Scores
Houston Bowl

Final

Colorado 33

(8-5, 4-3 away)

UTEP 28

(8-4, 5-2 home)

Coverage: ESPN

4:30 PM ET, December 29, 2004

Sun Bowl, El Paso, TX

1 2 3 4 T
COLO 3 10 6 1433
UTEP 14 7 0 728

Top Performers

Passing: J. Klatt (COLO) - 333 YDS, 2 TD

Rushing: H. Charles (COLO) - 7 CAR, 51 YDS, 1 TD

Receiving: J. Boyd (UTEP) - 7 REC, 140 YDS, 1 TD

Redemption common theme for Buffs, Miners

HOUSTON (AP) -- When Gary Barnett was mired in scandal earlier this year, the Colorado coach could always count on an encouraging word from longtime friend Mike Price.

Price himself was just emerging from scandal, getting a second chance at Texas-El Paso. So it was from experience that he told Barnett to stay strong, that better days would be ahead.

This season worked out just fine for both of them -- so well that they're capping it by coaching against each other Wednesday in the Houston Bowl. UTEP (8-3), making its first bowl appearance in four years, will go against Colorado (7-5).

"We're supporting each other 100 percent and we understood what the other one was going through," Price said. "In a good way, we kind of lean on each other."

Barnett's program was the target of sexual assault claims dating to 1997, followed by an investigation that discovered sex, alcohol and drugs were used as recruiting tools, although there was no evidence that university officials sanctioned it. Then Barnett went on three months of administrative leave for making insensitive remarks about two accusers, including former kicker Katie Hnida who said she was raped by a teammate in 2000.

The layoff kept him away from spring workouts. He was reinstated May 28, and began building the foundation for a turnaround from a 5-7 finish in 2003. Colorado won its final three games of the season to earn a share of the Big 12 North title, and Barnett was voted the Big 12 coach of the year.

"Our team has really overcome so much to get where we are this year," Barnett said. "Especially with us being a team that no one picked to be anywhere near a bowl game at this point in time."

A few months after he was hired at Alabama, Price was fired for allegedly spending a boozy night with strippers. He sat out a season, then began his career makeover at UTEP, which had just six wins over the previous three years and just three winning seasons since 1970.

After a 1-2 start, Price led the Miners to seven straight victories, their first-ever national ranking and first bowl berth since 2000.

"I felt like we could have a winning season," Price said. "Coming (to the Houston Bowl) is the greatest thing to happen to our program in many, many years."

Barnett never doubted that his friend would re-emerge as a winner.

"I know who he is and I know what he stands for," Barnett said. "I was trying to let him know that those of us who know him knew him through this whole ordeal. He did the same for me."

While both men prefer not to dwell on their struggles, Price acknowledges that what's happened to them could help others.

"I think a lot of positive things will come about because of this experience," Price said. "It's literally changing some things in recruiting, some positive changes. There's nobody that's going to be more by the rules and regulations than these two schools."

This game will be the first time they've squared off since becoming friends in 1978, when Barnett was a high school coach in Colorado and Price was an assistant at Missouri.

Two previous games were scheduled, but neither panned out.

Barnett left Fort Lewis College before he could coach against Price's Weber State team in the mid-1980s, and a game between Colorado and Price's Washington State squad was canceled after the terrorist attacks in September 2001.

"It's a thrill for him and a thrill for me," Barnett said.

SPONSORED HEADLINES

Passing Leaders

ColoradoCMP%YDSTDINT
S. Liufau64.722762311
J. Gehrke52.410600
UTEPCMP%YDSTDINT
J. Showers58.31045104

Rushing Leaders

ColoradoCARYDSAVGTD
T. Jones663234.93
M. Adkins II672884.33
UTEPCARYDSAVGTD
A. Jones1468485.88
N. Jeffery643034.71

Receiving Leaders

ColoradoRECYDSAVGTD
N. Spruce7786411.211
S. Fields383068.13
UTEPRECYDSAVGTD
I. Hamilton1523615.72
A. Golden181608.92