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No. 22 Oklahoma – An Evening in Paradise

// Oct 15 - 1994

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October 15th – Boulder                        No. 4 Colorado 45, No. 22 Oklahoma 7

It was now official.

What had been dreamed of since the “Miracle in Michigan” could now be spoken of openly.  The Rocky Mountain News banner headline after Colorado dismantled Oklahoma 45-7 before a national ESPN audience said it all:  “Buffs make a run for No. 1?”.

Not to be outdone, the Denver Post headline proclaimed:  “Taking aim at No. 1?”.

Before the Buffs took the field to set about defeating the Sooners by the largest margin in the history of the series, the players and fans all knew that the No. 1 team in the nation, Florida, had been defeated 36-33 by Auburn.  The 45-7 thrashing of the Sooners before a night game crowd of 53,199 proved to the nation that the undefeated Colorado Buffaloes had to be reckoned with on the national stage.

Colorado dominated the game from the outset, and the line score for the first half look like a series of misprints.

The Buffs’ first three scores:

Salaam 7-yard run (Voskeritchian kick);

Salaam 7-yard run (Voskeritchian kick); and

Salaam 7-yard run (Voskeritchian kick).

For Colorado’s final score of the first half, the Buffs threw the Sooners a curve:  “Salaam 9 yard run”.  Salaam’s fourth first half touchdown came with 7:19 to play in the second quarter, and gave the Buffs a commanding 28-0 lead.  Overall, Salaam contributed 161 yards rushing, 153 of which were procured by halftime.

The Buffs were also economic in dismantling the Sooners. The first touchdown drive, midway through the first quarter, took only five plays to cover 67 yards. The second touchdown drive, late in the first quarter, took eight plays to cover 41 yards, and, despite being the shortest of the four first-half scoring drives, was the only one to take over two minutes of game time.

The third touchdown drive, coming early in the second quarter, came after an Oklahoma turnover, and covered only 18 yards. Then, after allowing the Sooners their first first down of the game, Salaam scored his fourth touchdown of the first half, culminating a 66-yard touchdown drive which took all of four plays.

With a day’s work already in hand, Salaam carried the ball twice more in the third, then sat for the remainder of the game as his Buffs enjoyed a 28-0 lead.

Salaam finished the game with 161 rush yards and four touchdowns on 25 carries. He had officially topped the 1,000 yard mark in just six games while he continued to set the pace for most of the nation’s other top performers. His performance brought with it even more talk of his winning the Heisman Trophy but, as he did all year, Salaam continually deflected such conversation.

“It was a team playing out there,” said Salaam. “It wasn’t just me. It must be viewed as a team effort”.

In the second half, freshman tailbacks Herchell Troutman and Lendon Henry saw extensive action, each contributing a touchdown as Colorado built a 45-0 lead.  Oklahoma, which had not been shut out in 123 games dating back to 1983, managed a consolation score with only 23 seconds remaining to make the final 45-7.

For Colorado players, the lopsided win against the Sooners had to be kept in perspective.  “We know we can’t let down once this season,” said Salaam.   “None of the first (six) games – the ‘Miracle in Michigan’ or my 300 yards in Texas – will mean a thing if we lose just one Big Eight game.”

The “one game at a time” sentiment was echoed by defensive tackle Shannon Clavelle:  “Our job is too keep winning football games.  We’ll let the media take care of polls and decide whose No. 1.  But if we keep beating teams like we have, we’ve got to be getting close.”

Indeed.

With the win, the Buffs leap-frogged over Nebraska to the No. 2 spot in the nation, trailing No. 1 Penn State by only 13 overall points (1487-1474).  Nebraska fell from No. 2 to No. 3 despite defeating 16th-ranked Kansas State, 17-6.  The perception now was that the Buffs had the stronger team.  Colorado had faced four ranked teams, the most of any national contender.

Games against Kansas State and Nebraska were all that stood in the way of the Buffs first undefeated regular season since 1989, and first Big Eight title since 1991.

An evening in Paradise

For the second time in 1994, the Buffs had to move a game to a 7:45 p.m. kickoff in order to be the national ESPN game.  Also for the second time in 1994, the Buffs crushed a nationally ranked opponent on the national stage.  The 55-17 rout of No. 10 Wisconsin under the lights at Folsom was fun, but the shredding of the vaunted Oklahoma Sooners was special.

Sure, the Sooners were not the dynasty of old, and the Buffs now had a six game unbeaten streak (5-0-1) since 1989 against Oklahoma, but this game was almost too perfect.  The weather was a bit chilly (49 degrees at kickoff), but the game was unforgettable.

I was not alone in the sentiment.

For some of the players, even though they had never lost to Oklahoma, the game was still sweet payback.  “When I was a kid I used to dream about Colorado beating Oklahoma like this, but I never thought it could happen,” said senior right tackle Derek West, a product of Pomona High School in Arvada.  “Before the game I was thinking about the 82-42 loss Colorado had against Oklahoma (in 1980).  It’s a heck of a lot of fun to beat these guys like this.  It’s been a long time coming.”

The Denver Post’s Woody Paige spoke for the rest of us when he noted: “Buffaloes never forget.  They finally got revenge for 1962 … and 1971, 1974, 1977, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, and all those other seasons when the Sooners were rubbing the Buffs’ noses in the artificial turf of Boulder and Norman.”

The drive home to Montana that Sunday seemed that much shorter.  I read and re-read the newpapers’ accounts of the game.  Defeating Nebraska was always the No. 1 goal, but a lopsided win over Oklahoma was definitely sweet.  Contrary to my nature, I didn’t start worrying about Kansas State for a least a day or two.

1994 seemed to be a charmed season, and I was glad to be along for the ride.

Here is the YouTube video of the game, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:

 

 

– Game Notes –

– The 53,199 on hand for the Oklahoma game was the sixth-largest in Folsom Field history. The crowd, though, was only the second-best crowd of 1994, with 53,457 having been on hand for the Wisconsin game in September. The 53,199 was also only the third-best crowd ever for an Oklahoma game, with the 53,553 in attendance for the 1979 game against the Sooners the largest-ever Folsom Field crowd.

– The 45-7 victory marked the largest margin of victory for Colorado in a game against Oklahoma. The previous best for a Buff team against the Sooners were all 17-point victories, coming in 1989 (20-3), 1991 (34-17), and 1993 (27-10).

– The victory over the Sooners gave Colorado a 5-0-1 run against Oklahoma since 1989. Previous to the Buffs’ win in 1989, Oklahoma had won 12 straight games against Colorado. Even with the winning streak, Colorado only owned 14 wins all-time against Oklahoma, with the series now standing at a lopsided 34-13-2.

– Rashaan Salaam had 25 carries for 161 yards and four touchdowns against Oklahoma. Despite playing for only a little over a half, Salaam was named the Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Week.

– For the second time in 1994, Salaam matched the school record for touchdowns in a game. Salaam’s four touchdowns matched the four he had against Wisconsin earlier in the season, the 11th and 12th time in school history a Buff had posted four touchdowns in a single game. Salaam would go on to post the new record for touchdowns in a season, with 24, besting the 19 touchdowns scored by Bobby Anderson in 1969. Salaam’s point total, 144, would also be a new record, bettering the 122 points of Byron White way back in 1937 (White had 16 touchdowns, 23 PAT’s, and a field goal, while Salaam had 24 touchdowns).

– Chris Hudson, who would go on to win the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back, was also the Buffs’ leading punt returner. Hudson had 29 punt returns in 1994, going for 248 yards (a 8.6 per return average). Hudson’s longest return of the season, 54 yards, came against the Sooners.

– Oklahoma, which had been ranked as high as No. 15 earlier in the 1994 season, fell out of the top 25 after losing to Colorado. The Sooners would go on to win three of their next four games, but a 13-3 to Nebraska in the regular season finale, followed by a 31-6 loss to BYU in the Copper Bowl, left Oklahoma with a 6-6 record in 1994, and signaled the end of the Gary Gibbs era in Norman. Gibbs had been hired prior to the 1989 season, and had managed only three minor bowl appearances (Gator, Sun, and Copper) in his six seasons. Gibbs left Oklahoma with an overall record of 44-23-2 … and an 0-5-1 record against Colorado. Howard Schnellenberger, who had guided Miami to a national championship in 1983, was hired to replace Gibbs.

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3 Responses to “No. 22 Oklahoma – An Evening in Paradise”

  1. Just an FYI, Pomona High School in in Arvada, not Aurora. My dad used to teach at Pomona

  2. Oklahoma Sooners Football 2009

    Strengths: With the reigning Heisman Trophy winner at quarterback (Sam Bradford), two tailbacks who rushed for a combined 2,222 yards and 34 scores in Chris Brown and DeMarco Murray, and a battle-tested defense that returns nine starters, the Sooners have the horses to return to the BCS title game.

    Nagging questions: Bradford (4,720 yards, 50 touchdowns, eight interceptions) is as accurate a passer as there is in college. But with four new starters along the offensive line, one wonders if he

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