October 1st – at Texas                          No. 5 Colorado 34, No. 16 Texas 31

Texas was more than anxious to take a crack at the No.5 Buffs.  Undefeated on the young season, the 16th-ranked Longhorns were 3-0 for the first time since 1985.  Playing at home in front of a sell-out crowd of 77,809 (the first non-conference sell-out for the Longhorns in ten years) Texas players looked to avenge the 36-14 pasting laid on them by the Buffs in 1993 season-opener.

Eight returning starters on offense and nine on defense gave Longhorn fans plenty of confidence that the media-drunk Buffs would leave Austin in a different mood than they had Ann Arbor.

But it was Texas and their fans that left the stadium displeased, as, for the second week in a row, Colorado scratched out a last-second win against a ranked opponent on the opponent’s home field.  Junior place-kicker Neil Voskeritchian booted through a 24-yard field goal with one second remaining on the game clock to give the Buffs a 34-31 win.

Sharing the spotlight with Voskeritchian was junior tailback Rashaan Salaam, who made a splash in the national media with a record-setting performance.  Salaam rushed for 317 yards on 35 carries, marking only the second time in school history that a CU player had eclipsed the 300-yard barrier (Charlie Davis ran all over Oklahoma State for 342 yards on 34 carries in 1971).  With his 45 yards receiving, Salaam also set a school mark for all-purpose yards at 362.

Game Story … Texas took an early 3-0 lead with a 45-yard field goal, but Colorado responded late in the first quarter with a six-yard touchdown run by Rashaan Salaam. Then it was the Longhorns’ turn, with Texas quarterback Shea Morenz hitting wide receiver Lovell Pinkney for a nine-yard score and a 10-7 Texas advantage early in the second quarter.

The rest of the first half belonged to the Buffs and Colorado rushing attack.

The Colorado offense responded to the Texas touchdown with a quick five-play, 83-yard drive. A 59-yard run by Rashaan Salaam gave the Buffs a first-and-goal at the Texas six, with the drive finished off two plays later with a three-yard touchdown run by Troutman. Later in the quarter, Troutman scored again, this time from seven yards out, giving Colorado a 21-10 halftime advantage.

Texas, though, playing before a home crowd of 77,809 (the fifth-largest crowd to ever see the Buffs play), fought back. A 29-yard field goal, followed by a second Morenz-to-Pinkney connection (followed by a successful two-point conversion), made it a tie game at 21-all midway through the third quarter.

A 44-yard Voskeritchian field goal late in the third quarter gave the Buffs the lead back, at 24-21.

Following a Texas punt, the Buffs next took the ball over at their ten-yard line. A 14-play, 90-yard drive ensued, with penalties on both sides of the ball moving the ball – and momentum – back-and-forth. Once again, a long run by Rashaan Salaam – this time a 26-yarder on third-and-six at the Texas 28-yard line, set up a scoring run by Herchell Troutman – this time a two-yarder – to make it a 31-21 game.

The six-minute, 90-yard drive by the Buff offense, taking six minutes of game clock, though, did not take the fight out of the Longhorns.  A 67-yard bomb from Morenz to wide receiver Eric Jackson brought the Longhorns to within three less than a minute of game clock after the Troutman score. Colorado 31, Texas 28, with 6:41 still left to play.

A quick three-and-out from the Buffs gave the Longhorns the ball back near midfield. A few plays later, Texas kicker Phil Dawson tied the game at 31-31 with a 47-yarder with 4:49 to play.

The stage was then set for the Buffs’ final drive.

A tipped pass on the second play of the drive went from Salaam to Westbrook. While not as dramatic as the Westbrook catch against Michigan a week early, the ball fell into friendly hands, keeping the drive alive. Later, on third-and-nine at the Texas 38-yard line, Salaam, who had gone over 300 yards rushing a few plays earlier, took a screen pass from Kordell Stewart and gained 16 yards to put the Buffs into field goal range.

In all, Colorado marched 73 yards in 13 plays, taking all but one second of remaining game time, setting up Voskeritchian’s game-winning 24-yard field goal.

After the contest, there was plenty to celebrate in the victorious Buff locker room.  “These guys have a lot of grit,” said relieved head coach Bill McCartney.  “They’ve had to reach deep and they’ve been able to do it.  (Beating three straight ranked opponents – for the first time in school history) is a hard thing to do.”

And what of the two heroes, Voskeritchian and Salaam?  They were both saying the right things to the gathered media.  “It’s definitely fun to be part of the victory,” said the kicker nick-named “Kavorkian”, “but you really have to look at it as just another kick.”  Said Salaam:  “We’ve shown the nation that we’re a top team, but we have to keep going and be successful week-in and week-out.  We feel good, but we have Missouri next week.”

As to his 35-carry, 317-yard performance, Salaam didn’t have enough energy after the game to form a long statement. “I’m shot,” said Salaam afterward. “The IV’s really helped out, but I’m dead. All I can say is I’m glad I don’t go to a southern school. This ain’t no joke out here.”

He gained 18 on his second carry of the day, then nine more on the next. He broke thru for a 59 yard run minutes later then, after two more carries, he was free for 20 more. Nearly everything Salaam did in the first half worked to perfection as he continued to consistently meander his way into the Texas secondary.

To many watching, it may have appeared that the heat was affecting the supposedly acclimated Longhorns much more than the unaccustomed Buffs.

“Rashaan is the man,” said quarterback Kordell Stewart. “He just took over out there on almost every play. He was incredible.”

“Despite the way I was playing, I never saw myself as the hero out there,” Salaam said. “When you see a back with all that yardage, you know the linemen had to be doing their job.”

After heavyweights Wisconsin, Michigan and Texas, the Buffs were finally moving on to a team outside the national spotlight, Missouri.

The 1-3 Missouri Tigers did not figure to be the equal of the Buffs’ three previous opponents, but it was to be the Buffs third straight game on the road.

As Salaam warned after the Texas game, “Every team is going to be gunning for us, so we can’t let up.”

Here is the YouTube video of the game … 


On Oxygen

As exciting as last-second wins are, and as fun as it is to cheer for a successful team, the Texas game was almost the end of me.  The Colorado/Texas game was a regionally broadcast game on ABC.  Regional games involving CU were often shown in Bozeman in the mid-1990’s, presumably on the theory of loyalty for Mountain Time Zone teams. For the first weekend in October, 1994, however, the powers that be at ABC decided that Montana fans would be more interested in watching 12th-ranked Washington beat up on UCLA, 37-10.

For me, then, participation in watching the Colorado/Texas clash came down to updates from ABC during the Husky rout.

Several times during the afternoon, I breathed sighs of relief, only to become tense once again.  Twice the Buffs built double-digit leads, only to see them evaporate.  After Texas scored 10 points in less than three minutes to tie the score at 31, I did what every loyal Buff fan should do in such situations.

I called Brad.

Brad, in Grand Junction, Colorado, was able to watch the game on the local ABC affiliate.  What was intended to be a short call to get an update became a marathon call.  I listened as Brad gave me the play-by-play of the Buffs’ final, 13-play, 73-yard drive.  On second-and-seven to start the drive, Stewart’s throw to Salaam was tipped, only to fall into the waiting arms of Michael Westbrook.  Later, Salaam pushed the ball up field on runs of nine and 18 yards.  After two Herchell Troutman runs netted the Buffs only one yard, The Buffs faced a critical third-and-nine at the Texas 39-yard line.  Colorado was still too far away to kick a field goal, and an unsuccessful fourth down try would give the Longhorns the ball with good field position and plenty of time on the clock.  Colorado called time out, and Brad and I discussed options while my wife, Lee, watched me with a mixture of confusion and bemusement.

Enter Rashaan Salaam.

The Buffs’ game-breaker broke the Longhorns on that crucial third down play, but not with a run.  The Buffs crossed-up the Longhorns with a screen pass to Salaam.  The play went for 15 yards down the right sideline, and the Buffs were in business.  Five plays later, Voskeritchian was called in.  Only seconds remained.

Back in Bozeman, the goings on the television screen were long forgotten.  I held Lee’s hand as Brad described the scene leading up the field goal attempt.  While only a 24-yarder, there were no guarantees.  I knelt beside my bride of two months (who was likely having second thoughts about her wedding vows), and closed my eyes.  The kick was up   …..   and GOOD!  The Buffs were 4-0!

The seemingly impossible non-conference schedule was over, with Colorado’s national championship aspirations in tact.

Before the Buffs now laid the Big Eight schedule, with three ranked opponents, Oklahoma, Kansas State, and Nebraska still to be played.  All three foes would come back-to-back-to-back after the Missouri game, so there was little time to enjoy the two last second wins.

The real season was about to begin.

– Game Notes –

– The 77,809 on hand for the Colorado game at Texas was the fifth-largest road crowd in CU history, but was only the second-largest road crowd for the Buffs in the previous two weeks. The 106,477 on hand for the “Miracle at Michigan” was the first crowd of over 100,000 to ever watch the Buffs play.

– Texas had gone 251-0 at home when scoring over 25 points, the 1994 CU game left the Longhorns with a record of 251-1 when scoring 25 points or more at home.

– Rashaan Salaam had 317 yards rushing against Texas, only the second 300-yard rushing game in Colorado history. Salaam was not able to match the 342 yards Charlie Davis put on Oklahoma State in 1971, but Salaam was able to best the 353 yards of total offense Davis had against the Cowboys. Salaam had five catches for 45 yards (including the crucial 15-yard screen pass on the game’s final drive), giving him a new school record of 362 yards.

– Salaam would go on to eclipse Davis’ single season record for all-purpose running as well. Davis had 1,818 yards in 1971 (1,628 rushing, 159 receiving, 31 returns), while Salaam would go on to set the new standard at 2,349 (2,055 rushing, 294 receiving).

– Even though Herchell Troutman had three touchdowns against the Longhorns, it was Salaam’s 317 yards rushing which netted him Big Eight Offensive Player-of-the-Week honors.

– The Colorado offense had season-bests against Texas in rushing attempts (60), offensive plays (85), and time of possession (35:41). The defense, meanwhile, had season-bests in fewest first downs allowed (14) and fewest total plays allowed (58).

– Colorado had a hefty lead in total yards against Texas, 506-320.

– Herchell Troutman’s 13 carries and three touchdowns were both season-highs for freshman running back. Troutman would go on to break Lamont Warrens’ freshman touchdown record of seven, going for eight scores in 1994.

– Despite beating a ranked team for the third week in a row (and second week in a row on the road), Colorado did not move up from its No. 5 position in the polls, falling in behind Florida, Nebraska, Florida State and Penn State. No. 16 Texas, meanwhile, moved up one spot in the polls, in part because four of the other teams ranked between 14 and 19 in the polls that week also lost.

– Texas would go on to finish the regular season in 1994 with an 8-3 record. The unranked Longhorns then defeated No. 19 North Carolina, 28-24, in the Sun Bowl, to climb back into the No. 25 spot in the 1994 final AP poll.



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