October 18th – Boulder           Colorado 42, Kansas 6

For the first time in 1997, the Colorado Buffaloes played like the 1997 Buffaloes were predicted to play when the season started.

After falling behind 3-0 early, the Buffs dominated on both sides of the line of scrimmage, posting its first easy win of the season, taking out Kansas, 42-6.  Leveling the season record at 3-3, the Buffs recorded their largest margin of victory since leveling Northeast Louisiana 66-14 early in 1995.  A night game parent’s weekend crowd of 52,097 was treated to the best overall team play of Neuheisel’s third campaign.

Embattled quarterback John Hessler, the focus of much of the blame for the Buffs’ failures on the field, silenced many of his critics with a near-flawless performance.  Hessler completed 15-of-19 passes for 188 yards and two touchdowns. The scoring passes came on an 11-yarder to red-shirt freshman Javon Green to give the Buffs a 14-3 lead in the second quarter, and a 17-yarder to sophomore Marcus Stiggers to up the lead to 21-6 in the third quarter.

Hessler also ran the ball in from 16 yards out for a score to make the contest 35-6 late in the third quarter.  Hessler sat out the rest of the game, with sophomore Jeremy Weisinger and freshman Adam Bledsoe receiving some much needed playing time in mop-up duty in the fourth quarter.

The running game also showed signs of life for the first time in 1997.  Marlon Barnes became the first CU back in 1997 to rush for over 100 yards in a game, putting together a career-high 129 yards on 16 carries.  Included in Barnes’ efforts were touchdown runs of four and two yards, giving Barnes four touchdown carries in the Buffs’ last two games.

The defense and special teams were not to be outdone.  Holding the Jayhawks without a score in the second half, the defense contributed a score of its own when junior cornerback Marcus Washington intercepted a Zac Wegner pass in the third quarter, running it back 25 yards untouched for the knockout touchdown with a 28-6 lead.

Even the much-maligned punting game passed muster, as Nick Pietsch and Andy Mitchell shared the duties.  Mitchell’s punt netted 34 yards, while Pietsch’s kick, while listed as a 36 yard kick, did pin Kansas down at its own four yard line.

Prior to the Kansas game, with Colorado coming off of back-to-back losses, the Buff coaches adopted a new slogan for the remainder of the 1997. “Relentless Positive” was the new mantra, and it worked … at least for one week.

Coach Neuheisel, understandably, was proud and relieved:  “It obviously is a great feeling for those of us involved in the program, and who have had a rough go of it”, said Neuheisel after the game, “If we can play well in the next five games, we can salvage what I think will be a very good season, considering where we started.”

A New Routine … 

I often speak ill of the fair-weather fans of the University of Colorado football team, but I too, by 1997, had become quite used to the Buffs winning on a regular basis.  So accustomed had I become, in fact, that it took several jolts during the week leading up to the Kansas game to remind me of Colorado’s new position in the world of college football.

On Thursday mornings during the college football season in the mid-90’s, the local paper ran a feature by an Associated Press writer (in 1997 being Richard Rosenblatt).  In the weekly article, Rosenblatt featured one game of the upcoming week (CU/Michigan was discussed earlier in 1997), and then predicted the outcome of the games for the top teams.  I was a regular reader, and Thursday, October 16th, 1997, was no exception.  I scanned the headline (this week dealing with Florida, which had lost its top ranking the previous week with a loss to LSU, only to face a stern test against Auburn in the upcoming week), and then searched for the discussion of the Colorado contest.  But …. it wasn’t there.  I checked again.  Nothing.  Then it hit me.  The Associated Press was only going to show national interest in the top 25 teams.  Colorado, out of the poll for the first time in eight years, was no longer worthy of mention.

Not having learned my lesson, I purchased a USA Today the next day.  Friday’s USA Today was another part of my fall routine during the football season in the 1990’s.  Even though coverage of most games was limited to three or four lines, I liked to read about the Buffs and how outsiders viewed the upcoming game.

I opened the paper to the Sports section, and found the College Football previews.  Again, I found nothing.  Only the top 25 were routinely covered.  For failing to remember that Colorado, at 2-3 and out of the national spotlight, would not rate even a few sentences, I had to laugh at myself.

It didn’t seem right to cry.

Game Notes … 

– In holding the Jayhawks to 177 yards of total offense, the Colorado defense held an opponent to under 100 yards passing (89) and 100 yards rushing (88) for the first time in five seasons;

– The Buffs, meanwhile, had over 200 yards passing (207) and over 200 yards rushing (227) in the same game for the first time since the second game of the 1996 season;

– The touchdown receptions for Javon Green and Marcus Stiggers were career first touchdowns for both players;

– The 129 yards rushing by Marlon Barnes against Kansas proved to be the highest rushing total for any Buff in the 1997 season. For the team, the 43 rushing attempts and 227 yards were also season highs;

– Kansas, under first-year head coach Terry Allen, came to Boulder with a 4-2 record, including a 20-17 win over Oklahoma. After the loss to Colorado, the Jayhawks would win only one more game on the season, finishing 5-6.


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