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woody paige

Oh, my: Buffs' O-line onslaught unstoppable

By Woody Paige
Denver Post Sports Columnist

Saturday, November 24, 2001 - BOULDER - On the momentous day beneath the Flatirons, Colorado's Six Pillars of Might put their heads up, knuckles down, eyes front and ears back, then furnace-blasted their big, broad bodies at Nebraska.

The CU offensive linemen subjugated the defenders of the Corn as no one ever before. Domination was absolute, explicit and permanent.

The Buffaloes scored 62 gut-checking points, the most by an opponent in Nebraska's glorious history. The Buffs rushed for an astounding 380 yards against the Bowl Championship Series' No. 1-ranked team. CU patiently threw for 202 yards against the country's top-rated pass defense, and quarterback Bobby Pesavento, a scrub a few weeks ago, wasn't sacked or intercepted. Tailback Chris Brown, who hadn't carried in the past two games, ran for 198 yards and a school-record six touchdowns, and Bobby Purify added 154 yards and a touchdown against the five-time national champions, who were thinking six. And the Buffs finished with 582 yards total offense, 25 first downs and zero turnovers against the heretofore omnipotent Huskers.

It all started with the Six Pillars - tackles Victor (or Victory) Rogers and Justin Bates, guards Andre Gurode and Marwan Hage and centers Wayne Lucier and Ryan Gray. When Lucier had to go out, Gray went in. Nothing changed. The earth moved, and so did three-quarters of a ton of steel-driving Buffs offensive linemen.

"The holes were so huge, anybody could have run through them," Brown said. "There wasn't a question about which way I'd go. Right up the middle. There was nobody there."

The Cornhuskers, the 53,790 (with divided loyalties) shoehorned into Folsom Field, a stunned national television audience, all the ships at sea and this old grog had never witnessed such a powerball performance by an offensive line - considering that Nebraska is not luncheon meat or a directional school from Louisiana.

Offensive linemen function in obscurity, but not here, not now. The lights were on, and they were home. The 62-36 victory, Mister Rogers said, "does not make up for the all the (10 consecutive) years of losing to Nebraska, but it establishes something for the future." Gurode stared at the scoreboard late in the game and "was thinking about what every Buff had felt for the last 10 years. They could enjoy this with us."

Gurode and Rogers are seniors who have endured the pain of injury, insult and defeat over five years at CU. "It's all been worth it - because of this," Gurode said. Rogers said that when the line parted the Big Red sea, "it was like we were scoring the touchdowns ourselves."

The odd collection of mammoth student-athletes rested on Saturday after toiling long and hard, and passing their guts-check, on Friday. Gurode is a psychology major from Houston, Texas, and Rogers is a communications major from Federal Way, Wash. Then there are the four youngsters - Lucier, a junior from New Hampshire (who transferred from Northwestern); Hage, a sophomore from Quebec (who was born in Lebanon); Gray, a junior from Laguna Niguel, Calif.; and Bates, a junior who immigrated to CU all the way from Arvada.

"Those guys dominated," said Pesavento, rarely hurried and never rattled by Nebraska.

The play's the thing, Billy Shakespeare claimed, and the play "98G" certainly was the thing for Colorado.

"Nobody had come out and run right at them. That's what we were going to do," CU coach Gary Barnett said.

With 98G the strongside guard, Gurode, pulls, the line goes linemano-a-linemano, and the tailback runs, after a slight delay, at the core of the Cornhuskers. "The line manhandled the Nebraska defensive line," Brown said, whipped the middle linebacker and left the safeties lonely. "They were scared. They didn't want to hit."

On the first call of 98G during CU's opening possession, Bobby Purify traveled 39 yards unmolested for a touchdown. The Cornhuskers couldn't have been more shocked if they had grabbed a live transformer wire. The next time Colorado broke for 98G, Purify ran 78 yards for a touchdown. But a penalty brought the ball back. Brown arrived for the next play and gained 13 yards on 98G. On and on. Soon, Purify busted the middle for 44, then Brown in the middle for 15 and 12 more and a touchdown. "We've run the play before, but not like we did against Nebraska," Gurode said. "We just kept running it."

The Cornhuskers, as they do, furiously rallied in the second half, getting to within 12 points, but the CU line kings ruled - with good old 98G - and the game became Rout 62 for CU. The schools combined to score 98. Gee.

Colorado ran Nebraska back across the border. The Buffs' victory was their most gratifying since they beat Notre Dame in the national championship game at the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1991.

In 2001, after a shaky start in Boulder and a brutal blowup in Austin, Texas, CU is buffed, and Barnett has delivered on his promise to return the team to dominance and lead the Buffaloes to Dallas for the Big 12 Championship - behind the line.

The Six Pillars of Might stand tall, strong and in triumph.


 

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