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Buffs Hope To Keep Title Hopes Alive

Nov 5, 2002

BOULDER - While a victory against one of the nation's best teams would've been very nice, Colorado still has a chance of fulfilling its preseason goal.

The 18th-ranked Buffaloes look to move a step closer toward reaching the Big 12 championship game when they travel to Columbia, Mo., for a meeting with struggling Missouri.

Colorado (6-3, 4-1) had a five-game win streak snapped Saturday with a mistake-filled 27-11 loss to Oklahoma, now the nation's top-ranked team.

In the first half alone, the Buffaloes lost two fumbles, had a pass intercepted, muffed a pooch kickoff and had a field goal blocked. The opportunistic Sooners turned the mistakes into 17 points to lead 20-3 at halftime.

"We dug ourselves in a hole real fast," Colorado coach Gary Barnett said. "It was a hole we couldn't get out of against a good team. We had a chance to be out of that game and we really weren't until the last four or five minutes."

Despite the loss, Colorado still controls its own destiny in the North Division and could meet Oklahoma again in the Big 12 title game Dec. 7 in Houston.

"Our goal at the beginning of the year was to get back to the Big 12 Championship, and win it," senior captain Wayne Lucier said. "If we take care of business these next few weeks, we'll have a chance to do that."

After visiting Missouri, Colorado plays host to Iowa State before closing the regular season Nov. 29 at Nebraska.

Saturday's loss overshadowed another strong performance by Chris Brown. The junior running back carried 25 times for 103 yards. Brown, however, fumbled on Colorado's opening possession which led to seven Oklahoma points.

Brown, who leads the nation in rushing with 156.2 yards per game, had more than 100 yards for the sixth straight game, the longest streak at Colorado since Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam closed the 1994 season with nine consecutive games.

Colorado coach Gary Barnett, a Missouri graduate in 1969, believes Missouri presents a difficult challenge for his team.

"Missouri is a team that plays really well and they are getting better every week," he said. "They scared Oklahoma and really had a chance to almost beat them. They have been in every game they have played this year."

The Tigers (4-5, 1-4) played another good team close, only to lose 42-35 to Iowa State on Saturday.

Oklahoma had to score on a fake field goal to beat Missouri 31-24 on Oct. 5. The Tigers lost at Nebraska 24-13 the following week.

"You're frustrated, but no one's going to break my will," Missouri coach Gary Pinkel said. "This is part of turning this program around. I'd like everything to work out perfect and everything to fall our way, but it doesn't."

Should Pinkel get the Missouri program turned around, freshman quarterback Brad Smith figures to play a very big role. Smith passed for 241 yards and ran for 77 more Saturday, breaking the single-season school record for total offense with 2,683 yards.

Colorado has won three straight and 15 of the last 17 meetings against Missouri.