Walter Mitty and Me

In the Buffalo Sports News the week after the Wisconsin game, there was a photo of Rick Neuheisel being carried off of the field by his players after the opening game rout of Wisconsin.  The scoreboard, with the final of 43-7 well-illuminated, is in the background.  In the photo, Neuheisel eyeing someone in the stands with his arm and index finger raised – No. 1.  Perhaps it was for the first win of his coaching career, or where the brash young coach felt the Buffs should be ranked.  In any event, no one could argue with the coach being on a natural high that evening.

If only it were me.

Okay. It was time for a reality check.  I had no delusions about being the head football coach at Colorado.  Still, there are some parallels to myself and Rick Neuheisel that occasionally make me wonder – “What if”?

Neuheisel and I were both born in 1961, he in February; I in October.  He graduated high school in 1979; I in 1980.  While Neuheisel was an undergrad at UCLA, I was beginning my CU career.  We both graduated in 1984 with B.A.’s in political science.  We both went on to law school, Neuheisel at USC; I at Colorado.

As Walter Mitty lived vicariously through the lives of others, I see myself living out the dream through Rick Neuheisel.  I must admit I liked the idea that Neuheisel was considered a “young” coach.  As the 1995 season opened, I was hopeful that we would grow old together – he as Colorado’s long-time successful coach, I as the Buffs’ No.1 fan.


Top Ten Material – with a bulls-eye on their chests

Colorado’s impressive win over Wisconsin vaulted the Buffs back into the top ten in the national rankings.  Looming just outside the polls (at 28th nationally) were the Rams of Colorado State.  CSU was also 1-0 on the season, having dispatched 1-AA Montana State (yes, that Montana State, the same Bobcats I had grown up watching in Bozeman, the same Bobcats who would knock off the Buffs in Dan Hawkins’ debut in 2006), by a final score of 31-10, in their season-opener.

The two in-state rivals had last played in 1992.  Since that time, head coach Sonny Lubick, in his three seasons in Fort Collins, had built a champion.  CSU had gone 10-2 in 1994, capturing the Western Athletic Conference title for the first time in school history. The Rams final ranking of 16th also marked the first time the team had completed a season in the final polls.

It was safe to say that the 1995 game against the Buffs was huge for Colorado State.

A win would most assuredly lift CSU back into the national polls.  More importantly, it would cast a dark shadow on the hated Buffs 40 miles down the road in Boulder.  A national audience would tune in on ESPN to find out if CSU could claim the state championship, as CU played its second night game in a row, this time before a packed home crowd of 52,848.

 September 9th – Boulder                     No. 10 Colorado 42, Colorado State 14

With less than half of the first quarter gone, the Folsom Field scoreboard read:  Colorado 21, Colorado State 0.  In 7:27 of playing time, the Buffs ran out to a quick 21-0 lead, not to be seriously threatened the remainder of the game.

On their first possession of the evening, the Buffs drove 62 yards for a score.  Herchell Troutman carried the ball six times for 37 yards in the drive, including a four yard run to put CU up 7-0 with 10:53 left in the first quarter.  After allowing one first down on the Rams’ next possession before forcing a punt, the Buffs took over at their own four yard line.  Three plays later, highlighted by an 89-yard screen pass and run from Detmer to Troutman, the Buffs were on the board again.  This time the four-yard scoring run was provided by Marlon Barnes.

14-0, Colorado, with 7:42 left in the quarter.

On CSU’s very next play from scrimmage, the game, for all intents and purposes, came to an end.  Ram quarterback Darren Wilkinson dropped back to pass, but was immediately accosted by senior defensive tackle Kerry Hicks.  Hicks stripped the ball away from Wilkinson, falling on the ball in the endzone for a CU score.  21-0, Colorado, and still 7:33 of the first quarter remained to be played.

The Rams did pull within 14 points, 21-7, early in the second quarter, but Barnes scored on another four yard run later in the second to give Colorado a commanding 28-7 lead.  Troutman and Carruth posted Buff scores before a 31-yard scoring pass late gave CSU some respectability and a 42-14 final score.

Koy Detmer again led the Buffs, completing 18-of-26 passes for 255 yards and a score.  In all, the Buffs out-gained CSU 461-331 in total yards.

Despite the easy win, Detmer was not satisfied.  “Certainly it wasn’t the sharpest night we’ve had,” said the Buffs quarterback. “But it’s a win.  We’ll just go into next week and try to get better before the next game.”

Coach Rick Neuheisel was more excited about the win.  “I’m certainly very thrilled with the win,” said the head coach with a career record of 2-0.  “As I told our kids, ‘you never, ever take winning for granted.’ ”


I certainly never took wins for granted.  The eternal pessimist, I am usually worried about the outcome well after most of the fans have mentally chalked up the win.  I must admit, though, that as we sat out on a cool and cloudy September evening in Boulder for the CSU game, I did allow myself to get a little giddy mid-way through the first quarter.  Much as Colorado had dominated Wisconsin, the Buffs were running all over CSU.  Colorado had sprinted out to a 26-7 first half lead against the Badgers in Madison, and now were ahead 21-0 early against the Rams.

I allowed myself to begin calculating with Brad and Scott as we celebrated the Buffs’ domination.  21-0 through half of the first quarter.  Hmm.  At that pace, the score would be 42-0 at the end of the first quarter, 84-0 at halftime.

Final score:  Colorado 168, Colorado State 0.

Dare to dream.

Colorado was now 2-0 under new head coach Rick Neuheisel.  Against two quality opponents, the Colorado offense had cruised in high gear, averaging 484 yards per game, while the CU defense had allowed only three touchdowns.  What more could anyone ask for?

The win allowed the Buffs to climb to No. 9 in the nation.  A breather against Northeast Louisiana, a 48-13 loser to Colorado in 1994, was up next.  If the Buffs could get past the Indians from Monroe, Louisiana, and every indication was that they would, games against top ten Texas A&M and Oklahoma loomed.

Not to worry, the Neu Era was off to a great start.

Even those of us who were considered pessimists had to agree.

 Game Notes –

– Colorado State would go on to post an 8-4 record (6-2 in Western Athletic Conference play). The season would end on a down note, with a 54-21 loss to Kansas State in the Holiday Bowl.

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