November 4th – at Oklahoma State          No. 10 Colorado 45, Oklahoma State 32

Each week of the 1995 season, first year Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel faced a new and dramatic challenge.

The calendar said November 4th was the date scheduled for the 6-2 Colorado Buffaloes to face the 2-7 Oklahoma State Cowboys.  Reality and the media, however, knew it was time for Rick Neuheisel v. Bob Simmons, Round One.

Bob Simmons had been Bill McCartney’s choice to succeed him as head coach.  Mike Hankwitz, who had also been passed over for the job, had successfully extracted a measure of revenge as the defensive coordinator for the Kansas Jayhawks, who had previously dispatched the Buffs.

Now it was Simmons’ turn.

Fortunately for the emotionally drained Buffs, Bob Simmons did not have the talent Neuheisel had to work with, and Colorado prevailed, 45-32, behind yet another record-setting performance by quarterback John Hessler.

Hessler, who may have wished to stay behind in the Sooner state when the Colorado plane left Stillwater, completed the sweep of the Oklahoma schools by again throwing for five touchdown passes.  Against Oklahoma in Norman on September 30th, Hessler had set a school and Big Eight record by throwing for five scores.  Five weeks later, the sophomore matched his own record in Stillwater, completing 22-of-31 passes for 301 yards.

But the win did not come easily.

Oklahoma State head coach Bob Simmons and his players put the Buffs on notice early that they had come to play.  OSU won the coin toss, but instead of deferring possession to the second half, the Cowboys chose to take the ball.  The decision paid off ten plays later as OSU took a 7-0 lead on an 18-yard run by running back David Thompson.  It took only five plays for the Buffs to respond, though, with quarterback John Hessler hitting tight end Matt Lepsis for a 52-yard catch and run to tie the score.

The first three quarters saw the teams play to a 24-24 draw.

After the Colorado tied the game with the Lepsis touchdown, the Buffs took their first lead of the game late in the first quarter on a 13-yard run by Lendon Henry. The Cowboys tied the game early in the second quarter, but the Buffs took a 17-14 lead with a Neil Voskeritchian 22-yard field goal with 43 seconds to play before halftime.  The seemingly safe lead evaporated, however, as Oklahoma State connected on a 44-yard field goal as the first half clock expired.

Early in the third quarter, Colorado once again took the lead when John Hessler hit James Kidd for a six-yard score. For the third straight time, though, Oklahoma State had an answer, with a 38-yard touchdown pass making it a 24-24 game midway through third quarter.

Then, with less than 12 minutes remaining, the Buffs played like a top ten team just long enough to post the victory.  Hessler led the Buffs on a fourteen-play, 80-yard drive culminated by a five-yard scoring strike to receiver Phil Savoy to make it 31-24 with 11:06 to play.

The Cowboys attempted yet another reply, but, after driving into Colorado territory, a holding penalty and two tackles by linebacker Matt Russell forced a punt.  Taking over at their own 23, the Buffs struck quickly.  Hessler lifted a bomb to Rae Carruth, who sprinted past the OSU secondary for a 77-yard touchdown.  The long distance score was the longest scoring play of the year for the Buffs, but more importantly gave Colorado its first two-score cushion of the game, 38-24.

The Hessler/Carruth combination hooked up again from seven yards with only 3:21 remaining, pushing the lead to 45-24, making a late consolation score by the Cowboys meaningless.

Colorado had a 45-32 win, but it was well earned.

“I thought his team played extremely well”, said Rick Neuheisel of Bob Simmons and the effort of Simmons’ Cowboys.  “They obviously had no quit in them even when we got up to a 21-point advantage.  He found a way to get them to play, and he has done a great job with this team.”

Colorado was now 7-2 overall, 3-2 in Big Eight play.  While the pollsters afforded the Buffs a No. 9 ranking with the win over Oklahoma State, there were questions.  Penalties continued to mount in record numbers.  The defense had allowed six 100-yard rushers in nine games, including David Thompson’s 159-yard effort for Oklahoma State.  Overall, CU’s conference opponents were averaging 32.2 points per game, and the Buffs had surrendered 20 or more points in four consecutive games for the first time since 1988.

Still, with two wins to close out the year, the Buffs would position themselves to play on New Year’s Day.

The jury was still out as to whether they could prove they deserved such an opportunity.

You Tube highlights (The Bob Simmons show) from the game:


Game Notes –

– The Bob Simmons experiment at Oklahoma State would last six years, two years longer than the reign of Rick Neuheisel in Boulder. Simmons posted an overall record of 30-38 (including a 4-8 record in 1995). The Cowboys would go to only one bowl in the Simmons’ era, losing to Purdue, 33-20, in the 1997 Alamo Bowl, to finish the season 8-4, the only winning season for Oklahoma State under Simmons.

– The 45 points were the most-ever for the Buffs in the series, besting the 41 points Colorado posted in both 1989 (a 41-17 win) and in 1990 (a 41-22 win).

– John Hessler, who went 46-for-65 for 649 yards and ten touchdowns (with no interceptions) in two games in the state of Oklahoma. With his five touchdown passes against Oklahoma State, Hessler now had 16 on the season, setting a new school record (the old record was 12, shared by Steve Vogel, Darian Hagan and Kordell Stewart). Hessler would go on to post 20 touchdown passes during the 1995 campaign (with nine interceptions).

– Red-shirt freshman defensive lineman Nick Ziegler, subbing for injured Daryl Price, earned his first career start against Oklahoma State. Ziegler would go on to be a co-winner of the Lee Willard Award (along with cornerback Marcus Washington), presented to the team’s most outstanding freshman.

– Even though the Buffs needed over three-plus quarters to put away the Cowboys, it was not the fault of the offense, which was nearly unstoppable. CU went for 510 total yard, scored on seven of its first ten drives, did not commit a turnover, and converted a season-best 11-of-16 on third down (including tying the school record with six straight conversions at one point).




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