“… Loyal, we will be to you …”
After the final gun in Colorado’s 52-24 debacle in Seattle, I was hard-pressed to come up with a proper opening for an essay about a Colorado team which had given up 100 points in the past two weeks, and had two high-scoring ranked opponents coming up in the next two weeks.
Thomas Paine? – “These are the times that try men’s souls”? Nah.
How about Winston Churchill? – “Let us therefore brace ourselves to our duties, and so bear ourselves, that if the British Empire and its Commonwealth last for a thousand years, men will still say, ‘This was their finest hour’ “. Close, but perhaps a bit too dramatic.
Let’s just stay with the CU alma mater.
“Hail, all hail our alma mater / Ever will our hearts be true”
In posting the Archive Game of the Week, I was reminded of the story about singing our alma mater at Husky Stadium back in 1989. For those of you who haven’t read the story of the 1989 game between the 5th-ranked Buffs and the 21st-ranked Washington Huskies, here is a brief synopsis:
It was the first game for the Buffs after Sal Aunese died. A year earlier, Aunese was the Colorado starting quarterback, and now the Buffs’ team leader was gone. How the collection of 19- and 20-year olds would react on the field was anyone’s guess, especially on the road against a tough opponent (Washington was also ranked, and had big plans of its own – this was a team which would go on to share the national championship with Miami two years later).
Instead of playing with distraction, the Buffs came out inspired, dominating the Huskies, 45-28. Up in Section 6, after the Buffs took a 45-14 lead in the fourth quarter, Brad and I led a small band of Buff faithful in a rendition of the alma mater. Okay, “led” is not entirely the right word. Then, as now, most Colorado fans do not know any of the words to the alma mater except for the last line, “Dear … old … C …U!”. For Brad and I, though, the alma mater was something not to be taken lightly. We sang with gusto, and with pride.
When you are a dedicated Buff fan, the words to the CU alma mater resonate.
“You will live with us forever / Loyal we wll be to you”
When you have been to the depths, the heights are all the more spectacular. The 1989 Buffs were a dominant team, and, if instant replay had been in effect at the 1990 Orange Bowl, Colorado might have won back-to-back national championships (I am refering to Eric Bieniemy’s touchdown leap in the second quarter of the 1990 Orange Bowl, a touchdown which was clear on television, but not to the linesman on the field).
Playing on the national stage meant a great deal to those of us who lived through the early 1980’s – through the Chuck Fairbanks’ years; the “Colorado sky blue” uniforms; the six straight losing seasons. We had remained loyal, and our loyalty was ultimately rewarded. Starting with the 1989 team, Colorado would post five 10-win seasons over the next eight years (after having only one ten win season – 1971 – in school history prior to 1989).
“We will sing forever your praises / Ever more our love renew”
Will loyalty of the Buff Nation be rewarded again anytime soon?
Colorado has had five straight losing seasons, with a sixth all but assured. The 2005-11 string of losing campaigns will tie the 1979-84 streak as the longest in school history. Colorado has never lost more than ten games in a season, but, with the Buffs’ play of late, that record may also be in jeopardy.
What’s worse is that it’s about to get, well … worse.
And that brings back some less than pleasant memories.
Back in 1980, the Buffs were at their collective worst. In the season opener, the Buffs fell behind UCLA 56-0 … at halftime. The first home game was a 49-7 loss to a mediocre Indiana team (6-5 in 1980) coached by none other than ESPN”s Lee Corso. It appeared that the Buffs could not sink any lower.
Then Oklahoma came to town.
The Sooners were ranked 12th in the nation, stung by an unexpected loss to Stanford the week before (Oklahoma had gone 11-1 in 1979). Barry Switzer was never known for calling off the dogs in a rout, and he had some ground to make up with the national pollsters.
A game for the record books. Oklahoma defeated Colorado that day in 1980 by the score of 82-42. A total of 51 NCAA, Big Eight, school, and Folsom Field records were broken. Oklahoma rushed for an unfathomable 758 yards, and had 875 yards of total offense.
Keep those numbers in mind, Buff fans, as Oregon comes to town next weekend.
The Ducks are 5th in the nation in rushing offense (trailing only the service academies and Georgia Tech, all four of which rely almost exclusively on the run for their offensive yardage). Oregon is also 5th in the nation in total offense (at 539 yards per game) and third in nation in scoring, at almost 50 points per game.
Like Oklahoma in 1980, Oregon was stung by an early season loss (to LSU). Like Barry Switzer in 1980, Oregon head coach Chip Kelly is not known for calling off the dogs in a rout, and the Ducks have some ground to make up with the national pollsters if they hope to get back into the national championship discusssion.
What do you think?
Under the best of circumstances, Colorado would be a heavy underdog. Now, the Buffs are on a four-game losing streak, and have given up 100 points in the past two weeks on defense. To add injury to insult – Colorado last week listed nine defensive backs on the weekly injury report, and two of the Buffs’ top linebackers – Josh Hartigan and Doug Rippy – missed all or most of the Washington game with injury, and are questionable at best for the Oregon game.
Meanwhile, on offense, Colorado will be without its leading rusher (Rodney Stewart) and leading receiving threat (Paul Richardson).
Crunch these numbers:
Going up against Oregon, Colorado’s leading rusher will be Tony Jones, who has 116 yards rushing … on the season.
Going up against Oregon, Colorado’s leading receiver will be Toney Clemons, who has 16 catches for 173 yards … on the season.
Those numbers add up to a decent half for some of Oregon’s players.
“Pledge our whole devotion to you / Dear … old … C … U!”
Will the Oregon game be a rout? Undoubtedly.
Will the Arizona State game which follows – on the road – likely be as ugly? Probably.
Does that mean I am giving up on my team?
Not a chance.
I be on the road to Boulder next weekend. I will be wearing black-and-gold, take in a few tailgate parties, sing the alma mater before the game, and cheer on my team to the bitter end.
And will I remember these dark days a few years down the road, when the Buffs have turned things around, and I will appreciate the victories all the more.
After all, it’s my alma mater.