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No. 1 Oklahoma – Buffs garner national respect

// Oct 24 - 1987

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October 24th – at Oklahoma           No. 1 Oklahoma 24, Colorado 6

Coming into the 1987 game against Colorado, the Oklahoma Sooners were on a roll.

In the four games leading up to the Colorado contest, Oklahoma had blasted Tulsa, Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas State by scores of 65-0, 56-3, 44-9, and 59-10. For the year, the 6-0 Sooners were dominating their opponents by an average score of 48-6. In Big Eight play, the Sooners had amassed 20 consecutive wins over three seasons.

This did not bode well for a Colorado squad which had been shut out by the Sooners the previous two years.

Playing at night (the first-ever night game for Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium), in front of a national ESPN television audience, the Buffs garnered national respect in battling Oklahoma for 60 minutes. Down 10-0 in the first quarter, it appeared that Colorado would simply be victim No. 7 on the Sooners roll to the Orange Bowl and the National Championship.

Then came the second quarter.

Colorado not only did not fold, they put a real scare into the home crowd of 75,004.

Twice in the second quarter, the Buffs drove deep into Sooner territory. Twice, however, Colorado could only come away with field goals, a 20-yarder and a 32-yarder by Eric Hannah. Still, the halftime score of 10-6 was disquieting for the No. 1-ranked Sooners.

For the game, the Buffs were able to muster only 213 yards of total offense against the Sooners top-ranked defense. Both teams stayed on the ground, as the two offenses combined to put the ball in the air only 18 times. On the ground, though, the Sooners were much more successful, rumbling for 358 yards and three scores.

The back-breaker for the Buffs came only 22 seconds into the second half. A good kickoff return by Anthony Stafford, two Buff penalties, and two plays put the Sooners ahead 17-6.

From there, the defenses took over, with the Sooners earning a 24-6 final score after a one yard touchdown run by Anthony Collins late in the fourth quarter.

With the loss, Colorado fell to 1-2 in the Big Eight, 4-3 overall. For the Buffs to return to the bowl picture for the third straight year, the Buffs would need to regroup in a big hurry.

Here is a YouTube video with highlights from the game, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:

 

“They’re No. 1”

 In Colorado’s football history, the Buffs have gone up against the No. 1-ranked team in the nation a number of times, with the 1987 Oklahoma contest being the ninth in school history. The Buffs’ cumulative record after the loss to Oklahoma in 1987? 0-9.

This is not to say that the Buffs have not come close.

In 1957, Colorado faced the Sooner machine of the 1950’s coached by Bud Wilkinson. Oklahoma came out on top in Norman that day, 14-13, but the Buffs’ effort was sufficiently impressive to knock Oklahoma from the No. 1 ranking. History repeated itself in 1975, when the Buffs returned to Norman, hanging tough before falling, 21-20. Once again, the one point win cost the Sooners the No. 1 spot in the national rankings.

The 14-point loss to the Sooners did not move Oklahoma out of the top ranking in 1987. But it did serve notice that the Buffs were coming of age.

Said Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, now 14-1 against Colorado teams, “It’s evident Colorado is a very good football team. I came away feeling they have more speed and quickness than I have seen on a Colorado team in recent years.”

The emergence of Colorado – and the fall of Oklahoma – though, were still a few years away.

 

Game Notes –

– Oklahoma fumbled nine times against Colorado, but the Buffs could not take advantage, recovering only three of the Sooners’ miscues.

– The Sooners amassed 412 yards of total offense, but that figure was still over 100 yards below Oklahoma’s season average.

– Sooner tight end Keith Jackson, who would go on to be named a consensus All-American in 1987, was held to one catch (for 12 yards) by the Buffs. Linebacker Brian Bosworth, who would go win the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker, did not register enough tackles in the Colorado game to be listed among the top five tacklers for the Sooners.

– Oklahoma would be the No. 1 ranked team all season, until a late season victory over Missouri actually bumped the Sooners to No. 2. On November 7th, while 2nd-ranked Nebraska was idle, the Sooners defeated the Tigers, 17-13. The win was not impressive enough for the voters, however, as Nebraska supplanted Oklahoma as the nation’s No. 1 team the following week. The top ranking lasted all of one week for the Cornhuskers, however, as No. 2 Oklahoma took out No. 1 Nebraska, 17-7, to regain the top spot. An undefeated Oklahoma team went on to face another undefeated team, Miami, in the Orange Bowl, with the Hurricanes prevailing, 20-14. The 11-1 Sooners had to settle for a No. 3 final ranking (behind Miami and Florida State, which took out Nebraska, 31-28, in the Fiesta Bowl).

– Colorado would not play the No. 1 team in the nation again for 16 seasons. In 2003, the Buffs faced No. 1 Oklahoma (who else?) falling 34-20 in Boulder.

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