November 17th – Boulder           No. 2 Colorado 64, Kansas State 3

In routing Kansas State, 64-3, the Colorado Buffaloes clinched a second consecutive Big Eight Championship, the only team other than Nebraska and Oklahoma to do so since 1941.

Finishing the season on a nine-game winning streak, the Buffs scored on seven of their first eight possessions in cruising to a 40-3 halftime lead. Darian Hagan ran for two first quarter scores, passing for another in amassing 278 yards of total offense in just over one half of work. The demolition of the Wildcats, who came into the contest with a respectable 5-5 season record, served notice to Notre Dame and the rest of the college football world that the Buffs were ready to play for the national title.

Again joining Hagan in the statistical onslaught were Mike Pritchard and Eric Bieniemy. Pritchard scored on a 48-yard pass from Hagan and on a 70-yard reverse, totaling 152 yards rushing and receiving. Bieniemy, the nation’s leading rusher, ran 22 times for 115 yards. Bieniemy did not score, but his 1,628 yards rushing for the season bested Charlie Davis’ 19-year old school record by 242 yards.

On the afternoon, Colorado posted 634 yards of total offense, the fifth-highest mark in school history. The 64 points scored bested the 62 points scored against Wyoming in 1940 to set a school high at Folsom Field.

‘It was too much fun to describe,” said outside linebacker Alfred Williams, one of 23 seniors to conclude their playing careers at Folsom Field. “Only in dreams does something like this happen. In reality, it seldom does.” The rout was so complete that both Williams and fellow linebacker Kanavis McGhee were inserted in the second half as tight ends. Williams made a leaping catch for a 17-yard gain, while McGhee bobbled his only opportunity for a catch. “They deserved to have a little fun in their careers,” said McCartney. “All of these things you like to see happen happened. The score just got a little out of hand.”

Colorado had held up its end of the bargain with Notre Dame and the Orange Bowl, winning its final game in impressive fashion. If the Irish could follow suit, a game between No. 1 and No. 2 would culminate the New Year’s bowl day.

Passing the Torch

A near sell-out crowd of 51,136 came to see the Buffs make history against Kansas State. After Colorado put up a 40-3 lead at halftime, the win had been secured, and a number of Buff faithful headed for warmer climes in Boulder to celebrate. But those who left early missed out on some additional history.

By the midway point of the fourth quarter, the score was 50-3, Colorado. Junior wide receiver Mark Henry had just scored the first touchdown of his career on a 39-yard pass from backup quarterback Vance Joseph. There was little reason to notice who scored the last two touchdowns of the game, but they were significant nonetheless.

The first score came on a 26-yard run by true freshman Charles E. Johnson (not to be confused with quarterback Charles S. Johnson). Johnson would go on to set numerous school records for receiving, including most receiving yards for a season and career, and most touchdown passes caught for a season and career (since passed).

The last score of the afternoon was scored on an eight-yard run by senior wingback O.C. Oliver. Oliver, who had fought injuries his entire career, had not seen any action since going down with an anterior cruciate tear in his left knee five games into the 1989 season.

As a freshman in 1986, Oliver had set a freshman rushing record, running for 668 yards and six touchdowns. Oliver will be most remembered by Colorado fans for being the halfback who tossed a 52-yard halfback option pass to Lance Carl to give Colorado a 17-7 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter in the 20-10 upset of Nebraska in 1986. Oliver will also be remembered for being touted by the Folsom Field public address announcer after each carry as “O …. C …. OLIVER!!”

Being in the lineup as the Kansas State game came to an end was not a punishment for Oliver, but a reward. McCartney had a way of rewarding his players, and Oliver was no exception.

The final home game of the 1990 season was a rout for the home team. Most of the fans turned their thoughts toward the Orange Bowl long before the final gun. Down on the field, though, a torch was being passed. O. C. Oliver, part of the Colorado legacy which had paved the way for future Colorado success, was on his way out. Charles E. Johnson, who would play such a role in Colorado’s continued success, was on his way in.

Somehow, it was fitting that these two men scored the final two touchdowns of the 1990 regular season.

Game Notes –

– The 634 total yards was the fifth most in Colorado history, but the second most since 1971 (662 yards against Iowa State in 1989. The overall record remained at 676 v. Oklahoma State in 1971).

– The defense did its part against Kansas State as well, holding the Wildcats to a season low in rushing yards (60) and total yards (205).

– Darian Hagan had 200 yards passing – all in the first half – to finish with 1,538 yards passing for the season, setting a new school record (passing the 1,432 yards passing by Steve Vogel in 1984).

– Freshman quarterback Vance Joseph came into the Kansas State game with two pass completions in four attempts on the season (for 21 yards). Against the Wildcats, Joseph went three-for-three, for 59 yards, and the first touchdown pass of his career, a 39-yarder to Mark Henry. For his part, junior wide receiver Mark Henry came into the final game of the regular season with no catches (and only three for his career). Against Kansas State, Henry had two catches for 54 yards and his first career touchdown.

– Eric Bieniemy played only two series in the second half, leaving with 115 yards rushing, well below his nation-leading average of 151.3. Bieniemy finished his career with 3,940 rushing yards (Colorado count bowl statistics differently), just 60 yards shy of 4,000. Bieniemy, though, was not disappointed. “I couldn’t be more happy than I am right now,” said Bieniemy after the game. Even Bill McCartney, who was doused with a cooler filled with ice water near game’s end, was in a good mood after the 64-3 victory. “I can’t ever remember being on a sideline when a team had so much fun,” said McCartney.

– Colorado won its 10th game of the season against Kansas State, the first time in school history in which the Buffs had posted consecutive ten-win seasons.

1990 Season Honors

All Big Eight – First Team

Running back Eric Bieniemy; guard Joe Garten; quarterback Darian Hagan; defensive tackle Garry Howe; safety Tim James; center Jay Leeuwenburg; cornerback Dave McCloughan; linebacker Kanavis McGhee; wide receiver Mike Pritchard; nose tackle Joel Steed; offensive tackle Mark Vander Poel; linebacker Alfred Williams

Players of the Year

Running back Eric Bieniemy – Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Year; Kicker Jim Harper – Big Eight Offensive Newcomer-of-the-Year; Linebacker Alfred Williams Big Eight Defensive Player-of-the-Year

All Americans

First team – Running back Eric Bieniemy*; guard Joe Garten*; linebacker Alfred Williams* – *All three unanimous selections

Second team –  Offensive tackle Mark Vander Poel; wide receiver Mike Pritchard

Third team – Linebacker Kanavis McGhee

Honorable mention: Quarterback Darian Hagan; safety Tim James; center Jay Leeuwenburg; punter Tom Rouen

Coach-of-the Year

Bill McCartney

Butkus Award

Linebacker Alfred Williams – winner

Heisman Trophy

Running back Eric Bieniemy (3rd); quarterback Darian Hagan (17th); wide receiver Mike Pritchard (50th)


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