November 15th – @ Kansas State           No. 10 Kansas State 37, Colorado 20

In 1996, Kansas State was once-beaten (handily by Nebraska), and ranked No. 9 in the nation heading into the Colorado game. The result: Colorado 12, Kansas State 0. Colorado once again had slammed the door on a Wildcat squad attempting to obtain legitimacy on the national stage.

The University of Colorado had its critcs, to be sure, being only the 2nd-best team in the Northern Division of the Big 12.

But if that was the case, what must it have felt like in Manhattan, Kansas, where Kansas State seemed to be perpetually No. 3 in the Big 12 North?

Fast forward to 1997.

The scene was familiar for the Wildcats. Kansas State was once-beaten (handily by Nebraska), and ranked No. 10 in the country.

Same result? A hard-fought CU victory? Nope.

This time, however, the KSU was not to be denied. Final score: Kansas State 37, Colorado 20.

And it wasn’t even that close.

Kansas State turned two turnovers into touchdowns in the decisive second quarter, leading the Wildcats to their first victory over the Buffs in 13 years.

The game was tied, 6-6, after a Jeremy Aldrich field goal early in the second quarter. The Wildcats countered with a seven-play, 80-yard drive to score the first touchdown of the game. 13-6, Kansas State.

CU’s Ben Kelly then fumbled the ensuing kickoff, which was turned into a touchdown two plays later on a 32-yard pass. Kansas State 20, Colorado 6, midway through the quarter.

The Buffs seemingly righted the ship, and were poised to pull within a score after a 51-yard run by Dwayne Cherrington, taking the ball to the Kansas State one yard line (replays showed that Cherrington actually scored). But the Buffs wasted the opportunity, with a muffed handoff between John Hessler and Marlon Barnes resulting in a turnover.

Just before the half, Hessler was intercepted, leading to a 28-yard drive and a 27-6 Kansas State lead at the break.

After a Kansas State field goal upped the third quarter lead to 30-6 before the Buffs scored a pair of consolation touchdowns, both on Hessler to Phil Savoy passes. The first covered 13 yards while the second, coming with less than a minute to play in the game, went for 10 yards.

Colorado out-gained Kansas State on the day, 406-359, but that was of little consolation for the 5-5 Buffs.

The Buffs were heart-broken, disappointed, and angry. Said junior defensive end Nick Ziegler after the game, “I don’t want this to happen again. When their fans are tearing down goal posts and running over to our crowd to rub it in, it is heartbreaking for us to watch. I want us to be able to do the same thing next year in Boulder.”

First things first. Before worrying about a 1998 re-match with Kansas State, there was the not so small matter of playing the undefeated, 2nd-ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers.

No problem.

All that was at stake were a winning season, a bowl bid, and the future of the program.

Worth the Trip

When the Big 12 was formulated, Nebraska was left with a dilemma. Gone from the schedule was the traditional Thanksgiving weekend game against Oklahoma, now of the Southern Division. Rather than give up the money and exposure of the high-profile game, Nebraska agreed to make Colorado its new season-ending competition. The first game, the 1996 17-12 Husker victory in Lincoln, proved worthy of the special time slot.

The first such contest in Boulder did not seem to merit any hype. Nebraska came in 10-0, ranked No. 2 in the country. The Cornhuskers led the nation in rushing offense, scoring offense, and total offense. Colorado, meanwhile, had been giving up 37 points per game over the past month.

The Cornhuskers were one of only two undefeated teams in the nation, and No. 1 Michigan had concluded its regular season play the previous weekend with a 20-14 win over arch-rival Ohio State. The consensus was that Nebraska needed a blowout win to impress the pollsters and regain first place votes lost with the miracle win over Missouri three weeks earlier. Nebraska trailed Michigan 69-1 in first place votes in the Associated Press poll; 46-13 in the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll. All the Huskers had going for them was that they had two TV games to gain ground – the Thanksgiving weekend game with the Buffs and the Big 12 Championship game against Texas A&M the following week.

The Colorado game, for Nebraska, was to be – to pardon the pun – a red-letter game.

In Boulder, the question was: Would the Buff faithful show up for the massacre? Who would want to pay through the nose for the privilege?

Well, uh, me for one.

For ten years since returning to Montana from Boulder, I had always driven to Boulder from Bozeman for games. Due to weather concerns (would you drive across Wyoming in a blizzard if you didn’t have to?) my travels were restricted to September and October games. When the Nebraska game was moved to late November, I knew I would want to be there. I also knew I didn’t want to drive to the game. So, for the first time for a home game, I had no choice but to take to the air.

Flying in Thanksgiving evening, we were greeted by a driving rainstorm. The local forecast was for the rain to turn into several inches of snow by morning, with a high at gametime Friday of maybe 40 degrees.


We are going to get blown out, and I am going to catch a cold standing there taking in the abuse.

Everything changed on the drive to Boulder Friday morning. From the overcast skies over Denver, the skies seemed to clear more and more the closer I got to Boulder. By the time I could spot the Flatirons, the sun was shining down on the valley. My spirits lifted. Perhaps the day would not be so bad.

By kickoff, I was quietly optimistic of the Buffs chances. (Outwardly, I was still indicating my fervent wish/hope/prayer that we would be able to keep the game close.) Why not be optimistic? After all, wasn’t this the same team Colorado team that had been the Sporting News pre-season No. 1? Wasn’t this the same lineup which many experts had predicted in August would stand toe-to-toe with the Huskers in November?

The weather had cooperated, as the day would feature a high of 50-degrees in bright sunshine.

All it would take for a Buffs upset was a little confidence – and a little luck.

Game Notes –

– Dwayne Cherrington’s 51-yard run was the longest non-scoring run for the Buffs in 1997. Cherrington’s 93 yards for the game were his highest for the season.

– Phil Savoy had a season-high eight receptions against Kansas State, going for 101 yards and two touchdowns. It was the first 100-yard receiving game for a Buff all season (Savoy would go on to post a 107-yard game the following weekend).

– Ryan Sutter led the Buffs with 18 tackles against the Wildcats, 15 solo.

– Other than a 16-16 tie in 1993, the Buffs had defeated the Wildcats in every game since 1984, a streak of 13 non-losing seasons. The longest previous streak for the Buffs was 10 straight games over Kansas State, between 1954 and 1963.

– After a 28-3 season-ending victory over Iowa State and a 35-18 victory over Syracuse in the Fiesta Bowl, the 11-1 Wildcats finished ranked 8th in the nation.

One Reply to “No. 10 Kansas State – Wildcats take over No. 2 spot in Big 12 North”

  1. Snatching Victory Out of the Jaws of Defeat

    November 15, 1997 Kansas State vs. Colorado

    This game was not memorable for the game itself and definitely not because of the final score. This game will always be in my memory because it is one of the first games my (now) wife and I attended together. We had been friends for a while but we started dating right before this game. She got to see the full Buff crazy that I was, to include painted face and my reaction to a loss. After the game, we had to drive my brother back up to Estes Park. He fell asleep somewhere between Boulder and Lyons and I stopped in Lyons at the Diamond Shamrock to get something to drink and snack on. I was on my way into the store when it dawned on me that this was the woman for me. I went back to the car and told Melissa, “I know this may seem quick but we have known each other for a couple of years and I love you. You are going to have to figure out what to do with that.” We have been married for over 13 years and now have two wonderful litlle Buffettes.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *