EZ Mortgages

Utah State – Buffs’ defense bails out anemic offense

// Sep 19 - 1998

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September 19th – Boulder           No. 15 Colorado 25, Utah State 6

If Colorado’s 29-21 win over Fresno State the week before was a “wake up call”, then the Buffs’ 25-6 victory over Utah State was an indication that the team had apparently hit the snooze button. Penalties and injuries marred an otherwise excellent defensive performance as the Buffs raised their season record to 3-0 with a 25-6 victory over Utah State.

Mike Moschetti, slowed by torn cartilage in his rib cage suffered in the Fresno State game, was sacked eight times. Overall, the Buffs committed 15 penalties for 118 yards and turned the ball over twice. The only scoring highlights for the Buffs came when the offense was not on the field, as Ben Kelly turned in a 68-yard punt return for a score in the first quarter, and the Buffs were credited with a safety in the final stanza when the Aggie punter was unable to pull down a high snap, with the ball traveling out of the endzone for the final two points of the contest.

Utah State struck first with a 24-yard field goal by Brad Bohn midway through the first quarter. Matters could have been worse, as the Aggies took over inside the CU redzone after a fumble, but were held to just a field goal. Still, for the 45,298 on hand, it was the second week in succession in which the Buffs fell behind its opponent at home to start the game.

The Colorado offense responded to the deficit with an 11-play, 73-yard drive, culminated in a seven-yard touchdown pass from Mike Moschetti to Darrin Chiaverini, giving CU a 7-3 lead late in the first quarter.

A few moments later, the Buff defense had the Aggies backed up to their four-yard line, facing a third-and-27. Hoping to catch the Buffs off-guard, quarterback Riley Jensen did a quick kick. The strategy appeared to work, as the Utah State quarterback got off a 64-yard punt. Sophomore cornerback Ben Kelly raced back to pick up the ball, then returned the ball – with the aid of a great block from linebacker Rashidi Barnes – 68 yards for a touchdown. The extra point failed, but the Buffs, with two minutes left in the first quarter, had a two-score lead at 13-3, a lead they would not relinquish the remainder of the game.

The teams traded field goals in the second quarter, including Jeremy Aldrich’s school-record setting ninth consecutive made kick (from 44 yards out). In the third quarter, the tandem of Moschetti and Chiaverini hooked up again, this time from two yards out, to up the Colorado lead to 23-6.

The final points of the game came after the Buff defense had again forced the Aggie offense into an untenable position. Utah State faced a fourth-and-22 from its own eight yard line when the center snapped the ball back over the head of the punter and through the end zone, giving the Buffs their first safety since 1993.

On defense, the unheralded unit turned in the best statistical performance of the Neuheisel era, limiting Utah State to 141 total yards (the previous low of 168 coming against Washington State in the 1996 season opener). “We couldn’t be happier,” said Buff middle linebacker Ty Gregorak. “We were lacking in something our first two games, but today we found it.”

The Buffs had found a way to make it through the non-conference season unbeaten for the first time since 1995 (thanks in large part to not having Michigan on the schedule), but the Buffs were not scaring anyone. “We’re 3-0, we’re excited to be 3-0”, said Rick Neuheisel in the postgame press conference. “But we find ourselves in a position now where we really have to find out what we’re going to do as an offense.” Neuheisel was referring for the most part to his offensive line, which had become a M*A*S*H unit.

Injuries to the offensive line had become critical, as no fewer than five linemen had already missed action. With a starting lineup for Baylor of redshirt freshman Erin Huizingh at left tackle, senior Brad Bedell at left guard, junior Ryan Johanningmeier at center, senior Ben Nichols at right guard, and redshirt freshman Victor Rogers at right tackle, the Buffs would be starting no linemen in the same position they had lined up for against Colorado State only three weeks before. A lack of continuity had resulted in a lack of production. A lack of production left quarterback Mike Moschetti running for his life in the backfield, and a sputtering offense.

And the “real” season, the conference season, was just about to begin.

Game Notes –

– Jeremy Aldrich, with his ninth consecutive made field goal, broke a tie for the school record which he had shared with Ken Culbertson (who made eight straight in 1989) and Mitch Berger (who made eight straight in 1993). Aldrich’s streak, though, also came to an end in the Utah State game, when he missed his second effort of the day, a 42-yard attempt.

– Ben Kelly’s punt return for a touchdown was fairly historic, as Kelly became just the seventh player in Colorado history to record both a punt and kickoff return for a touchdown. Kelly joined the likes of Bryon “Whizzer” White, Ron Johnson, Ted Woods, Cliff Branch, Mike McCoy and Walter Stanley.

– Colorado, thanks to eight sacks for a total of 83 yards in losses, ended the day with 39 total rushes for a minus-two yards. Utah State fared little better, with five sacks by the Buffs (for 27 yards) giving the Aggies 29 rushes for a net of 15 yards.

– Quarterback Mike Moschetti, playing with a painful rib cartilage injury, still managed to complete 18-of-28 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns.

– The last safety the Buffs had recorded prior to the Utah State game came in 1993, when Texas quarterback Chad Lucas was called for intentional grounding in a 36-14 thumping of the Longhorns in Austin.

– The Colorado defense set many 1998 season highs against Utah State, including fewest first downs allowed (11), fewest rushing yards (29), fewest total yards allowed (141), and most passes broken up (17).

– The victory gave Colorado an 11-6-1 overall record against Utah State from the Big West Conference. Prior to the 1998 game, however, the two teams had not faced one another since 1949.

3 Responses to “Utah State – Buffs’ defense bails out anemic offense”

  1. Paul

    I’m just wondering: Since BYU and Utah have been referred to as our rivals on this site, shouldn’t Utah State be considered one as well?

  2. Paul

    The Buffs’ overall record against Utah State is actually 11–6–1 (there was a tie in 1930).

    • Stuart

      Right you are!
      Thanks, Paul, for the correction – the writeup has been updated to include the exciting 0-0 tie from October 11, 1930.

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