EZ Mortgages

Missouri – John Nairn saves the day

// Oct 11 - 1986

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 October 11th – at Missouri          Colorado 17, Missouri 12

The bye week between the non-conference slate and the commencement of Big Eight play could not have come at a better time for the Colorado Buffs.  The Buffs were reeling at 0-4, though they could easily have been 3-1.  “It (the bye week) gives us a chance to regroup and get a new perspective on the season”, said Coach Bill McCartney, “I think we need to regroup emotionally as much as anything.”

Whatever the coaching staff devised to rejuvenate the team, it worked.

Playing more like the 1985 team which had won seven games, the offense and defense came off of the Buffs’ week off to play well during the same game for the first time all season.  Mark Hatcher and O.C. Oliver both scored in the second quarter with runs of 27 and five yards, respectively, to give Colorado all of the points it would need in a 17-12 victory.

Oliver’s touchdown run was set up by a trick play.  On fourth-and-one at the Buffs’ own 29 yard line, punter Barry Helton threw a pass to safety Mickey Pruitt for a 17-yard gain.  “You gotta take chances when you’re 0-4”, said McCartney of the fake punt, “That was a big play.”

The Buffs were up 14-6 at half, but the lead would have been 14-3 if not for a Big Eight record 62-yard field goal by Tiger kicker Tom Whelihan (a kick aided by a 15 mph tailwind).

Still, Colorado’s offense against Missouri was again its own worst enemy.  Amassing a season high 391 total yards, the Buffs could have (and should have) scored more, but four turnovers halted Colorado drives.

The defense, stingy all day, proved up to the task late in the game.  Colorado’s defensive unit, given a lead to protect in the fourth quarter for the third time in five games, for once held on.

Allowing only 65 rushing yards all day, the defense did allow the Tigers to pull within five points with nine minutes left.  Time still remained for another Colorado lapse.  With its final drive, Missouri drove to the Colorado 49-yard line.  All appearances were that the Buffs were to come up short once more.

That, however, was before junior linebacker John Nairn picked off a pass by Missouri quarterback Jeff Henningsen.  The interception secured Colorado’s first win of the year.  “There was no way it was going to happen again,” said Nairn.  “We worked on it all week.  We designated a special period at each practice to work on stopping drives at the end.”

Colorado was now 1-4 on the season, but to coach McCartney and the Buffs, all that mattered was that the Buffs were 1-0 in Big Eight conference play.

 

Game Notes:

– In the Missouri game, freshman Jeff Campbell returned nine Tiger punts for 112 yards.  The nine returns broke a school and conference record of eight set by Byron “Whizzer” White in a game against Colorado School of Mines on October 30, 1937.  When told of his record – since passed – Campbell showed he was a freshman in more than one sense.  Asked if he knew who White, then a Supreme Court Justice, was, Campbell replied, “Sure, they named a hamburger stand after him in Boulder.”

– Colorado had four turnovers against Missouri, the fourth game in five outings in which the Buffs had at least four turnovers.

– Prior to Tom Whelihan’s Big Eight record 62-yard field goal, the longest successful attempt against the Buffs had been 60 yards, by Dave Lawson of Air Force in 1974 (the last time Colorado played the Air Force Academy between 1974 and 2020). The longest field goal by a Buff was a 57-yarder by Fred Lima in 1972 (a record which would be tied just two weeks after the Missouri game).

– With regular starter Barry Remington unable to start due to vision problems, sophomore linebacker Jim Quackenbush received his first career start against Missouri. Remington did play, however, registering eight tackles against the Tigers.

– Missouri came into the game against Colorado with a 1-3 record, having won its opener against Utah State before falling to Texas, Indiana, and Syracuse. Missouri, under second-year head coach Woody Widenhofer, would go on to post two Big Eight victories (against the Kansas schools) to finish the 1986 season with a 3-8 record.

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