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Buffs Rip Nebraska 62-36 For Big 12 North Crown
On Nov. 23, 2001, Colorado running back Chris Brown scored six touchdowns to help Colorado blitz No. 1 (BCS) Nebraska 62-36 at Folsom Field.
Colorado would go on to defeat Texas 39-37 in the Big 12 Championship game and finish the 2001 season with an appearance in the Fiesta Bowl and a No. 9 national ranking. (Keyed in by CU Student Assistant SID Alex Mical).
By B.G. Brooks
BOULDER - Not only was the curse lifted, the (Big) Red Sea was parted and Chris Brown staged the best comeback since maybe, oh, Lazarus.
Nebraska allowing 62 points? Brown scoring six touchdowns? A backup quarterback directing a certifiable stomping of the Cornhuskers?
None of it had ever happened until a miraculous Friday at Folsom Field, when the No. 2 Cornhuskers found themselves bobbing in college football’s equivalent of a 100-years flood.
Believing they might be cursed by nine consecutive losses to Nebraska, including the most recent two that hurt beyond heartache, the Colorado Buffaloes vented…and vented…and vented.
“We were due,” CU senior safety Michael Lewis said. “We were definitely about due.”
CU can consider one debt paid. The No. 14 Buffs rolled, rollicked and frolicked to a 62-36 victory, winning the Big 12 Conference’s North Division championship and dashing previously unbeaten Nebraska’s season long dream of playing for the 2001 national title.
In the process, gifted Huskers quarterback Eric Crouch might have scratched as the leading Heisman candidate and the Bowl Championship Series rankings were tossed into turmoil. The Huskers were the No.1-ranked BCS team.
“I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a more dominant performance by a team at Colorado,” said Buffs coach Gary Barnett, who takes his third CU team to Texas Stadium in Irving, Texas, on Dec. 1 to play the South Division winner – probably Oklahoma – for the Big 12 championship. It will be CU’s first appearance in the league’s title game.
Deemed whimsical by outsiders, Barnett and the Buffs believed before August training camp that they could contend for the league title. He even said as much in July at the league’s pre-season media briefing, and to reinforce that belief, Barnett had a small ceramic model of Texas Stadium constructed and put inside a case that CU carried to its games every week.
And every week, a Big 12 opponent’s decal was affixed to the case when the Buffs won. Texas, which dumped CU 41-7, was the only opponent that avoided a spot. “But we had a decal with us,” Barnett said.
It would be the Buffs’ only conference loss, but they regrouped to win their final four games and head to Texas 9-2 overall and 7-1 in the Big 12. Losing in Boulder for the first time since 1989, the Huskers fell to 11-1, 7-1.
CU pounded Nebraska’s Black-shirt defense for 582 yards in total offense, including 380 rushing. Brown, a 6-foot-3, 220-pound sophomore, ran for 198 of those on 24 carries. His six touchdown runs covered 12, 1, 36, 1, 13 and 8 yards – breaking the school record of four shared by 13 former Buffs and tying the Big 12 record shared by three other players. The NCAA record is eight, held by Archie Griffin (Ohio State).
Brown’s legs obviously were fresh; his 24 carries were six times more than his total in the past three games. He rushed three times against Oklahoma State, once against Missouri and didn’t touch the ball against Iowa State.
Senior tailback Cortlen Johnson suffered an early knee sprain, which increased Brown’s playing time. “The holes were huge, just huge,” Brown said. “Usually the first guy to hit me was a safety, and I think they were scared to come straight up and tackle me. All I had to do was run through the holes and get to the endzone.
“I didn’t know if I was going to play much, but when my number was called I just went in and took advantage of the opportunity.”
That’s also been quarterback Bobby Pesavento’s season long credo. Pressed to play when Craig Ochs first was sidelined by a concussion before the Texas game, Pesavento started the past four regular-season games and won all of them. Friday, before Folsom Field’s third-largest crowd (53,790). And a national television audience, he completed nine of 16 passes for 202 yards and a touchdown to tight end Daniel Graham.
Pesavento threw only five passes in the second half, completing one. That’s mainly because the Cornhuskers, who trailed 42-23 at halftime, held the Buffs to three-and-out on their first three possessions of the third quarter and closed to within 12 points (42-30).
At that point, the Buffs’ wildly energized start – they led 21-0 and 35-3 in the first half – seemed it had occurred weeks ago. But the Huskers were denied an early third-quarter TD when I-back Dahrran Diedrick’s fumble at the CU 1-yard line was recovered by cornerback Donald Strickland.
And after Strickland broke up a Crouch pass on third-and-10 at the CU 41, the Buffs and Pesavento launched a decisive nine-play, 93-yard drive – aided by two defensive penalties – that all but buried the Huskers. Brown’s 1-yard run restored CU’s 19-point lead (49-30) with less than 13 minutes to play.
On Nebraska’s next two series, CU’s defense added the epitaph. Crouch was intercepted twice – first by Lewis, next by linebacker Joey Johnson. When Brown scored after both turnovers, CU led 62-30 and Folsom was inching toward insanity.
Barnett said his team’s running game employed nothing new for Nebraska: “We just blocked them and broke tackles. We didn’t put in a single new play in the running game.”
Brown’s 198 yards were the fourth-most ever gained against the Huskers, and teammates Bobby Purify’s 154 were the 11th most – one short of Johnson’s 155 last season in a 34-32 loss.
“Chris was on a roll,” Barnett said. “They couldn’t tackle him. He was played like an enraged guy out there.”
Nebraska coach Frank Solich called the loss “very difficult…I feel (bad) for the players and for everyone else associated with the program to have our season end this way.”
Asked how big the victory was for CU historically, Barnett grinned and answered, “I’ll leave that up to everybody else (to determine)…I know it was the biggest win wince I’ve been back.”
That would be since 1999, but anyone who saw it knows the magnitude of this win goes much, much further back than that.
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