Fresno State – Christmas Day Aloha Bowl shootout win

// Dec 25 - 1993

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December 25th – @ Aloha Bowl, Honolulu, Hawaii          #17 Colorado 41, #25 Fresno State 30

While the Buffs found no snow on the ground on Christmas Day, 1993, they did find presents there.

Colorado’s defense forced four Fresno State fumbles, converting all four turnovers into points as the Buffs ran away from the Bulldogs, 41-30, to win the 12th-annual Aloha Bowl. Sophomore tailback Rashaan Salaam rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Buffs’ offense, while the depleted Colorado secondary withstood 523 yards passing by Fresno State’s Trent Dilfer. “It’s sweet,” said head coach Bill McCartney. “It’s what we wanted to accomplish when we redesigned our goals after losing to Nebraska. We wanted to close the season with three straight wins, go to a bowl, and bring back a trophy.”

At the outset, it looked like the Buffaloes from the Big Eight were interested in finishing off the Bulldogs early in order to get to the beach by early afternoon (kickoff was at 10:45 a.m., local time). On the Buffs’ first possession (after Chris Hudson had stripped Dilfer of the ball on the game’s opening drive), Stewart directed the Buffs on an eight-play, 53-yard drive culminated in a Salaam two-yard run. Later, after a second Fresno State fumble, the Buffs pounded the Bulldogs on an 88-yard drive capped by a James Hill seven-yard run. With Hill’s score, the Buffs’ lead was 17-0.

Before the half ended, though, Fresno State would gain some much needed momentum. The teams swapped field goals, and with only one second remaining in the half the Colorado lead was 20-3. Rather than risk a long run back, kicker Mitch Berger was instructed to squib-kick the ball down the middle of the field. In the ensuing melee, an attempted lateral was fumbled, finally being recovered by Fresno State flanker Malcolm Seabron. Seabron took the ball and raced through the confused Buff defenders for 68 yards and a touchdown. A comfortable 20-3 lead was now reduced to a 20-10 halftime advantage.

Early in the third quarter, Rashaan Salaam solidified his selection as Offensive MVP of the Aloha Bowl, breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage before racing for a 40-yard touchdown. With the Buffs up 27-10, Fresno State abandoned the rushing game (the Bulldogs would net only three yards rushing on the day), and Dilfer began to put up impressive statistics. While not counted along with regular season stats, Dilfer’s numbers far outdistanced the best efforts of any quarterback to ever face the Buffs. Dilfer’s attempts (63) were more than the record for a Colorado opponent (61), as were his completions (37 to 30) and yardage (523 to 439). Only two of the 63 passes ended up in the endzone, however, as the Bulldogs never got closer than 10 points the remainder of the game.

Both teams scored 14 points in the third quarter, with Colorado’s second touchdown of the quarter coming courtesy of a Fresno State fumble, returned by sophomore safety Donnell Leomiti 28 yards for a touchdown. With the score 34-24, Rashaan Salaam scored for the third time, this time from four yards out, to give the Buffs a 41-24 lead. A consolation touchdown pass from Trent Dilfer (the two point coversion pass failed) late in the game made the score more palatable for Bulldog fans, but the victory belonged to Colorado, 41-30.

Christmas at Home

Colorado was allotted 7,500 tickets for the Aloha Bowl, but sold less than 1,000. Like most of my Buff brethren, I watched the game on television. I probably would not have gone anyway, but with the expense of moving into our new home, along with the anticipated costs of our upcoming July, 1994, wedding, the finances were being directed elsewhere.

Christmas with a new family, in different surroundings, is always difficult. Every family has their own traditions; their own way of celebrating the holidays. Conflicts can easily result as a result of these differences, despite everyone’s best intentions. Christmas, 1993, was my first with Lee and her two teenage children, Heidi and Adam. I would have been nervous enough about making our first Christmas memorable without the added distraction of a Buff bowl game.

But the bowl coalition folks never consulted me about my choice for bowl dates.

With the 1:45 p.m. kickoff, Christmas morning was not affected. The problem was Christmas dinner. My family had always had the Christmas meal around 2:00 p.m. on Christmas Day, and Lee’s history was similar. The problem was that I could not foresee being amiable during dinner while the game was going on, and even I did not presume to be so rude as to have the game on while we were seated for our meal.

My attempt at compromise was to have dinner during halftime. While seen by Lee and her non-football oriented children as acceptable (they, too, wanted to make a good impression), they did not understand the reasoning behind the arrangements.

The turkey, potatoes, and trimmings were all timed for a 3:00 p.m. start. As Mitch Berger’s 49-yard field goal gave the Buffs a comfortable 20-3 lead with only one second left on the clock, I went about my duty of carving the turkey. A few moments later, with the score 20-10 after what can only be described as a fluke touchdown, my mood soured. I tried to get through the meal the best I could, but I was now seething at the last-second Fresno State score.

Looking back, I can only wonder what was going through the mind of Lee and her kids during our first Christmas together. A fair question would have been: “Is every Christmas going to be like this?”

1993 – Post Mortem

The 41-30 win was only the second bowl victory for head coach Bill McCartney in eight attempts. With the win, the Buffs finished 8-3-1 and ranked 16th in the final polls. Amongst Big Eight teams, Colorado finished behind only Nebraska (ranked 3rd), and just ahead of Oklahoma (17th) and Kansas State (20th).

The 1993 season was largely a disappointment, but the Buffs had responded from a 4-3-1 record to win its final four games.

The four game winning streak was just a sign of good things to come in 1994 …

Game Notes -

- Fresno State quarterback Trent Dilfer re-wrote the Colorado bowl record books (kept separate from regular season records). Dilfer set new records for a bowl opponent in attempts (63), completions (37), and yards gained (523). The only records Dilfer didn’t re-write were the records for touchdowns and interceptions.

- Not surprisingly, there were also new receiving records set by Fresno State. Wide receiver David Dunn set new standards for catches (nine) and yards (149), while Tydus Winans became the first Buff opponent to post two receiving touchdowns.

- As a team, Fresno State set new opponent bowl standards for first downs (34), total offensive plays (88), and net yards (526).

- Rashaan Salaam, with his 135 yards and three touchdowns did not set new standards. The three touchdowns did tie Bobby Anderson (v. Alabama, 1969 Liberty) for most rushing touchdowns in a game. The 40-yard touchdown run in the third quarter was the longest in Colorado bowl history, besting the 39-yard touchdown run by Darian Hagan in the 1990 Orange Bowl v. Notre Dame).

- Mitch Berger twice bested his own record for the longest field goal. Berger had a 38-yarder against Syracuse in the 1993 Fiesta Bowl, then followed that up in the Aloha Bowl with a 44-yarder in the first quarter, then a 49-yarder in the second quarter.

- Chris Hudson was the defensive MVP of the Aloha Bowl, posting seven tackles, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries, a quarterback sack and a pass deflection.

- Fresno State came into the Aloha Bowl on a three game winning streak, and winners of five games out of six. The loss left the Bulldogs with an 8-4 overall record.

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