Run to greatness
Buffaloes fulfill coach's prophecy by dominating HuskersPosted: Saturday November 24, 2001 12:25 AM
By Tim Griffin, Special to CNNSI.com
BOULDER, Colo. -- The definition of dominance is displayed for the Colorado offensive unit to see every day in its team meeting room.
Buzzwords like superiority, power, influence and importance are highlighted in big block letters along with chalkboards and film projectors.
Coaches hope that something would rub off on their team with frequent viewing.
Coach Gary Barnett's mantra when he came to Colorado was a "return to dominance." But even that lofty aspiration probably didn't adequately describe the Buffs' stunning 62-36 blitz through No. 2 Nebraska on Friday.
"We shocked the world, I'll tell you that much," Colorado quarterback Bobby Pesavento said. "But I guarantee that we didn't shock anybody around here."
Barnett's team earned a trip to Dallas for next week's championship game against either Oklahoma or Texas, fulfilling a bold prediction the coach made before the season.
At the Big 12 media days in July in Dallas, Barnett took guard Andre Gurode and defensive back Michael Lewis on an impromptu tour of Texas Stadium, site of next week's Big 12 championship game.
The Buffs toasted each victory this season by passing around a ceramic model of Jerry Jones' home stadium in their locker room. They will be traveling to the real facility next week.
"Before the season, I said our year would be a failure if we didn't make it to Dallas," Barnett said. "I'm glad we won today so I didn't have to eat those words."
Colorado jumped to a 28-3 lead before the end of the first quarter, scoring on four of its first five possessions as they blew through a Nebraska defense with astounding ease.
During Colorado's first six possessions, the Buffs had six runs of at least 12 yards and five passes of at least 21 yards. All of this came against a Nebraska defense that was ranked sixth nationally in total defense and second in scoring defense.
"You could see that Nebraska was almost in a state of shock early on," Colorado safety Robbie Robinson said. "We got them three-and-out a couple of times and our offense kept marching up and down the field. That has to be discouraging when you're trying to win a national championship."
In the process, they gouged the Cornhuskers for 380 yards rushing, dominating the line of scrimmage with brutal effectiveness. It was the most points ever scored against a Nebraska team and the most yards rushing amassed against the Cornhuskers in almost 14 years.
Nebraska players were bickering throughout the game, clearly shocked with the ease that Colorado displayed in churning through their defense.
"I don't know what happened today," Nebraska free safety Dion Booker said. "Actually, what happened was they were making holes that were just so big that it surprised us.
"On film, they didn't do anything special ... they just ran the ball. It seemed like whoever they put back there would just run the ball and it was wide open."
A simple game plan featured only three or four running plays, including "98-G," a simple trap where Gurode pulled the Nebraska middle linebacker at the line of scrimmage. It left a huge hole in the middle of the Nebraska defense that Colorado backs exploited once they got past the line of scrimmage.
"We never had run that play as many times as we did today," Gurode said. "It's a great play, but after a while you get tired of pulling. It seemed like I was getting somebody every time we called it."
"We had them pegged," Barnett said. "Our front guys, we just blocked them. It wasn't anything exotic. We just felt like nobody had come out, lined up at them and run all year. That's what we were going to do, and that's our strength."
After starting tailback Cortlen Johnson went down with a sprained knee early in the first quarter, backup Chris Brown responded with 198 yards and a school-record six touchdowns.
Brown's career day came after he spent most of the past three games on the bench behind Johnson. Coming into Friday's game, he had just three carries for 8 yards.
"It was pretty easy," Brown said. "That's all I have to say. When you have guys up front like we do, who make dominating blocks and open those gaping holes, it was very, very easy for us tailbacks. All I had to do was run through and get into the end zone."
None was bigger than a 1-yard scoring run early in the fourth quarter after the Cornhuskers had pulled within 42-30. The score capped a 93-yard drive that featured a 22-yard scramble by Pesavento, two defensive penalties and runs of 12 and 15 yards by Brown.
"We knew we had to step up to make our plays on that drive," said Pesavento, who has started CU's past three games after an injury to starter Craig Ochs. "It was big because if we didn't step up, the momentum could have stayed on Nebraska's side. It was a huge turning point."
The Cornhuskers had charged back into the game despite their early hole. Quarterback Eric Crouch helped led them on a 27-7 blitz that was interrupted by a critical fumble at the Colorado goal line by Nebraska I-back Dahrran Diedrick midway through the third quarter.
"It's really hard to come back in a game like this, but we kept telling ourselves we could," Crouch said. "The turnover at the goal line was a huge play, but you can't blame the loss on one play."
Crouch rushed for 162 yards and passed for 198 more, but likely hurt his Heisman chances with two critical fourth-quarter interceptions.
"I try not to think about it," said Crouch, who scored a pair of touchdowns on runs of 6 and 7 yards. "I don't feel that I lost my hopes for the Heisman. We have just got to rally the team and enjoy playing the rest of the season."
That's the rub. Instead of playing against Oklahoma for the Big 12 championship next week for the first time since 1999, the Huskers must wait for a bowl game. They may not make the BCS as an at-large team, although Fiesta Bowl officials are said to be intrigued by bringing them rather than Texas, which also finished the season with one defeat.
"This is a terrible feeling because we had played so well for 11 games," Nebraska defensive tackle Jeremy Slechta said. "To give up 62 points, is just disappointing. They played great and we played like crap."