EZ Mortgages

Missouri – “A Tough Team to Love”

// Oct 9 - 1999

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October 9th – Boulder           Colorado 46, Missouri 39 (OT)

It took four long hours, but Ben Kelly finally put an end to what he had started.

Colorado’s all-everything cornerback/kick returner opened the Missouri game with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. In overtime, after a game which was a roller coaster of emotion, Kelly intercepted a pass by Missouri quarterback Kirk Farmer to preserve a 46-39 overtime win for the Buffs.

Sandwiched between Kelly’s heroic plays, the Folsom Field crowd of 48,674 saw a little bit of everything. Both teams suffered safeties. Both teams had a punt blocked. Both teams had the opportunity to put the other away, each failing to rise to the occasion. In the end, a 24-yard touchdown pass from Mike Moschetti to Marcus Stiggers in overtime gave Colorado the win.

Twice the Buffs went up by two touchdowns, only to see the lead evaporate.

Colorado took a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, with Ben Kelly opening the scoring with a 100-yard kickoff return to start the game. Later in the quarter, the Buffs put together a 10-play, 89-yard drive, culminated by a Mike Moschetti scramble of seven yards for a touchdown (Jeremy Aldrich missed the extra point).

Seemingly on cruise control, the Buffs went into a funk, with the Tigers scoring the next 17 points of the game. In the final minute of the first quarter, Missouri posted a safety when Cortlen Johnson was tackled in the endzone. Two touchdown runs early in the second quarter gave the Tigers the lead at 14-13 (two attempts at two-point conversions failed), with Missouri taking a 17-13 lead with a field goal. Jeremy Aldrich then made it a 17-16 game at halftime with a 25-yard field goal right before the break.

Colorado resumed the lead, at 18-17, with an intentional grounding call on a pass attempt out of the endzone, but a 16-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Farmer to Joe Chirumbolo (plus a two-point conversion) giving Missouri a 25-18 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Then it was the Buffs’ turn to rally. Putting together a 14-play, 80-yard drive, assisted by a roughing the passer penalty and a fake field goal, the Buffs tied the score at 25-all with 7:01 to play on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Mike Moschetti.

Less than three minutes later, the score went from 25-25 to 39-25, Colorado. Interceptions by junior defensive end Brady McDonnell and senior cornerback Damen Wheeler led to CU taking a two-touchdown lead. McDonnell returned his pick to the Tiger one-yard line, followed on the next play by another Moschetti sneak. Wheeler did the honors himself, returning his interception 37 yards for a score and a seemingly insurmountable lead with just over four minutes left to play.

“I’ll be the first to admit it,” said Ben Kelly after the game, “I thought we had it.”

But the celebration was short-lived. Missouri proceeded to put together a six-play, 88-yard drive for a score in only 55 seconds of game clock. An onsides kick was then recovered by the Tigers, who tied the score at 39-all with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Farmer to Eric Spencer. Missouri rallied so quickly that the Buffs even had a chance to mount a final drive, but a 52-yard field goal attempt by Jeremy Aldrich went wide right.

Overtime. The first overtime in school history for Colorado.

Missouri won the coin toss, and elected to go on defense first. After a one-yard gain, Moschetti hit Stiggers for what proved to be the game winner. “It was a great call,” said Stiggers of the 24-yard touchdown pass play. “We saved that play and we practiced it all week. We pretty much knew it would be there.”

Now it was up to the Buffs’ defense, victims of two quick scores just moments earlier. After forcing Missouri into a fourth-and-13, Farmer tried to connect with Spencer one more time, only to be picked off by Ben Kelly to seal the Buffs’ third win of 1999.

Colorado head coach Barnett summed up the game: “What an emotional roller coaster that game was for me …. I know it had to be for our players to lead the way we did and then give it away and then go for a lead and give it away. That game had about everything you have seen in a football game.”

The Buffs were now 3-2, 2-0 in Big 12 play. Four of the next five games, though, would be on the road. Texas Tech was up next. A preseason pick to challenge in the Southern Division, the Red Raiders had lost their star running back Ricky Williams in the season opener, and were 2-3 on the season.

For Colorado to be taken seriously in the Big 12 conference race, the game against the Red Raiders was a must.

“A Tough Team to Love”

Sitting in the stands, basking in the glow of a 68-degree October afternoon in Boulder, I was shaking my head.

The Buffs, after seizing a 13-0 lead early (which could have been 21-0 or greater – CU had already missed an extra point and a field goal), were now behind, 25-18, late in the third quarter. The offense had produced nothing for two quarters but punts and turnovers. The Tigers, while not playing exceptionally well themselves, had slowly assumed control of the game.

I was shaking my head, knowing that the Buffs should have been comfortably ahead of this team. Next to me, my guest for the game, Tony Truschel, shared my frustration. “A tough team to love”, he offered.

Tony’s words precisely expressed my feelings. Colorado had talented players, but did not have a team. Now the Buffs were on the verge of falling to 2-3 with four of their remaining six games on the road.

CU was on the brink of a disastrous season.

But then Mike Moschetti made the play of the game. On third-and-13 from their own 17, the Buffs, already down a touchdown, were on the verge of their fourth straight punt. Moschetti was forced from the pocket, but got managed to get away. Keeping the play alive, Moschetti turned the busted play into a scramble for 18 yards and a first down. Seemingly innocuous at the time, that one play sparked an 80-yard drive which tied the score midway through the fourth quarter. A few minutes later, the Buffs had two interceptions and the momentum.

In a game with safeties, blocked kicks, special team and defensive scores, and an overtime, Moschetti’s effort could easily be overlooked. But it was symbolic of the Buffs’ season. Every time I felt the Buffs were on the verge of collapse (after the CSU debacle, after the emotional loss to Washington, falling behind Missouri), the Buffs rallied.

Unfortunately, every time I started to gain confidence in the future (before the CSU game, after dominating wins over San Jose State and Kansas) the Buffs disappointed.

Now with the Buffs riding high after an emotional overtime win, I started to believe that the 1999 team had finally turned a corner.

Uh-oh.

A tough team to love, indeed.

Game Notes –

– With the Missouri game, Colorado became the 11th of 12th teams in the Big 12 to play an overtime game. Instituted in 1996, the CU/Missouri game left Texas Tech as the only Big 12 member yet to play an overtime game.

– Ben Kelly’s 100-yard kickoff return and Damen Wheeler’s 37-yard interception return gave Colorado six non-offensive scores in the first five games of the 1999 season. Colorado would not score any more non-offensive scores the remainder of the season, but the five scores easily bested the two non-offensive scores posted by the opposition during the 1999 season.

– Linebacker Jashon Sykes had 20 tackles (ten unassisted) against Missouri, the highest tackle total for any Buff during the season.

– In a game of statistical oddities – two safeties; made two-point conversions; missed two-point conversions; a recovered onside kick; a kickoff return for a touchdown; an interception returned for a touchdown – Colorado added another. Three Buffs completed passes against the Tigers. Mike Moschetti went 20-for-41 for 259 yards, while wide receiver Roman Hollowell had a 40-yard completion and punter Nick Pietsch had a seven-yard completion.

– Mike Moschetti did not have a touchdown pass against Missouri, but did rush for three touchdowns (of five all season).

– With star offensive tackle Victor Rogers out with a dislocated patella, red-shirt freshman Justin Bates earned his first career start.

– After coming to Boulder with a 3-1 record, Missouri would win only one game the remainder of the season, finishing 4-7 (1-7 in Big 12 play).

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