September 19th – Boulder           Washington State 14, Colorado 10

Washington State came into Boulder 1-0, coming off a warm-up game against none other than Division I-AA Montana State, winning 33-21. The Cougars had only been 4-7 in 1980, so the game matched two teams looking to erase the memories of the previous campaign, and gain confidence by starting 1981 at 2-0.

Colorado led the game 10-0, and had possession of the football with under four minutes to go in the game. A 2-0 start was within the Buffs’ grasp.

Then disaster struck.

Colorado was held on downs, and then, on fourth down, failed to get the punt off, leading to a five-play, 34-yard drive for a touchdown. 10-7. On the next series, the Buffs again went three-and-out, except the Buffs forgot the “and out” part. This time the punt was blocked and returned 43 yards for a touchdown by Cougar free safety Paul Sorenson.

What had been a 10-0 defensive gem was now a 14-10 loss. The first defensive unit for Colorado more than held it’s own, but it was wasted.

The loss was “bitter”, according to Chuck Fairbanks. Those in attendance did not disagree, though only a few hundred more than had cheered the Texas Tech win (35,277) came to the game.

Memories of 1980 were resurrected.

Colorado still had a long way to go.

You’ve got to be kidding me

It takes a special talent to lose a game this way.

Ahead the entire game, with a stifling defense, the Buffs committed the unthinkable not once, but twice, in the fourth quarter. The Oklahoma debacle a year earlier was almost fun by comparison. Against the Sooners, the 82-42 loss was embarrassing. This was worse, because the Buffs should have won. Washington State was on CU’s level, and, if the Buffs were to show any noticeable signs of improvement, we had to beat this caliber of team at home.

As fans, we returned to the pessimism of the 1980 season.

With No. 11 ranked BYU, No. 16 ranked UCLA, and a trip to Lincoln coming up over the next three weeks, the euphoria of the Texas Tech game was already starting to wane.

Major League Irony

On the Thursday before the Washington State game, the Boulder Daily Camera ran an article by Camera Sports Writer Craig Harper. The fluff piece was written about Washington State free safety Paul Sorenson. The article referred to a story of how Sorenson, a native of the San Francisco area, had spent a good part of the summer working out with receivers from the California Golden Bears. The joke was that Sorenson did not reveal his identity as a defensive back from Washington State, and how the receivers, despite having played against Sorenson, did not recognize him.

The article was entitled: “Colorado Can’t Afford to Forget Sorenson”.

Two days later, Paul Sorenson carried the second blocked punt 43 yards to score the winning touchdown. Apparently, the Buffs forgot to read the article.

Game Notes …

– The attendance of 35,277 was an indication of how far the Buffs had fallen in popularity. For the season, Colorado would average 34,871, the only time under 40,000 since 1969, and the lowest average since 1965.



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