November 21st – at Kansas State           Colorado 41, Kansas State 0

An estimated crowd of only 12,500 fans bothered to attend the final game of the Kansas State Wildcats’ 1987 season, with the announced attendance being the smallest gathering to watch a Colorado Buffaloes football game since 1962.

The Wildcats, who would finish 0-10-1 with the 41-0 rout by Colorado, didn’t show up for the game, either. Colorado held the ball for 40:25 of the contest, compared to 19:35 for Kansas State. After playing competitive football the previous two weeks, (17-17 tie with Kansas; 16-14 loss to Iowa State) Kansas State went into the tank against Colorado.

Despite the final score, Colorado did not run up spectacular numbers against Kansas State.

The Buffs posted 335 yards on the ground, with the rushing attack accounting for five touchdowns. Erich Kissick again led the way, going for 85 yards on only ten carries.

Kissich’s effort included a 42-yard scamper in the Buffs’ 24-point second quarter. An eight-yard touchdown run by Eric Bieniemy opened the floodgates after a scoreless first quarter. After Kissich’s scoring run, Dave DeLine hit a 24-yard field goal, with a one-yard scoring run by Mark Hatcher giving CU a 24-0 halftime advantage.

Jeff Campbell scored on a 15-yard reverse for the only score in the third quarter to extend the lead to 31-0, with Rick Wheeler (on a five-yard run) and DeLine (with a 37-yard field goal) closing out the scoring in the 41-0 rout.

After filling in for an injured Michael Simmons in the Kansas game, Kissick had averaged over 100 yards per game in the next five contests. How effective was Kissick? When thrown for a one-yard loss late in the second quarter of the Kansas State game, it was the first time in the 1987 season that Kissick had not gained positive yardage.

In all, 12 Buffs carried the ball against the Wildcats, including three quarterbacks. Unfortunately for Colorado, quarterbacks Mark Hatcher and Rick Wheeler saw more playing time than expected after Sal Aunese went down with a severely sprained ankle on the game’s third play.

Freshman halfback Mike Pritchard made the most of his first significant playing time. After contributing only nine carries during the first nine games of the year, Pritchard logged eight rushes for 46 yards against Kansas State.

Schedule Change

For what seemed an eternity, Oklahoma and Nebraska had dominated the Big Eight.

This being the case, the “Little Six” had become dependent upon the Big Two for revenue and bowl money. Almost as important, the home games against the Cornhuskers and Sooners were the only dependable sell-outs for the other schools in the conference. When the Big Two came to town, interest was aroused, and tickets were sold.

Unfortunately for the rest of the Big Eight, the schedule makers had the Sooners and Cornhuskers on the same rotation. Translation: in even-numbered years, Colorado had played Oklahoma and Nebraska in Folsom Field, in odd-numbered years the Buffs hit the road for those two high profile games. The significance was in the box office receipts: season-ticket sales and overall attendance blossomed in even-numbered years; suffered in the odd.

To help alleviate this discrepancy, schedules for Big Eight teams were changed in 1987.

Nebraska and Oklahoma were staggered, resulting in alternating appearances in enemy stadia. As a result, Colorado played Nebraska at home in both 1986 and 1987 (in order to make the rest of the schedule balanced, Colorado played Kansas at home in both 1986 and 1987, but played Oklahoma State and Kansas State on the road in both 1986 and 1987).

The relevance to the Buffs and their fans in 1987 came in the form of: 1) Colorado would have the opportunity to again play at home against Nebraska the year after the amazing 20-10 win in 1986; and 2) Colorado and Nebraska would play each other the last game of the regular season for the first time ever.

 

Schedule Change II

When the 1987 schedules came out, Nebraska was to play Colorado on November 14th, the week between the Missouri and Kansas State games. To accommodate television, arrangements were made before the season began to move the Colorado/Nebraska game to November 28th. This worked to the benefit of Colorado in terms of national exposure, but killed any chance at a bowl game in 1987.

Despite having a better overall record than in 1985 (7-4) or 1986 (6-5), the 7-3 Buffs were overlooked when the bowl committees made their selections after the games of November 21st. With the Nebraska game coming after Thanksgiving, even a defeat of the Cornhuskers would not help the Buffs. Win or lose, the Nebraska game would be the last of the year for Colorado.

For the Buffs, then, the 1987 game against Nebraska became known as the “Folsom Bowl”. A win against the fifth-ranked team in the nation would give the Buffs their first eight-win season since 1976.

It would also serve to show the bowl committees the error of their ways.

 

Game Notes …

– Freshman linebacker Alfred Williams received the first start of his career in the Kansas State game. While Williams started only one game in 1987, he led the team – and was sixth in the Big Eight – with six sacks, and led the team – and was 5th in the Big Eight – with 10 pass deflections. Williams would go on to consensus All-American status in 1989, and unanimous All-American acclaim in 1990. Williams won the Butkus Award as the nation’s best linebacker in 1990, and would be elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2010.

– The Kansas State marked the second time in three games in which the Buffs posted five rushing touchdowns. The five scores were nowhere near a single game record, however … Colorado had eight rushing touchdowns against Arizona in 1958 (a record matched against Northwestern in 1978; against Kansas State in 1989; and against Nebraska in the famous 62-36 game in 2001);

– The shutout of the Wildcats was the first shutout for Colorado since the Buffs shut out the same Kansas State squad in 1985. Between 1985 and 1987, the Buffs out-scored Kansas State 120-3. The 1987 win gave Colorado its first three game win streak in the series since 1975-77, and the first win in Manhattan since 1976;

– How bad was Kansas State in 1987? The Wildcats went 0-10-1, with only a 17-17 tie with rival Kansas preventing an 0-11 season. After losing to the likes of Austin Peay and Tulsa in the non-conference part of the season, Kansas State had to face the three ranked Big Eight opponents in succession. Against Oklahoma, Nebraska, and Oklahoma State, the Wildcats were out-scored 171-20. The 1987 season was just the middle act of a three part tragedy under head coach Stan Parrish. In three seasons in Manhattan, 1986-88, Parrish went 2-30-1 (which makes what Bill Snyder was able to accomplish after Parrish’s departure all the more remarkable);

– The Colorado defense set a new season-best for the third straight game, holding Kansas State to just 177 yards of total offense;

– Colorado held the ball for a season-best 40:25, not too far off the all-time record of 42:17, set in 1980 against Indiana (ironically, a game in which the Buffs were routed, 49-7).

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