September 30th – at Washington          No. 5 Colorado 45, No. 21 Washington 28

The Colorado Buffaloes, inspired by the words of their fallen quarterback (see previous game recap), raised their season record to 4-0 with a dominant performance against Washington, handing the Huskies a 45-28 thrashing.

In posting the highest point total by a Washington opponent at Husky Stadium in 15 years, Colorado ran over, through, and around Washington.  The Buffs had six players run for over 40 yards apiece in accumulating 420 yards on the ground.

The game was competitive for much of the first half. Washington struck first, connecting on a 21-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead midway through the first period.  Colorado responded on its next drive, with George Hemingway slamming through the middle of the Husky line for large chunks of real estate. With the Washington defensive line focused on Hemingway, Eric Bieniemy burst through on a 35-yard scoring run to put the Buffs on top to stay.

Much of the rest of the first half was a slugfest, with both teams successful in gaining yardage, but not successful in putting up more points. The Buffs nursed a 7-6 lead for much of the second quarter, escaping a deficit when the Huskies missed a field goal attempt midway through the second quarter.

With less than two minutes before halftime, the Buffs finally took command.

Bieniemy scored on a one yard plunge to cap a drive of over 90 yards to give CU a 14-6 lead with 1:41 to play. The Huskies got a long return on the kickoff, but on the second play of the drive, senior safety Bruce Young picked off Washington quarterback Cary Conklin to set the Buffs up near midfield. On the next play, Hagan connected with Mike Pritchard for a 40-yard gain. Three plays later, J.J. Flannigan did the honors from three yards out, and the rout was on.

The third quarter was all Colorado, as the Buffs put the Huskies away with a 17-0 stampede.

After a Ken Culbertson field goal, quarterback Darian Hagan scored from three yards out, followed by 56-yard run on a reverse by Jeff Campbell.  Campbell’s score was the sixth of his career on the ground (the senior wide receiver only had one touchdown reception in his career).  By the end of the third quarter, the score was 38-6, Colorado.

Washington did post 22 fourth quarter points against Colorado reserves, but the final score of 45-28 could not mask the dominant performance of the Buffs.

There could be no ignoring Colorado now.

The undefeated Buffs rose to No. 3 in the polls, passing Auburn (a 21-14 loser to Tennessee) and Nebraska, despite the Cornhuskers 35-7 win over Oregon State.  Only unbeaten Notre Dame and Miami stood between the Buffs and the No. 1 ranking.

The Big Eight Conference season was now set to begin, and Colorado was ready to challenge for the title.

Seattle Bound

Denver and Seattle are both about 700 miles from Bozeman, Montana. While I had lived for seven years just a short commute from Denver, and had spent a great deal of time in the Mile High City, I had only been to Seattle once before my road trip for the Washington game.

What better time to visit Seattle, I reasoned, than for a Colorado football game?

All I had to do was convince someone to go with me.  Fortunately, it did not take much to talk Brad, my best friend of (then) seven years (now over a quarter of a century) into going to see the 5th-ranked Buffs.

Brad flew in from Denver the day before the game, and I met him at the airport.  We stayed at the home of a friend from high school, who showed us the town.  We did the “touristy” stops, including the Space Needle and the Pike Street Market, and generally had a good time.

But we were there with a purpose.

Like the Buffs, our attention was all focused on the game against Washington.

The Huskies were led by senior quarterback Cary Conklin, fresh from a 354 yard passing effort against Arizona.  The Huskies were also pumped for the game against the Buffs, and the fans were definitely ready to go, especially after the Huskies took the field for the kickoff.  After going through warmups in their traditional gold football pants, Washington players came out in their new purple pants, and the crowd erupted.

Brad and I were placed amongst a smallish but vocal band of Colorado fans.

The seats allocated to Colorado fans provided a great view … of Lake Washington.

Husky Stadium is one of the most picturesque it the country.  The horseshoe shaped stadium opens up facing Lake Washington.  Many fans take a boat ride to the game.  From our viewpoint in the other end of the horseshoe, we had a great panoramic view of the entire stadium, with the lake shimmering off in the distance.  Despite the low-hanging clouds and the drizzle which fell off and on for most of the afternoon, it was a beautiful place to watch a college football game.

The problem with Husky Stadium in 1989 (and until the stadium was renovated in 2013) was that the University of Washington continued to use the stadium for track and field events.  This translated into a six lane track which circled the field, distancing the fans from the action.

At the top end of the horseshoe, Brad and I figured that we were at least 50 yards from the endzone … that being the endzone on our end of the field. For any action near the goalline on the other end of the field, we had to wait for crowd reaction to find out what had happened on the play (for those of you to young to remember, this was long before stadia had big screen instant replays).

If it was loud cheer; it was bad for the Buffs. If the Husky faithful were silent, it was our cue to cheer.

As the day wore on, though, the volume of the majority continued to diminish.

In our little section of the stadium, however, the partying was just beginning.

Alma Mater

As the Washington defense deteriorated over the course of the afternoon, so to did the weather.  By the fourth quarter, there was a steady drizzle, and many of those clad in purple and gold had left.

The black-and-gold contingent, however, remained until the final gun.  Why would we leave one of the best games in recent Colorado history?  And besides, where did we have to go?

With 10:21 left in the game, backup Colorado quarterback Charles Johnson scored on a 16-yard run.  The touchdown gave the Buffs a 45-14 lead, removing any doubt as to a late Washington comeback.  Out in the hinterlands known as Section 6, a rousing version of the Colorado fight song was sung after the extra point.

Buoyed by the team’s efforts, and perhaps feeling safe in our little group, Brad and I next began singing, without rhyme or reason, the Colorado alma mater.  (Author’s Note:  The alma mater is played by the CU band twice at each home game – once in pregame and once as the final song the band plays after the end of the game. The words to the alma mater are flashed on the scoreboard as the song is played before the game, so every Buff fan should know the words.  Despite this assistance, very few fans know any of the words except for “dear … old … C … U” at the end.)

Brad and I, though, had always taken a measure of pride in our not only knowing the words to the alma mater, but in singing along with due respect each and every home game.

Now we were on the road, with no band accompaniment.  Undaunted, we launched into the song with as much gusto as we could muster.  At first we drew stares, then smiles.  Finally, with the entire section shouting out the final line, our efforts were greeted with cheers.

After the celebration which accompanied the final gun at the 1986 Colorado/Nebraska, this moment represented the best for me as a (then) ten year fan of Colorado football.

Parking Lot Fun

Finally, after allowing Washington to score two touchdowns in the final six minutes to make the score respectable, we filed out of Husky Stadium.  We were wet, and the late afternoon temperature was dropping, but we didn’t care.  Colorado was now 4-0, and would be ranked no lower than 4th in the nation when the new polls came out Sunday.

In the parking lot outside the stadium, Brad and I encountered a van load full of freshman from Boulder.  The frat pledges had traveled through the night to make it to the game, and were preparing to drive straight back to Colorado after they were done partying.  They were all celebrating with beverages they were not legally licensed to possess, and they were having a good time.

Spotting our CU attire, Brad and I were waved over.

We spent a short time with the faithful, recounting each score and each defensive stand.  It was not until later that it dawned on Brad and I that we had just intermingled with students who had never seen Colorado lose a football game.  Granted, 4-0 was not unique – the 1988 Colorado team had started 4-0 just a year earlier.  Still, it struck as funny how different our experience had been compared to these students (two 1-10 seasons for me; one winning season in seven years as a student in Boulder).

Brad and I decided that we were better for having endured the lousy seasons.  Being hardened to losses made the victories sweeter.

If nothing else, we reasoned, we at least knew enough to get out of the rain after the game was over.

When the polls came out on Sunday, Colorado moved up to No. 3 team in the nation.  The new rankings came out the same day as the Sal Aunese funeral in California.

The talented Buffs were on a roll.  Could they stay focused?  Up next was 1-3 Missouri, with the game to be played in Boulder.  There was no reason for Colorado to stumble against the Tigers, but the 1985-88 Buffs had always found a way to lose at least one game they should have won.

The 1989 team, though, was different.

Game Notes –

– The Buffs’ victory was dominant, but it could have been more so. The 45-28 final does not reflect that the score was 45-14 with under six minutes to play.

– For the first time in 1989, the Buffs were held without a 100-yard rusher. Still, Colorado ran up 420 yards rushing on 60 carries (a nifty 7.0 yards/carry average). No fewer than six players had at least 40 yards led by J.J. Flannigan (85 yards on 14 carries) and Eric Bieniemy (82 yards on 11 carries). Also over 40 yards were: Jeff Campbell (56 yards); Darian Hagan (56); Charles S. Johnson (47) and George Hemingway (44).

– All three of Colorado’s passes in the Washington game were caught. Two went to Buffs (Mike Pritchard for 55 yards) and Jeff Campbell (ten yards). The third pass by Darian Hagan was intercepted by the Huskies.

– For the third straight game, Colorado picked off three enemy passes. Senior safety Bruce Young had two interceptions, and junior safety Tim James had one.

– Linebacker Alfred Williams had 14 tackles on the day, including eight unassisted tackles and a sack.

– The victory tied up the all-time series with Washington at 3-3-1. Oddly enough, the 45-28 win in 1989 gave Colorado a 3-1-1 in Seattle, with the Buffs losing the only game played in Boulder (in 1959), as well as the 1985 Freedom Bowl in Anaheim.

– Washington, ranked 11th after opening the season with a 2-0 record, would fall out of the rankings after losing to Arizona and Colorado. The Huskies would not return until the final poll, when a 34-7 victory over Florida in the Freedom Bowl lifted the 8-4 Huskies to a final ranking of No. 23.


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