September 19th – at Minnesota          No. 11 Colorado 21, Minnesota 20

The third game of Colorado’s 1992 season was played at night (6:00 p.m local time kickoff), and was played indoors (at the Metrodome in Minneapolis).  Whether the Buffs were confused by the surroundings or the time of day is unclear, but the 17-0 deficit Colorado found itself in midway through the third quarter was no mistake.

The Golden Gophers of Minnesota had dug a very large hole for the visitors from Boulder.

Enter true freshman Koy Detmer.

Posting the third greatest comeback (in terms of point deficit) in Colorado history, the Buffs rallied behind the little brother of BYU Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer to defeat Minnesota, 21-20.  Junior quarterback Duke Tobin was given the start for the injured Kordell Stewart, but Tobin, like the rest of the Colorado offense, was ineffective.  At the half, Tobin had completed only two of his 10 pass attempts.  The running game, when the five sacks of Tobin were factored in, had amassed a total of minus-eight yards rushing.

With offensive statistics like those, the Buffs were lucky that their defense had come to play.  The only first half score came when Gopher Derek Fisher recovered a blocked Mitch Berger punt in the Colorado endzone to put Minnesota ahead, 7-0.

Before the Buffs could put the offense in gear, though, the score was up to 17-0, Minnesota.  Then Koy Detmer began showing leadership qualities which belied his youth.  On Colorado’s second possession of the second half, Detmer hit Michael Westbrook on a 49-yard touchdown pass to cut the margin to 17-7.  On the Gophers’ next possession, junior strong safety Dwayne Davis cut in front of a Marquel Fleetwood pass, returning it 31 yards for a Colorado touchdown.  17-14.

After Minnesota briefly righted its ship, posting a field goal to raise the lead to 20-14, Detmer led the Buffs on a four-play, 80-yard drive culminated in a 24-yard touchdown pass to Charles E. Johnson.  21-20, Colorado, with 12:02 left in the game.

The final moments were not without their drama, however.  Minnesota kicker Aaron Piepkorn, who had earlier hit from 26 and 36 yards out, lined up for a 55-yard attempt in the game’s waning seconds.  The kick had the distance, but was wide right, and the Buffs had survived.

“I couldn’t be happier.  I couldn’t be prouder”, said a jubilant McCartney after the game, “I just thought our guys gave it up.  What I mean by that is that every ounce of energy those kids out there on defense had – they gave it up.”

Koy Detmer’s plans for a red-shirt season were over, but McCartney would say it was worth it:  “I think we’ll remember the game he stepped in for a little while around here.”  Detmer’s teammates had nothing but praise.  Safety Dwayne Davis:  “He’s the classiest freshman I’ve ever seen.”  Receiver Michael Westbrook:  “He’s a character.  We’d figured he’d do what he did.”  Offensive tackle Jim Hansen:  “He’s my hero.  Did you see that fight we had (in the third quarter)? He was out there spearing some guy and I had to pull him out of there …. He’s amazing.  Absolutely amazing.”

Kordell Stewart would still be the Buffs’ starting quarterback when he returned from his injury, but Koy Detmer had given Colorado fans a taste of what was to come.

At least for those Colorado fans who had listened to the game.

On the Radio

The 1992 Colorado/Minnesota football game was witnessed by 33,719 fans, most of whom returned home disappointed.

Also disappointed that evening were thousands of Colorado fans who were denied the opportunity to watch the game at home on television.  In 1992, the cable broadcasting network ESPN had a contract with the College Football Association.  The contract called for ESPN to have exclusive rights to broadcasting Saturday night college football.  As a result of the timing of the kickoff, 6:00 p.m., the Buffalo/Gopher game could not be televised by a Denver station.  The only way to follow the game was to listen to it on Colorado’s flagship radio station, KOA of Denver.

For me, the television blackout did not present a dilemma.  I was in Montana, after all, and likely would not have been able to watch the game on television, anyway.

My problem was the scoring in the game.

Or rather the lack thereof.

As I settled in that Saturday evening to watch the ESPN offering (a pleasant 29-14 drubbing of No. 12 Nebraska by No. 2 Washington) I knew that I would receive periodic updates from ESPN (at 28 minutes and 58 minutes past the hour – all you got back then), and I could also switch over to CNN Headline News for updates at 20 minutes and 50 minutes past the hour.  With Colorado being a ranked team, I was guaranteed at least four hourly reports on the score (games involving unranked teams were not afforded such constant attention).  Not the best of all possible worlds, but a fact of life to which I become accustomed in my first five seasons back in Bozeman.  The game was supposed to be a blowout, so I was confident that my evening would be a relaxed one.

At least until about an hour after the Buff game had kicked off.

One full hour after the game had started, the television updates were still showing scores of:  Colorado 0; Minnesota 0.  “This can’t be right!”, I thought.  The Buffs had scored 94 points in the first two games of 1992, and had blasted this same Gopher team 58-0 less than one year earlier.  Why weren’t the Buffs scoring?  What was happening in the Metrodome?

I made a decision.

In the pages of the football magazines strewn around my apartment were advertisements for fans to listen to their team’s games.  For a price, you could call a number, enter your team’s code, and listen to the radio broadcast of your home town team.  Desperate to find out what was going on, I dialed.  No more than three (expensive) minutes later, I heard the play-by-play of the Golden Gophers blocking Mitch Berger’s punt.

I wanted a score; I got one.

7-0, Minnesota.

Determining that I had just jinxed my team, I resolved not to call that number ever again (and I never did).

But what about the Buffs?  I endured seemingly endless repetitions on ESPN and CNN of:  Minnesota 7; Colorado 0 – Halftime.  Then, an update:  Minnesota 10; Colorado 0.  Then:  Minnesota 17; Colorado 0.

What the Hell was going on?

I turned to the only other source I had available to me:  Brad.  Brad was in Grand Junction, and I knew he would be listening to the game on a KOA affiliate.  By the time I got off the phone, the score had improved to 17-14, but the Buffs still trailed.  I hung up with Brad feeling a little better.

Then the phone rang.  It was Charlie, my roommate my senior year in Boulder, now a television reporter in Nashville, Tennessee.  HE wanted to know what was going on with the Buffs.  I told Charlie what I knew.

Then the phone rang again.  It was Mark, whom I had met my freshman year in Libby Hall, who was an aerospace engineer working in Dayton, Ohio.  HE wanted to know what was going on with the Buffs.  I told Mark what I knew.

I called Brad back.  It was now Minnesota 20, CU 14, just starting the fourth quarter.  I knew I really could not afford to spend the remainder of the game on the phone with Brad, so we quickly devised a system for me to get updates without either of us incurring charges.  Brad would call my number if either team scored.  If Minnesota scored, he would hang up after one ring.  If Colorado scored, he would hang up after two rings.

Moments later, the phone rang.  One ring.  TWO RINGS.  And then silence.


But was it a field goal or a touchdown?  A field goal would cut the lead to 20-17, but the Gophers would still be ahead.  A touchdown would give the Buffs their first lead of the game, 21-20.  ESPN provided the answer shortly thereafter, posting the 21-20 lead for Colorado.

Now the waiting began.  Minutes ticked off the wall clock, with no call from Brad.  It was now after 8:00 p.m., Mountain time.  The game should have been over, but the phone did not ring.

Finally, around 8:15 p.m., the phone rang.  One ring.  After what seemed like an inordinate amount of time, it rang again – the second ring.  Whew!  The Buffs had either scored again, or the game was over.

Then the phone rang a third time.  Perhaps it wasn’t Brad, after all.  I raced to answer the phone.

But it was Brad.  He was calling to confirm that the game had in fact ended 21-20.  Brad had just resumed breathing after KOA announcer Kent Groshong had initially called Aaron Piepkorn’s 55-yard attempt, which would have given Minnesota the victory, good.  The radio audience was then treated to the good news that the last-minute kick was indeed wide, and that the Buffs had won.

A few minutes later, ESPN and CNN confirmed on my television screen what Brad had just told me.  The game was over, and the Buffs had survived.  I thanked Brad, hung up the phone only long enough to get a dial tone.

I had to relay the information on to Charlie in Nashville and Mark in Dayton.

 Game Notes:

– True freshman Koy Detmer was not supposed to play in 1992, but by the third week of the season, those plans were scratched. For his 11-of-18, 184 yard, two touchdown performance against Minnesota, though, Koy Detmer was named the Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Week.

– Though he didn’t finish, Duke Tobin did start the game, going two-for-10, for 12 yards, 11 rushes for minus-12 yards. Despite the numbers, Tobin became the sixth Buff quarterback in succession to win their starting debut, the longest streak in Colorado history (five straight quarterbacks won their openers between 1967 and 1971). Tobin would not start another game in his career, and had only two more passes in all of 1992 (both coming in a blowout win over Kansas State later in the season).

– The last time before the Minnesota game which an opponent blocked a punt was in 1991, when Oklahoma State pulled off a blocked kick. The last time an opponent blocked a punt and also scored a touchdown on the play came in 1988, when Iowa scored on a blocked punt against the Buffs. Minnesota’s block was the only block of the season of a Mitch Berger punt. The only punter in the nation to be in the top five in both gross and net average (he was second in each), Berger would go on to be named a first-team All-American in 1992 by UPI, though he was only voted second team All-Big Eight by the coaches (and only honorable mention Big Eight by the AP).

– The last Buff before Dwayne Davis to return an interception for a touchdown was Chris Hudson, who turned the trick against Stanford on September 28, 1991. In the 20th game of his career – and his first career start – Davis made the first interception of his career as a Buff a good one. It also proved to be his only interception of the 1992 season, though Davis did start the remainder of the year at strong safety.

– Colorado had no interceptions as a team in the first two games of 1991. They left Minnesota with four. In addition to Davis’ pick, junior cornerback Chris Hudson had two interceptions, and Deon Figures, who would go on to lead the team with six interceptions (on his way to winning the Thorpe Award), had his first interception of the season.

– Sophomore defensive tackle Darius Holland earned his first start against Minnesota, subbing for injured starter Jeff Brunner, who was lost for the season during the Baylor game. Holland was slated to red-shirt in 1992, but ended up playing in nine games, starting six. Holland notably switched his jersey number from No. 92 to No. 93 in 1992, so that he would wear the same number as his idol, Joel Steed, had worn when Holland was a freshman.

– The 1992 win gave Colorado a 3-0 record against Minnesota. In addition to the 58-0 rout in Boulder in 1991, the Buffs prevailed in Minneapolis in 1972, 38-6.

– The close call was still a victory, and the 3-0 Buffs cracked the top ten in the Associated Press poll the following week. Nebraska and Oklahoma, which had been ranked right behind Colorado at No. 12 and No. 13, both lost (Nebraska 29-14 to No. Washington; Oklahoma to unranked USC 20-10) to fall to No. 15 and No. 20, respectively. The only other Big Eight team in the polls that week was Kansas, which joined the poll at No. 24 after opening with a 3-0 record.

– Minnesota, in its first season under Jim Wacker, did not fare well. The 1992 Golden Gopher team matched the 1991 team’s record at 2-9, with the two victories coming against Illinois and Iowa.

One Reply to “Minnesota – Detmer’s 1st game becomes 3rd-best comeback ever”

  1. I was fortunate enough to be able to attend this game, and the comeback was stirring. What I remember most (besides Dettmer’s heroics overcoming Duke Tobin’s struggles) was Christian Fauria on the sidelines, exhorting the small Buff fan contingent to rally the team. I was really impressed with his spirit, and it worked. In the Metrodome, a little noise goes a long way, and the Buffs really seemed to respond to the support of their fans.

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