October 10th – at Oklahoma State           No. 19 Oklahoma State 42, Colorado 17

The last time the Buffs played on my birthday, they were thumped by Nebraska 59-0 in 1981.

I should have recognized the omen.

Beaten early and often, the Buffs surrendered three touchdowns and 137 yards on the ground. Leading the charge was Thurman Thomas, who sliced through the Buffs for 110 yards on 23 carries and a five-yard touchdown run. Through the air, Oklahoma State added 257 yards and two more scores. A sixth Cowboy touchdown came in the form of a 73-yard punt return by Thurman Thomas’ understudy, one Barry Sanders.

Still, when freshman kicker Eric Hannah connected on a 32-yard field goal just before halftime, the Buffs had cut the Oklahoma State lead to 14-10.

Two fumbles by Michael Simmons to start the second half, however, gave the Cowboys possession at the Buffs 20 and 23-yard lines. The result was two quick scores and an end to the issue of which team would emerge victorious.

In fact, the Cowboys played much of the game on Colorado’s side of the field. For Oklahoma State, the average starting position on the day was their 45-yard line.

Six turnovers doomed Colorado to a 42-17 loss and an 0-1 conference record. Mark Hatcher, who returned to the starting line-up following an injury to his ankle in the Stanford game, had a stat’s line for the day which was particularly telling: three-for-ten passing for only 35 yards and two interceptions, four carries for 14 yards.

Now 3-2 for the year, the Buffs were at a crossroads.

The Kansas Jayhawks were the next Colorado opponent. Kansas, sporting a 1-4 record for the 1987 campaign, represented easy pickings, at least on paper. The Jayhawks had only managed to defeat the Salukis of Southern Illinois, 16-15, and were coming off a 54-2 thrashing at the hands of Nebraska. Other losses had come to the likes of Kent State and Louisiana Tech. This effort had come from a Kansas team which dropped its final three games of 1986 by a combined score of 182-3.

Yes, on paper it looked like a mismatch.

The Buffs in the 1980’s had rarely faced a game which they were supposed to win easily, especially in conference. For the Kansas game, the Buffs were installed as 31-point favorites.

It was time for the 1987 squad to put up or shut up.


Game Notes –

– The Cowboys were led by quarterback Mike Gundy, who went 21-for-28, for 257 yards and two touchdowns. Gundy would go on to be named as the head coach at Oklahoma State in 2005. When he graduated, Gundy was the all-time leading passer in Oklahoma State history (7,997 yards).

– Six Colorado turnovers led to 21 of Oklahoma State’s 42 points. Despite the lopsided 42-17 final, the teams actually registered the same number of first downs – 21.

– Senior linebacker Eric McCarty led Colorado with 20 tackles. McCarty would go on to lead the Buffs in tackles on the season, with 148 (88 of them unassisted).

– Senior running back Thurman Thomas would go on to finish 7th in the Heisman trophy balloting in 1987 (won by Notre Dame’s Tim Brown). His understudy, Barry Sanders, would go on to win the Heisman trophy in 1988.

– Oklahoma State would go on to defeat every team on their schedule except for the Big Two, Nebraska and Oklahoma. The Cowboys capped a 10-2 season with a 35-33 win over West Virginia in the Sun Bowl. Oklahoma State finished 11th in the polls. 1987 was only the second season (including 1984) in which Oklahoma State had recorded ten wins in a season.

– The first game for the Buffs outside of the state of Colorado was played before 42,800 in Stillwater. The loss dropped Colorado’s all-time record against the Cowboys in the state of Oklahoma (including one game – a CU victory – in Oklahoma City) to 7-9-1. Colorado still held the overall lead in the series, 15-14-1.

– The loss to Oklahoma State dropped the Buffs to 2-4 in Big Eight openers under Bill McCartney.

– Barry Sanders’ 73-yard punt return for a touchdown marked the first time an opponent had run a punt back for a score since Marcus Dupree took a punt back 77 yards for Oklahoma in 1982.



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