Big 12: Bobby Purify
The Buffaloes have fallen on hard times recently, but they still have provided many outstanding players during the decade.
Here are my choices for Colorado's all-decade team.
QB: Joel Klatt
RB: Chris Brown
RB: Bobby Purify
WR: Scotty McKnight
WR: Derek McCoy
TE: Daniel Graham
OL: Brian Daniels
OL: Andre Gurode
OL: Victor Rogers
OL: Justin Bates
C: Wayne Lucier
DL: Abraham Wright
DL: Tyler Brayton
DL: George Hypolite
DL: Justin Bannan
LB: Jordon Dizon
LB: Sean Tufts
LB: Jeff Smart
DB: Michael Lewis
DB: Terrence Wheatley
DB: Jimmy Smith
DB: Donald Strickland
P: Mark Mariscal
K: Mason Crosby
KR: Jeremy Bloom
Offensive player of the decade: Chris Brown. He was the key player on Colorado’s Big 12 championship team in 2001 and was even better the following season before injuries derailed his Heisman hopes.
Defensive player of the decade: Jordon Dizon. Colorado’s only consensus All-American defensive player of the decade also was the Big 12’s defensive player of the year in 2007 after a four-year career as a starter for the Buffaloes.
Coach of the decade: Gary Barnett. Even with his unseemly departure, Barnett still coached Colorado to its only Big 12 championship and took the Buffaloes to four Big 12 title games in a five-season period. They haven't been back since.
Moment of the decade: Colorado stuns Texas for 2001 Big 12 title. The Buffaloes’ 39-37 victory was sparked by 182 yards rushing and three touchdowns by Brown, pushing them to their only Big 12 football championship and lone BCS bowl appearance of this decade.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here's a group of the best letters I received this week. Thanks again to all who contributed.
Matt from Orlando, Fla., writes: Tim, I love your blogs, especially during the off season reading them religiously. My question is, a few months ago you gave Nebraska the edge over Kansas. Yes you said you reserve the right to change your mind which is totally understandable. But I find it funny how you change your mind on Nebraska winning the North and saying that Kansas will all because of one player leaving Nebraska.
Yes, Quentin Castille was a big feature in Nebraska's offense. However, one player should not make or break a team. Don't count out Roy Helu Jr., who happens to be our STARTING RB. Plus our nasty defensive line that kept pressure on Kansas QB Todd Reesing (who couldn't handle it last year). Could you tell me why one player leaving made you change your mind on a great prediction?
Tim Griffin: I figured I would be answering this question, considering I got it in one form or another from about 40 people this week. Heck, one of my favorite members of the media in Omaha compared me to John Kerry earlier this week because of my late change.
Let me first say that my edge for Nebraska over Kansas wasn't ever that large to start with. I favored Nebraska as much for Kansas' tough cross-divisional schedule as anything else. It's going to be a bear for the Jayhawks to win any of those three games against Texas, Oklahoma and Texas Tech. It still will.
But I also think Castille's dismissal will affect the way that Nebraska plays offense. With Castille and Helu, they had the best combination of backs in the North Division. They would be able to dictate the tempo for the Cornhuskers. It would take off pressure from an iffy passing game led by untested junior-college transfer Zac Lee.
Also, Helu is bigger and stronger this season. But he also appears to be more susceptible to muscle pulls - he's already missed a few days of fall practice - and the depth at the position has contracted with Castille's dismissal. They have only other back with college experience as a running back in Marcus Mendoza.
As anybody who reads this blog on a regular basis knows, I have a lot of respect for the job that Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson does. He was able to put together an explosive offense in Colorado for the Buffaloes' 2001 Big 12 championship that was remarkably like this Nebraska team. He had journeyman quarterbacks in Bobby Pesavento and Craig Ochs, a three-pronged rushing attack in Chris Brown, Bobby Purify and Cortlen Johnson and a stud tight end (to borrow a description from Bo Pelini) in Daniel Graham. The Cornhuskers were similar when Helu and Castille were both on the roster and the five-headed monster they have a tight end probably comes close to matching what Graham meant to the Buffaloes.
But this conference is a lot different in 2009 than it was in 2001. You're going to need to score points in bunches to win. And I think the Cornhuskers need some help at wide receiver to be more explosive to boost the contributions of Menelik Holt, Niles Paul and the rest.
The Cornhusker defense will be just as fearsome as before. Their defensive line might be the conference's best this side of Oklahoma. But losing Castille will tweak how they are able to play offense. And it will make things more difficult for Watson to control games with his young inexperienced quarterback and his lack of explosive playmakers at wide receiver.
It might only mean one game during the course of the season. But as close as I figure the North to be, the Cornhuskers will need that game at the end of the season.
Jamie Cabela of Midland, Texas, writes: Tim, quick question for you. Who is going to be your surprise player in the Big 12 this season?
Tim Griffin: I'll actually go with two of them. My first will be Markques Simas of Colorado, once he is eligible. I think he's got a great opportunity to become a top receiver immediately for the Buffaloes. And my other choice will Missouri freshman tailback Kendial Lawrence. I've heard some good things about him, even if he is third-string on the Tigers' roster. Look for him to contribute for the Tigers as the season goes on.
Jim from Grand Junction, Colo., writes: Ignoring the good, competitive games for a minute, which of the "cupcakes" has a chance to pull off an upset against the Big 12 teams in the first two weeks of the season? Any at all? Thanks for your insight.
Tim Griffin: Jim, I don't know exactly what your definition of a cupcake would be, but I'm going to presume you mean a school from outside the BCS-affiliated conferences.
If that's the case, don't look for anything in the first week of the season. But it wouldn't surprise me if two Big 12 teams have troubles in the second week of the season in road games.
I think Kansas State might be tested at Louisiana-Lafayette. I saw a Texas A&M team lose there in 1996 and weird things can happen down at "The Swamp" for unintiated teams that aren't prepared. Also keep an eye on Kansas' trip to UTEP on the same date. The Jayhawks have lost three-straight non-conference regular-season road games. They haven't won a non-conference road game during the regular season since beating Wyoming in 2003. And I think UTEP quarterback Trevor Vittatoe might provide the Kansas defense with some problems.
Matt Strohm from Parkersburg, Iowa, writes: Tim, with the start of the season only eight days away, I was wondering if you would rank all the Big 12 schools in terms of team entrances.
Tim Griffin: Matt, I don't think I can do justice to them all, but I'll give you a few of my favorites.
Let me say that I'm not usually all that enraptured by the cookie-cutter entrances around college football these days. It reminds me of something you might see in the NBA.
But there's still something about the Nebraska Tunnel Walk that gets me pumped up, although the ones used at the end of the Callahan tenure were pretty lame. I also like the "Running of the Bulls" in Austin for Texas games and the "There's Only One Oklahoma " video that plays at Owen Field before Sooner games.
But for sheer intimidation factor, my all-time favorite still has to be the old-school Iowa entrance when the Hawkeyes used to take the field in a slow walk while holding hands when they were coached by Hayden Fry. I could only imagine what that would look like for an opposing team on the other side of the field.
David L. Stoudt writes: I'm glad that the Pac-10 officials have deemed "San Antonio a marvelous post-season destination and the Valero Alamo Bowl as one of the nation's elite bowl games."
But I'm wondering did anyone consider asking the fans where they'd rather go. We love heading south to San Diego every year for a fantastic bowl matchup. Who in Hades wants to go to San Antonio in December?
I think this is a huge mistake in judgment and we won't b
e attending those games, regardless of who's playing.
Tim Griffin: I'm also curious about how this affiliation switch will change the dynamics of the Big 12's bowls.
It sounds like the Holiday Bowl's matchup basically will be switching to San Antonio and the Valero Alamo Bowl. Those Holiday Bowls have always been exciting, high-offense games. I think the Pac-10/Big 12 matchup is a good one because both conferences have reputations for offensive football. You see those kind of games in bowls anyway, but I think this makes it even more attractive with those two conferences involved.
It's going to be interesting because the Pac-10 always had a homefield advantage in San Diego. This will switch over when the game moves to the Alamo City.
I realize I'm probably the wrong person to ask about this, but I suggest coming to San Antonio before you make any snap judgments. But I suggest that you take a walk through Southtown. Try the carne guisada tacos with cheese at Taco Haven once or sip a margarita at Rio Rio Cantina on the Riverwalk and tell me that San Antonio isn't a good place for a bowl game.
I'll bet you'll come back with a different answer.
Nebraska was my early favorite to win the North Division, mainly because of its improving defense working under Bo Pelini and the Cornhuskers' formidable depth in the backfield.
I've also always said I would reserve a chance to change my mind depending on what happens throughout preseason camp.
Nebraska's abrupt dismissal of Quentin Castille over the weekend for an undisclosed violation of team rules is that big of a hit for the Cornhuskers.
Now, I'm barely slightly toward Kansas, despite the Jayhawks' fearful cross-divisional schedule and that rebuilt defense that has always given me pause.
Castille would have been an important weapon for the Cornhuskers, mainly because he provides depth and a bruising nature to a team looking for that identity.
He was a revelation in the Gator Bowl when he barreled over and through Clemson for 125 yards and nearly 7 yards per carry. More of the same was expected this season, particularly as he kept his weight down and appeared ready to take off where he finished the 2008 season.
Roy Helu Jr. still might be one of the best running backs in the North Division. But the Cornhuskers are going to be asking a lot out of him. He's bulked up from his playing weight from last season and appears to be susceptible to hamstring pulls because of the added weight and muscle. That's not a good sign for a Cornhusker team that doesn't feature an experienced back behind him now.
Even more, he and Helu would have been an ideal tandem. They would have reminded fans of Nebraska's glory days, bringing a physical presence to the Cornhuskers in a league where offense has been marked by passing in recent years.
But as much as anything, the bruising 235-pound Castille offered a nice change of pace from Helu and the other back. He could come in and plow through defenders for a few series while Helu was resting on the sideline. The fact that he is such a physical back would have made him ideal for the Cornhuskers' ball-control offense -- even with his past reputation as a fumbler.
The Cornhuskers will be asking for a huge contribution from Rex Burkhead, a talented freshman from Plano, Texas. They also have sophomore walk-on Austin Jones, the half-brother of Nebraska wide receiver Melenik Holt. Also in the mix will be redshirt freshmen Collins Okafor and Lester Ward and freshman Dontrayevous Robinson. Wide receiver Marcus Mendoza has also moved back to running back as well.
Whether that's enough to get the Cornhuskers through an extended injury in the backfield is anybody's question. But it's definitely sliced into Nebraska's slim margin of error that I gave them when I made them my preseason favorite.
The North Division was going to be tight anyway. And it's just gotten tighter. You can make a point that any of four teams -- Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri and Colorado -- could win it with enough breaks. The Cornhuskers just sustained the biggest early hit of the preseason.
The loss puts some pressure on Nebraska offensive coordinator Shawn Watson, who in my mind, is one of the best coordinators in the nation.
Watson saw a lot of his 2001 Colorado team in what he had with the C
ornhuskers when Castille was there. That Buffaloes' squad won the Big 12 title with journeyman quarterback Bobby Pesavento starting. They were able to win -- claiming huge upset victories down the stretch against Nebraska and Texas -- thanks to a similar power running game keyed by Chris Brown and Bobby Purify.
Now, the Cornhuskers are going to be asking a lot out junior-college transfer Zac Lee. I know some will say he's started junior college football games before. But he still has never faced a hostile crowd like the one he will be facing in his first two road games when the Cornhuskers visit Virginia Tech on Sept. 19 or in their Oct. 8 conference opener at Missouri.
It will be a huge task, particularly without one of his biggest offensive weapons.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
A Buffalo stampede: Brown's six-touchdown binge boosts CU into its first championship game
Date: Nov. 23, 2001
Place: Folsom Field, Boulder, Colo.
Score: Colorado 62, Nebraska 36
Colorado came into the 2001 regular-season finale with a marked lack of success against old nemesis Nebraska. The Buffaloes had lost their last nine games in the series against the Cornhuskers coming into that game.
But Gary Barnett's team turned the tables by pulverizing the Cornhuskers' "Blackshirt" defense for 380 rushing yards and 582 total yards in a dramatic upset that was punctuated by delirious Colorado fans ripping a goalpost down in exultation.
The best way to shake those previous disappointments would be to get out to a fast start. But Colorado outdid itself by jumping to three early touchdowns in less than six minutes at the start of the game en route to a 28-3 lead after one quarter.
Bobby Purify started the avalanche with a 39-yard touchdown run less than three minutes into the game.
After Nebraska's Dahrann Diedrick fumbled on the Cornhuskers' next possession, Colorado wasted little time. Quarterback Bobby Pesavento hooked up with tight end Daniel Graham on a 21-yard touchdown only 20 seconds after the first score for a 14-0 lead.
Colorado forced a change of possession and another long pass from Pesavento to Graham set up Pesavento's 1-yard keeper and a 21-0 lead.
Bullish Colorado tailback Chris Brown then got involved in a big way. Brown added touchdown runs of 12, 1 and 36 yards before halftime to extend Colorado's lead to 42-23 by the break.
The Cornhuskers looked poised to re-enter the game after Eric Crouch's 6-yard touchdown run pulled them within 42-30 early in the third quarter.
But Brown added Colorado's knockout punch by scoring three-straight touchdowns to put the game away during a period of only 189 seconds early in the fourth quarter.
His 1-yard plunge capped a 93-yard drive to extend Colorado's lead to 49-30.
Safety Michael Lewis intercepted Crouch several plays later, leading to a 13-yard touchdown gallop by Brown.
And after another interception by Colorado linebacker Joey Johnson, Brown added his school-record sixth rushing touchdown of the game on an 8-yard scoring run with 9:41 left in the game.
Crouch produced a 7-yard touchdown run with 7:14 to finish the scoring but it was too late. The Buffaloes claimed the victory that catapulted them into the Big 12 title game for the first time in school history.
Factoids to note: Brown rushed for 198 yards on 24 carries and Purify added 154 rushing yards. Pesavento chipped in with 202 passing yards on only nine completions ... At the time, it was the most points ever scored against Nebraska, topping their previous total of 61 scored by Minnesota in 1945 ... The loss snapped a 13-game winning streak for the Cornhuskers coming into the game. Nebraska had been the No. 1 team in the BCS poll for the previous four weeks ... Crouch rushed for 168 yards and passed for 198 yards to set Nebraska's total offense record, but was victimized by two critical fourth-quarter interceptions ... Pesavento was starting for the Buffaloes only because starter Craig Ochs had been injured earlier in the season ... Colorado produced 223 rushing and 415 total yards in the first half. ... Colorado had lost the previous five games in the Nebraska series before the 2001 blowout by a combined 15 points ... The two teams combined for 1134 yards -- 582 by Colorado and 552 for Nebraska.
They said it, part I: "With the way the offensive line and Dan Graham were blocking, it was easy. The holes were huge. We weren't getting touched until we were 10 yards down the field," Colorado's Chris Brown on the way he was able to rip through the Nebraska defense.
They said it, part II: "You never think it will go like this, obviously. But once in a while, it all works. Sixty-two points is almost too overwhelming for me. It's going to take a while to sink in," Colorado coach Gary Barnett on the underdog Buffaloes' blowout victory.
They said it, part III: "We really had a big dream. But those are over with now. This is going to be a tough one to swallow," Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch on a loss that seemingly ended the Cornhuskers' national title hopes. But more on that later.
The upshot: The Buffaloes wild victory pushed them into the Big 12 title game the following week in Irving, Texas, where they notched another upset victory over Texas to claim the first and only Big 12 football title in Colorado school history.
Colorado's 39-37 conquest knocked Texas out of the national title hunt and catapulted Nebraska back into the national title game. The Cornhuskers then were hammered by Miami, 37-14, to finish an 11-2 season that left them No. 8 in the final Associated Press media poll.
The Colorado loss was thought to have diminished Crouch's Heisman chances, but a loss by Florida's Rex Grossman against Tennessee the following week resuscitated them. Crouch then won the Heisman in a close 62-vote margin over Grossman, who finished second.
Nebraska defensive coordinator Craig Bohl wasn't as fortunate. The late losses by big scores in 2001 and a defensive collapse the following season led to his ouster at the end of the 2002 regular season.
It can also be argued that Nebraska coach Frank Solich never recovered from the Colorado loss and resulting loss in the national title game at the end of the 2001 season. He was fired after Nebraska won its regular-season finale in 2003.
Colorado made its only BCS bowl appearance after that 2001 triumph over Nebraska. But the Buffaloes' late-season success unraveled in a 38-16 loss to Oregon in the Fiesta Bowl, concluding a 10-3 season that saw them finish the season No. 9 in the final AP poll.
13. Run, Ricky, run. Ricky Williams breaks career rushing record.
14. Wild game, wilder post-game rants when Gundy and Leach meet in 2007.
15. Rout 66: No, that score wasn't a typo.
16. KSU finally slays the Cornhuskers.
17. Kingsbury and Long hook up in a passing duel for the ages.
18. Henery and Suh make Colorado blue.
19. Stunning OSU rally leads to Stoops' first home loss.
20. It's never over for Texas Tech until it's over.
21. Reesing to Meier. Again and again.
22. A Texas-sized comeback -- Texas over Oklahoma State in 2004.
23. A Border War unlike any of the
rest -- Missouri over Kansas in 2007.
24. Seneca Wallace's wild TD run vs. Texas Tech in 2001.
25. Baylor's "So Much for Taking a Knee" against UNLV in 1999.
Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin
Here are some notable memories from games played on this date earlier in Big 12 history.
The Way Back Machine for Aug. 30:
Aug. 30, 1997: No. 5 Tennessee 52, Texas Tech 17 (Knoxville, Tenn.) -- The Volunteers blew the game open with two TDs during a 13-second span late in the first half. Peyton Manning tied the school record with five TD passes and passed for 310 yards to spark the rout.
Aug. 30, 1997: No. 14 Miami 45, Baylor 14 (Waco, Texas) -- Edgerrin James rushed for 120 yards and scored three TDs to lead the Hurricane onslaught. Miami put the game away late with a 72-yard fumble recovery for a score by Jeff Popovich and an 85-yard punt return for a TD from Duane Starks.
Aug. 30, 2003: Colorado 42, No. 23 Colorado State 35 (Denver) -- After squandering a 14-point lead in the second half, Colorado bounced back to win the game on Bobby Purify's 9-yard TD run with 40 seconds left. Joel Klatt passed for 402 yards and four TDs to lead CU's triumph.