Arrow-right Camera
The Spokesman-Review Newspaper
Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Buffaloes have seen a lot of adversity, dish some out to Cougars

SEATTLE – This time, Colorado had 2 seconds and a couple yards to spare.

The Buffaloes, fresh from a goal-line stand over rival Colorado State last Saturday, stiffened inside its 5-yard line to blunt a last-gasp Washington State drive and hang on for a 20-12 victory at Qwest Field.

Linebacker Jordon Dizon jarred the football loose from scrambling Cougars quarterback Alex Brink and CU tackle Matt McChesney recovered at the 2-yard line with 2 seconds remaining.

A week ago, J.J. Billingsley and Lorenzo Sims stuffed Colorado State running back Tristan Walker for a 2-yard loss on third-and-goal from the 1 as the clock ran out, preserving a 27-24 victory.

“We should probably just go down to the last 4 seconds of the game instead of going through all this other stuff,” Colorado coach Gary Barnett joked. “Our guys are pretty courageous. That was a bunch of courageous guys trying to get the ball back.”

After an off-season full of dubious publicity, the Buffaloes are earning some national attention for pulling off white-knuckle wins. Colorado’s program was under intense scrutiny after a stream of allegations surfaced, ranging from sexual abuse to an investigation that the program had used sex and alcohol to assist its recruiting.

Barnett was put on paid leave for three months after criticizing former Colorado place kicker Katie Hnida’s kicking ability. Earlier that week in a Sports Illustrated article, Hnida accused a teammate of raping her in 2000.

An independent panel found that Colorado did use sex and alcohol in recruiting, but that Colorado officials didn’t “knowingly” sanction it. Barnett was reinstated and the school changed its recruiting policies.

Asked about the goal-line stand, Barnett said, “This team has been through a lot, this was just something else, just the next thing in line. We sort of figure everything is going to be hard for us this year.”

Added linebacker Joe Sanders: “Like my mom always use to tell me, ‘smile in the face of adversity.’ That’s what we’re doing. We can’t let anything get us down. Things are in the past now, we have to move on, we have to show the nation and the world in any way we get the chance what kind of team we are. We’re a team of character and good people.”

The Buffaloes were unable to move the ball against WSU’s defense, but they came up with a handful of key plays on defense and special teams to pull out a win, despite getting dominated in most statistical categories.

The two biggest plays were made by backups. Tyrone Henderson, replacing Billingsley (knee injury) at free safety, blocked two Kyle Basler punts in the third quarter. On the first block, Henderson deflected the ball, but it still rolled forward for a net 30-yard punt.

Coming through the same hole in the punt protection, Henderson smothered the second punt, sending the ball trickling into the WSU end zone where Lawrence Vickers recovered for a touchdown and a 10-3 Colorado lead.

“Both times it was actually the same play,” Henderson said. “On the second one, Lawrence told me they weren’t going to change much so I just got a quicker burst, got around the protector and got my hands on the ball. … They didn’t change much so I did what I had to do – block the punt.”

Colorado was leading 10-6 when Sanders, pressed into service by an ankle injury to starter Brian Iwuh, intercepted Brink’s pass in the left flat and raced 51 yards to give the Buffaloes a 17-6 lead with 9:13 left in the fourth quarter.

“I saw it coming from the beginning,” said Sanders, who ran a 4.4-second 40-yard time in high school, but has clocked 4.53 at CU. “I saw both receivers make a little slant move inside and I jumped the route before he threw the ball. It came right to me and I took advantage of it.”

Colorado’s victory avenged a 47-26 loss to WSU in Boulder last year.

“It was real big,” Vickers said. “Washington State beat us real bad last year, so we wanted to come back and we had a slogan today: ‘We will.’ We will do whatever it takes to win this game.”