3:30 PM ET, November 25, 2005
Folsom Field, Boulder, CO
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) -- Hundreds of fans were removed by force. Thousands more left by choice. By the end, the only folks making noise in Colorado's stadium were a rowdy group in the corner shouting "Go Big Red!"
Yes, it felt like old times for the Nebraska Cornhuskers on Friday, 30-3 winners over Colorado in a game that someday might be viewed as the turning point for a program under duress the last few years.
Zac Taylor threw for 392 yards and two scores, Cory Ross accounted for 142 yards and a touchdown and the Huskers (7-4, 4-4 Big 12) put together, by far, the best game of coach Bill Callahan's troubled two seasons in Lincoln.
"This is a huge win for us," Taylor said. "It shows we have the program going on the right track."
The Buffaloes caught a major break Saturday when Kansas upset Iowa State in overtime, preventing the Cyclones from reaching next week's conference title game. Instead, Colorado backed in and will face No. 2 Texas for the Big 12 title in Houston.
A few water bottles and other debris rained down from the CU student section in the fourth quarter, forcing officials to order hundreds of fans removed for the final 10 minutes of the game. By then, CU boosters with calmer heads were already heading to the exits, their team down 27-3 and showing no signs of life.
"It's dumbfounding," Buffs coach Gary Barnett said. "I don't know what happened."
Outcoached, outplayed, out-everythinged by Big Red, Colorado (7-4, 5-3 Big 12) lost its second straight game. Before Saturday's Iowa State-Kansas game played out, after watching this complete dismantling -- an embarrassment not only to the program but to many of the trash-throwing fans, as well -- the words "Colorado" and "championship" simply didn't seem right coupled together.
"Maybe tomorrow, I'll be a KU fan," Barnett said when asked if he'd root for the Jayhawks. "But right now, I've got a lot of kids who are hurting emotionally."
Before kickoff, CU players moved toward midfield and the teams began jawing and pushing and shoving. No punches were thrown. It wasn't anything near the kind of ruckus seen over the years between other big rivals, but it sure caught Callahan's attention.
"In all the years I've coached football, I've never seen anything like it," he said. "To our credit, we didn't react. We kept our composure."
A few minutes later, the Huskers let their play do the talking. They posted their biggest win in the series since Tom Osborne coached them to a 52-7 blowout in 1992.
On the first play of its first possession, Colorado got a 45-yard run by Hugh Charles and that was pretty much it. The big run set up a Mason Crosby field goal for a 3-0 lead. The Huskers answered with a field goal and CU never came close to taking the lead again.
Ross, a Denver kid who said he was recruited only "briefly" by Colorado, had 129 yards receiving. His 19-yard TD off a screen pass early in the second gave the Huskers a 10-3 lead.
"I'm on a high," Ross said. "I wanted to come home and win. I wanted to make big plays and I did."
The rest of the game was a combination of Nebraska dominance -- the Huskers defense allowed only 212 yards -- and CU's ineptitude.
The Buffs came into the game leading the conference in penalties and will likely stay there after committing 10 more for 105 yards.
They kept Nebraska's second touchdown drive alive when, after Taylor called timeout, Huskers center Kurt Mann snapped the ball anyway, which compelled CU linebacker Alex Ligon to slam Taylor to the ground and draw a 15-yard penalty on third-and-10.
"Alex said he didn't hear a whistle. I didn't hear a whistle. Who knows?" Barnett said. "That ended up being a big play in that drive."
Nebraska kept steamrolling from there, which led to the ugliness in the stands.
Early in the fourth quarter, with the game well out of hand, debris started flowing onto the field while the loyal fans in the Nebraska section partied on.
Husker fans celebrating at Folsom Field harkened back to the days when the Huskers took CU for granted and when a Buffs win in a matchup that only they considered a rivalry could make their season.
It could have this year, too.
The Buffs were an unheard-of, 14-point favorite. Barnett was trying to improve to 4-3 against Nebraska and become the first CU coach in a generation to be able to say he won more than he lost against Big Red.
Now, that's out the window and much figures to be made of the fact that CU's coach has only a year left on his contract with an extension still unsigned.
Most importantly, CU was shooting for its fourth trip to the title game in five years. That trip now appears unlikely -- and almost inappropriate if it still comes to pass.
"If we really, really wanted to win the Big 12 championship, we would have won today," defensive lineman James Garee said.
Nebraska, meanwhile, will sing a different tune.
An embarrassing season that included their first loss to Kansas in 36 years now looks much better for the Huskers. Their bowl destination certainly improved and a program that is already thought to be putting in place a great recruiting class surely wasn't hurt with this performance in front of a national TV audience on the day after Thanksgiving.
"We've been trying to get to this level all year," linebacker Bo Ruud said. "Today, we got there."