September 20th – at Ohio State          Ohio State 13, Colorado 10

The Colorado Buffaloes played before the then second largest road crowd in school history, 88,404 (the Buffs played before 91,203 against Michigan in 1974.  Subsequent games against Michigan, Ohio State, Texas and Georgia have surpassed both totals), succumbing in the last minute, 13-10.

For the third straight game, the Buffs could not put together a complete team effort.  Against Colorado State in the opener, the defense had played well, only to be betrayed by the offense and six turnovers.  Against Oregon, the offense had shined, only to have the defense fail to come up with the big play.

Against Ohio State, it was the Colorado State game all over again – good defense; no offense.

The Buffs’ defense shut down Ohio State, with the Buckeyes only touchdown “drive” of the game covering all of 14 yards after a William White interception in the second quarter.  Without much effort, and the Buckeyes were hand-delivered a 10-0 halftime lead.

Not only should the Buffs not have given up a cheap score, they should have held the lead at intermission.

Colorado linebacker John Nairn intercepted Ohio State quarterback Jim Karsatos in the second quarter. with the Buffs trailing just 3-0.  Colorado could penetrate no further than the one yard line, though, as fullback Anthony Weatherspoon was stopped short on fourth-and-goal from the one yard line.  Denied a score, the Buffs were back in business after a poor punt, setting up at the Buckeyes’ 28 yard line.  Three plays and seven yards later, Buff kicker Dave DeLine missed a 37-yard field goal.

The Buffs were finally able to get on the board late in the third quarter, as DeLine connected on a 37-yard effort.  (Ironically, DeLine would have three 37-yard field goal attempts on the day.  Unfortunately for Colorado and its fans, DeLine made only one).

Colorado knotted the score at 10-all with 5:21 left in the game on a 19-yard scoring pass from Mark Hatcher to split end Lance Carl. Another close game, on the road, against a quality opponent. The 0-2 Buffs were on the verge of an upset, but needed someone to come through.

Both teams had opportunities to win the game in the closing minutes.

The Buffs failed, however, while the Buckeyes were able to capitalize.  According to Bill McCartney and cornerback David Tate, the Buckeyes were only able to capitalize with a little help from the referees.  A pass from Jim Karsatos fell incomplete on a third-and-11 from the Buffs’ 23 yard line, but Tate was called for pass interference at the Colorado four.  Only 1:37 remained in the game.  “I was trying to strip him of the ball, but I missed him”, Tate explained, “It was a late flag.”  Ohio State then called on kicker Pat O’Morrow to seal the win.  At 19 yards, the kick was shorter than an extra point, but O’Morrow made it interesting, just sneaking the kick between the uprights.

For the second week in a row, the Buffs were witness to an opposing kicker stealing a win from them in the final minute of play.

Colorado was now 0-3, with 10th-ranked Arizona coming to Boulder.  What else could go wrong in 1986?

Golfing, but Listening

I would like to say that the 1986 Ohio State game was special for me, and that I paid particular attention to the game because Ohio State is my wife’s alma mater.  The fact is that when Colorado met Ohio State, I was in my third year of law school at Colorado, Lee was in her third year at Ohio State, and we were still some 6½ years away from meeting.

What I do remember about the 1986 Ohio State game was the fact that we did listen to the game on the radio, and that we were playing golf at the time.

(Authors Note:  For those who have taken note of my horror stories concerning law school and the time it takes away from normal social activities, relating that I was playing golf on a Saturday afternoon in September may seem a bit incongruous.  Truth be told, by time you reach your third year of law school, pressures have eased somewhat.  Students are allowed to take classes covering topics which interest them, and from professors who do not terrify them.  More importantly, students learn to budget their time, having learned what it will take to get the grades they desire.  By my third year, taking a Saturday afternoon off for a round or golf – or for a football game – was permissible.)

I was playing golf with Brad and two others at the Boulder Country Club.  At each tee, we would pull out our portable radio to check on the game.  (The fact that we were listening to an 0-2 team play, on the road, against a top team, should give some indication of our fanaticism.  As was the case with most Colorado games during the 1980’s, the Colorado/Ohio State game was not televised.)

With the Buffs down only 3-0 in the second quarter, we were encouraged.  The interception resulting in a 10-0 deficit just before half, though, put our attention back on our golf game.  Checking in later, with the Buffs back to within a touchdown at 10-3, our interest was peaked.

After the Buffs tied the score late with Hatcher’s pass to Carl, we forgot about golf.  Sure, we still played, but shots were now taken in haste, just so we could return to the portable radio.  During the last minute of the football game, we stopped playing golf altogether and let the group behind us play through.

When the last second kick went through, the Buffs had fallen and so had our spirits.

If we had been given the knowledge prior to the game that the Buffs would hang tough with Ohio State on the road, falling only 13-10, we would have considered it a good effort.  But, coming so close – again – to a big win, only to fall short, again, playing close was of no consolation.

We turned off the radio and finished our round in silence.

Game Notes –

– The loss to Ohio State dropped the Buffs’ record against the Buckeyes to 1-3, including the 36-13 loss in Boulder in 1985.

– Colorado out-gained Ohio State, 235 yards to 233, but the passing game continued to struggle. Mark Hatcher threw only six passes all day. Three were completed to Buffs, but two were caught by Buckeyes. Hatcher’s 19-yard scoring pass to Lance Carl, though, was his first touchdown pass of the season.

– Junior Eric McCarty, a fullback his first two years in Boulder, made a successful switch to linebacker in 1986. McCarty received his first career start at linebacker against Ohio State, going on to start five games, finishing as the Buffs’ fourth leading tackler in 1986.

– Ohio State started the 1986 as the 10th-ranked team in the nation, but lost its first two games (to No. 5 Alabama and No. 17 Washington) to fall out of the polls. The win over the Buffs sparked a nine-game winning streak for Ohio State, as the Buckeyes rose back to No. 7. A 28-24 regular-season ending loss to No 6 Michigan was offset by a 28-12 win over No. 8 Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl. In the end, Ohio State was back where they started, with the 10-3 Buckeyes finishing with a No. 7 final ranking.


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