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No. 12 Oklahoma State – Defense gives Buffs a chance

// Nov 2 - 1985

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November 2nd – Boulder           No. 12 Oklahoma State 14, Colorado 11

Colorado continued to accumulate believers, if not wins, in falling short in a 14-11 loss to 12th-ranked Oklahoma State in Boulder.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Buffs scored first on a 29-yard field goal by Larry Eckel to take a 3-0 lead. Oklahoma State, though, came back to take a 7-3 halftime lead on a one-yard plunge by running back Thurman Thomas. The play was controversial as replays showed Thomas failed to break the plane of the goal line.

Thomas then tried to break the Buffs’ spirit with a 60-yard touchdown run just three plays into the second half. With the Cowboys up 14-3, Colorado could have folded. Instead, quarterback Craig Keenan, the Buffs’ third starting signal caller in three games, scored on a two yard run in the fourth quarter. A two point conversion pulled Colorado within 14-11, but the Buffs would come no closer.

The Buffs did get the ball back for one last drive, taking over at their own 20-yard line with 1:11 to play. Memories of the last minute, game-winning touchdown drive against Oklahoma State in 1981 came to mind, but the Buffs only made it as far as their own 41-yard line, with a fourth-down pass by Craig Keenan falling incomplete to end the Buffs’ hopes.

Colorado had held Oklahoma State to 264 yards of total offense, but had managed only 258 yards itself. Sandwiched between a first quarter score against Nebraska and a fourth quarter score against Oklahoma State were six quarters wherein the Buffs’ offense managed only three points. While the Colorado wishbone offense was receiving all of the headlines, it was becoming more and more apparent that the rise of the Buffs in 1985 was coming on the back of a vastly improved defense. After giving up 36 points against Ohio State, Colorado’s defense had not allowed any other opponent more than 17 points.

While the defense wasn’t getting much help from the offense, it was aided by All-American punter Barry Helton. The sophomore punter, who would average a nation’s best 43.6 yards per punt in 1985, had five punts against Oklahoma State, going for an average of 52.2 yards per punt. Included in that total was a 51-yard left-footed punt, a punt the right-footed kicker improvised after a bad snap from center.

The offense hoped to receive a spark the following week against Kansas, when former starter Mark Hatcher, who played sparingly against Oklahoma State, would return from injury. Perhaps, Buff fans hoped, the offense would now do its part, and the Buffs’ first losing streak of the 1985 season would end at two games.

Colorado had started the 1985 campaign with a 5-1 record, but was now 5-3.

If the Buffs were to go bowling for the first time since the 1977 Orange Bowl, they would need to post something other than moral victories.

Game Notes –

– On the day, future Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas had 34 rushing attempts, good for 201 yards and both of the Cowboys’ touchdowns.

– The Buffs had their chances, but Larry Eckel converted only one of four field goal attempts in the three point loss. To be fair to Eckel, after making the 29-yard attempt, Eckel missed from 52, 55, and 54 yards, with all three attempts coming up short.

– Against Oklahoma State, sophomore quarterback Alan Strait became the fourth Colorado quarterback to see action in the 1985 season. Strait was in for only nine plays, however, (missing on his only two pass attempts, rushing three times for 21 yards), before separating his shoulder and missing the remainder of the year.

– Oklahoma State went on to an 8-3 regular season record, 4-3 in Big Eight play. A 34-23 loss to Florida State in the Gator Bowl knocked the Cowboys, who had been ranked 19th coming into the bowl season, out of the final rankings. Oklahoma State boasted three All-American players in 1985 – running back Thurman Thomas, defensive lineman Leslie O’Neal, and defensive back Mark Moore.

One Response to “No. 12 Oklahoma State – Defense gives Buffs a chance”

  1. Adam

    Game played on a fairly miserable looking day if I remember correctly (gray, overcast skies). Single-best play of the game was Barry Helton’s left-footed punt. If my memory is correctly, Buffs were punting from fairly deep in our own end of the field and snap was very high. Helton jumped up to try to catch it, but was only able to deflect it and it bounded over his head towards the end zone. He ran back, picked it up and with OSU players closing in on him, started to his right, juked back to his left and cranked out a 50-plus yard punt with his left foot. Great play.

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