Much has changed for Colorado since it beat Texas in the 2001 Big 12 title game.
The struggling Buffaloes hope to have an answer defensively for the eighth-ranked Longhorns dominant running game as the teams square off for the first time in three years on Saturday in Boulder.
Colorado’s football program has stumbled on and off the field since the Buffaloes upended Texas 39-37 in the 2001 conference title game. The program has been under fire after the offseason rape and recruiting scandals that rocked the school.
Much of the talk in Boulder is about the growing talent gap between Colorado (4-3, 1-3) and the rest of the conference, and the fact that the Buffaloes will have to recruit under less favorable conditions—mandated by the university in the wake of the scandal—doesn’t bode well.
Colorado’s inconsistent performance on the field has not helped take attention away from the tumultuous offseason.
At his weekly news conference Tuesday, Colorado coach Gary Barnett conceded not knowing which team is going to show up every Saturday.
“That’s sort of fun not knowing,” Barnett said. “Well, I don’t know if ‘fun’ is the right word. Maybe interesting.”
However, a 5-3 finish in the Big 12 North could still be enough to play for the conference title.
“If we win the rest of these games, we’re bowl-eligible and whatever happens, happens,” Buffs defensive back Dominique Brooks said. “But right now, we just want to win.”
Last week’s game didn’t help Colorado’s cause.
The Buffaloes, who were heavy underdogs to No. 16 Texas A&M, put up 510 yards of offense and led 26-23 with 65 seconds left before the Aggies tied the game with a field goal and came away with a 29-26 victory in overtime.
“We gained a lot of confidence,” Barnett said. “It certainly was our best game. It certainly was in a hostile environment. It certainly was the best team we’ve played so far.”
That could change on Saturday as the Longhorns (6-1, 3-1 Big 12) head into town with back-to-back wins under their belt.
Texas quarterback Vince Young had a career-high 300 yards of total offense, ran for four touchdowns and threw for another to lead Texas over Texas Tech 51-21.
Young finished with a season-high 158 yards on 25 carries. He scored touchdowns on runs of 2, 2, 1 and 11 yards, and ran for 121 yards in the first half.
Cedric Benson, the nation’s second-leading rusher, finished with 168 yards on 38 carries and one touchdown for Texas.
Late in the first quarter he became the sixth player in NCAA Division I history to rush for 1,000 yards in four consecutive seasons.
Benson said the game was a “a great confidence builder” for Young.
“You could see the way he was focused on making plays,” Benson said. “He slipped a few outside and he hit some passes. He looked like the old Vince out there.”
The Longhorns offense was decidedly one-dimensional, running 71 rushing plays to 15 in the air. But when they did go the air, it was effective.
Young completed 10-of-15 passes for 142 yards, more than he had in the last two games combined. Against Missouri and No. 2 Oklahoma, he completed just 11 passes for 105 yards with two interceptions.
Colorado owns a narrow 7-6 edge over Texas in the all-time series.