September 8th – Boulder Michigan State 24, Colorado 21
Michigan State appeared to be the ideal opening game opponent for the 1984 Buffs. First, the issue of payback had to be addressed. Colorado had led the Spartans after three quarters in the 1983 opener, only to surrender 17 fourth quarter points in a 23-17 defeat. Second, the 1984 game would be in Boulder, not East Lansing. Finally, the 1983 Michigan State team had finished their year with a less than stellar record of 4-6-1, including an embarrassing season-ending 42-0 loss at home to arch-rival Michigan.
Colorado and Michigan State were teams which were fairly equal on paper, and the Buffs needed the win if Colorado’s first winning season since 1978 was to become a reality.
Senior quarterback Steve Vogel did pass for 344 yards and three touchdowns. Sophomore tight end Ed Reinhardt was Vogel’s favorite target, snagging a Colorado record ten catches for 142 yards and two scores. These numbers would have been more impressive, however, had they not come – for the most part – after the Buffs had fallen behind 24-0 early in the third quarter.
The game, and the season, could not have begun more ominously. After the Buffs’ first drive stalled, punter Allan Braun fumbled the snap. Michigan State recovered. The net result? Michigan State’s first drive of the season: three plays, three yards, one-yard touchdown run.
Colorado was down 7-0 less than four minutes into the game.
Still, it was a game until just before halftime. The Buffs trailed Michigan State 10-0 when Spartan quarterback Dave Yarema hit wide receiver Bobby Ingram with a 35-yard touchdown pass with only 1:15 left in the second quarter. After receiving the second half kickoff, it took Michigan State just 2:40 on the clock to travel 80 yards, culminated by a 56-yard touchdown pass.
Colorado was now down 24-0 with 12:20 still left in the third quarter. Despite the beautiful, 75-degree afternoon, many of the 35,825 in attendance began to leave. They would miss what should have been one of the greatest comebacks in Colorado history.
Emphasis on “should”.
The Buffs did rally for three fourth quarter touchdowns. Unfortunately, on those occasions when the offense could not reach the end zone, the kicking game failed to come through. On the day, kicker Larry Eckel would miss all four of his field goal attempts, including two attempts in the fourth quarter.
When Vogel hit wide receiver Ron Brown on for an eight-yard touchdown with 1:33 left in the game, the Buffs were within three, 24-21, . The touchdown appeared to be more than just a consolation score when the Spartans fumbled the ball at their own 21-yard line with 1:10 still to play. The chance for the Buffs, once down 24-0, to salvage a tie, seemed like a more than acceptable solution for the Buff Nation.
Larry Eckel had one last attempt at redemption. His final try, with just 22 seconds remaining, sailed wide, sending with it Colorado to a frustrating 0-1 record.
After the game, Bill McCartney said: “We will continue to evaluate our kicking situation.”
Though not known at the time, Larry Eckel had made his last attempts as a Colorado kicker for 1984. Sophomore Dave DeLine would soon take over the kicking chores for the rest of the season.
Looking back, I can say now that it was perhaps just as well that the University of Colorado football team faired poorly in 1984. With all of the studying which was mandated by my law school professors and my peers, if the Buffs had been any good, I would have felt compelled to pay more attention to road games. As it was, it took great effort on my part just to make it to home games.
If you have ever known anyone while they were in law school, you know that they virtually disappear from the social scene during their first year. Law school is a job which requires your full attention – twelve hours a day, seven days a week, for four months at a time. First year law school students at CU are not allowed to have an outside job during the school year. What’s worse, there is no let up, no time to regroup. There are no homework assignments to turn in during the semester; no mid-terms or papers. While these events would have been traumatic, they would allow for at least an occasional weekend of peace upon completion. Instead, law students’ entire semester grade in any given class depends solely on one four hour exam during finals week in December.
This completely insane system leaves first year students in a difficult position. There is no feed back as to whether they are truly comprehending the material as it is force-fed to them, and – just as importantly to many – there is no feedback as to where they stand in the class. This system therefore virtually requires that from the first day of class until the last final, you can – make that you should – be studying. Go see a movie? No time. The time it would take to go see a movie represented a luxury most of us felt we could not afford. Too much time away from the library. Time was at a premium, and, if you were wasting time, you could feel certain that your classmates were not.
Going to a football game, then, necessitated great sacrifice during the week leading up to the game. Extra hours in the library (as if that were possible) were required. Getting up earlier and staying later. In order to rationalize taking off an entire afternoon, I would promise myself that I would work harder before and after the game.
Colorado football in 1984 to me represented an outlet to the real world, and I still made it to every game.
Too bad the Buffs weren’t much worth watching.
Game Notes -
- Steve Vogel’s numbers against Michigan State – 25 completions on 47 attempts – were both season highs for Colorado.
- Ed Reinhardt’s ten receptions set a team new record, besting the nine receptions Monte Huber had against California in 1968. The record would stand until 1992, when both Michael Westbrook (against Baylor) and Charles E. Johnson (against Missouri) had 11 catches apiece.
- Michigan State would go on to post a winning regular season in the second year under head coach George Perles. The Spartans concluded 1984 with a 6-6 record after losing, 10-6, to Army in the Cherry Bowl.