November 19th – Boulder           Colorado 38, Kansas State 21

Only 27,649 Buff faithful bothered to come out for the 1983 finale against the Kansas State Wildcats, in what would prove to be the smallest crowd to ever watch a Bill McCartney coached Colorado team in Folsom Field.

Though it was mid-November, the skies were sunny, and the game time temperature was a tolerable 39 degrees. It was not the weather, then, that kept the fans away.

It was the matchup.

Both teams were 3-7, 1-5 in Big Eight play, with the winner earning a tie for sixth place in the conference. While a fourth victory would represent the most wins for Colorado since Bill Mallory’s final squad had finished 6-5 in 1978, it could hardly be called a glamour contest. It was easy to find a good seat in the half-filled stadium as kickoff neared.

The Buffs started the game with about as much enthusiasm for the contest as their fans, as, at halftime, the scoreboard read: Kansas State 21, Colorado 7.

Between the two of them, quarterbacks Derek Marshall and Steve Vogel threw four first half interceptions. The score could have been even worse than 21-7, as Kansas State lost four fumbles in the opening half (and all four in Buff territory – at the Colorado 43, the 1, the 40, and the 17).

If it was possible, the crowd “thinned” before the third quarter kickoff.

Then, something happened.

The Buffs, who had seen the ball bounce away more often than not, suddenly found themselves the benefactor of several gifts. Kansas State fumbled to open the second half. Two plays later, Darryl Johnson scored on a 13-yard run. The score was now 21-14, Kansas State.

Less than two minutes later, the Wildcats fumbled again, with Kent Davis recovering the ball for Colorado. This time, the Buffs were even more efficient. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Steve Vogel hit Lee Rouson for a 26-yard score. One tick of the clock over two minutes gone in the third quarter, and the Buffs were suddenly tied with Kansas State, 21-all.

The rest of the game was all Colorado.

By the time the onslaught was complete, the Buffs had scored 31 unanswered second half points, rolling to a 38-21 win.

The victory was capped off when Colorado All-America candidate cornerback Victor Scott returned an interception 71 yards for a touchdown with just over five minutes remaining in the game. Fellow defensive back Kent Davis also had a good day, recovered two fumbles, forced another fumble on a punt return, and had an interception near the goal line. The Colorado offense was led by wide receiver Ron Brown, who had six catches for 137 yards and a touchdown.

Buff fans, just as they had in the 1982 finale, stormed (okay, “stormed” would be inappropriate. How about “wandered onto”) the playing field to take down the goalposts. Head coach Bill McCartney had posted just five wins in two years, but it was the second time the goalposts were assaulted.

McCartney couldn’t help but muse: “Geez, it doesn’t take very much to get them excited”.


Victor Scott and the “Survivors”

For cornerback Victor Scott, who would go on to become a second round pick in the 1984 NFL draft, and who would spend five years in the NFL, the final touchdown against Kansas State had special meaning.

It came in the last five minutes of his last game as a Buff.

Victor Scott, who, along with the other 26 members of the Class of 1980 who would never know a winning season in a Buff uniform, was emotional after the game: “I’m all choked up. I’ll really miss playing here and the players”. Scott summed up the game and his investment in Colorado by saying, “At halftime (when the Buffs were down 21-7) I decided I wasn’t going to let them beat us in my last college game”.

It was a long road for the class of 1980 – my class.

The recruiting class of 1980 was heralded as one of the top ten in the country, and were viewed as the class which would return the Buffs, and their coach Chuck Fairbanks, to the hierarchy of the Big Eight. Terry Irvin, quoted by the Boulder Daily Camera in an article about the “Class of ’80 Survivors”, recalled: “When we came here, Colorado had only had one losing year (1979) and the program was not in bad shape. We thought we could get it back to its prominence.”

Instead of ten wins a season, though, the Class of 1980 had managed just ten wins in four campaigns. Said fellow Senior Sandy Armstrong, starting outside linebacker for every game in 1983, “There haven’t been a whole lot of good times”.

I felt empathy for the outgoing class, as this was my class. In the era of red-shirting, most football players are around for five years. The class of 1980, though, did not have that luxury. With no depth and a struggling team, they were thrust into the fray as freshmen. As a result, of the 26 who came to Boulder in August, 1980, only six would return for action in 1984.

In addition to Victor Scott, two other members of the 1980 class would play in the pros. Strong safety Jeff Donaldson would also go on to the NFL in 1984. Defying the odds as a 9th round pick in the draft, Donaldson enjoyed a ten-year career. Lee Rouson, who did have a red-shirt season, was the only Colorado player drafted in 1985.

Three players out of 26 made the big show. Not exactly the percentage envisioned when the Class of 1980 was recruited.

After the Kansas State win, Bill McCartney was happy, but not exuberant. “Sure, the win means something. You gotta walk before you run. We haven’t arrived yet, but we’re growing.”

Not exactly the makings for headlines like “Upset Special: CU Over Irish“, as had been in the Rocky Mountain News back in September, but, as had been the case in September, there again seemed to be reason to hope. “In order for this program to get back in business and get the respect of people in the Big Eight and in the country, were going to have to have an outstanding recruiting year.”

McCartney certainly saw the glass at Colorado as being half full.

The Buffs had gone 2-1 in November, after going 2-1 in the heady days of September. If not for that pesky month of October, when the Buffs went 0-5, it could have been a great year.

Significant talent, especially in the defensive secondary, would be lost, but many of the key players were coming back. Perhaps McCartney had turned the corner. 2-8-1 in his first year, 4-7 in his second. It wasn’t inconceivable that the Buffs could have a winning season in 1984, was it?

Little did we know that Colorado would not only not learn to “run” in 1984, the walk would revert to a mere crawl.


Game Notes –

– Quarterback Steve Vogel set a number of season passing records in 1983, including passing attempts (236), yards, (1,385), and touchdown passes (12). [All have long since been passed].

– Senior kicker Tom Field left Colorado owning most of the field goal kicking records: Field goal attempts (55), field goals made (36), field goal percentage (.654, 36-of-55). Field also set records for games played (45) and career points (190). [All have since been passed].

– Kansas State finished the season with a 3-8 record, 1-6 in the Big Eight. The Wildcats only victory in conference play was a 21-20 win over Oklahoma State.


2 Replies to “Kansas State – Victor Scott and the “Survivors” go out winners”

  1. Rob,
    Correct – Walter Stanley was a part of the 1980 class. Stanley, though, left Colorado after the 1981 season after several incidents. He transferred to a school in Grand Junction, but never played there. Stanley played seven seasons in the NFL, the best four with the Green Bay Packers (although he did make the Pro Bowl as a kick returner for Detroit in 1989).

    Stanley’s career NFL stats: 85 games; 130 catches for 2,213 yards and five touchdowns. 175 punt returns, with one returned for a touchdown.

  2. As a 1984 grad, this also was my last game watching the Buffs during school. If memory serves me, there were a few other Buffs that may have not finished their buffs careers in 1983 but went on to the NFL. Walter Stanley is one I recall, although I don’t think he finished with the Buffs.

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