Holiday Bowl, 1996

Good Bowl, Good Result

The Holiday Bowl was supposed to take the third-place team from the Big 12, after the Cotton Bowl had taken the second-place team. With Texas and Nebraska already in the Bowl Alliance, they would not be considered. This left Colorado, with a 9-2 overall record, and, more imporantly, with  7-1 conference record, as the logical choice for the Cotton. After all, the Colorado Buffaloes were the only team other than Nebraska with fewer than two conference losses.

So the Cotton Bowl, of course, invited Kansas State.

Kansas State had a 9-2 overall record, just like the Buffs, but were 6-2 in conference. The Wildcats, however, snared the invitation in no small measure due to the lackluster support the Buffs brought with them to the 1996 edition of the Cotton Bowl. This prompted Colorado Coach Rick Neuheisel to openly wonder why the Buffs had bothered to beat Kansas State, as there was apparently no reward for actually finishing with a better record.

Still, playing a Washington Husky squad, also 9-2 and ranked No. 13 in the nation, was not a poor consolation prize. The Huskies were hungry, anxious for national respect and a top ten ranking. If the Buffs were lethargic, they would be vulnerable.

December 30th – at San Diego – Holiday Bowl          No. 8 Colorado 33, No. 13 Washington 21

Lethargy was exactly what the Buffs suffered from at the outset of the 1996 Holiday Bowl.

The 9-2 Huskies, led by red-shirt freshman quarterback Brock Huard and junior tailback Corey Dillon, had scored 20 or more points in every game in 1996. Washington impressed the near-sellout crowd of 54,749 with two first quarter scores, both registered by Corey Dillon.

Down 14-0, the Buffs finally responded. On the Buffs’ third play from scrimmage after falling behind by two touchdowns, Koy Detmer hit Rae Carruth on a 76-yard bomb to pull the Buffs to within seven. After an exchange of punts, Colorado sophomore defensive end Nick Ziegler did his part to try and turn the Holiday Bowl around. Washington quarterback Brock Huard dropped back to pass, but Ziegler, rushing in on Huard, timed his jump perfectly, batting the ball into the air. Ziegler himself did the interception honors, plucking the ball out of the air at the Husky 33-yard line. Matt Russell took care of Huard, and Ziegler had clear sailing to the end zone.

14-14 with 11 minutes left in the half. The ship had been righted.

Or had it?

Husky Jerome Pathon took the ensuing kickoff back 86 yards for a Washington score, restoring the Huskies to a 21-14 advantage. The momentum of the Ziegler interception had been quickly returned to Washington. The Colorado defense, which had tied the game without the assistance of the offense, was not even given the opportunity to take the field with the score tied.

Enter the Colorado offense.

The Buffs responded to the sudden deficit with a five-play, 79-yard drive, culminating in a 7-yard touchdown pass from Detmer to sophomore wide receiver Darrin Chiaverini. A 42-yard field goal by Jeremy Aldrich gave the Buffs their first lead of the game 24-21, with just over two minutes remaining in the first half.

While the score indicated that the game was in doubt until Colorado scored a touchdown mid-way through the fourth quarter to go up 33-21, the game was in fact well in hand throughout the second half, courtesy of the Colorado defense. After Corey Dillon’s second touchdown run in the first quarter, Washington’s offense would not come close to scoring again (a blocked field goal attempt in the third quarter was the Huskies’ closest effort).

Colorado’s final touchdown of the 1996 season was fitting. It was a four-yard scoring strike from Koy Detmer to Rae Carruth. The pair teamed up to set a number of school records, including the most attempts, completions, and yards in a season by Detmer, and the most career touchdown receptions for Carruth. The pair also combined to set the standard for the most touchdown passes for a quarterback and receiver for a season (8), and a career (12). (Note: Colorado does not add bowl statistics to its career totals. As a result, the last touchdown pass from Detmer to Carruth only appears in the bowl statistics, not the career statistics).

The win was satisfying for the 10-2 Buffs. The Holiday Bowl win was the Buffs’ fourth bowl win in a row, a school record. The 1996 senior class left the school with 39 wins, the most ever. Russell was named the Butkus Award winner, with All-American recognition for Russell, Carruth, and guard Chris Naeole. Colorado had finished with 10 or more wins for the third consecutive season, another school record.

While the Buffs had set a mark for penalties for the second straight year under second-year head coach Rick Neuheisel, the future appeared bright. Quarterback John Hessler, who had rescued the 1995 season by stepping in for an injured Koy Detmer, would be back for a senior season. A number of skill position players were also returning, to be bolstered by the three top ten recruiting classes.

There was no reason to believe that the 1997 season would not be another successful campaign.

Instead, Buff fans were treated to their first losing season in over a decade …

Game Notes –

… Note … The University of Colorado does not count bowl records in career statistics. Records for bowls are kept separately ...

– Quarterback Koy Detmer, who went 25-for-45 for 371 yards and three touchdowns, was the game’s offensive MVP. Defensive lineman Nick Ziegler, who had the game-tying interception return for a touchdown in the second quarter, was named the game’s defensive MVP.

– Detmer’s 371 yards passing was a school bowl-record, as was Rae Carruth’s 162 receiving yards. Previously, the best a CU quarterback had done in a bowl game was Kordell Stewart’s 217 yards against Syracuse in the 1993 Fiesta Bowl, while the best receiving effort was 87 yards by Michael Westbrook against Alabama in the 1991 Blockbuster Bowl.

– Rae Carruth and Darrin Chiaverini had seven receptions against Washington, tying the team bowl record set by Charlie Davis against Auburn in the 1972 Gator Bowl.


One Reply to “Holiday Bowl – Buffs take down No. 13 Washington Huskies”

  1. Does anybody remember the Kansas game, I think it was 1996 at Folsom Field. Ralphie IV plowed through the Kansas marching band. It was the funniest thing I’ve ever seen, trombones flying, Bass Drums rolling to the middle of the field. If that happened in 2011 it would be going viral on youtube and Twitter! Does anybody have a video of This wonderful memory? That was Ralphie out of control! It might have been K-State but I am 99% sure it was Kansas. Holy cow was that funny!

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