September 13th – at Oregon Oregon 32, Colorado 30
Holding a lead of 30-23 with 3:22 left in the game, the Buffs seemed to be comfortably in control of the game against the Oregon Ducks. Quarterback Mark Hatcher had just scored his second touchdown of the day on a 55-yard run to put the Buffs back on top, and all the Colorado defense had to do was hold Oregon one last time.
With under a minute to play, the score remained 30-23.
Forty four seconds and nine Oregon points later, though, Colorado was 0-2.
After the Colorado score with just over three minutes to play in the game, Oregon marched quickly down the field, scoring on Derek Loville’s one-yard run. Oregon Coach Rich Brooks, opting to play for the win rather than the tie, went for a two-point conversion. The bold move seemingly backfired on the Ducks, though, as quarterback Chris Miller’s pass fell incomplete.
Now, with less than a minute to play and down 30-29, Oregon had no choice but to go for an onside kick.
Everyone of the 26,155 in attendance in Eugene knew it was coming, including the Buffs. Still, Oregon recovered the onside kick, as Duck kicker Kirk Dennis shot a low, hard kick off of linebacker Don DeLuzio and into the waiting arms of Tim Cooper.
Still, all was not lost.
In fact, the odds still favored a Buffs’ win. Colorado would post its first win of the 1986 season if could hold Oregon for just a few more seconds. The Buffs’ defense, though, allowed the Ducks to get within range. Five plays after recovering the onside kick, Oregon kicker Matt MacLeod to put through a 35-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.
The loss – at best – disheartening. At worst? Devastating.
The Colorado offense had shown it could hold on to the football long enough to score, running the ball 58 times for 368 yards and four touchdowns. The Buffs had leads of 10-0 and 17-7 in the first half. Mark Hatcher put up two of the Buffs’ scores, garnering Big Eight Offensive Player of the Week honors for his 173 yard rushing on 17 attempts, coupled with a more modest 18 yards passing (completing two-of-five passes).
This time, it was the defense which came up short in its effort.
Oregon was successful by land and air, putting together 153 yards and three touchdowns rushing, to go with 262 yards of passing. Oregon quarterback Chris Miller had a big day, completing 28-of-42 passes, but it was running back Derek Loville, who had never before carried the football in a college game, who stole the show. Loville ran for 88 yards on 17 carries, including three touchdown runs.
Colorado cornerback David Tate summed up the attitude of the Buffs’ locker room after the game: “I thought the game was over. I thought we had won. I didn’t even realize what had happened.”
Neither could Coach McCartney, who lamented, “All we had to do was fall on the kick…”.
Words Cannot Describe …
Colorado fans were in a state of shock.
Buff fans were used to having a losing record, and were used to losing in unusual ways. But that was the old Colorado team. The old Colorado team would suffer six turnovers and lose to a lesser opponent. The old Colorado team would surrender two scores in the final minute to lose. The new and improved Buffs, fresh off of a seven-win season, were supposed to be the team forcing the opposition to turn the ball over. The Buffs were supposed to be the team finding ways to win the close games.
The Buffs, though, had seemingly returned to their old, losing ways in only two short weeks.
To make matters worse, Colorado State and Oregon were supposed to be the easier two non-conference games, with games against Ohio State on the road and against top ten Arizona up next. If the Buffs couldn’t beat the CSU’s and the Oregon’s of the football world, what chance would they have against the football powers?
Prior to the Oregon contest, Colorado head coach Bill McCartney was quoted as saying: “It would be difficult to go 0-2, and take on the likes of the opponents coming in. We can ill-afford to stub our toe again.”
After the Oregon heartbreak, McCartney stated, “I’m going to have to die to get better.”
Game Notes –
– The loss to the Ducks left Colorado with a 6-5 all-time edge in the series with Oregon.
– For the second game in a row, the Buffs lost four fumbles in a game. Also for the second game in a row, the time of possession heavily favored the Buffs’ opponent (33:48 to 26:12, after a 34:43 to 25:17 against Colorado State).
– Three Buff defenders had over 20 tackles in the Oregon game, led by linebacker Don DeLuzio, with 24. Fellow linebacker Barry Remington contributed 20 tackles, as did cornerback Solomon Wilcots.
– Oregon ran its 1986 record to 2-0 with the win over Colorado, but could not sustain the momentum. Oregon would go on to lose its next six games, before rebounding to win its final three to finish with a 5-6 record.