September 19th – Boulder           Colorado 31, Stanford 17

Colorado looked to right its ship, and even the 1987 season mark at 1-1, with a game against Stanford.

The Cardinal also came into the game 0-1, having lost its season-opener to Washington, 31-21. Stanford was not to be overlooked, however, having posted an 8-4 mark in 1986, including a trip to the Gator Bowl. Stanford’s bowl appearance had been its first in eight years, and the first for fourth-year head coach Jack Elway.

Unlike the Oregon game, which ended in a 10-7 victory for the Ducks, scoring in the Colorado-Stanford game came at a fast and furious pace.

The Buffs took the opening kickoff and traveled 75 yards in eight plays to take the lead. Tiny (5′ 6″, 185 pounds) freshman halfback Eric Bieniemy did the honors from two yards out, giving Colorado its first lead of the 1987 season, 7-0. Stanford quickly responded with a touchdown drive of its own, scoring on a 48-yard pass from Greg Ennis to Walter Batson against the Buffs’ heralded secondary.

On the Buffs’ next series, halfback J.J. Flannigan scored on a 17-yard run to cap an 80-yard drive. With 8:27 still remaining in the first quarter, the score was 14-7 Colorado. The two teams had combined for 225 yards in total offense in only 6:33 of game clock.

Fortunately for Colorado, the Buffs’ offensive display continued all day, while the Buffs’ defense held off the Cardinal often enough for Colorado to emerge with a 31-17 win.

There were offensive stars aplenty, as the offense posted a wishbone-best 413 yards rushing (in 80 attempts, just three attempts shy of the school record). Even when quarterback Mark Hatcher went down with ankle and Achilles’ tendon sprains in the first half, the offense continued to click, with senior Rick Wheeler taking the reins.

Against Oregon, it had been freshman fullback Michael Simmons who carried the offensive load for Colorado. Against Stanford, freshman halfback Eric Bieniemy took his turn at the spotlight. Bieniemy rushed for 119 yards on only 14 carries, including the two-yard touchdown run. (The efforts of Simmons and Bieniemy represented the first time in Colorado history that two different freshmen had rushed for over 100 yards in back-to-back games).

Sophomore halfback J.J. Flannigan put up 84 yards and a score, while Mark Hatcher posted 85 yards. In all, the Buffs ran through the Cardinal for four touchdowns. “It was fun to see the offense move like that,” said a relieved McCartney, “Our defense has carried us for the past 2 1/2 years. This is our best offensive production in that span ….. It was a big win.”

Ralphie II

The Saturday night after the Stanford game, Ralphie II, the Colorado Buffaloes mascot, died at the age of 12. Ralphie III was still in training, so the Buffs, who had not yet had a mascot on the field in the 1987 season, would go without until the October 17th homecoming game against Kansas.

Fun with Initials

It didn’t happen all at once.

As with many a quirky tradition, it evolved. Over the course of 1987, it grew to a deafening crescendo. Quite by chance, a number of players in the mid-1980’s who touched the ball for the University of Colorado used initials for their names. In 1986, O.C. Oliver lead the team in rushing. In 1987, J.J. Flannigan and M.J. Nelson had their names mentioned with increasing regularity.

Even Jo Jo Collins’ name gave the fans the opportunity to rhyme. In the stands, the students began emphasizing the initials when they were announced over the public address system, as in “M….J….Nel-son” and “O….C….Ol-i-ver”. The public address announcer soon picked up on the chants, and whenever one from the initialized bunch touched the ball, he slowed down his recitation of the ball carrier’s name so the students could place even more emphasis on the initials. Soon the entire crowd was into it.

Passing up students had been banned in the stands, as had snowball fights. Those activities, though, were more associated with an attempt to stay awake during 30-point losses than any designed inspiration for the football team. Chanting players’ names indicated that the students were now paying attention to the game on the field.

Just one more small advance into big time college football at Folsom Field.

Fred “The Count” Casotti

At halftime of the season-opening Oregon game, the 1937 Cotton Bowl team, featuring Byron “Whizzer” White, had been honored. Honored during the Stanford game was the Buffs’ longtime employee and friend, Fred Casotti. Casotti had served as the outspoken Sports Information Director for Colorado from 1952-1968. From 1968-85, Casotti served as assistant then associate athletic director. From 1985-87, “the Count” acted as special assistant to the athletic director before “retiring” in March, 1987.

I place the “retiring” in quotes for the reason that Fred Casotti never really retired.

In addition to continuing his amazing string of attending Colorado football games (over 500), Casotti authored several books on Colorado football, “Football C.U.* Style” (*Casotti Uncensored) and “The Golden Buffaloes”. His title with the Colorado athletic department after his retirement was that of historian, and it was Fred Casotti who arranged for me to gain access – through his successor, Dave Plati – to the Colorado archives for research for CU at the Game.

Casotti was engaging, witty, and ever ready to lend a hand.

His tribute in 1987 could have, and perhaps should have, become an annual event.


Game Notes –

– The first three possessions of the Stanford game resulted in touchdowns for the Colorado offense. The first quarter score of 14-7 eclipsed all of the scoring which had taken place in the 10-7 loss to Oregon the week before.

– Colorado ran 89 plays (80 rushes), and held the ball for 39:44, enabling the Colorado defense to limit Stanford to 273 yards of total offense. The 21 total rushes against the Buffs was a new low for a Colorado opponent.

– Colorado All-American punter Barry Helton had only two punts (for a 40.5 yard average), but did not have a good day. On a fake punt, Helton attempted his only pass of the 1987 season … it was intercepted.

– Sophomore halfback J.J. Flannigan received his first career start against Stanford, replacing senior Michael Marquez. Flannigan would go on to start the remaining nine games of the 1987 season, finishing fourth in the team in rushing (76 carries for 387 yards) and fifth on the team in receptions (four catches for 52 yards).

– Freshman Eric Bieniemy scored his first touchdown at Colorado in the game against the Cardinal, and posted his first 100-yard game (119 yards, on 14 carries). Bieniemy would go on to become to post the most 100-yard games in CU history (21, though only this one in 1987), and would finish as the Colorado career leader in scoring (with 254 points, surpassing Bobby Anderson, who had 212), and rushing (3,940 yards, besting the 2,958 posted by Charlie Davis, 1971 – ’73).

– The 1987 season did not start well for Stanford. The Cardinal opened with a four game losing streak, but rebounded to win five of its final six to finish Jack Elway’s fourth season with a 5-6 record (Elway would coach Stanford to a 3-6-2 record in 1988, his fifth, and final, season in Palo Alto as head coach).



One Reply to “Stanford – Fred Casotti – Fun with initials”

  1. The P.A. announcer’s style of highlighting the initials of the young running backs before too long carried over to Bieniemy. He ceased being referred to as “Eric Bieniemy” when he did something and became instead, “E Bieniemy”, which all of us in the student section chanted as if his name was, “E.B. Enemy”.

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