BUFFS ZONE IN ON CLASH WITH WILDCATS
BOULDER — As the University of Colorado football team (3-3, 1-1 Big 12) continued its preparations Wednesday for this weekend's showdown at Kansas State (4-3, 0-2 Big 12), the Buffs remained focused knowing they must overcome a tough Wildcat challenge to stay strong in a tight division race.
With four teams locked in a tie atop the Big 12 North standings – including Colorado, Missouri, Nebraska and Iowa State – CU realizes that a win at Kansas State would set the tone for their rejuvenated season. With all their goals still very much attainable, the Buffs now look to pick up some momentum in Manhattan and roll into the remainder of a crucial conference schedule.
"In the North Division, we've got as good a shot as anybody to get to the title game," quarterback Joel Klatt stated Tuesday. "It's still an uphill battle, but everything we do now is up to this team. It's a one-week season, and if we keep taking care of business each week, then we'll find ourselves in a great position."
So now, with only one game on their minds, the Buffs' business turns towards a K-State squad that has its back up against the wall. Having lost three games in a row, the Wildcats are looking to notch their first conference victory of 2003. Though KSU has not dominated the year much like they were predicted to, CU realizes that the Purple and Silver are still an extremely dangerous team.
"They have played some pretty good teams," linebacker Sean Tufts stated. "Continuously, they remain a top program and always bring their best when they have to. We are expecting them to be really fired up and come out at the top of their game. We have to be prepared going in there."
Led by the talented backfield duo of Ell Roberson and Darren Sproles, the Wildcats rank 16th in the nation in rushing, averaging 207 yards per game. Roberson, the option wizard who burned the Buffs for 178 yards last year in Boulder, is currently averaging 79.8 yards a contest on the ground, and 184.6 through the air. He has totaled 15 touchdowns thus far. As for Sproles, the 5-foot-7, 170-pound tailback has racked up 756 yards and seven scores on 132 attempts. He is averaging 108.0 yards per game.
On the defensive side of the ball, K-State boasts a dynamic pair of senior linebackers who anchor the unit. Josh Buhl is the leading tackler for the 'Cats, having posted 101 total stops (59 solo) through just seven games, including five for losses. Bryan Hickman stands a distant second in total stuffs, as he has complied 64 tackles – six for loss, and three sacks.
"The way the North is right now, who knows? Your guess is as good as mine how it's going to end up," head coach Gary Barnett told the media. "Everybody is sort of in control of their own destiny at this point, even though Kansas State and ourselves both have three losses. We have to expect to see a team that is much like a wounded animal that is going to come out fighting."
"They have got a lot of talent and we know that they're a very good team," Klatt added. "We've lost three in a row before and we know what it feels like, with everybody criticizing and talking about what's wrong. Hopefully we can work that to our advantage and go out there with some great intensity."
Wednesday Practice Notes: Sophomore safety Brian Iwuh returned to practice Wednesday, and will be available to play Saturday... Sophomore fullback Lawrence Vickers did not practice with the team during the day, and will not be available to play against K-State.
Game Notes: The Buffs and 'Cats are scheduled to kick off Saturday at 12:10 p.m. MDT, with no television showcasing the event... CU leads the all-time series by a 41-16-1 mark, including a 16-12-1 edge in Manhattan... In 2002, CU earned a 35-31 victory, as the two teams combined for 886 yards of total offense... During the last meeting at KSU in 2001, the Buffs won 16-6 behind the efforts of tailback Chris Brown (111 yards) and a stingy defense (198 yards allowed)... Barnett is 2-2 versus K-State, while Bill Snyder is 4-9-1 against Colorado.