1983 Preseason

While it was certainly true that Colorado, with a 2-8-1 record in 1982, was mired in a four-season long slump without a winning season, there was still reason for optimism in Boulder as the 1982 season came to a close.

There had been moments in 1982 – a 12-0 shutout of Washington State in the second game of the season (and on the road!); a record-setting passing day of 361 yards against Nebraska (and trailing only 20-14 at the start of the fourth quarter!); a comeback tie against Oklahoma State; and a 28-3 demolition of Kansas in the home finale – which gave fans hope.

Plus, head coach Bill McCartney had brought in his first recruiting class in February, 1983, and had his first full off-season on campus.

McCartney, who had been hired in June, 1982, had the off-season to revamp his coaching staff, with only one coach from 1982 retaining similar responsibilities in 1983. The Buffs’ head coach also had his first spring practices in Boulder.

McCartney, before the start of the 1983 campaign, called his first spring drills “the single best thing that has happened” since he arrived. “The best thing about the spring was the moral and attitude of the players,” said McCartney. “That enabled us to make improvement.”

And there was plenty of room for improvement.

On offense, the lack of success in 1982 was attributed largely to a small and inexperienced offensive line. “Most of our offensive lineman have added ten or more pounds,” said McCartney. “That should really help to shore up our line.”

If the line was more consistent, the running game, gaining just over 100 yards/game in 1982, could improve. Five running backs – Lee Rouson, Eric McCarty (who would later shift to linebacker), Guy Egging, Chris McLemore, and Darryl Johnson – returned. Steve Vogel was slated to return as starting quarterback, but there was not much depth at wide receiver, with tight end Dave Hestera and wideout Loy Alexander the best options.

On defense, the Buffs looked to improve a squad which bent – and occasionally broke – during the 1982 season.

The Colorado defense kept the Buffs in most of its games during the season, but ultimately gave up almost 400 yards per game – and over 27 points per contest. “A year ago, our defensive interior was soft in the belly,” said McCartney, “and nothing affects morale more than when a team can strike at the center of your defense.” The Buffs went through four noseguards in 1982, with one of the four, Don Muncie, taking over the job full time during the spring.

Behind a weak defensive line, the linebackers would be led by returning starter Terry Irvin and a host of inexperienced players, including sophomore Barry Remington. The defensive secondary, though, was definitely the strength of the defense, with three three-year starters – corners Victor Scott and Clyde Riggins, along with safety Jeff Donaldson – back in 1983.

The kicking game for 1983 would see the return of three-year starter Tom Field as the field goal kicker, with junior Alan Braun taking over for the departed Art Woods as the Buffs’ punter.

The 1983 schedule offered several historic meetings.

The season-opener would come against Michigan State, a foe familiar to Bill McCartney, if not to the Buffs. Colorado had only played the Spartans once in its history, in 1951, but McCartney, the former Michigan defensive coordinator, was very familiar with George Perles’ crew from East Lansing.

Up next was Colorado State. The foe was not unknown to Colorado – the teams had played 59 times before, but it would be the first game between the two since 1958.

The other two non-conference games were against Oregon State, which had a three-game winning streak – all three games in the 1960’s – against the Buffs, then Notre Dame, the first ever meeting between the two schools.

Of the four games, the home contest Oregon State, coming off a 1-9-1 season in 1982, looked to be the best chance at a victory for the Buffs, while Notre Dame, a 6-4-1 team in 1982, would likely be a more formidable foe.

In Big Eight play, the “Big Two / Little Six” was still the order of the day.

Nebraska was the defending Big Eight champion, going 11-1, 7-0 in 1982, while Oklahoma had posted an 8-3 mark, 6-1 in conference play.

After the Cornhuskers and Sooners, the conference was a mixed bag. Kansas State had earned its first-ever bowl bid in 1982, but was only 6-4-1, 3-3-1 on the season. Oklahoma State had a winning conference record in 1982, 3-2-2, but was 4-5-2 overall. Missouri was 5-4-2 overall, but only 2-3-2 in Big Eight play. The remaining three teams in the Big Eight, Iowa State, Kansas, and Colorado, had all posted 1-5-1 conference records in 1982.

The fact that there were so many ties – four – between the lower tier teams, and the proximity of the overall records, gave Colorado fans reason to believe that it was not a steep climb to the top of the “Little Six”. With a little luck, and some quick maturation from its young players, the Buffs had a chance to climb in the Big Eight.

All it would take were a few wins, something the Colorado football program had not produced in great quantities in some time …


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *