November 23rd – Boulder           Colorado 30, Kansas State 0

In 1984, Colorado limped into its finale against Kansas State. Demoralized, cold, and playing before just 17,600 Wildcat fans, the Buffs had nothing to play for, and it showed.

The resulting 38-6 humiliation was a fitting end to a 1-10 disaster.

What a difference a year makes.

The weather was not much better (20 degrees for the 11:00 a.m. kickoff), and the smallest home crowd since the 1983 finale against the same Kansas State squad (28,210 paid, 20,777 actual), were in attendance. But the game was light years away from the 1984 game.

This year, it was the Buffs who would send the visiting team home with a 1-10 record on the heels of a rout. The Buffs were in control from the outset, as the offense complimented the defense for the first time in over a month. After junior safety Steve Beck intercepted a Randy Williams pass on the Wildcats’ opening possession, Colorado needed just three plays to move 43 yards and a 7-0 lead. Halfback Ron Brown, who would pick up 72 yards on the day, did the honors with a 20-yard touchdown run.

Two possessions later, the Buffs moved 62 yards in only six plays, with Mark Hatcher scoring on a one yard keeper. Even with a missed extra point by Larry Eckel, the Buffs were on top 13-0 with 3:52 still left in the first quarter. A second quarter scoring run by sophomore Jo Jo Collins covering 19 yards (plus a two-point conversion run by fullback Anthony Weatherspoon) gave Buffs fans reason to try and keep warm and stick around for the second half, with the home team up 21-0 at the break.

The defense ensured that the outcome would never be in doubt.

Holding the Wildcats to just 185 yards of total offense, the Buffs registered its first shutout since a 12-0 win over Washington State in 1982. Leading at half-time 21-0, the Buffs went to the break having run off 26 plays to only three for Kansas State to end the half.

After the game, Coach Bill McCartney, as he had after the final home games of 1982 and 1983, earned a trip off the field on the shoulders of his players. Unlike the earlier games, though, the goalposts did not come down. The remaining fans were too few and too cold to mount a successful challenge to security assigned to guard the field.

No matter. The Buffs were 7-4, 4-3 in conference. The seven wins were the most for any Colorado squad since 1977. The 4-3 conference record merited a tie for third with Oklahoma State (the Cowboys and Buffs both lost to the Big Two, and the Cowboys were shocked by Iowa State, 15-10, while the Buffs were dispatching Kansas State). With the six game turnaround from the 1984 season, Colorado won the designation of being the most improved team in the NCAA for 1985.

But would it be enough for Colorado’s first bowl bid since 1976?

Bowled Over

The headline in the Sunday Rocky Mountain News was “CU bowls over K-State 30-0”. On the cover of the sports section was a picture of several Buffs, including safety Mickey Pruitt and cornerbacks Lyle Pickens and Solomon Wilcots, holding a sheet decorated to read “Buffs Bowl Bound”.

Not so fast.

A representative from the Freedom Bowl announced after the game that the Buffs would be invited to play against the Washington Huskies in Anaheim, California, IF, and ONLY IF, Tennessee defeated Vanderbilt the following week. If Tennessee won, the Volunteers would advance to the Sugar Bowl. If the Volunteers fell, though, they were still more appealing to the Freedom Bowl officials, and Tennessee would be invited to the Freedom Bowl to play Washington. If Tennessee ended up in Anaheim, Colorado would be shut out of the bowls.

Fortunately for the Buffs, the Vanderbilt Commodores in 1985 were not a good football team. Tennessee had dominated the series, and in 1985, the outcome was never really in doubt. The Volunteers cruised to a 30-0 victory in Knoxville, and the Colorado Buffaloes, a week after leaving the playing field, could finally savor their first bowl invitation in over a decade.

Fan Support

During the 1990 campaign, Colorado’s path to the national championship was paved with empty seats. Colorado managed to sell out four of six home games that year, but fell short in two others. Even in years after the 1989-90 title runs, despite having a team vying for conference titles numerous times, Colorado has yet to post a season where every game is sold out. Compare, if you will, Nebraska, which, as noted in this chapter, has sold out every home game since 1962. This with a stadium which has a capacity of over 80,000, some 25,000 seats greater than Folsom Field.

While this is always a concern for CU administrators, it was a nightmare in the mid-1980’s. No home game in 1985 sold out, and the average attendance for the season was a paltry 36,789. The Buffs, who had not traveled to a bowl game since 1976, did not have a recent bowl history nor a fanatical fan base.

This dearth of fan support created a legitimate fear for Colorado officials of being excluded from the 1985 bowl picture. While it is true that records play a large role in who receives the bowl invitations, the almighty dollar, on more than one occasion, has denied deserving teams a shot at the spotlight.

The Freedom Bowl seemed like a good fit for the Buffs. The Anaheim game was in southern California, and more students attending the University of Colorado call California home than any other state other than Colorado. With California-based students home for the Christmas holiday, and Disneyland only a few miles away to draw other Colorado faithful, Freedom Bowl and Colorado officials hoped for a large crowd.

They would be disappointed.

Game Notes –

– Quarterback Mark Hatcher had 119 yards rushing on the afternoon. It was Hatcher’s third 100-yard rushing game of the season, and sixth for the Buffs overall. It was the first for Colorado, though, rushed for 151 yards against Missouri.

– Colorado rushed for 352 yards on the day against Kansas State, the third 300-yard rushing day of the season for the Buffs’ new wishbone offense.

– With Kansas State limping towards a 1-10 finish, the Wildcats wanted no part of the second half against Colorado. With the Buffs up two scores in the second quarter, the Wildcats warmed up the bus. Colorado held the ball for 32 of the final 41 minutes of the game.

– Junior linebacker Barry Remington had 22 tackles against Kansas State, giving him a team leading 162 for the season. Remington also led the team in tackles in 1984, with 123, and would go on to lead the team again in tackles in 1986, with 127. His 162 tackles in 1985 set the standard for tackles by a Colorado junior.

– Lee Moon took over for head coach Lynn Dickey two games into the 1985 season (after Kansas State opened with losses to Wichita State and Northern Iowa). As interim coach, Moon posted a 1-8 record, defeating only Missouri, 20-17, in week seven. In Big Eight play, Kansas State reached double digits in points only twice (the other double digit point production coming in a 21-14 loss to Iowa State).


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