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No. 25 Missouri – Chasing Infamy

// Sep 30 - 2006

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September 30th – at Missouri              No. 25 Missouri 28, Colorado 13

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel threw for four touchdowns, leading No. 25 Missouri to a 28-13 win over Colorado.  On the afternoon, Daniel connected on 23 of 35 passes for 253 yards.  The win put the Tigers at 5-0 for the first time since 1981, with the loss dropping the Buffs to 0-5 for the first time since 1980.

At the outset, it appeared that the newly ranked Tigers wanted to make a statement that they belonged in the national spotlight.  Daniel led Missouri on a 71-yard drive to open the game, hitting Chase Coffman on a two-yard score to give Missouri a lead it would never relinquish.  The Buffs did try to counter, putting together a 68-yard drive of their own.  As had been the case all season, though, the Colorado offense could not finish, settling for a 32-yard Mason Crosby field goal.

The Tigers responded with another long drive, this one covering 77 yards.  Again it was Daniel to Coffman, this time from nine yards out.  With 2:48 still to play in the first quarter, the Tigers were up 14-3, and it appeared to the 57,824 on hand that a rout was in the offing.

The Buffs did not go down without a fight, however.

Colorado did put together several drives in the second quarter, with the first ending on a failed fourth-and-goal pass from Bernard Jackson to Dusty Sprague from the Missouri four yard line.  A second drive ended with a 36 yard field goal by Mason Crosby, pulling the Buffs to within 14-6.  A third drive stalled at midfield when yet another fourth down attempt failed (the Buffs would go 0-for-5 on fourth down attempts on the day).

The fate of CU was seemingly sealed just before half, when Buff punter Matt DiLailo fumbled a snap, giving the ball to Missouri at the Buff 14 yard line.  Six plays later, the Tigers were up 21-6.  As the Buffs had not posted more than 13 points in any one game all season, and had put up only three points in the second halves of four games, the lead seemed insurmountable.

Yet, as had become the characteristic of the Hawkins’ Buffs, Colorado fought on.

A 63-yard Jackson-to-Sprague pass to open the second half led to a one-yard quarterback sneak by Jackson and Colorado’s first second half touchdown of the season.  The lead was now 21-13, with 29 minutes of football still to play.

Unfortunately for Buff fans, the other consistent characteristic of the Hawkins’ Buffs also shone through in the second half – the inability to finish.  The Colorado offense continued to crank out yards, but no points.  On the day, the Buffs would gain a season-high 373 yards (to 353 for Missouri), but would generate no more points.  Chase Daniel’s fourth touchdown pass of the day, this one to Jared Perry for a nine-yard score midway through the third quarter, gave Missouri a 28-13 lead, and proved to be the final points of the game.

The last hopes for a Colorado comeback were dashed when a Bernard Jackson pass fell incomplete on fourth down after Colorado had driven to the Missouri 18-yard line with four minutes remaining.

Despite the 0-5 start, Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins remained upbeat.

“Guys are starting to feel we can throw the football, we can make some plays,” said Hawkins.  “I’ve been down before.  We’re good.  We’re solid.  We’re tight.”  While the part about being “down before” was  somewhat hard to fathom – part of selling point in hiring Dan Hawkins at Colorado was that he had been a winner everywhere he had coached (including a stellar 53-11 record at Boise State) – there did seem to be cause for hope.  Colorado had been in every game it had played in 2006 – something that could not have been said about four of the Buffs’ six losses in 2005 – and had played toe-to-toe with three nationally ranked teams in successive weekends.

Still, another loss was another loss.

“Pretty well is just pretty not good enough,” said Colorado offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.  “There were about seven plays today that were just sickeningly easy to make and we didn’t make them,” Helfrich said.  “That’s my fault.  We’ve got to execute that or ratchet up practice or whatever it takes to get it done.”

The “whatever it takes” attitude would be at the forefront for the Buffs and their fans as Homecoming weekend approached.

Up next was Baylor, which was 2-3 on the season after defeating Kansas State, 17-3, to open up their Big 12 season.  Baylor represented a game – like Montana State, Colorado State, and Kansas State – which the Buff faithful had penciled in as sure wins before the season started.  Colorado had already lost to MSU and CSU.  With games against two more teams which could be ranked – Texas Tech and Oklahoma – to follow Baylor, the Buffs desperately needed a win to put an end to what was now a nine game losing streak.

And to make some sense of what was going on.

Here are the YouTube highlights from the game:

Chasing Infamy

The Colorado losing streak, after the Missouri loss, stood at nine games.  In the 117 years that the University of Colorado had fielded a football team, on only one occasion had the Buffs failed in ten straight outings.  The 1963 Buffs, under first year head coach Eddie Crowder, went 2-8, losing the last six games of the year after opening the season 2-2.  The 1964 edition of the Buffs also finished 2-8, starting 0-4 before beating Iowa State, 14-7, the fifth game of the season.  A Homecoming loss to Baylor in 2006 would match the ten game losing streak of the ‘63/’64 teams for the worst stretch in Colorado history.

True enough, the Buffs had endured more losses in a season than the eight suffered by both the ‘63 and ‘64 teams.  Colorado finished 1-10 in both 1980 and 1984.  The 1980 team opened the season with seven consecutive losses (but the Buffs did win the final game of 1979, so that streak ended at seven), while the 1984 team won the middle game of that season, bookended by two five game losing streaks (the Buffs won both the last game of 1983, and the first game of 1985, so both streaks ended at five games).

You could certainly try and sugarcoat the current nine game skid:

– During the nine game losing streak, the Buffs had lost to five ranked teams (six if you count Nebraska’s ranking after defeating Colorado);

– The Buffs had been in a position to win seven of the nine games; and

– The Buffs had continued to show improvement throughout September under a new coaching staff.

Still, nine losses in a row were nine losses in a row.

Until the Buffs won again, the 30-3 humbling by Nebraska, the 70-3 humiliation by Texas, and the unbelievable 19-10 loss to Montana State would still be referenced.  Colorado was one of only nine teams (out of 119 in Division 1-A) which remained winless in 2006.  Of those, only two teams, Duke and Stanford, were in BCS conferences.

Overall, only Temple, which was on a 17-game losing streak overall, and Duke (12 games), had longer current losing streaks than the Buffs’ nine.

Not exactly programs with which the Buffs wanted to be compared.

If Colorado wanted to avoid setting records which over a century of play had not generated, the Baylor game represented perhaps the Buffs’ last best chance.  After Baylor were games against two more ranked teams, so a loss to Baylor meant that the streak would likely continue until November, when the Buffs had potentially winnable home games against Kansas State and Iowa State.

When the 2006 media guide came out, much was made of Dan Hawkins placing Eddic Crowder and Bill McCartney beside him on the cover. “They are THE guys,” said Dan Hawkins.  “I haven’t done anything yet.  It’s a privilege to be in the same photo with Coach Ed and Coach Mac.”

Of course, Hawkins was referring to the successes each man had.

Under Eddie Crowder, the Buffs went 67-49-2, and, after the two 2-8 campaigns to open his tenure, went on to be ranked at the end of the season five times (Colorado had only finished nationally ranked three times in its history before Crowder).  Coach McCartney, of course, led the Buffs to the national championship in 1990, posting the most wins of any Colorado coach ever (93-55-5).

The desire of Coach Hawkins to place two Colorado legends on the cover of the 2006 media guide was admirable.  Crowder and McCartney epitomized the past successes of the program.  At the same time, those two legends had endured setting two of the most ignoble records in Buff history – Crowder at the helm for the Buffs’ only ten-game losing streak; McCartney in charge during a 1-10 campaign.

Hawkins was on the verge of making his own mark on the Buff program.

Unfortunately, it was a negative one.

One could only hope that there would be positive ones made down the road as well.

Game Notes –

– Mason Crosby’s second quarter field goal made him CU’s all-time leading scorer, passing Eric Bieniemy. Crosby finished the Missouri game with 256 career points; Bieniemy had 254 between 1987-90;

– Quarterback Bernard Jackson had a career-high 283 yards of total offense in the Missouri game. Jackson had 190 yards passing and 93 yards rushing against the Tigers, both season-bests to that game. Jackson’s 27 pass attempts would prove to be a season-high, as was his 283 yards of total offense;

– Colorado had eight plays going for 20 yards or longer against Missouri. The Buffs had only five such plays in the first four games of the 2006 season combined heading into the game;

– For just the third time in school history, Colorado opened its season with an 0-5 record. The other two: 1980 (0-7) and 1984 (0-5);

– The 63-yard completion from Bernard Jackson to Dusty Sprague early in the third quarter proved to be CU’s longest play from scrimmage all season;

– Senior Bryce MacMartin earned his first career start in the Missouri game, starting at center in place of the injured Mark Fenton. MacMartin would go on to start the next seven games at center for the Buffs;

– Three defensive players earned their first career starts against Missouri, as Colorado continued to look for answers on defense: true freshman Cha’pelle Brown at nickelback; true freshman Michael Sipili at middle linebacker; and sophomore Marcus Burton at weakside linebacker;

– Missouri would go on to post a 4-4 record in Big 12 play, and an 8-4 record overall. The Tigers faced off against Oregon State in the Sun Bowl, one of the most entertaining bowl games of the year. The Beavers scored with 22 seconds remaining to pull within a point, at 38-37. Rather than go for an extra point and overtime, Oregon State head coach Mike Riley went for a two-point conversion, figuring he may as well play it “like a card game at the end; we’re all in”. The two-point conversion was successful, giving Oregon State the win, and leaving Missouri with an 8-5 record for the 2006 season.

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