November 9th – @ Oklahoma State No. 14 Colorado 16, Oklahoma State 12
The Oklahoma State Cowboys entered their 1991 game against Colorado with an 0-7-1 overall record, having managed only a 6-6 tie against equally hapless Iowa State. There was little for the Cowboys to play for in November other than pride.
The Colorado Buffaloes, meanwhile, still had the chance at a third straight Big Eight title.
It would be fair to expect, then, for the Buffs to roll to a blowout win over the Cowboys.
Senior wide receiver Robbie James made a name for himself with only six seconds remaining against Oklahoma State. With Colorado trailing 12-10, James connected with tight end Christian Fauria on a 20-yard pass off of a fake field goal attempt to give the Buffs a 16-12 victory. The unlikely outcome, while not pretty, kept the hopes of an Orange Bowl birth alive for Colorado.
The game featured ten turnovers, including six by Colorado. After battling to a 3-3 halftime tie, the Buffs took the lead for the first time with 5:06 left in the third quarter when Darian Hagan passed to senior tight end Rico Smith for a ten-yard score. Early in the fourth quarter, the Cowboys tied the score on a touchdown pass from quarterback Kenny Ford to Robert Kirksey.
Then things really got interesting.
On Colorado’s next drive, cornerback Mike Clark blocked a Mitch Berger punt out of the endzone. Just like that, in less than two minutes of play, the 14th-ranked Buffs had gone from a 10-7 lead to a 12-10 deficit. The Buffs had several opportunities to score during the fourth quarter, but failed to get close enough for a field goal attempt. After Mitch Berger pinned the Cowboys at their own ten-yard line late in the game, the Colorado defense forced a three-and-out, with Colorado taking over at the Oklahoma State 43-yard line with 1:49 to play.
In the ensuing ten-play, 30-yard drive, the 25,000 Cowboy faithful in attendance witnessed great football drama. Colorado quarterback Darian Hagan left the game with a sprained ankle on the drive’s third play. With the game – and the Buffs’ New Year’s Day hopes – on the line, substitute Vance Joseph connected with James Hill for a 17-yard gain on fourth-and-14. Later, on third-and-ten, Joseph picked up ten yards and a first down on a quarterback draw.
Positioned for a game-winning field goal with six seconds remaining, Oklahoma State twice called time out to ice field goal kicker Jim Harper. Rather than setting the ball down for Harper, James spun away from the kicker, finding a wide open Fauria at the OSU ten-yard line. Fauria scored the winning points just a time expired, giving the Buffs a hard-fought 16-12 win.
The win kept the Buffs chances of a return to the Orange Bowl alive, but just barely. The near miss against a winless cost the Buffs two spots in the next poll, with Colorado dropping to 16th. Nebraska, with a 59-23 rout of Kansas, kept its #11 ranking. With two games remaining, it was now highly unlikely Colorado would overtake Nebraska in the polls. If the Buffs were to return to Miami for the third consecutive year, the Cornhuskers would have to lose, at home, to either Iowa State or Oklahoma.
Meanwhile, if the Buffs continued to play as they had against Oklahoma State, they would play themselves out of the Orange Bowl race altogether.
Video highlights of the game:
- Robbie James, who connected with Christian Fauria for the game-winning touchdown, had only two catches, for 21 yards, in his Colorado career.
- Junior cornerback Deon Figures had two interceptions on the 1991 season – both against Oklahoma State.
- Quarterback Darian Hagan had only six interceptions in all of 1991 – three against Oklahoma State. Overall, the Buffs had a season-high six turnovers.
- Sophomore running back James Hill led the Buffs in defensive struggle with 57 yards on ten rushes. Included in that total was a 37-yard run, the longest non-scoring run by a Buff in 1991. Hill finished the season third on the team in rushing, with 362 yards, behind Lamont Warren (830 yards) and Darian Hagan (386 yards).
- The Buffs’ defense held the Cowboys to a season-best 232 yards. The total was not close to the Buffs’ best in the series, however, as in 1971, Colorado held Oklahoma State to 124 yards (a 40-6 Colorado victory).
- Sophomore linebacker Ronnie Woolfork led the Colorado defense against Oklahoma State with 12 tackles (nine unassisted). Woolfork also had two sacks against the Cowboys. On the season, who was voted second-team All-Big Eight by the coaches, led the Buffs with 13 sacks.
- Oklahoma State lost its final two games of the season, concluding 1991 with a record of 0-10-1. The 1991 record represented the first season without a victory since the 1920 team went 0-7-1.