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No. 22 Oklahoma State – Plus: The top five games of my first 25 years

// Oct 9 - 2004

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October 9th – Boulder           No. 22 Oklahoma State 42, Colorado 14

 The 46,521 on hand for Colorado’s 2004 Homecoming game against No. 22 Oklahoma State were just settling into their seats when the Cowboys took control of the game.  On OSU’s third play from scrimmage, running back Vernand Morency broke away for a 58-yard touchdown run and a quick 7-0 Cowboy lead.  The Buffs would keep in close throughout the first half, but a quick score just before halftime gave Oklahoma State a 21-0 halftime lead on their way to a 42-14 win.

The game-breaker, if there can be one in a 28-point game, came with no time left on the second quarter clock.  Seemingly content with a 14-0 lead with 1:20 left before the break, Oklahoma State ran three consecutive running plays.  With nine seconds left, though, and the Buffs inexplicably in man-to-man coverage, Cowboy quarterback Donovan Woods faked a handoff before launching a 58-yard scoring strike to Prentiss Elliott as time expired.

The Buffs were down 28-0 before scoring two consolation touchdowns in the fourth quarter.  V-back Lawrence Vickers, who had a 29-yard touchdown called back in the third quarter, scored from six yards out.  Later, James Cox, subbing for an injured Joel Klatt, connected on a 21-yard touchdown pass to Dusty Sprague.

On the day, the Buffs out-gained the Cowboys, 447-429.  Oklahoma State, however, made their yards count, posting three scores of over 50 yards, returning an interception for another touchdown with 2:07 remaining to complete the rout.

“It was an embarrassing performance by the team, players and the coaches,” said Gary Barnett.  “We just fell victim to some mistakes and some bad calls by the coach and questionable calls by the coach.”  Still, Barnett was not willing to throw in the towel on the 2004 season, though the Buffs were now 0-2 in conference play.  “I’m not objective on this.  It feels to me like we’re right on the edge.  We played five teams and with all due respect, I feel we’re as talented as the teams we’ve played.”

Still, it didn’t look good for the Buffs.  Colorado had squandered an opportunity to defeat Missouri, and had looked anything but like a contender in succumbing to Oklahoma State.   The Missouri Tigers, 2-0 in conference play after a 30-10 win over Baylor, would now have to lose three times for the Buffs to overtake them in the Big 12 North race.  The Buffs were tied for last in the Big 12 North with swooning Kansas State and with the next opponent, Iowa State.  The Buffs had three wins overall, and were left looking for three more in the last six games to secure a winning season and a bowl bid.  The Iowa State Cyclones appeared to be the nearest thing to a sure bet on the remaining schedule.

There were more attractive games on the Big 12 slate for October 16th, as Missouri (4-1,2-0) was playing at No. 9 Texas, No. 2 Oklahoma was on the road against a desperate Kansas State squad, and No. 16 Oklahoma State hosted No. 23 Texas A&M.

Iowa State (2-3, 0-2) at Colorado (3-2, 0-2) drew little national attention.

Who knew the game would be for the Big 12 North title?

 100th game – much like the first

Coinciding with my 25 years of being a Buff fan was the 100th game I had witnessed in person.  While that may not sound like a large number, even to me (after all, that is only an average of four games a year), it is worth noting that for over half of those games, I was making 1,500-mile round trips.

Included in my first 100 games were contests in Lincoln, Seattle, and bowl venues in four time zones – 14 games outside of Boulder altogether.

My first Colorado game ever was a 49-7 home loss to Indiana in 1980, my freshman year.  Coming as it did on the heels of a scathing Sports Illustrated article about the excesses of the Chuck Fairbanks regime, it was a fairly inauspicious start.  There was only one win in 1980, complete with a record-shattering 82-42 loss to Oklahoma and an embarrassing home loss to Drake (by a 41-22 count, no less).

Did that seasoning make losses like the 42-14 drubbing by Oklahoma State in 2004 easier to take?  No.  No loss is an easy loss.  Some are more expected than others, but they are never easy.

Rather than focus on the negative the week after the OSU game, then, I decided to take the time to relive past glories.  In 2004, Senior Associate Athletic Director Jon Burianek would work his 400th consecutive Colorado game.  For the weekly press release, Burianek listed his top 11 Colorado games.  Having been a fan for 289 of those games (through the OSU game), though only in spirit if not in body for 189, I decided to come up with my own list.

My top five Colorado games – 1980-2004:

1) October 25,1986 – Colorado 20, Nebraska 10.  No question.  The 2-4 Buffs defeated the undefeated and third-ranked Cornhuskers in a game which made all that has been good in Colorado football in subsequent years possible;

2) November 23, 2001 – Colorado 62, Nebraska 36.  Complete domination.  Complete ecstasy.  Never have I reveled in a lopsided win as much as I did that day;

3) January 1, 1991 – Colorado 10, Notre Dame 9.  Why would the National Championship game be ranked 3rd?  Perhaps because the win did not represent a complete victory.  The fifth down game at Missouri hung over the Buffs like a dark cloud.  The punt to Rocket Ismail in the final minutes.  Then came the controversy over losing out to Georgia Tech in the coaches’ poll.  A similar win over Notre Dame after an undefeated 1989 campaign would have been much more satisfying;

4) September 24, 1994 – Colorado 27, Michigan 26.  The “Miracle at Michigan”.  Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook.  64 yards.  Take your pick between the television call of Keith Jackson and the radio call of Larry Zimmer.  It’s all good.

5) November 3, 1990 – Colorado 27, Nebraska 12.  No. 9 Colorado over No. 3 Nebraska in Lincoln.  Eric Bieniemy scoring four fourth quarter touchdowns after fumbling the ball several times earlier in the game.  The first Colorado win in Lincoln since 1967.  How sweet it was!

Back to reality.  Colorado was 3-2 overall, but 0-2 in conference play.  Trips to College Station and Lincoln still loomed, and there were home games against Texas and Kansas State still to be played.  Iowa State came into Boulder at 2-3, having scored only 10 points in conference opening losses to Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. If Colorado were to harbor any hopes of six wins and a bowl invitation, a win over Iowa State seemed to be mandatory.

Game Notes:

– Lawrence Vickers set a team record for running backs against Missouri in hauling in nine passes. The previous record of eight was held by John Farler, who collected eight catches against Missouri (a 20-7 loss, 11/6/65).

– The 42-14 win for Oklahoma State was the most decisive in the series for the Cowboys since a 42-7 win in 1980.

– Oklahoma State became the third team in succession to score a touchdown in their first drive against the Buffs. North Texas took two plays to score; Missouri 12; Oklahoma State three.

– The Cowboys were up 21-0 at halftime against the Buffs. What made the deficit all the more aggravating: Oklahoma State had run all of one play in Colorado territory the entire thirty minutes.

– The Buffs were shut out in the first half for the first time since failing to score in the first half of the 2002 Big 12 championship game (a 29-7 loss to Oklahoma).

3 Responses to “No. 22 Oklahoma State – Plus: The top five games of my first 25 years”

  1. Paul

    For your #5 game, you have the 1989 and 1990 games all mixed up. The 1989 game (#2 Colorado versus #3 Nebraska) took place at Folsom Field, not Memorial Stadium. Also, Bieniemy scored four touchdowns in the fourth quarter in the 1990 game. And last but not least, it was the 1994 game in which CU and Nebraska were ranked 2 and 3 respectively (just like in 1989) that took place in Lincoln. But unfortunately, that’s not the case. Don’t get me wrong, I really like the Buffs (and can’t stand Nebraska). I just wanted to point out these errors to you.

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