September 5th –Boulder          No. 12 Colorado 37, Colorado State 17

The 1992 season-opener had all the makings of a disaster.

The Colorado/Colorado State game was the renewal of an intra-state rivalry, which always meant a hard-fought game.  In addition, the Buffs were risking state and national embarrassment if their new offense failed to produce against a Colorado State squad which had stumbled to a 3-8 record in 1991.

To the relief of many Buff fans, though, the Colorado offense did not disappoint.  Head Coach Bill McCartney looked like a genius as the Buffs came away with a 37-17 win in the 1992 opener for both teams.

Sophomore quarterback Kordell Stewart, having earned the starting nod over junior Vance Joseph, smashed a ten-year old team passing record by throwing for 409 yards in completing 21-of-36 attempts. The previous high for any Buff quarterback had been Randy Essington’s 361-yard effort in Colorado’s 40-14 loss to Nebraska in 1982.

Stewart contributed an additional 21 yards on the ground for an all-purpose tally of 430 yards, breaking the record of 353 yards held by Bobby Anderson for 24 seasons.  “I’m just happy to get a game under my belt,” said Stewart after the Colorado State contest.  “It means a lot to me, and it’s nice to break the records.  Hopefully I can break it again.”

Stewart threw four touchdown passes on the day, tying a school record set by Darian Hagan against Oklahoma State in 1990.  The Buffs opened an early 14-0 lead as Stewart connected with Michael Westbrook for 48 yards and Charles E. Johnson for 60 yards.

The Rams, for their part, did not fold.  As you would expect in an intra-state rivalry game, the underdog hung tough. Thanks in large part to a 67-yard touchdown run by John Ivlow, Colorado State managed to pull to within 14-10 at half.

In the second half, though, Colorado slowly pulled away from the Rams.

A Pat Blottiaux 20-yard field goal on the Buffs’ first drive of the second half upped the lead to 17-10. Midway through the quarter, Kordell Stewart connected with sophomore tight end Christian Fauria for a 17-yard touchdown and a two-touchdown lead. Colorado State scored in the final minute of the third quarter to pull to within a score at 24-17, but two more Pat Blottiaux field goals and a six-yard touchdown pass from Stewart to Westbrook in the fourth quarter gave the Buffs a comfortable 37-17 victory.

Coach Bill McCartney gave the opening contest mixed reviews:  “I’m pleased we won, but not satisfied with the performance.”  The new offense had been largely productive, but the defense had been more inconsistent than had been expected from the veteran group.

The sometimes lackluster play could not long be afforded.  The Baylor Bears, who had upset the Buffs in Boulder in 1991 on their way to an 8-4 record, were up next.


Game Notes:

– The game against Colorado State was the first in the series since 1988, and the teams would not meet again until three seasons later, in the second game of the 1995 season. The win over the Rams was the sixth in seven games against the Rams since the series was renewed in 1983.

– The Rams did set a new series record, rushing for 267 yards in the game. The previous best was 240 yards, set in the 1989 game, a 45-20 Colorado victory.

– Think Kordell Stewart’s 409 yards passing set a few records? In addition to those mentioned above, Stewart set the standard for the CU/CSU series. The previous best? 156 yards, set in the 1986 game.  Charles E. Johnson’s 159 yards receiving marked the first time a Buff went over 100 yards against the Rams. The previous best was 96 yards, by Loy Alexander, in the 1983 game.

– For his efforts, Kordell Stewart was named the Big Eight Player-of-the-Week, as well as the Sporting News national Player-of-the-Week.

– Stewart and Johnson connected on a 65-yard completion, but it did not go for a touchdown. The gain proved to be the longest non-scoring pass of the 1992 season.

– Charles E. Johnson and Michael Westbrook achieved a receiving double not accomplished by the Buffs in eight seasons. Johnson had four catches for 159 yards and a touchdown, while Westbrook had seven catches for 130 yards and two touchdowns. The two 100-yard receiver game was only the fourth in Colorado history, and the first since 1984, when tight end Jon Embree (eight catches for 133 yards) and Loy Alexander (seven catches for 118 yards and a touchdown) against Kansas in 1984. (Johnson and Westbrook would go on to pull of the double-100’s four times in their careers, three times in 1992).

– In addition to Kordell Stewart, there were a number of other Buffs who earned their first career start in the 1992 season opener:

— Sophomore wide receiver Erik Mitchell. Against Colorado State, Mitchell had two catches for 38 yards. Mitchell would go on to start the first four games of 1992, finishing the season with ten catches for 125 yards;

— Sophomore tight end Christian Fauria. Against the Rams, Fauria had three catches for 23 yards and a touchdown. Fauria would go on to start all 12 games in 1992, finishing third on the team with 31 catches for 326 yards and five touchdowns, collecting the most catches by a Colorado tight end in a season since Jon Embree’s 51 catches in 1984. Fauria would go on to be named the team’s Derek Singleton Award winner, given to a player to recognize his spirit, dedication, and enthusiasm;

— Freshman center Bryan Stoltenberg. After red-shirting behind Colorado All-American Jay Leeuwenburg, Stoltenberg started all 12 games in 1992, the first freshman to do so since Joe Garten in 1987. Stoltenberg was also the first center in Colorado history to start as a freshman. In playing over 700 snaps in 1992 – the most of any player – Stoltenberg was an honorable mention All-Big Eight selection;

— Junior nose tackle Jeff Brunner. One of the heroes of the 1991 “Ice Bowl” tie against Nebraska in 1991 (Brunner blocked an extra point attempt which was returned by linebacker Greg Biekert for a two-point conversion), Brunner earned his first start against Colorado State. Brunner would go on to tear the ACL in his left knee the following week against Baylor, and was lost for the remainder of the 1992 season (he did receive a medical red-shirt, though, keeping an extra year of eligibility);

— Junior cornerback Dennis Collier. Collier proved to be a place holder for Deon Figures, who sat out the first game of the 1992 season before starting every game the remainder of 1992 on his way to becoming the school’s first Thorpe Award winner. Collier, for his part, made the move over from tailback during spring practice, 1992, a successful one, seeing action in ten games, seeing playing time on 150 snaps during the season.

— Junior safety Greg Lindsey. Lindsey would go on to start two games in 1992, against Colorado State (at strong safety) and against Oklahoma State (at free safety). Lindsey would go on to play in every game of the 1992 season, posting 19 tackles and two interceptions.

– Despite the convincing victory over its in-state rival, Colorado did not move up in the following poll, remaining at No. 12. As is often the case in the first week of the season, there are few upsets. In fact, every team ranked in the top 20 in the Associated Press poll which played the first weekend won their first game of the season.

– Colorado State would open the 1992 season with three straight losses before upsetting LSU at Baton Rouge, 17-14. The Rams would end the season with back-to-back victories over Ohio University and New Mexico, but a 5-7 record was not enough to keep Earle Bruce in Ft. Collins. Bruce would be fired at the end of the 1992 season, finishing a four year run with Colorado State with a 22-24-1 overall record. Bruce would be replaced in 1993 by Sonny Lubick.



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