September 7th – at Colorado State No. 5 Colorado 48, Colorado State 34
The Buffs’ in-state rival from Fort Collins was more cause for concern than had been Washington State. Under the leadership of head coach Sonny Lubick, the Rams had posted an 8-4 record in 1995, repeating as Western Athletic Conference Champions. The Buffs were traveling to Fort Collins for the first time since 1988, and would participate in only the third night game (8:00 p.m. kickoff) in the 28-year history of Hughes Stadium.
The game was entertaining for the 36,371 who attended, as both teams scored early and often. The Buffs allowed the Rams to take leads of 7-0 and 14-7 before assuming control of the game. Down 14-7 after a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, CU reeled off 28 points before halftime. Lendon Henry scored the second and third of his three touchdowns to give Colorado the lead. The second touchdown, on a six yard run, tied the score late in the first quarter. Later, with 13:18 to play before half, Henry gave the Buffs the lead for good on a 27-yard pass from Koy Detmer.
A few minutes later, junior defensive tackle Viliami Maumau gave Colorado a two-score lead. Maumau batted a Moses Moreno pass into the air, caught it, and raced 33 yards for a touchdown and a 28-14 CU lead.
Up 35-20 at half, the Buffs never allowed the Rams within two scores the rest of the contest, but the game was still in doubt until the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.
Quarterback Koy Detmer continued to impress, completing 31-of-42 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns, including a 41-yarder to James Kidd. During one stretch in the first half, Detmer set a school record by completing 14 consecutive passes, breaking the record of 12 set by Kordell Stewart in 1992. Also starring in the 645-yard offensive display (the 2nd highest yardage total ever for a Buff team away from Boulder) was junior tailback Lendon Henry, who scored three touchdowns, including the 27-yard reception which put the Buffs ahead to stay, 21-14. Tailback Herchell Troutman also got into the act, posting a career-high 184 yards on 26 carries.
In the fourth quarter, with the Buffs nursing a 41-27 lead, the CU offense put together their most impressive drive of the young season. Taking the ball with still over ten minutes to play after a CSU score, Detmer led the Buffs on an 18-play, 96-yard drive which consumed 8:51 of the fourth quarter clock, capped by a three-yard touchdown run on a reverse by Rae Carruth to give the Buffs a 48-17 lead with only 1:34 left to play.
The win was by two touchdowns, but the Buffs knew they had been in a dog fight. “We just couldn’t shake them,” said Detmer, “They kept badgering us and badgering us, and they stayed with us.”
Buff head coach Rick Neuheisel agreed: “This was no warmup (for the Michigan game). This was a heavyweight prize fight.”
The Buffs had survived a tough game against a worthy in-state opponent. Colorado was now 2-0, and remained ranked at No. 5 in the country. No. 11 Michigan was up next. The game in Boulder would be the first between the two schools since the storied “Hail Mary” game of 1994.
Randy and ESPN2
The Colorado State game, with its 8:00 p.m. kickoff, made for a long day of waiting. The game was to be on ESPN2, which was not part of the regular TV cable package in my area. In order to see the game, I had to seek out someone with a satellite dish. Fortunately, I didn’t have to look far, as Randy Tafelmeyer, my CU protegee, had such a device. With offers of free tickets for the Michigan and Texas games in hand, it did not take much persuasion to invite myself over for the game. The game went on late into the night, but I was too focused on the game to be apologetic to the remaining five members (all female) of the Tafelmeyer household.
The game proved to be more exciting than I had hoped. Falling behind early, the Buffs showed those who watched (probably no one on the east coast – the 10:00 p.m. ET kickoff taking care of that) an offense that could only stop itself. Still, the Buffs could not put the Rams away. Not until after the dramatic fourth quarter drive, culminating in a touchdown with less than two minutes left in the game, did I relax.
Still, CSU had scored with some regularity against the Buffs’ defense, and once again the Buffs had incurred 11 penalties (this time for 130 yards, including six unsportsmanlike conduct penalties). Despite the 2-0 record, a more impressive and consistent performance would be required to hold off the Wolverines of Michigan.
Game Notes -
- For a second straight week, Colorado controlled the tempo of the game, running over 30 more plays than its opponent (89-to-54) and possessing the ball for almost two-thirds of the game (36:59).
- The 645 yards of total offense was the 8th-most in school history, and the 2nd-highest total on the road (662 v. Iowa State in Ames in 1989).
- The victory gave Colorado a 23-7-1 lead in the series in games played in Ft. Collins.
- Colorado posted several team bests for 1996 against Colorado State, including: most first downs (31); most rushing yards (291); most pass completions (31); and most offensive plays (89).
- Three Buff defenders hit double digits in tackles, led by junior safety Ryan Black, with 13 tackles. Safety Steve Rosga added 12 tackles, while Matt Russell posted ten.
- Colorado State would not go on to defend its back-to-back WAC championships in 1996, posting a 7-5 overall record (6-2 in WAC play).