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(Commemorating the 10-year anniversary of CU’s 2001 Big 12 Championship, CUBuffs.com is posting weekly game stories from that season. With a rout of Nebraska and the North Division championship in hand, the Buffs traveled to Irving, Texas to face South Division champ Texas – the team that had embarrassed them 41-7 in Austin during the regular season. The Longhorns were heavy favorites, but the Buffs didn’t flinch. When a wild night finally was finished at Texas Stadium, CU had its first (and only) Big 12 championship.)

Buffs Mess With Texas To Claim Big 12 Crown
By Ryan Thorburn
Camera Sports Writer

IRVING, Texas – The football finally ended up in Dan Graham’s hands. It was the only sure thing on a wild championship Saturday night at Texas Stadium.

Once Graham, the All-American tight end, got his mitts around the on-sides kick in the final seconds, Gary Barnett could finally exhale. Blowing out felt better than blowing it would have.

Colorado 39, Texas 37 for the Big 12 championship. Let the Fiesta (Bowl) begin.

The celebration looked like it could start for the Buffs (10-2) early in the fourth quarter. They had a commanding 36-23 lead and time was running out on the Longhorns (10-2), who could have moved on to the Rose Bowl and a shot at the national championship with a victory.

And then Barnett—with his offense facing fourth-and-3 at the 50—called for a fake punt.

Robert Hodge received the ball, rolled to his right, threw off-balance to his left and Texas’ Roderick Babers returned the inconceivable interception 54 yards for a touchdown to make the score 36-30 with 9:10 remaining.

“Coach always said if you see something fishy, use your instincts,” Babers said.

CU’s offense atoned for the smelly special teams snafu with a gutsy 16-play drive during which, on fourth-and-inches at his own 43, Barnett used his instincts again and went for it.

This time quarterback Bobby Pesavento converted and, with the help of a roughing the punter call against the Longhorns, the Buffs added to their lead with a 43-yard field goal by Jeremy Flores.

“I’m thankful for Jeremy Flores kicking that field goal to save my butt,” Barnett said, repeatedly. “We put (the fake) in this week. We just didn’t execute . . . . Any other team might have folded. This team looked at each other and said, ‘We don’t care.’”

Texas scored a touchdown with 31 seconds left, but Graham finished CU’s recovery with the recovery on the ensuing kickoff.

“We did it,” said Pesavento, who sprained a knee in the first half and talked his way into returning for the second half even though Craig Ochs was ready and more than willing. “We knew we were capable of it. I don’t think it was the prettiest game but we got it done.”

Things got ugly for Chris Simms, who did not get the job done. The Texas starter, who had won 10 games for his team this season, but never the hearts of the Longhorn nation, committed four turnovers in the first half that led directly to 26 CU points.

It all started when backup linebacker Aaron Killion intercepted an innocent pass intended for tight end Bo Scaife and returned it 73 yards. Three plays later Chris Brown scored the first of his three touchdowns on a 10-yard run to tie the score 7-7 with 2:21 left in a first quarter that was otherwise dominated by Texas (137 yards of offense to 72).

“It was mostly the turnovers,” Brown said of the difference between Saturday’s game and CU’s 41-7 loss in Austin earlier in the season. In the first meeting the Buffs fumbled three times and Pesavento threw an interception.

A suddenly inspired CU defense forced the Longhorns to punt on their next possession and five plays later the Buffs took a 10-7 lead on a 39-yard field goal by Flores.

Then, as the Longhorns’ offense started to march into CU territory for another go-ahead score, Joey Johnson picked Simms off as those in burnt orange gasped for air.

A 51-yard run by Bobby Purify set up Brown’s 1-yard plunge to give the Buffs a 16-7 lead with 11:36 left in the half. Flores pushed the extra point wide left.

Texas cut the deficit to 16-10 after Dusty Mangum’s 50-yard field goal attempt carried about 51 yards with 5:49 left.

Then Pesavento made a mistake, throwing a pass intended for a streaking Cedric Cormier into the arms of Texas strong safety Nathan Vasher. First-and-10 Longhorns at their own 38.

But on the very next play Simms was hit by defensive tackle DeAndre Fluellen, which forced a fumble that Matt McChesney fell on at the 22.

Pesavento lofted a pass over some fire-breathing pass rushers into the safe arms of Graham for a 22-yard touchdown that made the score 22-10, where it remained after Matt Brunson let the 2-point conversion pass slip through his grasp.

Simms, to the dismay of the Texas fans, returned for his offense’s next drive. It ended when he threw Medford Moorer a ball that Moorer gladly collected for his first career interception and then ran it back for his first career touchdown.

CU 29, Texas 10 with 2:32 left in the first half.

“Major, Major, Major,” Mack Brown was instructed by the crowd.

Sure enough, Major Applewhite – Texas’ all-time passing leader who carried a clipboard throughout his senior season – replaced Simms and, on cue, threw a 79-yard touchdown pass to B.J. Johnson to cut the CU lead to 12 points just before a much-needed intermission.

The Buffs’ defense held on the first possession of the second half and after a 34-yard punt and 14-yard return by Roman Hollowell, the offense was in business at the Texas 40.

Pesavento was sacked for a 12-yard loss but shook it off with a 33-yard completion to Derek McCoy, who made a ridiculous catch, on third-and-16. Brown scored on an 11-yard run moments later to make the score 36-17 with 11:32 remaining in the third quarter.

“I think they are the best in the country,” Brown, who finished with 182 yards on 33 carries, said of his offensive line.

The Longhorns had a fourth-and-2 at the CU 4 and were going for it until a lineman was flagged for a false start. Mangum punched a short field goal in to make the score 36-20 with 7:32 left in the quarter.

Hollowell accidentally stepped out of bounds at his own 1 on the kickoff, which obviously backed the offense into a tight spot. Brown ran for 24 yards on the next play. It was that kind of night.

When it all began the Buffs had a potential crowd-quieting drive going on the opening possession until a 16-yard run by Brown was brought back by a holding call. Instead of a first-and-10 at the Texas 36, CU had a third-and-12 it could not convert.

Simms hit Williams for 21 yards, Edmonds for 45 and then Benson ran in a 5-yard touchdown for a 7-0 lead five minutes and four seconds into the game.

But the Buffs didn’t care.

“When we left the hotel today, I told them that we are a team of destiny,” Barnett said. “And we’re a team of destiny because we play the right way.”

Even the head coach makes the wrong call, things go right for these Buffs. The 2001 Big 12 champions.