September 9th – Boulder #9 Colorado 45, Colorado State 20
The Colorado State Rams were 1-10 in 1988, and were 0-1 coming to Boulder to face the ninth-ranked Buffs. Still, Colorado State’s opening loss was a 17-14 heartbreaker at Tennessee, and nothing was being conceded by the Rams’ to their neighbors to the south. Colorado State, under new head coach Earle Bruce, raced out to a 14-7 first quarter lead against the heavily-favored Buffs.
It would take an offensive explosion on the part of the Buffs in the second and third quarters to finally pull away from the Rams, winning 45-20.
With only a 71-yard touchdown run by Darian Hagan keeping Colorado in the game early on, the Buffs were forced to turn up the intensity. Two long Colorado State touchdowns, a 59-yard run (on the game’s first play from scrimmage) and a 55-yard pass, put the Rams up 14-7 after the first quarter. Ten seconds into the second quarter, though, the score was tied, as Eric Bieniemy posted a long touchdown run of his own, scoring from 44 yards out.
Trailing 17-14 midway through the second quarter, Colorado went on to score on four straight possessions to take control. Ken Culbertson tied the score at 17-all with a 32-yard field goal, and tailback Eric Bieniemy scored from six yards out 20 seconds before halftime to put Colorado ahead to stay, 24-17, at halftime.
Two third quarter scoring runs, a 14-yarder by J.J. Flannigan, and a four-yarder by Charles S. Johnson, gave the Buffs a 38-20 lead after three, finally allowing the 44,921 on hand in Folsom Field cause to relax. Bieniemy’s third touchdown run of the game, from nine yards out midway through the fourth quarter, closed out the scoring in a 45-20 victory.
Eric Bieniemy led the way with 156 yards rushing and three touchdowns to lead all rushers. Darian Hagan contributed 103 yards on 14 carries.
The game turned on big plays. In all, there were ten plays covering 30 yards or more, seven by the Buffs. The Colorado kick return team also contributed, returning four kicks for 169 yards (a 42.2 yard average), including a 77-yarder by Mike Pritchard. The Buffs’ defense did surrender 444 yards of total offense, but made the plays when necessary in the second half.
The Colorado Buffaloes were now 2-0 on the young season. The victory allowed Colorado to move up one spot in the polls, climbing to No. 8 in the nation (and No. 6 in the coaches’ poll).
Coming back to defeat Colorado State after a sloppy start was one thing; taking on a top ten team was another. Colorado’s next opponent was Illinois, led by all-everything quarterback Jeff George. The Illini had risen to #10 in the polls thanks to a season-opening 14-13 upset win over USC. Illinois also had the benefit of a week’s rest, having been idle while the Buffs played the Rams. A national CBS audience would witness the clash between two top ten teams. No, it was not the #1 v. #2 battle which was taking place between Notre Dame and Michigan that same afternoon, and the ratings would not be as high as they would be for ABC.
Still, it was a huge game for the two teams who would be squaring off at Folsom Field.
1989 marked the 100th anniversary of Colorado football. In their first 99 seasons, the Buffs had played 880 games, winning 510 of them. Five Buff teams had finished their seasons undefeated, but none since 1923. In the Colorado’s first 99 campaigns, the Buffs had been ranked in the top ten during eight different seasons, never higher than 2nd (preseason, 1972). The 100th edition of the Buffs were now 2-0, just like they had been in 1985 and 1988. This time, though, the 2-0 record was different. This time the Buffs had the attention of the nation.
A win against another top ten team would solidify the Colorado program amongst the elite of the 1989 college football world.
An undefeated season in the school’s 100th season? It seemed a perfect match.
Game Notes -
- It took awhile, but in the end, the Buffs did rack up 505 yards of total offense in the 45-20 victory over Colorado State. The Buffs posted 452 yards on the ground; only 53 through the air. On day, Colorado completed only four-of-seven passes. Conversely, the 20 pass attempts by the Rams on the afternoon represented the fewest pass attempts by any Colorado opponent in 1989.
- The win gave the Buffs five wins in six tries against the Rams since the rivalry between the schools was renewed in 1983. Overall, Colorado boosted its edge in the series to 48-15-2 (26-8-1 in games played in Boulder).
- Eric Bieniemy’s 23 carries, 156 yards, and three touchdowns were all season highs.
- Darian Hagan, just after posting the longest non-scoring run of the season (75 yards against Texas), put up the longest scoring touchdown run of 1989, going 71 yards in the first quarter. Hagan’s 103 rushing yards overall meant that Colorado had two 100-yard rushers for the first time in 1989, after pulling off the feat three times in 1988.
- Senior wide receiver Jeff Campbell had two of the four receptions by the Buff receiving corps, going for 28 yards. Campbell did have one rushing attempt, though, which went for 66 yards, marking the second time in five days in which a Buff runner had gone for over 65 yards on a single rushing attempt – and failed to score.
- The Colorado defense had three interceptions against Colorado State, with senior linebacker Michael Jones, junior safety Tim James, and junior cornerback Dave McCloughan all registering picks. Jones also led the team in tackles, with 13 overall (11 unassisted). Linebacker Alfred Williams, despite not having an interception and posting few tackles than Jones, was nonetheless named Big Eight Defensive Player-of-the-Week for the second week in succession after recording eight tackles (seven solo).
- Colorado’s overall record in the first 99 seasons of play, 510-338-32, was good enough to place the Buffs in the top twenty nationally in both wins and winning percentage (.598).
- Colorado State, in its first season under Earle Bruce, would rebound from a 1-10 1988 season (and an 0-2 start to the 1989 season) to post an overall record in 1989 of 5-5–1. In his second season in Ft. Collins, Bruce would go 9-4, including a Freedom Bowl victory over Oregon. The Buffs and the Rams, though, would not meet again on the field until 1992.