Buffalo Sports News makes some eerily uncanny preseason predictions

In its two editions leading up to the start of the 1994 season, the Buffalo Sports News captured more about the upcoming year than could have been known at the time.

In prophetic tones, the August 18th edition featured a cover photo of quarterback coach Rick Neuheisel giving directions to quarterback Kordell Stewart with the headline reading:  “On Target:  Rick Neuheisel has quarterback Kordell Stewart and CU’s passing attack aimed to win in 1994.”  The next issue, dated August 29th, featured a photo of Rashaan Salaam, proclaiming:  “A New Man:  Fueled by a dramatic change in attitude, Rashaan Salaam is finally poised for his dream season.”

How true both statements would prove to be would be first tested in what amounted to the Buffs’ only “pre-season” game.  For their opener, Colorado would face off against the Northeast Louisiana Indians, playing in their first ever game as a Division I-A school (after having some measure of success as a Division I-AA school).  The heavily favored Buffs entered the game ranked No. 8 in the first poll of the 1994 season.

September 3rd – Boulder            No. 8 Colorado 48, Northeast Louisiana 13

The good news for Northeast Louisiana players as they looked up at the Folsom Field scoreboard with 14:56 to go in the second quarter was that the scoreboard read:  Colorado 7; Northeast Louisiana 6.

The bad news was that almost three full quarters of football remained to be played.

The remainder of the game was no contest as the Buffs rolled to a 48-13 opening-game win.  The Buffs gained the fifth-most yards in school history, 649, on only 69 offensive plays. The 9.4 yards per play average set a school record.  Rashaan Salaam led the way with 184 rushing yards and three touchdowns, while Kordell Stewart accounted for 291 yards of total offense.

After sleep-walking through the first quarter, the Colorado offense exploded for touchdowns on six consecutive drives. All but one of the drives covered 80 or more yards, as the Buffs toyed with the Indians.

Rashaan Salaam closed out the first drive a few minutes after Northeast Louisiana had closed the gap to 7-6, scoring from nine yards out. Quarterback Kordell Stewart then did the honors from six yards out to up the lead to 21-6. A 44-yard pass from Stewart to wide receiver James Kidd closed out the first half scoring, with Colorado now comfortably ahead, 28-6.

The onslaught continued in the third quarter. Stewart scored on a 58-yard run less than a minute into the second half, with Salaam scoring on a  15-yard run late in the third quarter. With the score up to 42-6, backups were able to get some time on the field. Red-shirt freshman running back Herchell Troutman scored his first career touchdown early in the fourth quarter on a 13 yard run to up the lead to 48-6 (the PAT attempt failed).

Northeastern Louisiana, which opened the scoring with a field goal early in the first quarter, scored its lone touchdown late in the fourth quarter.

Head coach Bill McCartney was pleased with the dominating effort:  “I thought it was a good game for us.  We can learn a lot from that.  There are areas of your game that we need a couple of weeks to address, and there are other areas that we did well.”

For his part, though, Rashaan Salaam was not impressed with his best effort as a Buff.  “I kind of wish we would have gone up against a PAC-10 team or someone like that,” said the Colorado running back after the game.  “I’d like to play a tough game.  Tough games make you better.”

Salaam needed only to glance at the calendar to see that his wish would be granted.  After a week off, the Buffs were to face three ranked non-conference foes in succession, Wisconsin, Michigan, and Texas.

Game Notes:

– Sophomore tight end Matt Lepsis and red-shirt freshman wide receiver Phil Savoy each earned their first career starts against Northeastern Louisiana. Lepsis, who was used primarily as a blocker in Colorado’s two tight end sets, had one catch for seven yards against the Indians, while Savoy had four catches for 60 yards.

– Colorado set a team record for highest average yards per play against Northeast Louisiana (minimum 60 plays), with a 9.41 yards per play average (69 plays for 649 yards). Overall, the mark was the fourth best all-time (the Buffs went for 13.11 yards per play in a 38-14 win over Kansas State in 1954. The other two games above ten yards per play on the all-time list were also set in 1954, a year in which Colorado posted a 7-2-1 overall record).

– The 649 yards of total offense were impressive, but only good enough for fifth on the all-time list (676 yards v. Oklahoma State in 1971). The total rushing yards, 407, were also impressive (and a season-high), but were well short of the record 551 yards accumulated on the ground against Arizona in 1958.

– Led by linebacker Ted Johnson, who had three tackles for loss (for 11 yards), the CU defense posted a season-high 14 tackles for loss against the Indians. Colorado, meanwhile, had no plays which went backwards (69 plays – 61 for postive yards; eight for no gain).

– As is usually the case with teams which have successful seasons, Colorado was able to start the same five offensive linemen for the entire 1994 campaign. Taking the field against Northeast Louisiana (and for every other game) were: left tackle Tony Berti; left guard Heath Irwin; center Brian Stoltenberg; right guard Chris Naeole; and right tackle Derek West. Add to that tight end Christian Fauria, who also started every game, and you have a formidable rushing attack. (Matt Lepsis also started every game at tight end, at least until he was injured against Nebraska in game eight, replaced by sophomore Desmond Dennis for the rest of the season).

– In 1999, Northeastern Louisiana was renamed to University of Louisana at Monroe. The nickname for the team also changed, from the Indians to the WarHawks.


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