October 25th – at Texas           Colorado 47, Texas 30

During the week leading up to the Kansas game, the Colorado coaching staff had adopted the phrase “relentlessly positive” as the slogan for the remainder of the season. It was the staff’s intention to keep the Buffs upbeat and optimistic, despite the 2-3 start to the 1997 season.

The first week of the new campaign was a great success, in part due to an inept Kansas squad which came to Boulder carrying a suspect 4-2 record (only one win over a team with a winning record).

The schedule now put forth a greater test for the now 3-3 Buffs … the Texas Longhorns, with the game to be played in Austin.

Coming into the game, the Buffs had several factors working for them. First, Colorado had a five game winning streak against Texas, dating back to 1989. Second, the Longhorns, who had shocked the nation in upsetting Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game in 1996, were struggling as much as the Buffs.

Like the Buffs, the Longhorns were 3-3 on the season. Texas had struggled to beat Rice (38-31) and Oklahoma (27-24), while being mauled by UCLA (66-3) and Oklahoma State (42-16). Entering the Colorado game, the Longhorns were coming off of a 37-29 defeat at the hands of the Missouri Tigers, a team Texas had not previously lost to since 1916.

In the 1997 preseason AP poll, Colorado had been ranked No. 8; Texas No. 12. The game looked on the calendar to be a potential preview of the Big 12 Championship. By late October, though, the game was for pride and potential bowl possibilities.

One needed to be “relentlessly positive” just to have enthusiasm for the game.

Fortunately for Colorado, Texas struggled just that much more. The Longhorns’ defense could not stop the Buffs, and CU rolled to a 47-30 win.

Trailing 3-0 midway through the first quarter, the Buffs put together a nine play drive, culminating in quarterback John Hessler’s 18 yard option keeper for a 7-3 CU lead. It would be a lead Colorado would not surrender the remainder of the day.

Still, at times it appeared that the Buffs were unaccustomed to success. Perhaps fearful that a blowout would cause the regional ABC television crowd to start channel surfing, the Buffs refused to put the Longhorns away. With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Hessler hit receiver Phil Savoy on a 45-yard pass to put the Buffs on top 24-10. Unable to withstand prosperity, CU allowed Texas to march 80 yards in just three plays to score on a one-yard Ricky Williams run as time expired in the second quarter. 24-17, Colorado, at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Buffs again had the chance to put Texas away. Quarterback James Brown threw interceptions on the Longhorns’ first three possessions of the second half, the first of which was returned by safety Ryan Sutter 34 yards for a score to put the Buffs up 31-17. The other interceptions, though, led to only 9 more points, however, as the Buffs failed to show a killer instinct.

Down 40-17 entering the final stanza, Texas tried to make a game of it, scoring twice . The second touchdown made the score 40-30 with 5:08 remaining. With time still left for a Texas comeback, the CU offense finally put the game away, constructing a nine-play, 80-yard drive, culminating with a one yard dive by Herchell Troutman with only 32 seconds left on the game clock.

47-30, Colorado.

Colorado now had a 4-3 record, 2-2 in conference play. The Colorado defense picked off two Texas quarterbacks a total of five times, the best such mark since 1992 (v. Oklahoma). Coming into the Texas game, the Buffs’ coaching staff had expanded upon the “Relentlessly Positive” theme of the week before.

“Continue to Climb” was the new mantra. The struggling Buffs had gone on the road against an equally desperate team, and had come out a winner. For his part, head coach Rick Neuheisel felt the team was back on track: “I said our goals after the two game losing streak were to: one, get ourselves into the postseason; and two, make sure that we stay positive, regardless of what was taking place.”

After the Texas game, both goals were well on their way to achievement.

Just one week later, both goals were in great jeopardy.

Game Notes …

– The Buffs inability to score touchdowns after turnovers proved beneficial for CU kicker Jeremy Aldrich. The sophomore tied a school record in connecting on four field goals. Aldrich hit a 35-yarder in the second quarter to give the Buffs a 10-3 lead, and then hit from 26, 48, and 46 yards in the third quarter, extending the CU lead from 31-17 to 40-17.

– Senior safety Ryan Sutter had two interceptions on the day, with the three other picks coming from junior linebacker Terrell Cade, freshman cornerback Ben Kelly, and sophomore cornerback Damen Wheeler.

– Marlon Barnes led the Buffs with 93 yards on 17 carries, and would likely have had his second consecutive 100-yard game, but left the game with a knee sprain after a second half kickoff. Wide receiver Phil Savoy led the wide outs with 92 yards on only four catches.

– For the second game in a row, the Buffs posted over 200 yards rushing (208) and 200 yards passing (211).

– After losing to Colorado, the Longhorns fell to 3-4 on the 1997 season. Texas, ranked 12th in the preseason poll, would go on to win only one more game to finish 4-7. The losing season brought an end to the John Mackovic era in Austin. Mackovic, the former head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL, finished his six year stint at Texas with a 41-28-2 overall record, with one Big 12 championship but three losing seasons. Mackovic’s replacement? Mack Brown.


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