Buffs and the Cowboys

The 1991 Colorado/Wyoming game would be the 25th meeting between the two neighbors, but the first in the series since 1982.

Colorado held a commanding 22-2-1 edge in the rivalry, but one of the two losses was the 24-10 setback in 1982, Bill McCartney’s first year as head coach at Colorado. The Cowboys in 1990 had opened the season with a run of nine consecutive wins (and a No. 19 national ranking) before succumbing to four consecutive losses to end the year, including a 17-15 setback to California in the Copper Bowl.

Wyoming was already 0-1 for 1991 before coming to Boulder, opening with a 32-17 loss to Hawaii. The poll before the game moved Colorado up a notch from the preseason poll, from No. 13 to No. 12 nationally, thanks to none other than Georgia Tech, which fell out of the top ten in losing, 34-22, to Penn State in the Kickoff Classic (the Yellow Jackets would not return to the top ten for the remainder of 1991).

 September 7th – Boulder           No. 12 Colorado 30, Wyoming 13

The Colorado Buffaloes opened the defense of their national championship at home with a satisfying 30-13 win over Wyoming.

Darian Hagan, showing no ill effects from his off-season surgery, demonstrated his talents before a national ESPN audience in rushing for 42 yards, passing for 151, and returning punts for 79 more.

The final score was more lopsided than the game itself.

Colorado opened the scoring with a three-yard Hagan run and a 40-yard Jim Harper field goal to post a 10-0 first quarter lead. The next two scores belonged to the Cowboys, however, as Wyoming knotted the score at 10-10 early in the third. Sophomore fullback James Hill put the Buffs on top to stay minutes later with a one-yard plunge. The point after was blocked, however, leaving the score at 16-10, Colorado.

The blocked PAT and subsequent Wyoming field goal gave the Buffs a precarious 16-13 lead heading into the final quarter.

Only after a 17-yard scoring pass from Hagan to Mark Henry and a five-yard touchdown run by Kent Kahl were the Buff faithful allowed to enjoy the final few minutes.

Colorado’s defense surrendered 13 points to Wyoming, but little else. The Cowboys were limited to 67 yards rushing on 35 carries, and the Buff defense sacked Wyoming quarterbacks nine times. “Our defense was tremendous”, said McCartney, “That’s some of the best defense we’ve played here.”

Darian Hagan had played adequately at quarterback against Wyoming, but it was his punt returns which merited post-game comments. Hagan contributed 79 yards in punt returns, including romps of 37 and 30 yards in the pivotal fourth quarter. It was Hagan who asked for the extra duty, hoping to enhance his status before NFL scouts, but McCartney was still being second-guessed about exposing his star quarterback to potential injury. “It (the surgically repaired knee) didn’t hurt at all, even on the punt returns,” said Hagan.

“I think you all know he’d be dangerous as a punt returner,” said McCartney to the press after the game.

The 30-13 win extended the Buffs winning streak to a nation’s best 11 games. Despite the win, Colorado did not move up in the polls, as all of the teams ranked in front of Colorado which played also won.

Up next for the Buffs were the Baylor Bears. Baylor, fresh off of a 27-7 win over Texas-El Paso, entered the rankings at No. 23.

The news of Baylor being ranked the week before the Buffs faced them in Boulder was seen as good news by the Colorado faithful. If Colorado was to make a move back into the top ten, the reasoning was, the Buffs needed some quality wins over quality opponents.

Be careful what you ask for.

Game Notes –

– The blocked extra point by Wyoming ended a school-record streak of 111 consecutive extra-points converted.

– The Buffs winning percentage over Wyoming (23-2-1, 90.3% after the 1991 win), is the best against any team Colorado has played more than five times.

– The Colorado defense sacked Wyoming quarterbacks nine times, the second highest total in school history (the Buffs sacked Wichita State quarterbacks 11 times in a 52-0 rout in 1975).

– Darian Hagan’s 37-yard punt return in the fourth quarter would turn out to be the longest punt return of the season for Colorado. In all, Hagan would be in on 25 of 35 punt returns by the Buffs in 1991. His 25 returns would go for 287 yards, an 11.5 yards/return average.

– The Colorado defense set several standards for the season in the opener against Wyoming. The 67 yards rushing was a season low, while the three fumble recoveries, nine quarterback sacks, and nine pass deflections would not be bettered the remainder of the season.

– No fewer than six offensive players had their first career starts against Wyoming, including four offensive linemen: sophomore Craig Anderson (LT); freshman Clint Moore (LG); sophomore Roger Ivey (RG); and junior Jim Hansen (RT). There were two new starters in the backfield, with sophomore wingback Mark Henry joining red-shirt freshman tailback Kent Kahl. Of those in the group, only Jim Hansen would start every game in 1991. (Hansen would go on to become the fifth Rhodes Scholar in Colorado history, joining George Carlson (1931), Clayton White (1933), Bryon “Whizzer” White (1938), and Joe Roemig (1962). Hansen would be named an Academic All-American three times, and a College Football Hall of Fame Scholar-Athlete).

– As noted, freshman Clint Moore earned a start in the opener. In so doing, Moore became just the fifth Buff to start a game as a true freshman, joining wide receiver Billy Waddy (1973) cornerback Victor Scott and linebacker Scott Hardison (1980), and running back Eric Bieniemy (1987).

– Four defensive players had their first career starts in the 1991 Wyoming game. Sophomore linebacker Ronnie Woolfork was joined by three defensive backs: junior safety Eric Hamilton; Orange Bowl hero Ronnie Bradford; and red-shirt freshman Chris Hudson. While Hudson would not have any other starts in 1991, he would go on to one of the most distinguished careers in Colorado history, capped off by the Jim Thorpe Award in 1994, given to the nation’s top defensive back.

– Wyoming was playing only its second game under new head coach Joe Tiller. A season after going 9-4, the Cowboys would stumble to a 4-6-1 record in 1991. Tiller, before moving on to Purdue after the 1996 season, would post a 39-30-1 record in six seasons in Laramie.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *