November 5th – at Missouri           Colorado 45, Missouri 8

Six different Buffs scored touchdowns as Colorado routed Missouri, 45-8. In the most lopsided Colorado win in the history of the series, the Buffs amassed 479 yards of total offense, including 328 yards on the ground on 72 rushing attempts.

Freshman tailback Marcus Reliford came off the bench to lead the Buffs with 114 yards, including a late 15-yard touchdown run. Colorado sensation Eric Bieniemy, already over 1,000 yards for the season, just kept it going, posting his seventh 100+ yard effort of the season, accumulating 106 yards on 30 carries.

Missouri, despite its 2-5-1 record, was not a team which could not be taken lightly by the Buffs. The week before taking on the Buffs in Columbia, the Tigers had held tough against Nebraska before falling, 26-18, in a game played in Lincoln.

Colorado, though, would not allow the upset, racing to a 14-0 first quarter lead behind touchdown runs by quarterback Sal Aunese and Bieniemy. By halftime, the score was up to 24-0, and the rout was on.

In addition to Reliford, Aunese, and Bieniemy, Colorado scored on touchdown runs by junior wide receiver Jeff Campbell (on a 9-yard reverse), junior fullback Erich Kissick, and sophomore fullback George Hemingway.

Colorado, with the big win over Missouri, finally had what it wanted.

When the Associated Press college football poll came out on Monday, November 7th, Colorado was there. No longer among the “others receiving votes”, Colorado was ranked 19th in the Associated Press poll. It was the first appearance for the Buffs in the poll since 1978. Thanks to losses by previously ranked South Carolina and BYU, both Colorado and Washington State entered the poll for the first time in the 1988 season.

In addition, the Buffs, who had bounced around the CNN/USA Today poll for much of the season, were at a season-high ranking of 18th.

Unfortunately for Colorado and its fans, the celebration was likely to be short and sweet.

Up next were the 7th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers. Nebraska was 9-1 on the season, having lost only UCLA in the second week of the season. The Cornhuskers, after surviving a scare against Missouri, had rounded back into form with a 51-16 rout of Iowa State.

If Colorado was to make more than a token appearance on the national stage in 1988, a win in Lincoln would be required. The Buffs had not defeated the Cornhuskers in Lincoln since 1967 … and CU would be facing a team averaging 46 points a game.

CU Back in Print

It was joyous.

It was also sobering.

There it was, for all to see: “Buffs, Cougs crack Top 20”, read the headline in the Bozeman Daily Chronicle. For the first time since I had become a Buff fanatic back in 1980, Colorado was ranked in the Associated Press poll. It did not concern me that most of the nation was focused on the National Championship race, with four teams – Notre Dame, USC, Miami (Fla.), and West Virginia – all receiving first place votes as the calendar turned to November. Nor did it bother me that Colorado was not even receiving the most attention in the region, what with Wyoming having put together an unlikely 10-0 run to start the season (and a No. 10 ranking overall).

All I cared about was that Colorado was back among the nation’s elite.

A team which had been a national joke as late as 1984 was now a ranked team.

Now, the question became: How to make it last?

Before the Buffs was a daunting task. Losing to Nebraska in Lincoln was all but expected. With it, Colorado would almost certainly drop back out of the polls. As if to underscore the brevity of Colorado=s ranking, the headline in the Billings Gazette story setting forth the new poll was: AColorado is back, but for how long?”

The Buffs knew it was an uphill battle. AThe game this weekend will determine if we can stay in,@ noted Bill McCartney. ABut in the meantime, it=s great to be a ranked team. It means a lot for the program.@

And to me.

Game Notes –

– The 45-8 rout of Missouri represented the largest margin of victory for Colorado in the history of the series. The previous record – 31 points – had been recorded only three years earlier, when the Buffs recorded a 38-7 win in the 1985 game. The win was the fourth in succession for Colorado in the series, the first four game winning streak ever for the Buffs against Missouri (the streak would reach 12 before Missouri won again, in 1997).

– Only on two occasions in ten years had two Buffs gone for over 100 yards rushing in the same game. With the efforts of Eric Bieniemy and Marcus Reliford against Missouri, though, the Buffs had now done in two weeks in succession. A week after Bieniemy and J.J. Flannigan went for 100+ against Iowa State, Bieniemy put up 106 and Reliford 114 against Missouri.

– Freshman Marcus Reliford was an unknown to Buff fans prior to the Missouri game. In the first eight games of the 1988 season, Reliford had four carries (three against Fresno State; one against Oklahoma State) for 18 yards.

– The 106 yards against Missouri gave Eric Bieniemy his seventh 100-yard rushing game of the season, tying the single season mark set by James Mayberry in 1977. Just a sophomore, Bieniemy, with eight total 100-yard games, was already within sight of the career record of 13 100-yard games set by Charlie Davis (1971-73). (Bieniemy would not have another 100-yard rushing game the remainder of the 1988 regular season).

– Not surprisingly in a 45-8 rout, Colorado set a number of season offensive highs against Missouri. The Buffs set season-highs for first downs (27), offensive plays (81), rushing attempts (72), and time of possession (36:02).

– The 1988 season would mark the end of the Woody Widenhofer experiment at Missouri. Despite hanging tough against top ten opponents Nebraska (26-18) and Oklahoma (16-7), the Tigers could manage only a 3-7-1 record in 1988. The four season record of 12-31-1 was not good enough for Tiger administrators, who replaced Widenhofer with Bob Stull for the 1989 season.


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