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Barnett savoring Big 12 title berth

Colorado will have more to remember about this season than just
scandal and turmoil -- most notably, a trip to the Big 12 title game
that seemed nearly impossible just a few weeks ago.
Embattled off the field, improving steadily on it, CU's
improbable run to the Big 12 North title was completed Saturday
when Missouri upset Iowa State 17-14 in overtime.
The result left the Buffs -- who defeated Nebraska on Friday -- tied with the Cyclones at 4-4 in the conference. Colorado won the
tiebreaker based on its win over Iowa State earlier this season.
"I don't have the proper words," Buffs coach Gary Barnett
said. "I'm happy for our coaches. The kinds of things they went
through and held up through and held this team together. Then, the
players and parents. The way they constantly believed and didn't
let anything bother them, stayed close, separated out what was
important from what wasn't important."
The Buffaloes (7-4) will be heavy underdogs next week against a
No. 2 Oklahoma team that will have a national championship on its
mind. That's for next week, though. On Saturday, Colorado was
celebrating an incredible turnaround.
"I'm a lifelong Red Sox fan," quarterback Joel Klatt said.
"When they got down 3-0 to the Yankees, I knew they would come
back and win. That's how I approached this season. I never
doubted."
This was a program rocked by a rape and recruiting scandal in
the offseason; a program whose coach was suspended for making
inappropriate comments in reference to the trouble; a program that
just last week reported possible violations to the NCAA, a program
whose athletic director resigned under pressure last week.
That was off the field.
On the field wasn't much prettier.
After a 3-0 start in nonconference play -- none of the wins was
particularly impressive -- Colorado lost four of five to start the
Big 12 season. The Buffs' 31-7 loss to Texas dropped them to 1-4 in
the Big 12.
Barnett took the blame for having his team ill prepared, which
only fueled the calls for his firing. Not only was the football
program embarrassing the university, the gap between the elite in
the conference and CU seemed to be growing.
But Colorado rallied and won its next three -- first, a
come-from-behind 30-21 win over Kansas, then a 38-31 victory over
Kansas State decided on the last play, then a 26-20 win at
archrival Nebraska.
The Big 12 North, meanwhile, was mediocre and the long list of
things CU needed to happen did, ending Saturday with Iowa State's
loss to Missouri.
The Buffs made the Big 12 title game for the third time in four
years, but the past two times it didn't come as a huge surprise.
Barnett said he never gave up hope for this season. He and his
players were among the very few.
"I don't know if there was doubt," Barnett said. "But you
wondered how it was going to happen."