September 26th – Boulder           Colorado 26, Washington State 17

Another day, another game, another new Buff making an impression.

This time it was sophomore quarterback Sal Aunese, subbing for injured starter Mark Hatcher, who made a splash. Aunese did not start, but played a significant role in leading Colorado to a 26-17 win over Washington State. Aunese carried the ball 22 times for 185 yards and one touchdown. Aunese also completed one of his three passes, a 30-yarder to Eric Bieniemy.

Washington State, led by first-year coach Dennis Erickson, were 2-1 coming into the game, having beaten Fresno State and Wyoming before falling to Michigan. Erickson brought in a Cougar squad which had finished 3-7-1 in 1986.

In all, the Buffs accumulated a season high 425 yards on the ground against the Cougars.

The game was frustrating early on for the 42,527 on hand at Folsom Field. The Buffs were playing well, but were still down, 7-6, in the second quarter. Two promising drives ended in short Ken Culbertson field goals (of 25 and 27 yards), as the Buffs failed to convert in the red zone.

The Buffs took the lead for good when safety Mickey Pruitt intercepted a Timm Rosenbach pass, returning it 18 yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 lead. A J.J. Flannigan three yard scoring run later in the second gave CU a 19-7 lead at halftime (the extra point was missed).

The lead was cut to 19-17 when Washington State quarterback Timm Rosenbach connected on a 16-yard scoring pass to tight end Chris Leighton with 11:17 to play. After J.J. Flannigan bobbled a Sal Aunese pitch, fumbling at the Colorado 25, the Buffs were in a position to lose. The Colorado defense rose to the occasion, though, forcing a field goal attempt. The kicked sailed wide, and the Buffs retained the lead.

The game was not over, however.

The Buffs were still up by only two points, 19-17, and plenty of time remained.

Aunese drove the Buffs to the Cougars’ 15-yard line. Halted on downs, McCartney sent in freshman kicker Eric Hannah. Sophomore kicker Ken Culbertson, who had come into the game one-for-six on field goal attempts on the season, had made two kicks earlier in the game, but had missed a 48-yard attempt as well as an extra point.

Hannah, though, fared no better than Culbertson, missing a 32-yard field goal attempt.

The Cougars had new life with 1:52 remaining in the game, and visions of the 1981 10-14 “come-from-ahead” loss to this same Washington State squad began to surface. Instead, the Buffs’ defense forced Rosenbach into four straight incompletions. A 22-yard touchdown run by Sal Aunese two plays later sealed the Buffs second win of the year.

The defense was led by senior safety Mickey Pruitt, who intercepted two passes, including the one in the second quarter which he returned 18 yards for a touchdown to give the Buffs the lead for good, 13-7. For his efforts, which also included 17 tackles (12 solo), three pass deflections, two tackles for loss, and a sack, Pruitt was named by Sports Illustrated as its Defensive Player of the Week.

Game Notes –

– Senior Rick Wheeler received his final start at quarterback for the Buffs against the Cougars, but was ineffective, missing both of his pass attempts, while rushing for 27 yards on five carries before being replaced by Sal Aunese.

– The 185 yards rushing would be a career high for Aunese, who would post only one other 100-yard game (127 yards against Iowa State later in 1987) in his career. Aunese would go on to lead the Buffs in rushing in 1987, posting 612 yards on 122 carries (and six touchdowns).

– The Buffs would use three kickers over the course of the 1987 season, starting with sophomore Ken Culbertson, moving on in the Washington State game to red-shirt freshman Eric Hannah, then to senior Dave DeLine later in the season.

– The win gave Colorado a 2-1 all-time lead in the series with Washington State, with the other victory coming in 1982 – the first victory ever for CU head coach Bill McCartney.

– 1987 was the first season for Washington State under Dennis Erickson. The Cougars went 3-7-1 in the final season under Jim Walden, and in 1987, the Cougars under Dennis Erickson went … 3-7-1. Erickson turned things around in 1988, though, leading Washington State to a 9-3 record before moving on to coach the Miami Hurricanes in 1989.


One Reply to “Washington State – Sal Aunese makes an impression”

  1. Stuart:

    I love reading the recaps of games from the late 80’s because they bring back the memory of being in the student section at Folsom screaming my lungs out.

    Sal Aunese was quite an excellent football player while he was at CU. His career started in controversy (Prop 48) and ended in tragedy. In between he did some really good things on the field.

    My final three years at CU I worked at Abo’s on the Hill. Reading this recap made me think of the only time I ever met him. Fall of my senior year (’88) the Buffs got whacked at home by Oklahoma State. It was the year that Barry Sanders won the Heisman. He ran all over our D that day – a D that sent a number of players to the NFL I might add.

    Anyway, on Saturday nights Abo’s on the Hill closed at 2:00 a.m. At about 2:10 a.m. I was throwing out the garbage when I hear a knock on the front door. I recognize Sal Aunese as the person standing on the other side of it. He knew we were closed but he asked me if we had any more slices of pizza. I told him that we had none, having just sold the final slice perhaps five minutes earlier. He sort of shrugged his shoulders, shook his head and then said that pretty much summed up how his whole day had gone: timing just a bit off. I told him I had been at the game vs. OK State and to not worry about it since it was just one game and they – of course – had to play another one the next week.

    He sort of smiled, stuck out his hand for me to shake and thanked me for taking a minute to cheer him up. Off he went in the direction of (what used to be) Tulagi’s. If memory serves me correctly the ’88 Buffs went 8-3 – losing at home to OU in what I think was the first night game played at Folsom 17-14 and at NU 7-0. Hell of a good team and a glimpse of what would come in the next couple of years.

    Thanks again Stuart for this site. Good for the memory. Good for the soul.

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