Joel Klatt threw for 333 yards and a pair of fourth-quarter
touchdowns to rally Colorado to a 33-28 victory over Texas-El Paso in
the Houston Bowl at Reliant Stadium. Klatt completed 24-of-33 passes and
tossed a 39-yard touchdown to Evan Judge with 8:43 to left to play for
the go-ahead score as the Buffaloes (8-5) won the battle between two
beleaguered head coaches, Colorado's Gary Barnett and UTEP's Mike Price.
The junior signal-caller rebounded from a miserable performance in the
Buffs' Big 12 Championship disaster against Oklahoma, in which Klatt
finished just 8- of-27 for 52 yards, to be named the game's offensive
Joel Klopfenstein had a career-high 134 receiving yards on five catches,
including a 78-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter, for Colorado,
which ends its tumultuous campaign with wins in four of its last five
games. Bobby Purify added 80 rushing yards on 22 carries and caught six
passes for 41 yards.
Jordan Palmer rolled up 328 yards on 22-of-42 passing along with two
touchdowns for the Miners (8-4), whose storybook season under Price ends
with back-to-back defeats. Jason Boyd established personal-bests with
seven receptions and 140 yards, while Johnnie Lee Higgins also had seven
grabs and totaled 122 yards. The pair combined for both of UTEP's
touchdowns through the air. The Miners led 14-3 after one quarter and
21-13 at the half, but mustered just six first downs and committed three
turnovers, including two interceptions by Palmer, after the break.
The Klatt-to-Judge touchdown was set up by a nifty trick play which kept
Colorado's drive alive. On fourth down from their own 35-yard line,
Buffaloes punter John Torp faked a kick and scrambled 22 yards before
being brought down at the UTEP 41. Klatt hit a wide-open Judge down the
right sideline two plays later.
The Miners had three chances to move back ahead, but sputtered on each
possession. Their fate was sealed when Chris Francies couldn't haul in
Palmer's fourth-down pass from the UTEP 40-yard line with 50 seconds
In the first quarter, Klatt threw four straight completions, including a
15-yarder to Lawrence Vickers to the Miners' 29 and a 12-yard delivery
to Judge on third-down to the 12, which led to Mason Crosby's 26-yard
field goal and gave Colorado a 3-0 lead less than seven minutes in.
Palmer then engineered touchdowns on UTEP's next two drives to put the
Miners up 14-3 at the end of the first quarter. Palmer connected with a
streaking Higgins for a 50-yard gain to the Buffaloes' 19 to set up the
first score. After the sophomore slinger gained a first down on a
quarterback sneak on 4th-and-1, Howard Jackson raced around left end and
crossed the goal line from seven yards out for a 7-3 edge with 6:05 left
in the opening period.
UTEP then marched 67 yards on seven plays and took an 11-point advantage
on Josh Chamois' one-yard plunge late in the first quarter. A defensive
personal foul call placed the Miners inside the Colorado 30-yard line
and Palmer later fired a 17-yard strike to Francies on a slant route to
move the ball to the three.
The Buffaloes would respond on their next possession. A 37-yard scamper
by Hugh Charles followed by Blake Mackey's 20-yard run on a reverse sent
Colorado to the UTEP three, and Charles culminated the six-play, 78-yard
series with a one-yard burst into the end zone 1:29 into the second
Crosby drilled a 54-yard field goal on the Buffs' next drive to cut the
deficit to 14-13 midway through the second frame. Colorado got into
range because of a roughing-the-passer penalty on Chris Mineo.
However, the Miners answered with a well-executed 14-play, 80-yard march
to extend the margin. Palmer carved the Colorado secondary with five
completions in seven throws, including a 17-yard touchdown to Boyd with
3:08 remaining before intermission. The score came on 3rd-and-13 and was
one of three conversions on third-and-long during the set.
UTEP's first turnover, a fumble by Chris Marrow near midfield early in
the third quarter, got the Buffaloes closer. Klatt and Klopfenstein
hooked up for completions of 24 and 19 yards to set up Crosby's 37-yard
field goal with 9:17 left in the third which made the score 21-16.
Late in the third, an 11-yard run by Purify combined with a 15-yard face
mask penalty put the Buffs on the UTEP 31. They got to the five-yard
line on a 22-yard catch by Mackey, but Colorado again sputtered near the
goal line and were forced to settle for a Crosby 26-yarder to get within
The UTEP offense, dormant throughout the third quarter, started to click
again as the quarter came to a close. A 55-yard connection from Palmer
to Boyd followed by a 21-yarder got the Miners down to the Colorado
four. Two plays later, Palmer hit Higgins for a three-yard touchdown for
a 28-19 lead 40 seconds into the final stanza.
The nine-point cushion would last all of 18 seconds, as Klatt hit
Klopfenstein in stride near midfield and the big tight end split two
UTEP safeties and outran everybody into the end zone for a 78-yard score
to bring the Buffaloes back to within two.
UTEP, which won two more games in the 2004 season than in the previous
three combined, has lost in all three bowl appearances since winning the
1967 Sun Bowl, a 14-7 decision over Mississippi.
CU- FG Crosby 26
UTEP- Jackson 7 yd run (Schneider kick)
UTEP- Chamois 1 yd run (Schneider kick)
CU- Charles 1 yd run (Crosby kick)
CU- FG Crosby 54
UTEP- Boyd 17 yd pass from Palmer (Schneider kick)
CU- FG Crosby 37
CU- FG Crosby 20
UTEP- Higgins 3 yd pass from Palmer (Schneider kick)
CU- Klopfenstein 78 yd pass from Klatt (Crosby kick)
CU- Judge 39 yd pass from Klatt (Crosby kick)
CU- Purify 22-90, Charles 7-53
UTEP- Jackson 16-47
CU- Klatt 24-33-333
UTEP- Palmer 22-42-328
CU- Purify 6-41, Klopfenstein 5-134, Monteilh 4-34, Judge 2-50, Mackey
UTEP- Boyd 7-140, Higgins 7-122, Francies 2-28