September 18th – @ Stanford #20 Stanford 41, #7 Colorado 37
Led by senior quarterback Steve Stenstrom, the Stanford Cardinal rallied for 10 points in the last four minutes of the game to snatch a 41-37 win over a shocked Colorado Buffalo squad.
With eight seconds remaining, and Stanford facing a third-and-goal from the Buffs’ five yard line, the game came down to one play.
Stenstrom, who would post 382 yards and five touchdowns passing on the evening, hit Tony Cline in the back of the endzone. As Cline came down with the ball, he was clocked by Colorado senior safety Dwayne Davis. The football came loose, but Cline was credited with a touchdown nonetheless.
After the game, outside linebacker Ron Woolfork was adamant: “(Cline) clearly didn’t have possession of it.” For his part, Davis was too pre-occupied with the hit to notice: “I just ran, gritted my teeth, closed my eyes and tried to make everything on his body come out.” Coloardo head coach Bill McCartney was diplomatic in defeat. “I couldn’t see it,” said McCartney of the game’s final play. “One official told me he questioned it, but that’s all I know.” (See the video highlights, below, and decide for yourself).
The fact was, however that the game should not have come down to the final play. The offensive statistics from the Stanford game looked as dominant as those of the previous two blow-outs: 551 yards of total offense, including 274 on the ground. For an offense which had only generated one 100-yard rusher in all of 1992, against Stanford the Buffs had two 100-yard efforts (Lamont Warren, 114 yards; Rashaan Salaam, 109 yards). The downfall for the Buffs was the defensive effort. Colorado simply could not defend the pass to the tight end, as Colorado native Justin Armour hauled in 10 passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns for Stanford.
Stanford appeared to be in control early in the game. a seven-yard touchdown run by Ellery Roberts, coupled with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Stenstrom to Armour, gave the Cardinal a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. The Colorado offense responded with a 13-play, 86-yard drive, culminated by a 21-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Rashaan Salaam.
A few minutes later, Stenstrom again hooked up with Armour, this time from seven yards out, to re-take an 11-point lead at 21-10. Just before half, though, Lamont Warren scored on an eight-yard run to cap a frenetic seven-play, 82-yard drive in just 1:53 of playing time.
Colorado took its first lead of the game on the first drive of the second half, with Kordell Stewart scoring on a two-yard run to give Colorado a 24-21 lead. The Buffs’ defense couldn’t hold the lead, though, as Stanford bounced right back with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Stenstrom to Brian Manning. After the extra point was botched, the Cardinal lead stood at 27-24.
From the midway point in the third quarter to early in the fourth, Colorado took control. Two touchdown runs, a one-yarder by Salaam followed by a four yarder by Stewart, gave Colorado a 37-27 lead with 12:41 to play (the second extra point attempt was missed, leaving the Buffs with a ten point advantage).
After surrendering a 48-yard touchdown pass from Stenstrom to tight end Justin Armour, followed by a seven-yard touchdown pass from Stenstrom to Armour, one would have suspected Colorado would have been looking for that combination late. Instead, Stenstrom and Armour connected for a third time, this time from 38 yards out with 3:33 to play, to pull the Cardinal to within three at 37-34, setting up the last minute fireworks which left Colorado with its first loss of the 1993 season.
The loss for the Buffs represented only the third in school history in which the Buffs had posted 35 points or more in a loss (the other two: a 58-35 loss to Air Force in 1968 and the 82-42 humiliation at the hands of Oklahoma Sooners in 1980). A team averaging over 500 yards in total offense and almost 40 points a contest figured to be 3-0. Colorado, though, had little time to lick their wounds.
Third-ranked Miami was up next.
Kickoff for the Stanford contest was 8:45 p.m. MST. For the second time in three weeks, Colorado was featured on ESPN. The good news was the continued national exposure, but the bad news was that much of the nation would not see the game. The late start, combined with the 78 total points scored, meant that the anxious moments at the end of the game were aired after2:00 a.m. on the east coast.
All things considered, perhaps that was for the best. The Buffs fell to 13th in the polls, but may have fallen farther had any of the pollsters actually watched the game.
For me, the game was a silent vigil in front of the television. No calls to Brad were necessary, as I was able to watch the drama unfold before my eyes. Lee watched some of the game with me, but went downstairs to bed before halftime. With the game going on into the wee hours, I couldn’t make much noise for fear of waking Lee. So there I sat, in silence, as the ten-point lead became a four-point defeat. At the end of the game, after a Hail Mary pass by the Buffs fell harmlessly to the turf, there was little to do. There was no point in watching the ESPN post-game report. Every other game of any significance had long since ended; the results already duly noted: Earlier in the day, No. 5 Tennessee had fallen to No. 9 Florida, while No. 6 Syracuse had been tied by Texas. By kickoff, I knew that a win by the Buffs would result in a No. 5 national ranking heading into the showdown against No. 3 Miami.
Dreams of a National Championship, so realistic only hours before, were now fading. Replacing the confidence of the first two games was a fear that the Buffs now faced the very real possibility of a two game losing streak for the first time since 1986.
Game Notes -
- In scoring 37 points, the Colorado offense had a good day. A number of season highs were set against the Cardinal, including the longest scoring run of the season (21 yards, by Rashaan Salaam), the longest kickoff return of the year (34 yards, by Michael Westbrook), and the most offensive plays (85).
- Another season high set against Stanford were the 182 receiving yards by Charles E. Johnson. For his efforts, Johnson was named the Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Week.
- The double 100-yard rushing efforts by Lamont Warren (22 carries for 114 yards) and Rashaan Salaam (20 carries for 109 yards) was the first multiple 100-yard rushing game for Colorado since 1991 (Lamont Warren and Darian Hagan v. Missouri), and the 33rd such game in Colorado history.
- When combined with Charles E. Johnson’s 182 yards receiving though, the evening was even more special. The Stanford game was just the ninth time in school history that Colorado had a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in the same game, and only the second time in school history in which there were two 100-yard rushers to go with a 100-yard receiver (the other taking place against Kansas State in 1988, when J.J. Flannigan and Marcus Reliford each rushed for over 100 yards, and receiver Jeff Campbell had 102 yards receiving).
- The victory by Stanford evened the series between the schools at three games apiece. The teams first met in 1904, with Stanford winning in Palo Alto, 33-0. After Colorado ran off three straight wins in the series (in 1977, 1987, and 1990), Stanford won its second in succession, having also won at home in 1991, 28-21.
- The upset of Colorado proved to be the highlight of the 1993 season for Stanford. The Cardinal rose to No. 17 in the nation following the win, but then went on to lose its next four games, limping home with a 4-7 record (2-6 in the Pac-10) in Bill Walsh’s second season (Stanford, which went 10-3 in 1992, would finish 3-7-1 in 1994, ending the Bill Walsh experiment with an overall three year record of 17-17-1.