September 28th – at Arizona           Colorado 14, Arizona 13

A major test for the rejuvenated Buffs would come against Arizona. The game against the Wildcats would be the first road game of the year, and the first night game for Colorado since 1980 (v. LSU).

After starting the season 2-1 in 1983, the Buffs succumbed to Notre Dame, and then slid into a five game losing streak. If the 1985 Colorado squad, also possessing a 2-1 record, was to make a statement that black was in fact back, what better way to do so than to post a road victory?

As it was, the Buffs were a paltry 2-11-1 on the road in their first three-plus seasons under Bill McCartney.

To almost everyone’s amazement, Colorado stepped up, pulling out a 14-13 win under the lights in Tucson. As in the Oregon game, the defense ultimately carried the day. Colorado held the Wildcats to just 228 yards of total offense, the best Buff effort in two years. Through the first month of the season, the Buffs’ defense was now ranked 18th in the nation in both rushing and total defense. This rated as quite an improvement for a team which had allowed, on average, over 400 yards and 30 points per game to the opposition over McCartney’s first three years.

On offense, the running game pounded out 301 yards on 61 attempts. Halfback Ron Brown contributed his second 100-yard effort of the young season, carrying for 100 yards and a touchdown on only 13 carries. The passing game didn’t contribute, though, as quarterback Mark Hatcher completed more passes to Arizona players than to his teammates. Hatcher’s line: 1-4 for 27 yards, with two interceptions.

After spotting Arizona a 3-0 first quarter lead, Colorado took a 7-3 halftime lead on a seven-yard run by Ron Brown. The third quarter was all Wildcats, as Arizona scored ten points to take a 13-10 lead into the final quarter. The game-winning drive, capped by a two-yard run by Mark Hatcher, included a 40-yard run by Brown.

The Buffs had now completed the non-conference slate with a winning record, 3-1, for the first time since Bill Mallory’s last team had raced to a 4-0 start in 1978. Could the momentum continue into Big Eight play?

Back Among the “Others”

The last time the University of Colorado football team had been ranked in either the coaches’ (UPI) or Associated Press poll was in 1978. The Buffs’ upset of a tough Arizona squad, on the road, made the coaches take notice. In the Rocky Mountain News the week after the Arizona game, the small, one column headline read: “Buffs are back, among ‘others’ “.

Indeed, while not breaking into the top 20, Colorado did in fact receive votes as being one of the top 20 teams in the nation (polls did not expand to 25 teams until 1989).

The September 30, 1985 UPI poll was insignificant to much of the nation. Iowa was ranked No. 1, with Oklahoma, having played only one game to that point, being ranked second. For teams competing for the national championship, the poll was but a means to a larger end. September polls were for posturing. The January 2nd poll was the only one which would count.

In Boulder, however, it was a different story.

I still have the newspaper clipping from that day, the day Colorado nudged its way back towards national relevance.

For Colorado to be anywhere close to being ranked was a minor miracle. It’s hard to explain the value of such a non-event to the non-fan, so I will turn to Sports Illustrated writer (and Colorado alumnus) Rick Reilly, who penned the the column: “No Contest: A Few Dozen Reasons Why College Football is Better Than the Pro Kind” for the 1996 SI College Football Preview Magazine.

In the article, Reilly points to many differences between the college and pro game, including gems like “College football has Stewart-to-Westbrook. Pro football has Anaheim-to-St. Louis”, and “College football has Athens, Ga.; Eugene, Ore.; and Madison, Wis. Pro football has not one but two (2) teams in East Rutherford, N.J.”.

My favorite: “College football will get you so delirious, your wear your school’s underwear and throw an Also Receiving Votes Party. Pro football will have you wondering if you can leave early in the fourth quarter in order to get home for the beginning of She’s the Sheriff.”

When I read that line, some 11 years after I clipped the Rocky Mountain News article, I laughed.

It’s true.

College football loyalty will make you do strange things.

Game Notes … 

– Despite having some success over the course of the next few weeks after the Arizona game, the Buffs did not play its way into the Top 20 rankings in either the Associated Press or UPI poll in 1985. In fact, it would not be until 1988 that Colorado again would be listed among the nation’s elite.

– Against Arizona, the Buffs had two interceptions. Senior cornerback Lyle Pickens had his second of the season (the first coming against Colorado State), with sophomore safety John Nairn picking off the other. The significance? The two interceptions gave Colorado four picks for the 1985 season in just four games. In all of 1984, Colorado mustered only three interceptions for the entire season.

– Senior Ron Brown, completing the move from record-setting wide receiver to running back, had his second 100-yard rushing game of the 1985 season against Arizona (going for 104 against Colorado State). It would be the last productive game of Brown’s career, as other rushers received more carries during Big Eight conference play.

– The win gave Colorado a perfect 12-0 record against Arizona, far and away the Buffs’ best record against any opponent with that many games on the books.

– Arizona had risen to #19 in the nation (in the UPI poll) prior to the loss to Colorado. The Wildcats would rebound to finish 1985 with an 8-3-1 record, tying Georgia, 13-13, in the Sun Bowl.


2 Replies to “Arizona – Buffs back among “Others receiving votes””

  1. I had a similarly euphoric feeling when the Buffs were “also receiving votes” after each of the first two games this year (2016), as it had been eight years since that had happened. Hopefully there’s more to celebrate in the future.

  2. As a freshman living in Farrand Hall in the Fall of ’85 I remember being excited by the fact that after getting smacked around by OSU the week before, they went on the road and defeated ‘Zona. I had expected – based upon CU’s lack of success in the several years before I arrived on campus – including being voted “The Most Beautiful Place in the Country to Watch Lousy College Football” in SI the year earlier – that the Buffs would be lucky to win one or two games. A 3-1 non-conference record was almost too good to be true.

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