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(Commemorating the 10-year anniversary of CU’s 2001 Big 12 Championship, is posting weekly game stories from that season. In Week 4, the Buffs opened conference play at home against Kansas and it wasn’t pretty. CU trailed 13-10 at halftime but made several key decisions in the second half that saved the afternoon namely electing to run the ball more and when running plays weren’t called, get the ball to tight end Daniel Graham.)

Buffs Struggle Past Jayhawks

By Chris Dempsey
Boulder Daily Camera
Sept. 23, 2001

Before the University of Colorado could begin to think about shaking away from the gritty Kansas Jayhawks, it first had to shake free of...itself.

If the Buffs were to stay on track for their stated goal of a berth in the Big 12 title game, they could not be derailed in the Big 12 Conference opener by the Jayhawks, who had earlier in the week given CU the distinction of being merely a “decent” football team.

Adjustments were needed. Colorado trailed 13-10 at the half when two eventual game-changing decisions were made. First, the running game was channeled into more north-south directions; second, tight end Daniel Graham finally touched the ball.

The result was two fourth quarter touchdowns in a CU rally to take a sloppy 27-16 win Saturday afternoon before 47,495 at Folsom Field.

It was a win that was tempered by the loss of receiver John Minardi for the season and possibly his career with a third-degree lateral ligament tear in his left knee. Minardi, a senior, is scheduled to have surgery on Tuesday.

Minardi was hurt on the Buffs first drive, one which looked to set the tone for the game as they drove 80 yards in eight plays to score a touchdown and take a 7-0 lead. Following its second possession, Colorado (3-1 overall, 1-0 Big 12) had a 10-3 lead. It was then when things began to fall apart.

“The first thing you have to say,” CU coach Gary Barnett said, “is it looked like we took two weeks off.”

Penalties marred Colorado drives, and aided Kansas’ efforts. When Kansas (1-2, 0-1) tied the game at 10 on a Mario Kinsey pass to Roger Ross in the second quarter, the Jayhawks’ 11-play, 73-yard drive was pushed along by a roughing-the-kicker penalty on a fourth-down punt attempt and a personal foul flag after a 3rd-and-15 pass had already fallen incomplete.

“On both of those penalties, it was because guys were going so hard,” linebacker Kory Mossoni said.

Colorado was flagged 10 times for 110 yards on the day. It was intercepted once. “We could move the ball on them,” said running back Cortlen Johnson, who finished with 113 yards on eight carries, “but we killed ourselves.”

Johnny Beck field goals of 59 yards at the end of the first half and 46 yards early in the fourth quarter sandwiched a CU Jeremy Flores 27-yard field goal to give KU a 16-13 lead. Then, CU exploded.

After changes were made to get him open, Graham (three receptions, 43 yards) caught all three of his passes in the second half, one a 17-yard fourth quarter strike from Craig Ochs, who had returned to the game one series earlier after recovering satisfactorily from a mild concussion. Chris Brown capped a 14-point CU final period with a 40-yard touchdown run.

Brown rushed 22 times for a game-high 140 yards and two touchdowns. Bobby Purify added 15 carries for 62 yards. Johnson left the game with a concussion of his own, but said he would be fine for the Kansas State game in two weeks.

The Colorado running game, which produced just 92 first half yards, finished the game with 338 yards total. Ochs, who was replaced briefly by Bobby Pesavento, completed 12 of 23 passes for 186 yards and one touchdown.

The best of it all for the Buffs? Revenge on a talkative KU. “Even though the score didn’t (reflect it),” Graham said, “they know what happened on the field.”

(Next:  at Kansas State)