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No. 2 Nebraska – ESPN Gameday on hand for Huskers win

// Oct 28 - 1995

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October 28th – Boulder          No. 2 Nebraska 44, No. 7 Colorado 21

The largest crowd to ever witness a college football game at Folsom Field, 54,063, watched as the Buffs’ pre-game antics failed to fluster the undefeated Cornhuskers, with 2nd-ranked Nebraska taking out 7th-ranked Colorado, 44-21.

Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel had the Buffs enter through the student section in the southeast corner of the stadium to the beat of a Samoan war drum.  But it was Nebraska which played to the beat of a National Championship cadence, mauling the Buffs to formally eliminate Colorado from the national title chase.

Nebraska played flawlessly, committing neither a turnover nor a penalty, while Colorado was flagged 12 times for 92 yards, losing the ball twice on John Hessler interceptions.  Tommie Frazier passed for a career-high 241 yards and two touchdowns.  “He’s a good player”, conceded Neuheisel.  Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne gave a higher rating, calling Frazier, “a great player who really holds things together.”

The Cornhuskers took the Buffs’ record crowd out of the game early.

After a brief opening drive by Colorado stalled, Nebraska took over at its own 43-yard line.  One play later, Nebraska was on top, 7-0, as Ahman Green took a Tommie Frazier pitch around the left side, eluding all 11 Buff defenders for a 57-yard touchdown run.  Less than two minutes into the contest, the Buffs were behind.

Midway through the first quarter the Buffs re-grouped, pulling even with an 18-yard touchdown pass from John Hessler to sophomore wideout Phil Savoy.

As with the 22-point win over Iowa State the week before, the 23-point loss to Nebraska did not reflect the entire story.  A huge momentum swing took place on the Cornhuskers’ next series.  Ahman Green fumbled, with junior strong safety Kenny Wilkins returning the fumble for a Colorado touchdown.

But wait ….

The officials, contrary to what replays would later clearly show, marked Green down (the error was later admitted by the league offices, but that would be of little consolation to the Buff Nation).  No score for the Buffs; a huge break for Nebraska.  Before the Buffs would score again, the margin was 21-7, Nebraska.  Later, in allowing Nebraska to score a touchdown in the final minute before half for the third time in four years, the Buffs fell behind 31-14 at the break.

A score early in the third on a gutsy pass call on fourth-and-two brought Colorado to within ten points, 31-21, but the flawless Nebraska offense and the tough Nebraska defense took over from there.

Colorado quarterback John Hessler finished with 21 completions in 43 attempts (his high for the season) for 276 yards and two touchdown passes.  “I thought Hessler played a nice game,” said Neuheisel.  “For a kid who wasn’t expected to play much this year, I’m very proud of John Hessler”.

Then what went wrong?

Focus after the game was on one stat line – Penalties: Colorado 12 for 92 yards; Nebraska 0 for 0 yards.  Mistakes hurt the Buffs on both sides of the ball, with the defense committing seven of CU’s 12 penalties.  “You can get away with things like that against some teams,” said defensive captain Matt Russell.  “You can’t get away with things like that against Nebraska”.

As in 1994, No. 2 Nebraska used a big win over Colorado to vault into the No. 1 ranking.  The Buffs fell to No. 10, a high ranking for a team now tied for fourth (with Oklahoma) in an eight team league.  Colorado was now 6-2, 2-2 in Big Eight play, looking up in the standings at Nebraska, Kansas, and Kansas State (the latter two squads being 7-1, 3-1 in conference play after Kansas State routed Kansas, 41-7.  Kansas State was now ranked 9th nationally, Kansas 11th).

Colorado had entered the month of October undefeated and harboring hopes of a national championship.  A 1-2 October left Colorado clinging to hopes of an undefeated November and a chance to play on New Year’s Day.  With a road game finale against No. 9 Kansas State still on the schedule, however, nothing could be taken for granted.

Big Crowd, Big Disappointment

The hype was there.

ABC had its top guns, Keith Jackson and Bob Greise, on hand for the play-by-play and color commentary.  ESPN had its GameDay crew in town.  The all-time Folsom Field record of 53,849, set against Texas A&M two home games earlier, was erased when 54,063 were allowed into the stadium on a beautiful 57-degree late fall afternoon.  Buff players entered the field from Gate 6 for the first time since 1966.

Everything was in place for a huge Colorado win.

In the stands, we were pumped.  On the field, the Buffs were pumped.

If only the hated Huskers would have cooperated.

When Ahman Green scored on the first play from scrimmage, the air went out of our sails.  The throngs, which had been so vocal just moments before, were now silent.  Folsom Field was a morgue, save for the previously unnoticed Nebraska contingent.  Was this going to be another 52-7 rout like in 1992?  Was this to be a return to the “old days”, where shouting down the Nebraska fans was our only consolation?

Not exactly.

The Buffs did have their moments.  John Hessler’s touchdown pass to Savoy to tie the game brought back cheers.  The non-fumble by Green seconds later brought jeers.  The rest of the game was left for anxious pleading, with only two other moments of ecstasy – and the Buffs could not even give the fans these moments without bringing us ulcers.  Colorado’s second touchdown came when guard Heath Irwin recovered a Lendon Henry fumble in the endzone.  Irwin’s score marked the first time in 25 years an offensive lineman had posted a Colorado touchdown.

The Buffs’ final points of the afternoon came with 8:18 remaining in the third quarter.  Colorado faced a fourth-and-two at the Nebraska 49-yard line.  Colorado was down 31-14, but there was still over 20 minutes to be played, and giving the Cornhuskers the ball at midfield was tantamount to conceding the game.  Neuheisel made a bold call in going for it, and shocked everyone in the house in calling for a pass.  Hessler hit wide receiver James Kidd in stride, and Kidd carried in the bomb for a 49-yard score.  Colorado had climbed to within ten points, and it was party time again in the stands.

Alas, those would be the final points on the afternoon for the Buffs, as Nebraska made its case to the pollsters for a No. 1 ranking by dominating the remainder of the contest.  The Cornhuskers now had a 21-game winning streak, while the Buffs had lost two of three.

Still, the game was played in perfect weather, in perfect fall conditions, before an anxious nation and a raucous crowd.

I hated the result.  But I was happy to have been a part of it. It was college football at its best.

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

 

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Game Notes –

– Rick Neuheisel would go on to post a 33-14 record in his four years as the Colorado head coach, but he went 0-for-4 against Nebraska.

– The record attendance, 54,063, on hand for the 1995 Nebraska game, would stand for eight years. On October 25, 2003, a crowd of 54,215 was on hand for the Buffs’ game against Oklahoma. That game, played against the No. 1 Sooners, resulted in a 34-20 loss.

– The 241 yards passing by Nebraska’s Tommy Frazier set a new standard for the Cornhuskers in the series. The previous best by a Nebraska quarterback against Colorado was the 236 yards Bob Churchich posted in the 1966 game (a 21-19 victory for the 7th-ranked Cornhuskers against a 3-2 CU squad).

– Nebraska out-gained Colorado, 467-382, but the Buff defense did not have as bad a day as the numbers suggest. Despite being on the field for 20:38 of the second half, the Buffs held the Cornhuskers to a season-low 13 second half points. CU also held the nation’s No. 1 rushing team to over three yards per rush under its average for the year.

– Heath Irwin’s touchdown – on a recovery of a Lendon Henry fumble – marked the first time since 1970 that an offensive lineman scored a touchdown for the Buffs (for the record, it was right guard David Havig who scored for CU in the 1970 campaign).

– Phil Savoy had a team season-high eight receptions against Nebraska, going for 74 yards and a touchdown. Savoy would go on to finish second on the team in receptions in 1995, with 49 (Rae Carruth finished with 53), and would earn second-team All-Big Eight honors.

– Nebraska had a 57-yard touchdown run against the Buffs (Ahman Green) and a 52-yard touchdown pass (from Tommie Frazier to Clement Johnson). Those were the only two 50-yard+ scoring plays posted against the Colorado defense the entire 1995 season.

– Sophomore defensive back Ryan Black earned his first career start against Nebraska, starting at nickel back. Black would go on to lead the Buffs in tackles against the Cornhuskers, with 16 tackles on the afternoon (seven unassisted).

– With the 44-21 win over Colorado, Nebraska jumped idle Florida State for the No. 1 position in the polls, and then never looked back. The Cornhuskers final three regular season games were routs … 73-14 over Iowa State; 41-3 over then No. 10 Kansas; and 37-0 over Oklahoma. Nebraska would then go on to demolish No. 2 Florida, 62-24, in the Fiesta Bowl, to finish the 1995 12-0 with back-to-back national championships.

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