CU defense sets tone in Big 12 opener

By JAKE SCHALLER THE GAZETTE Updated: October 2, 2005 at 12:00 am • Published: October 2, 2005
STILLWATER, Okla. - As Colorado freshman linebacker Marcus Burton raced into the end zone Saturday afternoon to complete a 99-yard interception return that put an exclamation point on the Buffaloes’ 34-0 victory against previously unbeaten Oklahoma State, he pointed to a group of reporters gathered on the edge of the field. “Write about it! Write about it!” Burton yelled. Even without Burton’s return, which was the longest play by a true freshman in school history, defense again was the story as Colorado improved to 3-1 by winning its Big 12 opener. The Buffaloes held Oklahoma State to 208 yards and 11 first downs in posting their sec- ond shutout in three games. Oklahoma State punted nine times and seven of those came before it could make a first down. The Cowboys’ other five possessions ended with an interception (twice), on downs, with a missed field goal and, when they took possession with 24 seconds left, by taking a knee and letting the clock run out. “A lot of credit goes to the defense — they’ve been playing their butts off,” senior quarterback Joel Klatt said. Defense might end up being the calling card of a Colorado team that, at times in the past two seasons, has seemed to be searching for an identity. But with games against Texas A&M and Texas in the next two weeks, coach Gary Barnett wanted to reserve judgment. “I wouldn’t say that yet,” Barnett said. “At the end of the year we’ll look at it. (But) when you sit there and you’ve got a feel as a coach that (the opponent) can’t score, it lets you think differently. It takes some pressure off.” Sandwiched between Saturday’s shutout and a 39-0 victory Sept. 10 against New Mexico State was a 23-3 loss Sept. 24 to Miami in which the defense played admirably but found fault in its performance because it did not create a turn- over. Saturday, in addition to Burton’s pick, defensive end Abraham Wright intercepted a pass on Oklahoma State’s second play from scrimmage in the second half to set up a Colorado touchdown, and the Buffaloes should have had another turnover. A replay of a pass on Oklahoma State’s fourth drive of the second half showed the Cowboys’ Errick McCown fumbled after making a catch and Colorado recovered. But because the play was whistled dead by an official, it could not be reviewed. Unlike against Miami, when Colorado’s offense could not muster more than a field goal, it shook off some first-half penalties and, at times, moved the ball efficiently. The Buffaloes got all the scoring they would need on their first play from scrimmage when sophomore running back Hugh Charles took a handoff on a counter, burst through a big hole in the middle and raced 74 yards for a score. It was the Buffaloes’ longest play from scrimmage this season. Colorado’s next five drives ended with three punts, a blocked field goal and a fumble in Oklahoma State territory, but just before halftime, Klatt led the Buffaloes into range for a field goal, and Mason Crosby converted from 48 yards with 2 seconds left. The Buffaloes added some cushion early in the second half, turning Wright’s interception into a 15-yard touchdown run by Charles and scoring on their second possession of the second half when Klatt hit tight end Joe Klopfenstein for an 11-yard touchdown. But the Colorado defense already had all the points it needed. “We came in at halftime and said, ‘If they don’t score, they don’t win,’” defensive tackle James Garee said. “I think guys are feeling that and believing that. It’s gonna get harder and harder for teams to score on this defense.” NEXT Texas A&M (3-1, 1-0 Big 12) at Colorado (3-1, 1-0), 5 p.m. Saturday, FSN, 850 AM
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