Rivalry? What Rivalry?

As much as Nebraska looks with disdain at Colorado (or anyone else, for that matter) who dares to call the Cornhuskers their “rival”, the Colorado Buffaloes in the early 1980’s were just as pompous when it came to their “rivals” just 40 miles to the north, the Colorado State Rams.

While the game was a natural for generating interest and a full house at Folsom Field, the Buffs resisted scheduling the game due to the perception that playing Colorado State in football represented a “no-win” situation for Colorado.

Colorado State played in the Western Athletic Conference. The perception had long been that the WAC played an inferior style of football. “All offense, no defense” was the stigma attached to every team wearing the WAC logo. If a Colorado/Colorado State game was played and Colorado won, there would be no positive reaction as such a result would be expected. Lose, and the struggling program would suffer a loss of status within the state it could not afford to lose.

In part due to this fear, Colorado had not played Colorado State in football since 1958. Negotiations between the schools, which also involved state legislators, led to an agreement for the teams to play six times over the next seven seasons, with four games to be in Boulder and two in Fort Collins.

While not officially stated, the interest which would be generated from the renewal of the series could not be understated. Nebraska and Oklahoma games at home always generated large crowds, but they only came to town every other year. In 1981, the most recent season without the “Big Two” at home, the average attendance at Folsom Field was 34,871, the lowest average since 1965. A home game against Colorado State would put bodies in the stands, win or lose.

But the Buffs HAD to win …

September 17th – Boulder           Colorado 31, Colorado State 3

A crowd of 49,783 came to Folsom for a beautiful 84-degree fall afternoon to watch the Colorado dominate the Rams, 31-3.

Split end Loy Alexander caught two short touchdown passes from Steve Vogel to lead Colorado to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, and the Buffs never looked back. The Colorado running game finally got on track with 233 yards on 43 carries. Halfback Chris McLemore led the way by racing for 100 yards on only 13 carries.

The easy win over the Rams gave Colorado a 44-15-2 series edge over their cross-state “rivals” from Ft. Collins.

“Obviously, this was a key game,” said Bill McCartney. “I’m in my second year now, and I was really disappointed with the way we played at Michigan State. Today, the squad was hungry and determined. There was no doubt in my mind we were going to play that well. We were flying around and punishing those kids as they caught the ball. Our defense was playing like a defense ought to play.”

Despite the lop-sided score, the game itself was lauded in the local media. Dick Conner’s column in the Rocky Mountain News the next day was entitled: “This Mismatch was Worth It”.

Interest in Colorado football had been rekindled, if only for one weekend.

Game Notes –

– The margin of victory – 28 points – was the largest for the Buffs since a 55-7 thumping of Northwestern in 1978.

– The Colorado defense held the Rams to a season-low 234 yards, including 42 yards rushing on 37 attempts.

– Only a 53-yard field goal by Ram kicker Jon Poole kept the Buffs from recording a second game shutout in back-to-back seasons.

– The final points of the game, coming in the third quarter, came when tight end Dave Hestera recovered a fumble in the Ram endzone.

– Colorado State, in its second season under Leon Fuller, would go on to post a 5-7 overall record, 4-4 in the WAC.


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