September 26th – Boulder Colorado 26, Washington State 17
Another day, another game, another Buff making an impression.
This time it was sophomore quarterback Sal Aunese, subbing for injured starter Mark Hatcher, who made a splash. Aunese did not start, but played a significant role in leading Colorado to a 26-17 win over Washington State. Aunese carried the ball 22 times for 185 yards and one touchdown. Aunese also completed one of his three passes, a thirty-yarder to Eric Bieniemy.
Washington State, led by first-year coach Dennis Erickson, were 2-1 coming into the game, having beaten Fresno State and Wyoming before falling to Michigan. Erickson brought in a Cougar squad which had finished 3-7-1 in 1986.
In all, the Buffs accumulated a season high 425 yards on the ground against the Cougars. Still, the Buffs led only 19-17 after Washington State quarterback Timm Rosenbach connected on a 16-yard scoring pass to tight end Chris Leighton with 11:17 to play. After J.J. Flannigan bobbled a Sal Aunese pitch, fumbling at the Colorado 25, the Buffs were in a position to lose. The Colorado defense rose to the occasion, though, forcing a field goal attempt. The kicked sailed wide, and the Buffs retained the lead.
The game was not over, however. The Buffs were still up by only two points, and plenty of time remained.
Aunese drove the Buffs to the Cougars’ 15-yard line. Halted on downs, McCartney sent in freshman kicker Eric Hannah. Sophomore kicker Ken Culbertson, who had come into the game one-for-six on field goal attempts on the season, had made two kicks earlier in the game, but had missed a 48-yard attempt as well as an extra point. Hannah, though, fared no better than Culbertson, missing a 32-yard field goal attempt.
The Cougars had new life with 1:52 remaining in the game, and visions of the 1981 10-14 “come-from-ahead” loss to this same Washington State squad began to surface. Instead, the Buffs’ defense forced Rosenbach into four straight incompletions. A 22-yard touchdown run by Sal Aunese two plays later sealed the Buffs second win of the year.
For the Buffs, senior safety Mickey Pruitt intercepted two passes, returning one 18 yards for a touchdown in the second quarter to give the Buffs the lead for good, 13-7. For his efforts, which also included 17 tackles (12 solo), three pass deflections, two tackles for loss, and a sack, Pruitt was named by Sports Illustrated as its Defensive Player of the Week.
Game Notes -
- Senior Rick Wheeler received his final start at quarterback for the Buffs against the Cougars, but was ineffective, missing both of his pass attempts, while rushing for 27 yards on five carries before being replaced by Sal Aunese.
- The 185 yards rushing would be a career high for Aunese, who would post only one other 100-yard game (127 yards against Iowa State later in 1987) in his career. Aunese would go on to lead the Buffs in rushing in 1987, posting 612 yards on 122 carries (and six touchdowns).
- The Buffs would use three kickers over the course of the 1987 season, starting with sophomore Ken Culbertson, moving on in the Washington State game to red-shirt freshman Eric Hannah, then to senior Dave DeLine later in the season.
- The win gave Colorado a 2-1 all-time lead in the series with Washington State, with the other victory coming in 1982 – the first victory ever for CU head coach Bill McCartney.
- 1987 was the first season for Washington State under Dennis Erickson. The Cougars went 3-7-1 in the final season under Jim Walden, and in 1987, the Cougars under Dennis Erickson went … 3-7-1. Erickson turned things around in 1988, though, leading Washington State to a 9-3 record before moving on to coach the Miami Hurricanes in 1989.