October 22nd – Boulder               No. 2 Colorado 35,  No. 19 Kansas State 21

The Kansas State Wildcats were the real deal in 1994.

Coming off of a 9-2-1 season in 1993, Kansas State had re-established itself as the No. 3 team in the Big Eight in 1994.  The Wildcats only blemish coming into Boulder was a 17-6 loss to Nebraska, and Kansas State wanted nothing more than to knock off the 2nd-rated Buffs to make its own national statement.

They almost did.

The 5:30 p.m. kickoff represented the Buffs’ third nationally televised night home game of the season.  The 52,955 in attendance were unsettled at the outset, as Kansas State became the first team in 1994 to score on its opening drive against the Colorado defense. The Buffs quickly responded, with Rashaan Salaam scoring on a 53-yard run less than two minutes later.

Salaam’s run came on a pitch out play and after he broke an arm-tackle near the line of scrimmage, he flashed his all-world speed and he beat all other Wildcat defenders on a mad-jaunt to the end zone.

“I didn’t realize that I broke it,” Salaam said afterwards. “In fact, I was kind of nervous they would catch me. I didn’t want to look back so I just lifted up my knees and took off. I was actually shocked to be in the end zone.”

Then after a Kansas State punt, the Buffs took control of the game for the first time with an impressive 90-yard, ten-play scoring drive that had an inauspicious beginning. The drive opened with the Buffs gaining just two yards on the first two plays. Then, staring at a third-and-eight st the CU 12, Stewart found Westbrook for a first down, and the drive had new life.

Two plays later, Salaam gained eight on an option run on a second-and-seven play that took the team near midfield. After three more plays, CU faced a third-and-one at the Wildcats’ 16 yard line. Stewart handed the ball to Salaam who scampered for another eight, giving the Buffs a first-and-goal at the eight. The drive culminated with Stewart and Salaam ran the option yet again. This time Stewart kept cut back middle for the Buffs’ second touchdown of the day.

The 14-7 advantage held up until halftime, with neither team able to score in the second quarter.

Twice in the third quarter, KSU rallied to tie the Buffs. Early in the third quarter, the Wildcats were thwarted with a goal-line stand by the Buff defense. Later in the third, though, J.J. Smith scored his second touchdown of the game on a 30-yard run to make it a 14-14 game.

Again, however, the Buffs quickly responded. It took only 1:38 of game clock for the Buffs to drive 78 yards in five plays. On the first play of the next possession, Stewart faked the option pitch to Salaam and ran past an over pursuing defense for 44 yards. The next option ended up in the hands of Salaam who gained 16. Two plays later, Salaam again did the honors, scoring on a 16-yard run.

Colorado 21, Kansas State 14, with 1:58 to play in the third quarter.

Less than two minutes later, the game was tied again. J.J. Smith scored his second touchdown in four minutes, and third of the game, with a three yard run. As a result, the teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 21-21.

The Colorado offense, which would account for 339 yards rushing on the evening (202 from Salaam) was up to the challenge.  After converting a risky fourth-and-one from the Buffs’ own 38-yard line, quarterback Kordell Stewart bolted around end on the option for 60 yards and a 28-21 Colorado lead.

“They just overloaded,” said Stewart of the KSU defense on the fateful play.  “They had a linebacker guarding the pitch to Rashaan, a linebacker tried to play me and Rashaan and I took advantage and ducked under.”  A second fourth quarter run by Stewart, giving him three on the evening, sealed the win with only eight seconds remaining.

Buff fans left Folsom remembering Stewart’s game-winning run.  But what of the call two plays earlier?  Was that really Bill McCartney, often criticized for his play calling, going for it on fourth-and-one from his own 38-yard line with 10 minutes remaining in a tie game?  “It was really a crucial time, and I had to make a decision,” said McCartney.  “We needed to make something happen.”  Stewart snuck in behind the offensive line which had led Salaam to 1,256 yards in seven games, picking up two yards and a first down.  One snap later, Stewart was racing down the sideline for 60 yards and a Buff win.

The preliminaries were now over

Undefeated and 3rd-ranked Nebraska had spent the afternoon toying with Missouri, 42-7.  Colorado and Nebraska would now clash in Lincoln in 1994’s “Game of the Year”.  At stake, the Big Eight Championship and the right to play for the national title.

A favorite?  Chad May, Kansas State’s quarterback, who had lost to the Cornhuskers and Buffaloes in successive weeks, had an opinion.  “Both teams are tough.  It’s going to come down to who wants it the most,” said May.  “But I’d say that all-around talent-wise, Colorado has better players.”

“But it’s in Lincoln”, noted May.

The 1994 Game of the Year would have all of the trappings. The ESPN’s GameDay crew would be on hand.  Pre-game shows devoted much of their attention to the game.  Much of the discussion centered around the kickoff time (10:00 a.m. MST), and how the early start might affect the teams.

“I expect a very difficult game,” said Salaam. “We’ll face a stronger defense. Basically, it is going to be a rough and tough four quarter game. We are going to Lincoln and we owe them something.”

No. 2 Colorado v. No. 3 Nebraska before 76,131 red-clad faithful crammed into Memorial Stadium.

Time for one of the most discussed games in Colorado football history.

– Game Notes –

– The win over No. 19 Kansas State represented Colorado’s fifth win against a ranked team in the 1994 season, the first time in school history in which the Buffs defeated five ranked team in the same year.

– Kordell Stewart had 127 yards rushing, to go with 136 yards passing against Kansas State. In so doing, Stewart became only the second player in Big Eight history to pass for over 5,000 yards and rush for over 1,000 yards.

– Kansas State had 363 yards passing – to only 136 for Colorado – but the Buffs had 339 yards rushing on the afternoon, to only 72 for the Wildcats.

– Rashaan Salaam had 28 carries for 202 yards and two touchdowns. For his efforts, Salaam was named the Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Week (For the third time, having been honored for the games against Texas and Oklahoma as well).

– After losing to Colorado, Kansas State fell to No. 23 in the rankings. The Wildcats, though, went on to win the final five games of the regular season, including a 37-20 over Oklahoma, to complete the 1994 season with a 9-2 record. Kansas State, as the No. 11 team in the nation, played unranked Boston College in the Aloha Bowl. A 12-7 loss relegated the Wildcats to a No. 19 ranking in the final poll.


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