The 1993 Season – Buffs take on the nation’s most difficult schedule in record-setting fashion

Here is a look back at the 1993 Season. The Buffs take on the nation’s most difficult schedule, with four ranked teams in non-conference play … The brawl with the Miami Hurricanes in Boulder … Lamont Warren and Charles E. Johnson connected on the “national play-of-the-year” to take down No. 9 Oklahoma … Bill McCartney becomes CU all-time wins leader … Buffs close out the season with a satisfying win on Christmas Day in the Aloha Bowl …

The 1993 Season … 

Preseason – 1993 – Scouting the Nation

As the summer of 1993 wound down, (a great summer for me and my lady, thank you very much) the pre-season magazines appeared. There was little or no consensus as to which team would emerge from the upcoming season ranked No. 1 on January 1, 1994. Florida State received much of the ink, but Alabama was also getting support for a repeat of its 1992 National Championship.

When the pre-season Associated Press poll came out, five different teams received first-place votes. Included with Florida State, Alabama, Michigan, and Syracuse was Stanford … but the Cardinal was ranked only 15th overall.

There was some consensus as to the Colorado Buffaloes and how their 1993 season would unfold … at least as to several issues.

First, everyone agreed that the Buffs’ 1993 schedule would be brutal. The non-conference slate included ranked Miami (No. 5 in the pre-season poll) and Stanford (15th), along with the nearly-ranked Texas (30th overall) and Baylor (31st). If Colorado could survive September, conference clashes against Oklahoma, improving Kansas, and, of course, Nebraska, loomed.

“Maximum Challenge” was the motto chosen by the team for the season, and a glance at the schedule explained why.

1993 Outlook – CU Roster

While there was consensus that Colorado had a difficult schedule, there also seemed to be uniform opinion as to Colorado’s formula for success: improve the rushing game.

Colorado’s rushing attack had dropped from 19th nationally in 1991 to 100th nationally in 1992, and that had to improve if the Buffs were to regain national prominence. The passing game, led by Kordell Stewart and the receiving tandem of Charles E. Johnson and Michael Westbrook (who in 1991 had become only the fourth pair in history to each surpass the 1,000 receiving yard barrier in a single season), was in good hands.

Between Stewart and super-sub Koy Detmer, the Buffs had passed for 3,271 yards in 1992, a total higher than any other team in Big Eight history. The offensive line had talent, with Bryan Stoltenberg returning at center to anchor the line. Derek West switched from left tackle to right tackle, with Tony Berti moving from center to left tackle. At guard, sophomores Heath Irwin and Chad Hammond returned after earning starting time in 1992 as red-shirt freshmen.

In all, ten of eleven starters returned, so the offense was not the major concern.

There was concern about the defense, however.

Five All-Big Eight defenders, including Thorpe Award winner (given annually to the nation’s top defensive back) Deon Figures, along with linebackers Chad Brown and Greg Biekert, were lost to the NFL. In all, five Buff defenders – Figures; Brown; Biekert; Ronnie Bradford; and Leonard Renfro – were selected in the 1993 NFL draft, with Figures and Renfro going in the first round.

Linebacker Ron Woolfork, who had led the Big Eight with 13.5 sacks in 1992, would be expected to carry the load for the talented but not yet cohesive defense. Junior cornerback Chris Hudson was given pre-season All-Conference mention, as was junior linebacker Ted Johnson. If the defense needed help, it could call on punter Mitch Berger, who received mention on many All-American pre-season teams, to keep the opponents pinned deep in their own territory.

Overall, during the summer of 1993, the song being sung about the Buffs was the same as it had been for several years.

The talent was there, it was just a matter of working through a tough schedule to the top. Having finished 1992 ranked as the 13th-best team in the nation, Colorado opened the 1993 campaign two rungs higher, coming in with a No. 11 pre-season ranking.

Game One … 

September 4th – Boulder          No. 11 Colorado 36, Texas 14

In 1989, the Colorado Buffaloes opened their memorable 11-0 regular season with a 27-6 thrashing of the Texas Longhorns.

After a convincing 36-14 win over Texas to kickoff the 1993 campaign, the Buff fans could realistically hope that history would repeat itself.

A national ESPN television audience and a sell-out crowd of 52,125 looked on as Kordell Stewart threw for 246 yards and three touchdown passes to lead the Buffs. Stewart opened the scoring with a 35-yard touchdown pass late in the first quarter to Charles E. Johnson to cap a six-play, 66-yard drive.

The lead was up to 14-0 after Stewart hit Michael Westbrook from 16 yards out early in the second quarter. Phil Brown’s eight-yard scoring run for the Longhorns a few series later cut the Colorado lead to 14-7, but in the last minute of the half, Stewart connected on his third touchdown pass of the game, a seven-yarder to tight end Christian Fauria, with just 15 seconds left before the break.

Colorado 21, Texas 7, at the half.

Any thoughts of a Longhorn comeback were erased in the third quarter when cornerback Chris Hudson returned a Shea Morenz pass 21 yards for a touchdown, giving the Buffs a 28-7 lead with only 23 seconds remaining in the quarter. A two-yard Lamont Warren run and an intentional grounding call in the endzone against Texas reserve quarterback Chad Lucas closed out the Buffs’ impressive opening 36-14 win.

Overall, Colorado achieved in the 1993 opener the balanced offensive attack which had been lacking in 1992.

The Buffs churned up 530 yards of total offense – 270 yards rushing; 260 yards passing. Lamont Warren’s 110 yards were the most for any Buff runner since the fourth game of 1992. CU head coach Bill McCartney was pleased: “Offensively we had some moments where we looked sharp”, said McCartney. “I thought in general, with a young offensive line getting a game under their belt against good, quick athletes, which is important, it will help our confidence and momentum.”

The win against a quality opponent on opening night (game time kickoff: 5:30 p.m.), in front of a national audience, was enough to propel the Buffs into the top ten nationally. Colorado jumped one spot, to No. 10, even though every team in front of them won their opening game of the season. As it turned out, No. 7 Notre Dame was apparently less than impressive in its 27-12 win over Northwestern (coached by Gary Barnett), falling to No. 11, one spot behind the Buffs.

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Game Two … 

September 11th – Boulder           No. 10 Colorado 45, No. 24 Baylor 21

Just like that, the would-be questionable Colorado Buffaloes looked like world-beaters.

After forcing six turnovers against Texas, the Buffs’ defense forced three first-half fumbles against Baylor, helping the Buffs cruise to a 21-0 first quarter lead. By half, it was a 35-0 laugher as Colorado went on to crush 24th-ranked Baylor, 45-21.

“Our defense is like a time bomb”, said wide receiver Michael Westbrook. “When we (the offense) get to the sidelines anymore, we don’t take our helmets off. We know we are going to go right back in.”

The first few series of the game gave evidence of the truth of Westbrook’s comments. On Baylor’s first possession of the game, senior cornerback Dennis Collier recovered a fumbled pitch by Bear quarterback J.J. Joe. Nine plays and 45 yards later, Lamont Warren scored from a yard out to put Colorado on top to stay, 7-0. After the Buffs’ defense forced a punt, the offense went 80 yards on just two plays, culminating in a 69-yard bomb from Stewart to Charles E. Johnson.

On Baylor’s very next offensive play, the Bears fumbled again. This time the ball was recovered by senior safety Greg Lindsey. Taking the field, the Buffs turned to its improving running game. Taking off on the option on Colorado’s first play after the fumble recovery, Stewart pitched to James Hill. Hill rambled downfield, but fumbled the football into the endzone. There the ball was recovered by the ever-present Charles E. Johnson. Johnson had his second touchdown in 19 seconds of game clock, and the Buffs had a 21-0 lead with 5:08 still remaining in the first quarter.

The game was now essentially over, even though there was still some 50 minutes left to be played.

The second quarter was more of the same, as Stewart did the honors on a two-yard run early in the stanza to raise the lead to 28-0. Then, on the final play of the half, Stewart hit Charles E. Johnson from 39 yards out on a pass which was tipped by Michael Westbrook. The third touchdown of the game for Johnson gave the Buffs a 35-0 halftime advantage.

Continue reading game story here

Essay for the game, entitled, “Basking in the Sun” … 

There was only one thing I could find to complain about while watching the Buffs cruise past Baylor on a bright, sunny, afternoon in Boulder …

… that being the bright, sunny afternoon itself.

The official temperature at kickoff was 84 degrees, but down near the field where we were (in 1993, our season tickets were down in the endzone underneath the Dal Ward Center), the temperature as the sun reflected off of the Astroturf and silver bleachers had to be at least 100. I felt empathy for the black-jerseyed Buffs as they took the field. Fortunately for all of us, the Baylor Bears did not give any of us reason for any extra sweat. The 21-0 first quarter lead made all discomforts palatable.

Driving back to Bozeman the next day, as the bleak landscape of eastern Wyoming rolled past, thoughts turned to a run for the national championship.

Continue reading essay here

Game Three …

September 18th – at Stanford           No. 20 Stanford 41, No.7 Colorado 37

Led by senior quarterback Steve Stenstrom, No. 20 Stanford rallied for 10 points in the last four minutes of the game to snatch a 41-37 win over a shocked No. 7 Colorado Buffalo squad.

With eight seconds remaining, and Stanford facing a third-and-goal from the Buffs’ five yard line, the game came down to one play.

Stenstrom, who would post 382 yards and five touchdowns passing on the evening, hit Tony Cline in the back of the endzone. As Cline came down with the ball, he was clocked by Colorado senior safety Dwayne Davis. The football came loose, but Cline was credited with a touchdown nonetheless.

After the game, outside linebacker Ron Woolfork was adamant: “(Cline) clearly didn’t have possession of it.” For his part, Davis was too pre-occupied with the hit to notice: “I just ran, gritted my teeth, closed my eyes and tried to make everything on his body come out.”

Colorado head coach Bill McCartney was diplomatic in defeat. “I couldn’t see it,” said McCartney of the game’s final play. “One official told me he questioned it, but that’s all I know.” (See the video highlights, below, and decide for yourself).

The reality was, however, that the game should not have come down to the final play.

The offensive statistics from the Stanford game looked as dominant as those of the previous two blow-outs: 551 yards of total offense for the Buffs, including 274 on the ground. For an offense which had only generated one 100-yard rusher in all of 1992, against Stanford the Buffs had two 100-yard efforts (Lamont Warren, 114 yards; Rashaan Salaam, 109 yards).

The downfall for the Buffs was the defensive effort. Colorado simply could not defend the pass to the tight end, as Colorado native Justin Armour hauled in 10 passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns for Stanford.

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Game Four … 

September 25th – Boulder           No. 3 Miami 35, No. 13 Colorado 29

The Miami Hurricanes came into the 1993 game against Colorado in Boulder with a 2-0 record, having only surrendered nine points in their first two contests.

Miami’s record and dominant defense were not surprises. Over the previous ten seasons, the Hurricanes had posted four national championships, three near-misses, a 107-14 (89%) record, and a Top Ten ranking for 122 consecutive polls. Still, the Hurricanes, like the Buffs, were replacing a number of defensive starters. If the 2-1 Buffs were have any hope for a national title for themselves, it had to start with an upset win at home against Miami.

It was not meant to be.

The Buffs stormed back from a 28-6 deficit to pull within six points late in the game, 35-29, but could not score from inside the Hurricane 20-yard line with under one minute remaining.

The hotly-contested game, played before 52,391 Colorado faithful and a national ABC television audience, was all Miami in the first half. The Hurricanes rolled to a 21-6 halftime lead behind the running of Miami fullback Donnell Bennett and the passing of quarterback Frank Costa.

Still, despite what the scoreboard may have indicated, the Buffs did put up a fight in the first half of the contest.

It just wasn’t while the clock was running.

After a 25-yard touchdown pass from Frank Costa to C.T. Jones put Miami up 21-6 late in the second quarter, a bench-clearing brawl ensued on the Miami kickoff. Both teams were assessed personal fouls, and several players (including Buffs’ wide receiver Michael Westbrook and cornerback Dennis Collier) were ejected.

No one accepted responsibility for starting the fight, but everyone had something to say. Buffs’ coach Bill McCartney: “I couldn’t tell in all the melee who was right and who was wrong …. I hate to see it”. Miami head coach Dennis Erickson: “I’m not proud of it, our football team is not proud of it …. It’s just unfortunate that it ever happened.”

The fight, which took place with only 20 seconds remaining in the first half, did not serve to immediately inspire the Buffs. With 10:07 remaining in the third quarter, the score stood at 28-6, Miami, after Costa hit receiver A.C. Tellison for a 37-yard score.

With 8:50 remaining in the game, the score was 35-15, and there was no reason to believe that the Buffs could do anything but try to make the score respectable.

Then the Buffs caught fire.

Continue reading game story here

Essay for the game, entitled, “Taking Lee to Boulder” … 

I met Lee Stadtlander on March 5, 1993 … on a blind date.

By July, Lee and I were talking about living together. When the football season kicked off, discussion of marriage had crept into our conversations. I had told Lee, though, (and only slightly tongue-in-cheek), that I would not/could not ask her to marry me until she had lived with me through a football season.

My rationale was clear: I did not want there to be any misunderstandings as to my passion for Colorado football after we were engaged. If Lee could put up with me through a football campaign and still want to be around, I reasoned, then there would be no question as to our compatibility.

One of the major hurdles was for Lee to go with me to a game in Boulder. Lee had been around me for brief periods while I watched the Texas and Stanford games on television, but there was no substitute for the real thing. Since Lee did not travel with me for the Baylor game, her first real test would be the war against Miami.

To say that Lee was (and is) not a football fan is an understatement. For evidence, I submit that Lee, when she was a graduate student at The Ohio State University, had an office inside the Ohio State football stadium. Despite this obvious opportunity, Lee never attended a football game. (All in all, it was probably for the best that Lee and I had met in March, not September.)

Driving down from Bozeman, I was concerned about how Lee would react to my “participation” in a game in Boulder. Would she see an aspect to my persona which she would not find appealing?

Heading into Folsom, though, I knew that I had a secret weapon … Brad.

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Game Five … 

October 9th – Boulder           No. 20 Colorado 30, Missouri 18

The Missouri Tigers presented themselves to the Buffs as the perfect opponent to rebound from a two-game losing streak.

Missouri was 1-2-1 on the 1993 season, including an embarrassing loss to Texas A & M (73-0) and a 10-10 tie to lowly SMU. Another bonus: the Buffs were coming off of a bye week, and had extra time to re-group and regain focus on the Big Eight conference schedule.

After a sometimes impressive, sometimes lethargic, performance, Colorado was able to secure a 30-18 win.

The Buffs’ defense, earning much of the criticism for Colorado’s 2-2 start, played significantly better than the unit which had been ranked 96th in the nation heading into the game. Six new defensive starters were inserted, including freshman linebacker Matt Russell and sophomore lineman Shannon Clavelle.

For the most part, the defense held Missouri in check as the Buffs mounted a 27-3 lead before permitting late consolation scores. “Defensively, I was pleased with the way we played in the first half”, said coach McCartney. “I thought I saw a good looking defense out there.”

The game opened slowly, with only two field goals being posted in the first twenty minutes of play. With 9:08 to go before halftime, Lamont Warren scored on a 28-yard pass from Kordell Stewart to cap a 12-play, 83-yard drive to give Colorado a lead it would not surrender. A 23-yard field goal by Mitch Berger just before halftime gave the Buffs a 13-3 lead at the break.

Any hopes of a Missouri comeback were dashed when the Buffs took the second half kickoff and marched down the field for a score.

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Essay for the game, entitled, “Fred Folsom and Bill McCartney”

The win put the Buffs back on the good side of .500 at 3-2, 1-0 in the Big Eight. The victory also marked a milestone for head coach Bill McCartney.

In his 12th season at Colorado, McCartney now had 77 wins, tying him with legendary Fred Folsom as the winningest coach in Colorado football history. Folsom’s record over 15 seasons was 77-23-2. McCartney’s record now stood at 77-53-4. In terms of winning percentage, Coach Mac still lagged behind many of Colorado’s coaches.

When it is remembered, though, that McCartney began his coaching career at Colorado with a 7-25-1 record in his first three years, the 70-28-3 record in the 8+years after the start of the 1985 campaign matched favorably not only with Colorado history, but also with McCartney’s peers nationally.

For McCartney to break the tie with Fred Folsom, and post victory No. 78, and do it in a fashion which would keep the Buffs on track for Big Eight title hopes, McCartney would have to win in one of the most hostile environments Colorado football has ever had to endure – Norman, Oklahoma.

Game Six … 

October 16th – at Oklahoma           No. 20 Colorado 27, No. 9 Oklahoma 10

Oklahoma’s defense came into the Colorado game ranked 6th in the nation, holding opponents to 11 points a game. Colorado’s defense, meanwhile, had been giving up yards and points in bunches.

Both trends came to a halt before 64,213 shocked Sooner fans as the Buffs became only the second team ever to defeat Oklahoma three straight times in Norman by beating Oklahoma soundly, 27-10.

The Buffs, 0-4-1 against top ten teams since the National Championship season, took out the frustration of the early-season losses on a surprised Oklahoma squad. Holding the Sooners to only 92 yards rushing on 28 attempts, the Buffs’ defense made a statement. “That was the issue this week,” said linebacker Sam Rogers, “to control the line of scrimmage.”

Rogers, who had six tackles (including two sacks) on the day, ended any hope for an Oklahoma comeback when he knocked Sooner quarterback Cale Gundy down – and out of the game with a concussion – with just under 12 minutes remaining and the Buffs nursing a 20-10 lead. Without Gundy, the Sooners never seriously threatened to score the remainder of the game.

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From the Essay for the Game, “Play of the Year” … 

Each week during the 1993 season, it seemed that senior wide receiver Charles E. Johnson was setting yet another Colorado record for receiving. Before departing for the NFL, Johnson would possess the Colorado records for reception yardage in a season (1.149 yards, in 1992) and for a career (2,447 yards), along with records for consecutive games catching passes (27), 100+ yard receiving games (12) and touchdown receptions (15 – tied with Michael Westbrook). In 1993, Johnson was voted by the coaches and the Associated Press to be the Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Year.

Against Oklahoma, Charles E. Johnson caught five passes for 136 yards and two touchdowns. It was his second touchdown catch against the Sooners, though, which may be the most memorable of his 15 career receiving scores.

With Colorado up 13-0 midway through the second quarter, and the Buffs on the Oklahoma 35-yard line, the Buffs called a tailback option. Lamont Warren took the pitch from Kordell Stewart and rolled to his right. Under pressure, Warren slipped, but still was able to loft the ball to the endzone. In the corner of the endzone was Johnson. Oklahoma cornerback Darrius Johnson was draped all over Charles E. Johnson, forcing the Buff receiver to his knees. Despite the interference (a flag was thrown on the play), “CJ” made the catch anyway. Touchdown, Colorado.

“It was just another play by CJ”, said McCartney. “He just continues to surprise you, and he’s got wonderful instincts.”

Warren’s effort, combined with Johnson’s heroics, earned the Buffs “National Play-of-the-Year” honors. Beginning in 1992, Nu Skin International teamed up with CoSIDA (the Sports Information Directors Association) to sponsor the play of the year. The Buffs’ spectacular touchdown against Oklahoma earned the award for 1993.

(The Buffs were to repeat as honoree for 1994. The 1994 National Play-of-the-Year, though, for a play against a certain team from Ann Arbor, Michigan, would receive much more notoriety.)

Game Seven … 

October 23rd – at Kansas State           No. 16 Colorado 16, Kansas State 16

The number 16 proved to be unlucky for the 16th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes as Kansas State kicker Tate Wright connected on a 35-yard field goal with only 21 seconds remaining in the game to enable underdog Kansas State to come away with a 16-16 tie in Manhattan. The improving Wildcats, 5-1 coming into the contest against the Buffs, snapped Colorado’s eight-game winning streak in the series in holding the vaunted Buff offense to 355 yards of total offense.

In contrast to the two Colorado losses, when the Buff defense had been suspect, against Kansas State it was the offense which failed to produce at crucial times.

In the first six games of 1993, Colorado had scored 23 touchdowns in 30 trips inside the opponent’s 20-yard line. Against the Wildcats, though, three first-half drives inside the 20 netted only three short Mitch Berger field goals. The Buffs led at half, 9-0, but Kansas State was still very much in the game.

Playing with more enthusiasm than their Colorado counterparts, the Wildcats forged a 13-9 lead with just under ten minutes to play in the game (Buff defensive lineman Shannon Clavelle blocked the point after attempt after the first Kansas State score, a point which would prove crucial in the end).

Senior cornerback Dennis Collier gave the Buffs new life a few minutes later, though, when he grabbed a Chad May pass which had been tipped by linebacker Jon Knutson. After a three yard return, the Buffs’ offense took the field at the Wildcat 25. Seven plays later a one-yard plunge by James Hill put the Buffs back on top, 16-13, with 3:57 remaining.

A few moments later, the Buffs’ defense seemed to have matters well in hand, as the Wildcats were pinned back with a fourth-and-15 from their own 31-yard line. One more defensive stop would result in a Colorado victory … but it was not meant to be.

On a designed roll-out, Kansas State quarterback Chad May hit freshman wide receiver Kevin Lockett across the field. Lockett raced down the sideline, not being caught until he had gained 44 yards to the Buffs’ 31-yard line. A few plays later, Kansas State had a field goal, some national respect, and a moral victory.

“It felt like a loss”, according to Bill McCartney. “Early in the game when we were moving the ball and we were fairly dominant we didn’t convert touchdowns. We settled for field goals. Later on that took its toll.”

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Game Eight … 

October 30th – Boulder           No. 6 Nebraska 21, No. 20 Colorado 17

For the first 14 minutes of the 1993 Colorado/Nebraska game, only one team played like it had something to prove … and it was Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers, 7-0, 3-0 in Big Eight conference play and ranked 6th in the nation, were nonetheless 1-2-1 against Colorado since 1989. In the first quarter, Nebraska sent a message that it was back on top of the Big Eight, racing out to a 21-3 lead. After Nebraska stopped the Buffs on the first offensive series of the game, a 68-yard punt return by Corey Dixon set up the Cornhuskers on the Colorado four yard line. On the Cornhuskers’ first play from scrimmage, Calvin Jones scored, and it was 7-0, Nebraska, less than two minutes into the game.

Later, a 60-yard bomb from Tommie Frazier to Dixon gave Nebraska a 21-3 lead with five minutes still to be played in the first quarter.

Early in the second quarter, Rashaan Salaam, earning his first career start, brought the Buffs closer. The sophomore tailback finished off a six-play, 63-yard drive with a 15-yard run to pull the Buffs within 21-10.

Even though over two-thirds of the game remained to be played, the scored remained 21-10 for most of the rest of the contest. Colorado’s much-maligned defense more than held up its end after the first quarter, shutting out the Cornhuskers for the final three periods.

As had been the case for the Buffs against Miami, Stanford, and Kansas State, the Nebraska game would come down to the final minutes, with Buff fans again coming away disappointed. After being held to just 18 total yards on its first five drives of the second half, the Buffs’ offense finally found a new gear, pushing the ball downfield 80 yards in 15 plays. Salaam, who would register 165 yards on 25 carries on the day, posted his second score with a 1-yard run up the middle. Nebraska 21, Colorado 17, with 2:54 still to play.

Needing a stop, the Buffs’ defense rose to the occasion, sacking Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier on third down to force a punt. Chris Hudson returned the kick to the Buffs’ 47-yard line, and Colorado was in business with 1:41 remaining.

A 13-yard pass from Kordell Stewart to tight end Christian Fauria put the Buffs on the Husker 40 yard line. The Buff Nation was poised for a memorable comeback.

But that would be as close as the Buffs would come. On the next play, Stewart attempted to hit Sean Embree over the middle, only to be picked off by Nebraska cornerback John Reece.

Game over. 21-17, Nebraska.

“I can’t remember being this disappointed,” said a quiet head coach Bill McCartney after the game. “I thought we’d win.”

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Game Nine … 

November 7th – at Oklahoma State        No. 23 Colorado 31, Oklahoma State 14

Overcoming a lackluster effort against Nebraska, quarterback Kordell Stewart responded with a record-setting performance as Colorado dominated Oklahoma State, 31-14.

Stewart, who threw three interceptions against the Cornhuskers (after previously throwing only two all season), and who had finished with only eight completions against Nebraska, bombed the Cowboys for a season-high 328 yards and three touchdowns. In torching Oklahoma State, Stewart passed Steve Vogel (1981-84) as Colorado’s all-time passing leader.

After spotting Oklahoma State, (3-5 overall, 0-4 in conference play), an early 7-0 lead, the Buffs scored the next 31 points in cruising to a much-needed win.

Stewart scored the Buffs’ first touchdown himself on a 17-yard run early in the second quarter, followed a few minutes later by a Mitch Berger 34-yard field goal. Then, with 13 seconds before halftime, the Colorado offense reminded the 30,200 in attendance in Stillwater which team on the field was nationally ranked. Stewart hit Charles E. Johnson from 26 yards out to extend the Buff lead to 17-7 at halftime.

The pass was noteworthy for several other reasons.

On the play, Kordell Stewart tied Vogel’s all-time passing mark of 3,912 yards. The catch was also another Charles E. Johnson special. Sandwiched between two Cowboy defenders, Johnson jumped between them, tipped the ball to himself, and came down with the ball and scooted into the endzone.

The second half was more of the same, as Stewart took the all-time Colorado passing lead and added to it as he connected for touchdowns with Johnson (54 yards) and Michael Westbrook (72 yards). With the lead up to 31-7, the Colorado defense finally relented, giving up a consolation score to the Cowboys late in the game, to make the final 31-14.

Both Charles E. Johnson and Michael Westbrook hauled in over 120 yards worth of passes, but the post-game discussion was all about Johnson. “I think Johnson should be first-team All-American”, gushed coach Bill McCartney. “He perhaps is the premier offensive player in our conference. I think there are a lot of things to back that up.”

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Here are highlights from the Oklahoma State game … 

Game Ten … 

November 13th – Boulder           No. 21 Colorado 38, Kansas 14

Despite their 4-6 record (2-3 in the Big Eight), the 1993 Kansas Jayhawks could not be overlooked. While the Buffs were putting the finishing touches on their 31-14 win over Oklahoma State, the Jayhawks were putting a major scare into the 4th-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers. With 52 seconds remaining, Kansas tailback June Henley scored from a yard out to bring the Jayhawks to within a point at 21-20. Rather than play for the tie, Kansas head coach Glen Mason went for the win. Unfortunately for Jayhawk fans, who had not seen a win over the Cornhuskers since 1968, Kansas quarterback Ashieki Preston’s pass was batted down, and Nebraska had held on for a 21-20 victory.

It could have been that Kansas had left all of its emotion on the field in Lawrence.

Or it could have been that the Buffs were now focused on preserving a decent season.

Or it could have been a combination of the two.

In any event, the 38-14 Colorado win over Kansas before a Homecoming crowd of 52,139 was the most impressive effort for the Buffs in 1993.

The Jayhawks remained in the game in the first half, with the Buffs forging a 10-0 halftime lead. After a scoreless first quarter, Mitch Berger hit on a 24-yard field goal midway through the second to open the scoring. Later, Lamont Warren capped an eight-play, 79-yard drive with a 15-yard scoring run with 57 seconds to play before halftime.

In the second half, the Colorado offense wore down the Kansas defense.

In third quarter and into the early part of the fourth, the Buff offense put together three straight ten-play, 80-yard drives (the third was actually 81 yards). The first drive ended with a seven yard Rashaan Salaam touchdown run; the second with a two-yard touchdown run by Salaam; and the third with a one-yard run by Kordell Stewart.

Kansas did manage two scores before James Hill scored the final Buffs’ touchdown (including a 100-yard kickoff return by June Henley), but the outcome was never in doubt.

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Game Eleven … 

November 20th – at Iowa State           No. 18 Colorado 21, Iowa State 16

Despite decent weather conditions for late November (41 degrees at kickoff, with no precipitation), only 23,797 bothered to show up in Ames to cheer for the hometown Cyclones (3-7) as they took on the 18th-ranked Buffaloes.

That was too bad for Iowa State players, as the home team almost pulled off the upset. Only after defensive lineman Kerry Hicks and cornerback Chris Hudson teamed up to tackle running back Calvin Branch for a fourth down loss with 1:35 left in the game could the Buffs claim a hard-fought 21-16 win.

Matters appeared to be well in hand after Lamont Warren scored on two first half runs to put the Buffs on top, 14-0. After a scoreless first quarter, Colorado capped off a 12-play, 50-yard drive with a three-yard run by Warren on the first play of the second quarter. The next time Colorado had the ball, the Buff offense put together a methodical, season-best 92-yard drive. Warren once again did the honors, this time with a 21-yard run.

14-0, Colorado.

Rather than fold on the final game of a disappointing season, Iowa State fought back.

A field goal on the final play of the first half put the Cyclones on the board. A touchdown run by running back Jim Knott pulled the Cyclones to within 14-9 early in the fourth quarter (the two-point attempt failed).

Two plays later, though, order seemingly had been restored. In a repeat of the Play-of-the-Year from the Oklahoma game, Lamont Warren hooked up with Charles E. Johnson on a 49-yard tailback option. The score was now 21-9, Colorado. Though 13:03 still remained, the Buffs had at least regained a two-score lead.

Once again, however, Iowa State fought back. Knott scored his second touchdown of the quarter with 7:33 remaining to make the score 21-16. It was then left to the defense, and the Buffs made the play they had to in order to keep their major bowl hopes alive. Iowa State’s last rally was finally doused when Kerry Hicks and Chris Hudson tackled Calvin Branch for a loss on fourth down with 1:35 remaining.

We’ll take it”, said Bill McCartney after the game. “A win is a win.”

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From the Essay for the game … “Paradise Found” … 

Bill McCartney, despite his 1-6 bowl record as the Buffs’ head coach, was not shy about taking on the best opponent possible in the Buffs’ bowl game. He wanted the Gator Bowl and a match-up with a top ten team. “I want to play the best possible team”, said McCartney. “It’s not about (playing a weaker opponent to ensure a bowl win). I want to match our talents with the best teams out there. To me, that’s the American way.”

Things didn’t work out as McCartney and the 7-3-1 Buffs. 12th-ranked North Carolina was chosen over the 17th-ranked Buffs to be the opponent of Alabama in the Gator Bowl, while the John Hancock Bowl tabbed Oklahoma (losers to the Buffs, but with a greater fan base) to play Texas Tech. This left the Aloha Bowl and 25th-ranked Fresno State to the Buffs.

The 8-3 Bulldogs from the Western Athletic Conference were not highly regarded nationally, but the Buffs could not afford that luxury. Led by All-American quarterback Trent Dilfer, Fresno State was ranked first in the nation in both total offense and scoring offense. To make matters worse, McCartney would play the bowl without four fifth-year seniors on defense. Gone for the Aloha Bowl were: starting strong safety Dwayne Davis (suspended for being ejected for fighting during the Iowa State game); starting cornerback Dennis Collier (suspended for not returning for mandatory workouts the Monday after Thanksgiving); backup safety Greg Lindsey (who quit the team after being informed he would be sharing playing time with freshman Kenny Wilkins); and backup nose tackle Jeff Brunner (who had informed McCartney that he did not feel motivated to prepare for the bowl game).

Four defensive players gone for a game against the most productive offense in Division 1-A football. McCartney had indicated he wanted to “match our talents with the best teams out there”.

At least in terms of scoring and yards, he would have the opportunity.

Game Twelve … 

December 25th – Aloha Bowl, Honolulu, Hawaii         

No. 17 Colorado 41, No. 25 Fresno State 30

While the Buffs found no snow on the ground on Christmas Day, 1993, they did find presents there.

Colorado’s defense forced four Fresno State fumbles, converting all four turnovers into points as the Buffs ran away from the Bulldogs, 41-30, to win the 12th-annual Aloha Bowl.

Sophomore tailback Rashaan Salaam rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Buffs’ offense, while the depleted Colorado secondary withstood 523 yards passing by Fresno State’s Trent Dilfer. “It’s sweet,” said head coach Bill McCartney. “It’s what we wanted to accomplish when we redesigned our goals after losing to Nebraska. We wanted to close the season with three straight wins, go to a bowl, and bring back a trophy.”

At the outset, it looked like the Buffaloes from the Big Eight were interested in finishing off the Bulldogs early in order to get to the beach by early afternoon (kickoff was at 10:45 a.m., local time). On the Buffs’ first possession (after Chris Hudson had stripped Dilfer of the ball on the game’s opening drive), Stewart directed the Buffs on an eight-play, 53-yard drive culminated in a Salaam two-yard run. Later, after a second Fresno State fumble, the Buffs pounded the Bulldogs on an 88-yard drive capped by a James Hill seven-yard run. With Hill’s score, the Buffs’ lead was 17-0.

Before the half ended, though, Fresno State would gain some much needed momentum.

The teams swapped field goals, and with only one second remaining in the half the Colorado lead was 20-3. Rather than risk a long run back, kicker Mitch Berger was instructed to squib-kick the ball down the middle of the field. In the ensuing melee, an attempted lateral was fumbled, finally being recovered by Fresno State flanker Malcolm Seabron. Seabron took the ball and raced through the confused Buff defenders for 68 yards and a touchdown.

What had been a comfortable 20-3 lead was now reduced to a 20-10 halftime advantage.

Early in the third quarter, Rashaan Salaam solidified his selection as Offensive MVP of the Aloha Bowl, breaking tackles at the line of scrimmage before racing for a 40-yard touchdown. With the Buffs up 27-10, Fresno State abandoned the rushing game (the Bulldogs would net only three yards rushing on the day), and Dilfer began to put up impressive statistics.

While not counted along with regular season stats, Dilfer’s numbers far outdistanced the best efforts of any quarterback to ever face the Buffs. Dilfer’s attempts (63) were more than the record for a Colorado opponent (61), as were his completions (37 to 30) and yardage (523 to 439). Only two of the 63 passes ended up in the endzone, however, as the Bulldogs never got closer than 10 points the remainder of the game.

Both teams scored 14 points in the third quarter, with Colorado’s second touchdown of the quarter coming courtesy of a Fresno State fumble, returned by sophomore safety Donnell Leomiti 28 yards for a touchdown.

With the score 34-24, Rashaan Salaam scored for the third time, this time from four yards out, to give the Buffs a 41-24 lead. A consolation touchdown pass from Trent Dilfer (the two point coversion pass failed) late in the game made the score more palatable for Bulldog fans, but the victory belonged to Colorado, 41-30.

YouTube video of the game … 

1993 – Post Mortem

The 41-30 win was only the second bowl victory for head coach Bill McCartney in eight attempts. With the win, the Buffs finished 8-3-1 and ranked 16th in the final polls. Amongst Big Eight teams, Colorado finished behind only Nebraska (ranked 3rd), and just ahead of Oklahoma (17th) and Kansas State (20th).

The 1993 season was largely a disappointment, but the Buffs had responded from a 4-3-1 record to win its final four games.

The four game winning streak was just a sign of good things to come in 1994 …


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