Boulder, CO (U-WIRE) -- Two weeks ago, following a 23-3 defeat at Miami, a lot of grumbling was heard among Colorado football fans about the play-calling of offensive coordinator Shawn Watson as well as questions about the big-game capabilities of senior quarterback Joel Klatt.
On Saturday night, Watson, Klatt and Co. answered their critics by amassing the sixth-largest offensive output in a Big 12 game in program history. Despite an early evening's rest for many offensive starters, CU still produced 559 yards of total offense in a 41-20 thrashing of Texas A&M before 50,686 at Folsom Field.
The win vaulted CU into 24th place in this week's Associated Press poll, the Buffs' first appearance in the top 25 since September 2003.
Led by a career night by Klatt and 152 yards of total offense by running back Hugh Charles, the Buffaloes' offense dominated from the outset, forging a 41-6 third-quarter lead that allowed an ample number of starters some early R&R with a game against No. 2 Texas upcoming this weekend in Austin.
James Cox replaced Klatt with 4:16 remaining in the third quarter. Despite having his night cut short, Klatt left having completed 28-of-36 of his passes for 398 yards with three touchdowns and no interceptions.
The offensive onslaught - in which CU (4-1, 2-0 Big 12) scored touchdowns on its first three possessions for a quick 21-0 lead - meant the game was all but decided by halftime. CU coach Gary Barnett felt his offense's early success helped keep the Texas A&M offense out of sync throughout the game.
"I thought that our offense was so dominant that it probably forced them out of the game that they wanted to play," he said. "Once we went up 21-0 it was probably hard for them to run all of the option that they wanted to use."
If Barnett's educated guess was accurate, that means the Aggies' offense had to at least partially abandon its game plan while there was still 3:57 left in the first quarter. Granted this was an A&M defense that surrendered 31 points to Texas State back on Sept. 22, but there are still likely to be a few less critics of the Buffs offense - at least through this week. Many, of course, will simply lay low waiting for Saturday's game.
In addition to complaints about the play-calling and execution, there has also been considerable discussion about the lack of speed and the absence of a deep threat among CU's receiving corps.
Enter sophomore tailback Charles, making his mark as a receiver out of the backfield. While Charles may have failed to register his usual 100-yard rushing performance - he finished with 67 yards on 17 carries and one rushing touchdown - he more than made up for it by gathering in six receptions for 85 yards.
Charles' first catch of the night gave the Buffs their initial first down. But it was his second reception three plays later that seemed to set the tone for the offense.
With CU facing third-and-six from its 49-yard line, Charles broke open down the middle and caught Klatt's perfect strike in full stride. A&M linebacker Justin Warren was the lone defender with a shot at keeping Charles from the end zone, but his diving grasp for the mercurial sophomore's ankles came up empty.
Lesson for future foes: Don't leave a linebacker in single coverage on Charles.
"Joel and I discussed connecting on a play like that before the game," Charles said. "We decided to get the ball to me if there was anyone but a cornerback covering me. My eyes lit up when I saw it wasn't a corner on me, and then it was just a matter of getting into the end zone."
It appeared that the dual threat posed by Charles ultimately abetted a host of CU receivers in enjoying field days against A&M's secondary.
"They've got to cover (Charles') speed down field," said CU tight end Joe Klopfenstein. "They've got to play someone deep on him every play. He's such a big threat. He opens things up for other guys."
Wide receiver Evan Judge led the Buffs with seven receptions, good for 82 yards. Additionally, CU's two-headed monster at tight end combined for eight receptions for 169 yards. Klopfenstein registered five catches for 99 yards while Quinn Sypniewski had 3 receptions for 70 yards, including a 36-yard TD pass from Klatt.
"I thought we had a great game plan," Barnett said. " I thought Shawn Watson called a great game and got a lot of people involved. Joel got in a groove and our offensive line did a great job of protecting him."
The defense wasn't bad, either. The "D" contained and frustrated Reggie McNeal, A&M's multitalented quarterback, holding the Aggies to two field goals before the visitors posted two garbage touchdowns in the final five minutes.
Aggies coach Dennis Franchione wasn't surprised as CU's defensive prowess.
"We expected their defense to play well," Franchione said. "They had two shutouts in their first four games, and I don't know if there is another team in Division I who has got that."
Barnett admitted many of his players began shifting their thoughts to the Longhorns in the third quarter.
Now the task is to carry that confidence into this week's game.
"I think it's really important that we go in there with a little bit of swagger and play with some confidence so we can make some things happen," Judge said.
(C) 2004 Colorado Daily via U-WIRE