Colorado v. Syracuse – Fiesta Bowl – January 1, 1993

Lost Luggage, Lost Jacket, Lost Holiday

I had never been to Phoenix before.  In fact, unless you count stepping across the state line at the Four Corners area which represents the intersection of the borders of Colorado, Utah, Arizona, and New Mexico, I had never been to Arizona before.  Coming at the end of December, a trip to the Fiesta Bowl to cap off the 1992 season seemed like a great idea.

My trip got off to a bad start when my luggage failed to meet me at the Phoenix airport.  Fortunately, my hosts for my first evening in Phoenix, Kyle and Kim, were more than hospitable in taking care of my needs until the next day when my wayward luggage decided to complete its journey.

Brad arrived in town the day after I did, with fellow Buff devotee Scott in tow.  As Grand Junction was a day’s drive away from Phoenix, Brad and Scott drove down for the Fiesta Bowl, and we had our transportation for the duration of our stay.

Once settled, our first destination was a golf course.  We started early in the morning, and had our black and gold Colorado jackets in tow.  Being on vacation, we naturally felt compelled to rent golf carts.

The round went well, but, when Brad and Scott decided to race the carts back to the pro shop, they (meaning Brad) forgot to notice that my jacket was still in the cart.  As the day had warmed since we had started playing, no one, including me, noticed that the jacket was missing.  A frantic call to the course the next morning proved fruitless, and my prized Colorado jacket was gone.

To this day, Brad denies any liability for my lost jacket, (but we know the truth, don’t we, Brad?)

With our golf fix satiated, our next issue was to party.  After all, Brad, Scott, and I were three single guys in a new place, and it was now New Year’s Eve.  We decided to take in the – very large, as it turned out – celebration in downtown Tempe.  Several streets were blocked off to allow crowds to mingle in the carnival-like atmosphere.  It was quite a show.

Unfortunately, the size became an issue.  We met up with Lauren, who also lived in Phoenix and had been one of Kim’s roommates in Boulder.  Over the course of the evening, I somehow managed to become separated from Brad and Scott.  Unfamiliar with town, and unable to remember Brad’s aunt’s name (I only stayed with Kim and Kyle the first night, until Brad made it to town), I had no way of connecting again with Brad (remember – this was pre-cellphone days!).

Another New Year’s Eve was shot.  You’d think I would have known better.  I was now four-for-four on lousy New Year’s celebrations traveling with the Buffs.  In Houston, I was left out of a night club because I only brought jeans on the trip (Bluebonnet Bowl, 1986).  In Los Angeles, I spent New Year’s Eve calling credit card companies after losing my wallet in the Disneyland (Freedom Bowl, 1988).  In Miami, I had ushered in the New Year, and the decade of the 1990’s, waiting for my luggage at the Miami International Airport (Orange Bowl, 1990).  Now, I was lost in Phoenix on the eve of the 1993 Fiesta Bowl.  Lauren did bail me out, giving me a place to stay for the night.  Through a series of calls, I was able to connect up with Brad again on the way to the game in Tempe.

Hopefully, the game would turn out better than the days leading up to it …

 January 1st – at Tempe – Fiesta Bowl            No. 6 Syracuse 26,  No. 10 Colorado 22

The headline for the 1993 edition of the Fiesta Bowl could well have been:  “Syracuse Beaches Colorado”.  Taking advantage of a field which was little more than a green-painted sand box, the Orangeman took advantage of Colorado miscues and a 100-yard kickoff return to defeat the Buffs, 26-22.  Led by quarterback Marvin Graves, named the game’s Most Valuable Player, Syracuse overcame a 7-6 halftime deficit to score 20 points in the third quarter to assume a 26-16 lead.  A Lamont Warren touchdown with just over four minutes remaining pulled the Buffs to within 26-22, but Colorado would not come any closer.

The game was a defensive battle in the first half, with the teams combining for just 226 yards of total offense before the break. A pair of John Biskup field goals gave Syracuse a 6-0 lead in the second quarter. With just ten seconds left before the half, though, Kordell Stewart hit tight end Sean Brown for a ten yard score and a 7-6 lead for Colorado at the break.

The third quarter proved decisive, with 29 points scored in just over six minutes of playing time. A 13-yard run by David Walker put the Orangemen back on top, 12-7, with a two-point conversion attempt failing. Colorado cut the lead to 12-10 on a 38-yard field goal by Mitch Berger, but Syracuse went up by two scores, 19-10, on a spectacular 28-yard run by quarterback Marvin Graves.

The Buffs had an answer of their own, with Kordell Stewart leading the Buffs on an 82-yard drive in just over a minute of play. A 16-yard touchdown pass from Stewart to Charles E. Johnson made the new score 19-16, but the Buffs failed to close the gap further after Mitch Berger missed the extra point.

As upset as the Buff faithful in attendance were at the missed extra point, that was nothing compared to the frustration a minute later, when Kirby Dar Dar returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown and a 26-16 Syracuse lead. A six-yard touchdown run by Lamont Warren late in the game gave Colorado one last chance, but a second missed extra point forced the Buffs to go for a touchdown instead of a game tying field goal, with the last drive of the game falling short of the Syracuse goal line.

26-22, Syracuse.

For the Buffs, the kicking game, or rather the lack thereof, was the story.  Junior kicker Mitch Berger missed two extra points and a chip-shot 23-yard field goal attempt.  The five points lost in the kicking game (not to mention the breakdown in the kicking unit which allowed Kirby Dar Dar to return a kickoff 100 yards for a score late in the third quarter) cost the Buffs the contest.  “This is really disappointing,” said Berger, who was replacing senior kicker Pat Blottiaux, left in Boulder due to academic difficulties.  “I’ve never been in a position where I was the one that lost the game. I guess everybody’s got to hit rock-bottom sometimes.”

The Buff defense, as it had all season, kept the Buffs in the game, limiting the Orangemen to 265 yards of total offense.  But the Colorado offense could not take advantage of its 370 total yards, with Kordell Stewart’s three-interception day contributing to the Buffs’ frustration.  Stewart completed only 17-of-41 passes, with his two touchdowns more than offset by his three interceptions.  Fullback James Hill contributed a career-high 109 yards rushing, but it was not enough, as the Buffs fell in a bowl game for the ninth time in their last ten tries.

Time Zoned

It was now official.  I was a jinx to Colorado at bowl games.

With the Fiesta Bowl loss, I had now been in attendance to watch the Buffs lose in four different time zones:  Eastern (Orange); Central (Bluebonnet); Mountain (Fiesta); and Pacific (Freedom).  That left only one time zone available, the Hawaiian time zone and the Aloha Bowl.

But, fortunately for me and the Buffs, Colorado had never been invited to play in the Aloha Bowl … (of course, the 1993 season had yet to be played, and we know where the Buffs ended up at the end of the 1993 season, don’t we?)

Here is the video of the game, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:


Game Notes:

A number of Colorado bowl game records were set in the 1993 Fiesta Bowl (for 1992 season records, see the write-up for the Iowa State game – Colorado does not consider bowl game statistics in compiling season records):

– Highest rushing yard average, game: 9.9 (James Hill, 11-for-109 yards; old record, 7.3, Bobby Anderson v. Alabama, 1969 Liberty)

– Most passing attempts, game: 41 (Kordell Stewart; old record, 36, Gale Weidner v. LSU, 1962 Orange)

– Completions, game: 17 (Kordell Stewart; tied two others)

– Yards gained passing, game: 217 (Kordell Stewart; old record 210, Darian Hagan, v. Alabama, 1991 Blockbuster)

– Yards receiving, career: 170 (Michael Westbrook; old record 102, Don Hasselbeck)

– Longest punt: Mitch Berger, 62 yards

– Average per punt: 48.3 yards (three-for-145; old record 42.9 v. Tulane, 1970 Liberty)

– Longest field goal: Mitch Bergere, 38 yards (old record 36, Dave DeLine v. Baylor, 1986 Bluebonnet).

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