Taking the LSAT

The University of Colorado had never played the University of Notre Dame in football.

This simple statement, in and of itself, was enough to raise anticipation level for the matchup between the Buffs and the Irish.

But there was also this: heading into the October 1, 1983, Colorado/Notre Dame game in Boulder, Colorado was 2-1; Notre Dame 1-2.

As a result, there was excitement across the Boulder campus not only about the possibility of playing Notre Dame, but about the possibility of actually beating the Irish.

It would be safe to assume that I, as a fan of college football, and especially a fan of the (apparently) resurgent Colorado Buffaloes, would have done little else the week leading up to the game other than prepare for the historic encounter.

Unfortunately, I had a large distraction keeping from focusing on the game – the Law School Admission Test.

The LSAT is a test taken in preparation for applying to the law school of your choice. Like the SAT, ACT, GRE, and MCAT, the LSAT brings with it a great deal of self-inflicted pressure. I had grown up wanting to be an attorney, and my double major of history and political science was not going to open many other doors. I had to do well on this test to guarantee admission to the Colorado Law School. Good grades in my first four years in Boulder would not be enough.

The LSAT is given several times a year, but to meet application deadlines the best time to take the test comes in the fall of your senior year. The test for the fall LSAT?

Yup. Saturday, October 1st … 8:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m.

Now, with a 12:15 p.m. kickoff scheduled, I knew that I would miss the kickoff, but was still likely to make most of the game.

I prepared for taking the LSAT by taking four hour practice exams every Saturday morning for six weeks leading up to the test. I scouted out the test area – the lecture hall in the basement of Duane Physics, right across the street from Folsom Field. Unlike many Buff fans, I got a good night’s sleep on Friday night. I was determined to block out what would be unfolding only a few hundred feet away.

Then Fate intervened.

Someone, somewhere, decided that it would not be a good idea to have such an important test be conducted amid such distractions. They decided that the test site should be moved, apparently oblivious to the fact the test site was actually underground, with no windows to the outside world.

Those of us arriving at Duane Physics at 7:30 that Saturday morning read a note on the door, telling us to go instead to the Guggenheim Geography building. We raced through the placid and as yet still quiet campus, hoping not to be late for the most important test of our lives. Lost on us for the moment was the irony that Guggenheim was originally the home of the CU Law School.

While overcast, October 1st was a warm, 70-degree day. On the second floor of the aging, un-airconditioned Guggenheim building, the proctors for the test soon took pity on the test-takers and opened the windows. This allowed for those of us attempting to stay focused and ensure our futures to get some fresh air.

It also served the purpose of making us fully aware of the impending Notre Dame game, courtesy of each and every fraternity throng passing the building on the way to the stadium.

While not wishing to generalize, I feel it is not an exaggeration to say that many of the fraternal order that morning had, despite the early kickoff time, imbibed during their pre-game activities. They were ready to take on the Irish themselves, offering various renditions of the school fight song, screaming out encouragement and threats to no one in particular, and generally made their presence known.

Rather than being encased in an air-conditioned tomb of Duane Physics, oblivious to the football game, we were in Guggenheim, where it became harder and harder to focus.

Chalk one up for the planners.

In the end, the test turned out fine. I did well enough to allow me to stay in Boulder for three more years. There was no way of knowing that at the time, though. All I knew as I staggered out of Guggenheim was that I was mentally and physically spent.

By the time I made it into Folsom, much of the first quarter had been played. The Buffs were already down, but I didn’t care at that particular moment – I had made it! Kyle and Kim, friends from freshman year in Libby Hall who had become an item early in our first year (and would be married in 1985) somehow managed to smuggle in a bottle of champagne.

It was just a crying shame that I didn’t have more to celebrate that afternoon.

October 1st – Boulder           Notre Dame 27, Colorado 3

A boisterous crowd of 52,692 crammed into Folsom Field for the CU/Notre Dame game … a stadium with a listed capacity of 51,463.

It was at the time the largest non-conference crowd ever, and the eighth largest crowd in Folsom Field history. Ripe with anticipation of an upset, the Buff faithful were instead treated to a demonstration as to how a talented major college football team takes care of business on the road.

Notre Dame took the opening kickoff and proceeded to put together an eight-play, 80-yard drive to take a 7-0 lead. Notre Dame halfback Allen Pinkett led the way, posting runs of 13 and 36 yards before scoring on a 10 yard jaunt.

The Irish would never look back, putting together an impressive 27-3 win.

On the day, Allen Pinkett rushed for 132 yards on 18 carries, with fullback Chris Smith contributing another 70 yards on ten carries, including a 29-yard touchdown run.

While arguably never really in the contest, the Buffs did have a chance to make a game of it early in the third quarter.

Down 17-3 at halftime, Colorado took the second half kickoff and marched smartly down the field. With a first-and-goal at the Notre Dame nine yard line, and the Buff Nation ready to explode, the following sequence of plays doomed the Buffs’ chances:

– Incomplete pass from Steve Vogel to Loy Alexander;

– Incomplete pass from Steve Vogel to (a wide open) Lee Rouson;

– Steve Vogel sacked for a 12-yard loss; and, painfully

– A missed 38-yard field goal by Tom Field.

“We just lost to a better football team”, Bill McCartney understated after the game. “They didn’t make any mistakes. They had been making mistakes – and paying for them – but today they didn’t make any.” The Buffs could only muster 236 yards of total offense, compared to 494 yards allowed to Notre Dame.

Now what?

The Buffs had completed the non-conference portion of the 1983 schedule with a 2-2 record. If offered such a mark in August, most, if not all Colorado fans, noting a total of only nine wins combined over the previous four seasons, would have jumped at the chance to have a .500 team.

Now, with the build up and subsequent disappointment associated with the Notre Dame game, the 2-2 mark seemed inadequate.

The mettle of the Buffs would now be tested. Up next was a Missouri team that was beatable to open Big Eight play. The game would be in Boulder (the Buffs’ fourth straight home game), and the Tigers were a tame 2-2, having fallen the previous week at home to East Carolina, 13-6.

If Colorado was to post its first record over .500 since 1976, this was a must win.

Game Notes –

– The non-conference attendance record crowd for Colorado/Notre Dame, of 52,692, would stand until 52,868 turned out for a battle between No. 20 Colorado and No. 12 Washington in 1990 (a 20-14 Colorado victory). The sellout was the first for the Buffs – against a team other than Nebraska or Oklahoma – since 52,904 turned out for a game between No. 6 Colorado and Oklahoma State (a 29-13 Colorado win).

– Colorado junior quarterback Steve Vogel was ineffective against Notre Dame, completing 12-of-25 passes for only 90 yards. Sophomore Derek Marshall was also given a chance to direct the Buffs, but Marshall went only three-for-seven for 38 yards and an interception.

– Colorado would go on to lose its next two encounters against Notre Dame, including a game in South Bend in 1984, and an Orange Bowl loss at the end of the 1989 season. The Buffs would not post their first win over the Irish until a 10-9 win on January 1, 1991, gave Colorado its first national championship.

– Notre Dame came to Boulder on a two-game losing streak, but would use the win over the Buffs to take off on a five game winning streak. A three-game losing streak to end the regular season, though, relegated the Irish to a Liberty Bowl bid (and a 7-5 record after a 19-18 win over Boston College).


One Reply to “Notre Dame – Taking the LSAT”

  1. I remember going to this game. I was 10, and my grandma, brother and I got to go. We sat behind the north endzone, which was before the days of the Dal Ward Center.

    I remember 3 things- 1)The Buffs losing; 2) bumping into a Notre Dame player after the game. My face hit his thigh pad, so I’m guessing he was a lineman; and 3)seeing myself on TV. Notre Dame games back then were shown on ESPN on Sunday mornings. They scored in the north endzone right in front of me while I was sitting under the railing, so I could be seen in the background as they celebrated.

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