BOULDER - Colorado rallied gamely in the second half on Saturday, but it didn't matter. The script fashioned in recent seasons by Missouri went unaltered: The Tigers still have the Buffaloes' number.
This year, that number was 33-3 at halftime.
After blowing past the Buffs by a combined score of 113-10 in their past two meetings, the Tigers endured a three-point second half but let their efficient early work carry them to a 36-17 Big 12 Conference victory at Folsom Field.
Mizzou, the defending North Division champion, won its first conference game (1-3) and improved to 5-3 overall.
With four games remaining, CU slumped to 1-3 in the league and 2-6 overall, further damaging the Buffs' chances of earning the six victories required to reach postseason play.
"The tangible is that (now) you have to win out to go to a bowl game," said coach Dan Hawkins, who has reached the postseason once in going on four years at CU. "The intangible is that people always talk about sports building your character, and I think that's part of it.
"Having some resolve and battling it out counts for something. Regardless of what's on the line, we need to show up and put our best foot forward and give it our best effort."
Based on what he saw in an early week practice and its focus in meetings, Hawkins believed his team would start faster and more intensely.
The Buffs didn't come close to doing either. Quarterback Tyler Hansen, who suffered through a Halloween afternoon nightmare - three lost fumbles, one interception, one safety and eight sacks - contended he and his teammates "came out too lackadaisical, too relaxed . . . we didn't have that fire to us."
Fire was non-existent. Sparks were pretty rare, too.
The Buffs were held to 55 yards of offense in the first half, a total that included four rushing yards. Meanwhile, the Tigers, who hadn't topped 100 yards rushing in their past four games and were averaging 115 ground yards, broke loose for 117 en route to their 30-point advantage at intermission.
Mizzou had 306 yards (189 passing) in total offense in the first half, but in the second half, CU held the Tigers to 94 (67 rushing 27 passing, 400 total offense for the game). Conversely, the Buffs managed only 176, including a minus-14 rushing after losing 74 yards on Hansen's eight sacks.
Hawkins described Hansen's outing as "a struggle," but added, "He made some plays . . . I told him not to beat himself up. Everyone walks into the valley of death, but he made some very good plays.
"But as I've said before, there's 11 guys and they have to do the right thing to give us an opportunity to be successful."
MU coach Gary Pinkel said CU's second-half defense "tightened it up a little bit. It's amazing that momentum change; you can feel it, man, especially on the road. Grant (Ressel) making that field goal, that stops the game. It makes it a three-score game, and that was huge."
Ressel kicked field goals of 29 and 33 yards, the last with 3:57 remaining.
CU linebacker Marcus Burton credited Mizzou for its full-speed start, but also said, "That's on us . . . we made a lot of mistakes and we're not playing detailed, dedicated football."
As disastrous as their opening act was, the Buffs still gave themselves a chance after intermission. But after getting back-to-back touchdowns (the first by the offense, the second by the defense) in the third quarter and cutting the Tigers' lead to 33-17, they failed on a critical fourth-and-one at the MU 13-yard line early in the fourth quarter.
Trying to run a power play over the left side, tailback Rodney "Speedy" Stewart, who carried 10 times for 3 yards, was tackled for a 2-yard loss.
"I'm not sure if it was the tipping point, but it was one of them," said offensive line coach Denver Johnson. "It was a great call - if it works . . . I felt like we were getting a little traction there if we keep that drive alive and even get a field goal."
Hansen (22-of-36 passing, 190 yards, one interception) called the fourth-and-one failure "huge. That killed us. We have to take that personal . . . it was a boxing match and they outpunched us; it should have never happened."
CU won the opening coin toss, deferred to the second half and immediately fell behind 7-0 as MU quarterback Blaine Gabbert (17-of-29, 192 yards, two touchdowns, two interceptions) drove the Tigers 80 yards in 11 plays.
Gabbert completed three-of-six passes for 34 yards during the march (there also was a pass interference call against CU safety Ben Burney), but tailback Derrick Washington (22 carries, 99 yards, one TD) accounted for 30 yards and walked in from the 1-yard line for the score.
Ressel added the extra point, and less than 5 minutes later he would be adding another. And the Tigers' second possession produced a TD that was easier than the first.
Three plays after forcing the Buffs to punt, Gabbert and receiver Danario Alexander (eight catches, 123 yards, two TDs) hooked up for a 73-yard pass-run score. Alexander appeared to break free of coverage on a pick play, then raced past diving CU safety Ray Polk and finished his to the end zone unchallenged.
Mizzou led 14-0, and more points were on the way - quickly. The Buffs temporarily dodged one bullet, stopping the Tigers on downs inside the CU 6-yard line after a lost Hansen fumble.
But any good vibes from that defensive stand disappeared when the Tigers, benefitting from a short field, moved 33 yards in two plays to push ahead 21-0. Tailback De'Von Moore got 31 yards on first down, the Gabbert and Alexander teamed for a 2-yard scoring pass on the next play.
That TD ended the first-quarter scoring, but Mizzou had made a strong opening statement, matching its first-quarter output from 2008, when the Tigers buried the Buffs 58-0.
The bright, virtually cloudless afternoon only got darker for CU. After cornerback Jimmy Smith intercepted Gabbert at the Buffs 10-yard line, Hansen promptly lost a fumbled center exchange and Ressel kicked a 29-yard field goal four plays later for a 24-0 Tigers lead with 8:42 left in the half.
Ten seconds later, it swelled to 26-0 when Hansen, scrambling/retreating from his own 7-yard line, was tackled in the zone for a safety.
Could it get worse for CU before the half?
Yes. Lining up for an apparent 43-yard field goal attempt, Mizzou holder Forrest Shook took the center snap and flipped the ball to blocker Jacquies Smith, a 250-pound sophomore defensive lineman who ran 24 yards off left tackle for his first career rushing touchdown (he scored on an interception return earlier this season).
Ressel's PAT gave Mizzou a 33-0 lead and many CU fans good reason to spend the rest of the afternoon elsewhere. Those exiting missed the Buffs finally scoring on Aric Goodman's 48-yard field goal just over a minute before halftime.
Given the early ineptitude of CU's offense, MU's first-half damage appeared to be irreversible. But to open the second half, Hansen drove the Buffs 58 yards for a touchdown - Stewart scored it on a 3-yard dive - and cut the Tigers' lead to 33-10.
After CU forced a Mizzou punt, Hansen was sacked and lost the ball at the Buffs 35. But four plays later, Burney intercepted Gabbert and returned it 78 yards for a touchdown that brought CU to 33-17 with 7:02 left in the third quarter.
Then, the Buffs botched the chance to pull closer early in the last quarter, when Stewart was tackled for a 2-yard loss on fourth-and-one at the Tigers 13.
And CU's next possession was halted at the MU 38 when Hansen was intercepted by Tigers corner Kevin Rutland. Those two possessions being squandered and the clock now working against them, any hope of a Buffs comeback withered.
With just under 5 minutes remaining, Mizzou took over on downs at the CU 22-yard line, and Ressel kicked his 33-yard field goal to seal the Tigers' fourth consecutive win against the Buffs.
BUFF BITS: Saturday's attendance was 45,634 - the first game this season the Buffs have not drawn a crowd of 50,000-plus . . . . Receiver Andre Simmons got his second touch of the season, running a reverse for 15 yards in CU's drive to Goodman's first-half field goal. Simmons, a junior college transfer, had a 44-yard reception in the opening loss to Colorado State. Simmons also was used a punt returner in the fourth quarter . . . . Burney's third-quarter interception was the third of his career, but the first for a touchdown . . . . Hansen played the entire game as CU's quarterback . . . . The Buffs host Texas A&M next Saturday (11:30 a.m., FCS).