahoma's with their schemes," Brown said. "They'll run the power play that hurt us so much against Oklahoma and that's Purify's favorite play. But they're going to line up and make you stop the run, but they went into the A&M game throwing it. They're a big, physical, good looking football team that's gonna hit you right in the mouth."

Purify is averaging 94.3 ypg and now has 2,659 career rushing yards, No. 5 all-time at CU.

Junior Lawrence Vickers has shown such versatility at FB, TB and WR that his on-the-field presence has coined a new moniker for the Colorado depth-chart; V-back. Vickers is averaging 28.3 ypg receiving and 18.7 ypg rushing. The moniker actually stands for "versatile" back and is also applied to sophomore Daniel Jolly who takes most of his snaps at FB.

"Purify is a very good runner and a patient runner," Co-Defensive Coordinator Greg Robinson said. "Vickers is a horse (6-2, 240)."

Purify's uncles (James and Bobby) were a big Motown recording duo in the 1960's, including the Top 10 hit, "I'm Your Puppet." But Colorado's ground game hit a sour note last season, sinking all to the way to No. 113 nationally (93.5 ypg). While improved, the rushing offense is still not up to snuff with its current 142.7ypg (No. 73).

The Buffs dusted off a formation at A&M that coaches sometimes refer to as the "lonesome polecat" where the QB lines up behind three OL and every one else is spread wide, both to the right and left. It may be Barnett's attempt to open up an offense that is averaging 370.4 ypg (NCAA No. 65).

QB Joel Klatt, who has played two-plus seasons in the San Diego Padres organization, has been so erratic that coach Gary Barnett benched him following the 42-14 loss at Oklahoma State. Barnett left it up to Klatt to see if he deemed himself mentally prepared to lead his troops against the Aggies last weekend. He started slow (2-of-8 for 17 yards in the first quarter) but came on to throw for 329 yards during the final three frames on 23-of-34 passing.

Klatt is 117-of-194 (60.3 percent) for 1,312 yards on the season, including five TDs but seven INT. His go-to is X-receiver Evan Judge (302 yards on 24 catches) but Judge is one of three pass catchers who have posted 20+ grabs through seven games. Klatt also likes to hit his big TE Joe Klopfenstein (6-6, 260) who has 173 yards on 18 receptions. Overall, the Buffs are averaging nearly 228 ypg passing (No. 48).

Senior OT Sam Wilder (6-5, 295) is grading out as CU's top lineman this year (81.3 percent) while sophomore OG Brian Daniels (6-5, 300), with nine starts as a true freshman, is a future star.

"They've got a good offensive line and they're well-coached," Robinson said. "They've got a couple of guys that are definite (NFL) prospects."

COLORADO DEFENSE

The Buffs hired formed Texas A&M assistant Mike Harkwitz to coordinate the defense after CU surrendered 42.1 ypg (No. 97) last year. The result: Colorado is now giving up 448.1 ypg (No. 106) as Texas brings the nation's second-leading rushing offense (301.7 ypg) to Boulder.

The big cheese on Colorado's defense is senior Matt McChesney who plays both DT and rush end. However, the 6-4, 290-pounder has been slowed by several ankle sprains this season while posting 35 tackles (25 solo).

OLB Brian Iwuh is tied for second on the team in tackles with 50 (36) solo, including eight TFL. He posted his first career INT in the season-opener against in-state rival Colorado State, returning it for a TD in what proved to be the winning points in the 27-24 win.

But it's true freshman Jordan Dizon who, at ILB, leads his team in tackles with 51 stops. He is the first true freshman in 13 years to start a season-opener for CU.

Memo to Texas' young WRs: the Colorado secondary is green as gourds. All four starters are undersized sophomores (the SS and RCB are 5-10) and there is not a single senior in the three-deep chart. In short, it's been a trial-by-fire for this kiddie corps as Colorado DBs are giving up 279.1 passing ypg (NCAA No. 113).

SPECIAL TEAMS

We don't always mention special teams unless an opponent truly has someone special, and CU does in punter John Torp. The junior is third nationally (2nd in Big 12) with a 46.4 average. He has 11 punts inside of the 20, or 32.4 percent of his 34 kicks. Meanwhile, sophomore PK Mason Crosby's 60-yard FG against Iowa State on October 16 was the longest in D-I football since 1999. His four FG of 50+ yards this season set a new school record. He is CU's leading scorer with 53 points and is 12-of-16 on FG.


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