November 16th – Boulder          No. 16 Colorado 30, Kansas 24

The Kansas Jayhawks, despite a lopsided 59-23 loss to Nebraska the weekend before, still harbored hopes of post-season play heading into the Colorado game.  Kansas was 5-4 on the year, including shutout wins over Iowa State (41-0) and Oklahoma State (31-0).  The Kansas/Oklahoma State score, if not the Buffs’ overall performance in the 16-12 nail-biter against the Cowboys, should have been to focus Colorado on the task at hand.

Once again, though, the Buffs were in a dogfight which came down to the game’s final minute.

Early in the third quarter, last minute heroics did not appear to be the order of the day, but it was not because of Colorado’s domination.  With 10:49 remaining in the third quarter, the Buffs found themselves down 24-10 to the Jayhawks.  The teams had battled to a 10-10 halftime tie, with the Colorado touchdown coming on a 48-yard touchdown pass from halfback Lamont Warren to wide receiver Charles Johnson on an option play.

The second half, though, started out all Jayhawks, as Colorado fumbled on its first second half possession before fumbling the ensuing two kickoffs.  In less than four minutes of playing time, the Buffs had dug themselves into a 24-10 hole.

Vance Joseph, again substituting for an injured Darian Hagan, cut the Kansas lead to 24-17 with a 20-yard touchdown pass to Michael Westbrook late in the third quarter.  Then, with over 12 minutes still to play, Lamont Warren scored on a 19-yard run.  Spurning the tie, Bill McCartney went for a two-point conversion and the lead.  The pass fell short, though, and the Buffs still trailed, 24-23.

For the second successive week, Vance Joseph was asked to lead the Buffs on a gave-saving drive.

Taking over at the Colorado 20-yard line with just two minutes left to play, Joseph led the Buffs on an eight-play, 80-yard drive through a snowstorm.  Joseph passed 22 yards to Rico Smith before Lamont Warren broke loose for a 28-yard run, setting the Buffs up inside the Kansas ten yard line with under a minute to play.  With 40 seconds remaining, fullback James Hill did the honors from a yard out, giving Colorado a 30-24 win.

The Buffs were now 7-2-1 (5-0-1 in Big Eight play). All that remained on the 1991 regular season schedule was a road trip to Iowa State.  The Cyclones were 3-6-1 on the season, and bad weather was once again forecast.  On the upside, Darian Hagan was set to resume his full-time duties at quarterback.

After the close calls experienced against second-division teams in Oklahoma State and Kansas, and with the Big Eight championship still on the line, it did not seem that motivation for a win against the Cyclones would be difficult.

But in 1991, nothing was coming easy for the defending national champions.

Bowl Predictions

Most of the nation’s attention in mid-November was focused on the top of the polls, where No. 2 Miami knocked off No. 1 Florida State, 17-16, to assume the top spot. Right behind Miami in the polls was Washington, No. 2 and the only other undefeated team in the nation.  With the Pac-10’s alliance with the Rose Bowl, Miami and Washington could not meet in the postseason, making the possibility of a split title for the second year in a row a distinct possibility.

Top-ranked Miami still had to wait for a determination of its Orange Bowl opponent.  The Hurricanes awaited the Big Eight champion, which still could be Nebraska, Colorado, or Oklahoma.  The Sooners hopes were dependent upon the Buffs losing to Iowa State.  If Colorado stumbled, the winner of the Oklahoma/Nebraska game would represent the conference.

If Colorado defeated Iowa State, however, Nebraska would control its own fate.  A win over the Sooners would send the Cornhuskers to Miami, while an Oklahoma upset would give the title to Colorado.

The bowl situation was also becoming crystallized for the second and third place finishers of the conference.  The second place team in the Big Eight would play Alabama in the Blockbuster Bowl, while the third place team was slated for a game against Virginia in the Gator Bowl.  If the Buffs were not the Big Eight’s representative in Miami, the Buffs would do no worse than a third place bowl.

As a result, the Buff players, heading out into a blizzard which was Jack Trice Field on Saturday, November 23rd, to face the Iowa State Cyclones, the Buffs knew that their next game would be played in the state of Florida.

What was yet to be determined, though, was where.

Game Notes:

– The Buffs scored the final 20 points of the game, trailing by two scores for only the second time in 1991 (Stanford).

– Oddly enough, the 1991 game between Colorado and Kansas represented the first time since 1979 that a game in Boulder was played during a snowstorm.

– The Buffs, if you look at the stats from the game, were lucky to pull out the win. Kansas held the ball for 35 minutes, out-gained the Buffs 430-312, and ran far more plays (81-53).

– As if to underscore the lack of a passing game in 1991 – the halfback option from Lamont Warren to Charles Johnson, a 48-yard play – was the longest passing touchdown for the Buffs all season.

– Lamont Warren (1-1, 48 yards and a touchdown) and punter Mitch Berger (1-1, three yards), both had a better day passing than did the Colorado starting quarterback Darian Hagan (0-2).

– Turnovers continued to haunt the Buffs. A week after a season-high three interceptions against Oklahoma State, the Buffs fumbled six times against Kansas (losing three).

– Kansas did go on to win its final game of the season, a 53-29 victory over Missouri. The win gave the Jayhawks a 6-5 overall record (3-4 in Big Eight play). Kansas was not invited to a bowl, but did finish with its first winning record since 1981 (8-4).


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