November 7, 2005

Barnett says Klatt is CU's best

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BOULDER, Colo. - Anyone who has followed Colorado football for a while knows what a big deal Darian Hagan was to the program.

Hagan, in coach Gary Barnett's eyes, is now the second-best quarterback he's coached with the Buffs. The best is the guy taking the snaps now - Joel Klatt.

"It's no offense to Hagan," Barnett said. "But I'd probably take Joel first and Hagan second. I wouldn't have said that a year ago."

Klatt threw for 253 yards and a touchdown Saturday in Colorado's 41-12 victory over Missouri. The Buffs (7-2, 5-1 Big 12) moved up three spots, to No. 22 in the Associated Press poll. More importantly, they moved a win away from from clinching the Big 12 North for the fourth time in five years.

Hagan was the quarterback during Colorado's best stretch of football, 1988-91, when the Buffs won the Big Eight three times and the national championship once. Barnett was quarterbacks coach for Bill McCartney back then and the Buffs ran the option.

Klatt, of course, is a whole different breed of quarterback - a pocket passer with a strong arm and, as time has passed, an increasingly sharp football mind.

"Obviously, it's a tremendous honor," Klatt said when told of Barnett's comments. "I'm just a guy who learned the offense really well and knows he can't run around much. I just try to do the things I do well and manage the game."

By "managing the game" as he modestly puts it, Klatt has also rewritten the record book.

He holds 33 Colorado passing records - that's pretty much every record there is - and on Saturday broke another one by extending his streak to 122 straight passes without an interception.

He only threw one touchdown pass against the Tigers, but it was as good an example as there is of what a good quarterback does under pressure. With third-and-goal from the 6, Klatt rolled right. He withstood the temptation to throw short to a teammate who would have easily been tackled short of the end zone, instead waiting, waiting, buying time.

With the extra time, tight end Quinn Sypniewski finally shedded his coverage, spun and stood barely in front of the back line. Klatt threw a hard, high pass to a spot where only Sypniewski could catch it and Sypnieski did, marking Klatt's 44th career TD pass, four more than Koy Detmer.

"I should know the offense inside and out because I've been here long enough," said Klatt, a senior whose career started late while he took a shot at professional baseball.

After baseball didn't work out, Klatt came to Colorado and decided to walk on. The Buffs are glad he decided to give football a chance.

Now, it's up to Barnett to soothe any hurt feelings Hagan might have. Hagan is an offensive assistant coach for Colorado with a sparkling resume of his own.

In 1989, he became the sixth player in NCAA history to run and pass for more than 1,000 yards in the same season.

He held the school record for total offense with 5,808 yards, a record later broken by Kordell Stewart and one that could be broken again by you-know-who.

With 6,725 yards, Klatt needs 946 more to pass Stewart. If the Buffs make the Big 12 title game, he'll have three games to get there.

"Coach Hagan is always giving me a hard time about the records, but I always tell him his records were broken ... because he didn't throw the ball very much," Klatt said. "In all seriousness, I'm just happy to be here. It's absolutely just icing on the cake for a `walk-on happy' to be on the team."

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