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Web posted Saturday, November 25, 2000

Buff QB Ochs comes of age at Nebraska
Story from Buffzone.com

Craig Harper

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Forget his starting debut, when freshman quarterback Craig Ochs engineered Colorado's upset at Texas A&M on Oct. 7.

Or the Oct. 28 Oklahoma State game, when he amazed us with his trifecta of rushing, passing and catching for touchdowns.

Down the line, when Colorado is making a legitimate run at returning to dominance, remember Nov. 24, 2000, as the day Craig Ochs grew up as a college quarterback.

Don't forget his dismal start, and that his first pass was intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

Or that, following a recovered muffed punt return at the Nebraska 24-yard line, Ochs, under pressure, threw into a crowd of Husker defenders in the end zone and was intercepted again.

All young quarterbacks do those sort of things, especially at Memorial Stadium here in front of 77,672 hostile Husker faithful.

But not all young quarterbacks bounce back from that kind of adversity the way Ochs did Friday.

Not all young quarterbacks are savvy enough to know when they are, in Ochs' own words, "too wired" before a game.

And not all young quarterbacks have the wherewithal to settle themselves down the way Ochs did.

Once he did, Ochs gave further evidence that the Colorado football future is very bright -- especially with the anticipated return next year of tailback Marcus Houston.

"It was just him getting in rhythm," CU coach Gary Barnett said. "He was wired up all week; he was like that in practice. But we felt he'd settle down, and he did."

"It's been a long two weeks," Ochs, the hometown Fairview product, said of the time leading up to the game he'd been dying to play in as long as he can remember.

Ochs completed just one of his first six passes for two yards, and his first one was intercepted and returned for a touchdown, putting Colorado in a 7-0 hole.

"That first throw was a terrible decision on my part," Ochs admitted. "It took me about a quarter to calm down. It was a matter of taking a deep breath and realizing I wasn't helping the team by being so wired.

"The guys were great, they just kept telling me to relax. I finally was able to get in the groove that second quarter."

He was 24-of-35 for 252 yards the final three quarters, and displayed remarkable poise in leading Colorado to three touchdowns and a missed field goal in its last four possessions.

Ochs was benefited Friday by the running of Cortlen Johnson, who gained 155 yards on 26 carries. That spread out a Nebraska defense whose weakness is the secondary.

"I felt I had a good second half, but that was just a reflection of the offense," Ochs said after CU gained 451 yards, 197 of those rushing.

Truth is, this isn't a typical Nebraska "Blackshirt" defense that Colorado had become accustomed to seeing with Charlie McBride pulling the strings.

Nebraska got some pressure on Ochs. The Huskers forced him into another bad decision by pressuring him on his second other interception, but they only sacked him once.

But playing Nebraska at Memorial Stadium is not an easy assignment for a senior quarterback, much less a true freshman making his seventh start.

"I think he's a very poised young quarterback," said Husker coach Frank Solich. "He finds ways to elude people and get the ball to where he needs to get it. He threw well and he ran well when he needed to.

"I think he's a very smart quarterback with excellent talent."

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