Iowa State – Buffs ploy on fourth-and-one preserves victory

// Oct 13 - 1984

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 October 13th – Boulder           Colorado 23, Iowa State 21

Only 36,762 came out for Colorado’s Homecoming game against Iowa State.

Who could blame the fans for their apathy?

The game wasn’t much of a draw. The Buffs were 0-5. The Cyclones were 2-3, with both wins coming over inferior opponents (West Texas State and Drake). Unbeknownst to the faithful, however, as they filed into Folsom on the 55-degree, Chamber of Commerce postcard fall day, it would be the Buffs’ most exciting game of the year.

It started as ominously as most of the others. Jo Jo Collins fumbled the opening kickoff, falling on the ball on the Buffs’ one yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, halfback Lee Rouson was tackled in the end zone.

Safety.

Down 2-0 just ten seconds into the game.

Not exactly an auspicious start.

Just a few minutes later, Colorado was behind 5-0. A 25 yard return of the Buffs’ free kick gave the Cyclones the ball at the Colorado 47 yard line. Six plays later, ISU had a 48-yard field goal.

Behind 5-0, the Buffs, who had actually been favored to win the game, began to play better.

Not well, mind you.

Better.

Colorado took the lead with 11:00 left in the first half, when quarterback Steve Vogel found tight end Jon Embree on a 12-yard scoring strike. The two point conversion attempt failed, but the Buffs were ahead, 6-5. For a team outscored 109-12 in the first half of the first five games (average half-time score: 21-3), any points were welcome.

After falling behind 12-6 at half, Colorado struck quickly in the third quarter. Vogel connected with wingback Ron Brown on a 43-yard pass play, putting the Buffs up 13-12. After a Cyclone punt, the Buffs were on the move again. This time, Dave DeLine connected on a 52-yard field goal to put Colorado on top 16-12. (52-yard field goal? Larry Eckel and his four missed field goals against Michigan State were now a distant memory.)

Vogel and Brown were not finished yet. Taking over at the 20 yard line with two minutes left in the third quarter, the Buffs promptly lost five yards on first down. No problem. Vogel and Brown then connected on the third longest scoring pass play in Colorado history. The 85-yard catch and run put the Buffs up comfortably, 23-12.

Or so it seemed.

With 7:53 still left to play in the game, Iowa State had pulled to within two points, at 23-21.

A few minutes later, with 4:07 still left to play, the Cyclones were sitting pretty, first-and-goal at the Colorado eight yard line. An easy chip shot to win the game, Iowa State ran the ball twice to the Colorado four yard line. On third down, quarterback Alex Espinoza was tackled by Buff defensive tackle George Smith for a loss of five yards, back to the CU nine.

Cheers from the crowd, but no celebration. Iowa State kicker Marc Bachrodt trotted onto the field for a 26-yard attempt. Only 2:17 remained in the game. Smith’s sack had prevented the touchdown, but not the loss.

Or so it seemed.

Just as Colorado had its Larry Eckel, who had missed a 32-yard field goal attempt in the season opener against Michigan State to doom the Buffs, Iowa State had its Marc Bachrodt. Wide right! Colorado retained its lead, 23-21.

Nothing left to do but run out the clock.

Perhaps from a lack of experience at doing so, however, the Buffs could not even accomplish this feat without excitement. Three runs took over a minute off the clock, and gained almost ten yards.

Almost ten yards.

Fourth-and-inches at the Buffs’ 29-yard line. 1:02 left on the clock and a two point lead.

The Buffs lined up to go for it.

TO GO FOR IT?

No, it was just the old “draw ‘em offsides with a long count” ploy. Everyone used it. Everyone knew about it. No one ever fell for it.

Almost no one. Vogel drew the Cyclone line offsides. First down, Colorado. Game over. 23-21. The Buffs had their first win of the year.

After the game, Iowa State head coach Jim Criner was incredulous. Speaking about the fourth down penalty which denied his team any opportunity for a win, Criner noted: “They (CU) were going to take the (delay of game) penalty. Sure, that’s the smart thing to do. Guys have been taught from day one to move on the football, that’s discipline. The smart thing (for the Buffs) to do is just sit there, take the penalty and then punt. Everybody in America knows that. That’s no great play.”

Well, it was a great play for the Buffs. 1-5. Ed Reinhardt was still lying in a coma in a hospital in Eugene, and Nebraska was up next, but at least they were in the win column.

Game Notes -

- Despite the win, Colorado remained mired in one of the most infamous seasons in school history. Little did we know that the win against Iowa State that day in 1984 would begin a winning streak which would land the Buffs a mention in the official NCAA record book. The Buffs would go on to post 16 consecutive wins against the Cyclones (not losing to Iowa State until a 35-27 loss in 2000), one of the longest streaks by one school over another in NCAA history.

- The 85-yard touchdown pass from Steve Vogel to Ron Brown was the third-longest hookup in school history. Previously, there were two 87-yard plays: from Zack Jordan to Frank Bernardi against Kansas in 1952 (ironically not for a score), and from Randy Essington to Walter Stanley against Texas Tech in 1981.

- Dave DeLine’s 52-yard field goal was the fifth longest in school history to that date.

- Ron Brown had only five catches against Iowa State, but he made them work for him. His 158 yards receiving were a career high, and, at the time, tied for second most yards receiving in a single game in school history, tied with Cliff Branch (v. Missouri, 1970), and behind only Walter Stanley’s 222 yards against Texas Tech in 1981.

- The Buffs, despite the win, set an infamous school record. On the day, the Buffs “rushed” the ball 38 times, for a minus-16 yards. Helped by quarterback Steve Vogel’s stat line: nine rushes, minus-60 yards, Colorado broke a school record dating back to 1946, when Texas held the Buffs to minus-eight yards rushing. The only other game in which Colorado had been held to negative yardage prior to the Iowa State game in 1984 came in 1964, when the Buffs recorded minus-three yards against Nebraska.

- Iowa State would go on to post a 2-7-2 record in 1984, 0-5-2 in Big Eight play, keeping the Buffs from finishing in the conference cellar.

One Response to “Iowa State – Buffs ploy on fourth-and-one preserves victory”

  1. Dale Bain

    This would be the only Varsity game my Mom would attend while I was a Buff. She had flown up from Texas to see me play in the Junior Varsity game the afternoon before. In a lesser known footnote to CU Football history, most of the freshmen and sophomore members of the squad played a three game JV schedule; going 2-1 to include a win over the Air Force Academy JV team (the loss was to the Scottsdale (AZ) Artichokes).
    As the ISU game was our only win that season, I toyed with the thought of having Coach Mac fly my Mom out to the remaining games that season; she was ‘good luck’ as far as I was concerned.

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