October 13th – Boulder #14 Colorado 28, Iowa State 12
The controversy over the “Fifth Down” game continued to swirl around Boulder during the week after the Missouri game. Playing as if the distraction had affected the team’s preparation for its next opponent (and who is to say it didn’t?), Colorado fell behind Iowa State 9-0 early in the first quarter before rallying to a 28-12 win.
The Buffs utilized three quarterbacks on the afternoon, not pulling away from the Cyclones until the third quarter. Despite the early deficit, the win over Iowa State represented the first game of the 1990 season a Colorado game was not decided in the final minute of play.
Early on, it appeared it would be a long afternoon for Colorado. Iowa State, which had dropped six straight to Colorado, scored on its opening drive. The Cyclones drove 80 yards in eight plays, with quarterback Chris Pederson hitting fullback Sundiata Patterson with a six-yard pass and a 6-0 lead with only 3:26 gone in the first quarter (the extra point was botched). “I can’t explain why they went through us in the opening drive,” said head coach Bill McCartney. “They didn’t do anything we weren’t expecting.”
Matters didn’t improve for the Buffs when, a few moments later, Eric Bieniemy fumbled the ball back to the Cyclones. The Buff defense held, but Iowa State did register a 36-yard field goal for a 9-0 lead with 9:14to play in the opening quarter.
Down by two scores, the Buffs, who were 22-point favorites, got their act together. Quarterback Charles S. Johnson, making his second straight start (the only two of his career), led the Buffs on a ten-play, 84-yard drive, connecting with wingback Michael Simmons from 29 yards out to cut the deficit to 9-7.
Johnson was playing for Darian Hagan, who had suffered a shoulder injury against Missouri. Johnson himself then suffered a thigh injury, and was replaced by true freshman Vance Joseph. Joseph was ineffective, though, and the Cyclones took a 12-7 lead with a 46-yard field goal with 2:19 to play before halftime.
Enter Darian Hagan.
Hagan, who was not expected to play, shrugged off his shoulder sprain to lead the Buffs on a 12-play, 61-yard touchdown drive just before the break. Hagan hit junior tight end Sean Brown from three yards out with six seconds left for a 14-12 halftime advantage.
Buoyed by the return of Hagan, the Buffs dominated the remainder of the contest. The Buffs’ first drive of the second half covered 80 yards in nine plays, with Eric Bieniemy scoring on a one-yard run to boost the lead to 21-12. Mike Pritchard later scored on a 30-yard reverse to give Colorado a 28-12 cushion. Iowa State was held to just 11 yards of total offense in the third, and never threatened the remainder of the game (once even punting once on third down (“I didn’t want to get slam-dunked (for a loss) on third down,” explained Iowa State head coach Jim Walden).
After giving up 80 yards on the game’s opening drive, the Colorado defense limited Iowa State to just 139 yards the remainder of the afternoon. Meanwhile, the Buffs played ball control, holding the ball for 76 plays (to 58 for Iowa State), and gaining 362 yards on the ground. “We just wore them down,” said Bill McCartney. “Our defense was dominant, and we just took over the game.”
The win had not been stylish, but it was the first double-digit victory for Colorado on the season. The Buffs were now 5-1-1 overall, but more importantly, 2-0 in Big Eight Conference play. If the Buffs could not compete for the national title, they still could repeat as Big Eight Champions and play in the Orange Bowl. When the next poll came out, it was yet another case of “Good news, bad news” for Colorado. The bad news was that the Buffs did not move up in the polls, remaining at No. 14. Two teams above the Buffs had lost, including No. 4 Oklahoma, which fell all the way to No. 16 after a 14-13 loss to Texas, but the pollsters allowed two teams below the Buffs to jump over Colorado, including Washington, which Colorado had beaten a few weeks earlier.
The good news was that, once again, the nation had a new No.1 team.
Michigan, which held the spot for all of one week, lost to Michigan State to fall to 3-2. Virginia, for the first time in school history, assumed the mantle of the top team in the nation. In all, six teams were still receiving votes for No.1, so the chase for the national title was still wide open.
The Buffs could still make a run for the national title, if only the Buffs could put themselves back into the national spotlight ….. and do so without needing a controversy to get there.
Game Notes -
- Befitting the Buffs’ new “black hat” reputation nationally, Colorado wore all black uniforms against Iowa State, the first time the Buffs appeared in all black uniforms since 1988.
- For the seventh straight game in 1990, Colorado’s opponent scored the first points of the game.
- Colorado had 58 rushing attempts and 76 total offensive plays against Iowa State, both season highs.
- Junior tight end Sean Brown made his first catch as a Buff a memorable one. The junior college transfer’s first catch went for only three yards, but it went for a touchdown. Brown would go on to catch seven passes for 86 yards in 1990, including two touchdowns.
- Red-shirt freshman tailback Chuck Snowden had the best game of the season against the Cyclones, carrying the ball five times for 74 yards. In spot duty in 1990, Snowden had a total of 18 attempts for 121 yards.
- Wingback Michael Simmons had his most productive game of his senior season against Iowa State, catching two passes for 44 yards, including a 29-yard touchdown catch. Before moving to wingback, Simmons played two seasons at running back, carrying the ball 87 times for 472 yards and five touchdowns.
- The Colorado defense posted a season-best seven sacks against Iowa State, with senior defensive tackle Garry Howe getting credited with 1.5 sacks. Howe finished the 1990 season with 96 tackles, third best on the team (32 more tackles than fellow defensive lineman Joel Steed, who was named first-team All-Big Eight). Steed, who had one sack against Iowa State, had 7.5 sacks in 1990.
- Iowa State, 2-2-1 coming into the game against Colorado, would go on to upset Oklahoma, 33-31, the following week, but could not sustain the momentum. The Cyclones ended the season with a 4-6-1 record, 2-4-1 in Big Eight play.