September 12th – Boulder           No. 16 Colorado 29, Fresno State 21

Colorado quarterback Mike Moschetti, playing before the home fans for the first time, connected with sophomore wide receiver Javon Green for a 25-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter on what would prove to be the winning score as the No. 16 Buffs held off the Fresno State State Bulldogs, 29-21.

Colorado, which entered the game as a 21-½ point favorite, found itself behind 14-3 early in the second quarter before a stunned crowd of 42,623. Two touchdown runs by Bulldog quarterback Billy Volek, the second coming early in the second quarter, gave Buff fans more to worry about other than the light rain which fell sporadically throughout the game.

Junior wide receiver Marcus Stiggers scored the Buffs’ first touchdown of the afternoon with 3:38 to play before half on a 27-yard end around. The extra point attempt by Jeremy Aldrich failed, leaving the score at 14-9. Aldrich, who had earlier connected from 34 yards, then hit on a 30-yarder as the first half expired.

Fresno State still held the halftime lead, 14-12, but the momentum had clearly shifted, with the CU defense taking control of the game.

It wasn’t until late in the third quarter, however, that Colorado was finally able to take the lead. A 16-play, 80-yard drive (which took up over half of the third quarter game clock) was culminated by a one-yard touchdown run by Dwayne Cherrington, giving the Buffs a 19-14 advantage.

Jeremy Aldrich’s third field goal, this time from 32 yards out, upped the lead to 22-14 in the last minute of the third quarter. Then, on the Buffs’ next drive, the game was seemingly put out of reach when Mike Moschetti hit Javon Green for a 25-yard touchdown. The 16th-ranked Buffs  now led, 29-14, with no points or production from the Fresno State offense in over two quarters of play.

But, as CU fans were to discover would become a reoccurring theme for the young 1998 Buffs, nothing would ever come easy.

Fresno State tailback Jamie Kimbrough scored on a four-yard run to cap a surprisingly efficient three-play, 48-yard drive to bring the Bulldogs to within 29-21 with 6:56 still to play. After the Buffs held the ball for six plays and Fresno State three, the Buffs took over with 2:52 left at their own 28-yard line, needing only one first down to seal the win. Mike Moschetti was out with a rib injury sustained earlier in the fourth quarter, so sophomore quarterback Adam Bledsoe was given the call. Bledsoe and the offense failed to produce, however, making matters tense.

Then, disaster.

Junior punter Nick Pietsch’s punt was blocked, recovered by Fresno State at the Buffs’ two-yard line. Plenty of time remained for Fresno State to score, convert a two-point try, tie the game and force overtime.

What had seemed to be a comfortable victory only moments before was now in dire jeopardy of being squandered.

Fresno State’s first two plays netted one yard, as Nick Ziegler threw running back Jaime Kimbrough for a three yard loss, followed by a four yard run by the same back. On third-and-goal from the one-yard line, Bulldog quarterback Billy Volek, who had scored Fresno State’s first two touchdowns on short runs, got the call. Stuffed in the middle by Justin Bannan and Sean Jarne, Volek tried to run around the left side of the Buffs’ defensive line. CU defensive end Fred Jones, though, would have none of it, popping the quarterback and forcing a fumble. Defensive end Nick Ziegler fell on the ball at the Buffs’ two-yard line, and the game was finally in hand.

“We’re happy with the win,” said Neuheisel after the game. “But it certainly shows that maybe we’re not the team that everybody wrote about (after the impressive showing, a 42-14 win, against CSU)”.

Indeed, the young Buffs had showed their immaturity in falling behind 14-3 to a team which had finished 1997 with a 6-6 record and for which there was little enthusiasm for 1998.

“I’m upset about (the intensity level)”, said wide receiver Darrin Chiaverini after the contest. “This is a wake up call. We’ve got to go out there and play with high intensity and make some plays. We’ll respond.”

The schedule seemed to allow the Buffs the opportunity to “respond”. Utah State was up next, followed by Baylor and Oklahoma. Utah State was the only one of the three which had finished the 1997 season at .500 (6-6), while Baylor and Oklahoma had stumbled to marks of 2-9 and 4-8, respectively. The Buffs had suffered a letdown after the big opening win over CSU, and had narrowly escaped with the victory over Fresno State.

The Buffs could not afford too many more “wake up calls” before the more difficult portion of the schedule rolled around.

Long Distance

After witnessing the dominance the Buffs had had over CSU, even I, the eternal pessimist, was confident going into the Fresno State game.

The Buffs were back, and the momentum would surely carry through to the home opener. I was confident enough that when the Buffs kicked off at 1:00 p.m., I was working down at my office, rearranging our conference room. For a close game, I would have been at home, eyes glued to the television screen with the remote control at the ready. Even though I wouldn’t be able to watch the CU/Fresno State game (which was not televised, even regionally), I would have been able to obtain enough updates by way of the networks and ESPN to stay informed.

It was a good thing I didn’t get home until after halftime.

Had I seen a score of: Fresno State 14, Colorado 3 – as the score stood for much of the second quarter – I would have gone nuts. As it was, a score of: Colorado 19, Fresno State 14 in the third quarter was bad enough.

A one-score game? Nervous time.

What else could I do but sit and suffer with an upset stomach until the next update?

I called Brad.

Brad was not able to watch the game either, but he was listening to the game at his home in Grand Junction. By the time I called, Colorado had scored on a Jeremy Aldrich field goal to go up 22-14. A few moments later, the Buffs scored again on the Moschetti-to-Green 25-yarder, and I was able to hang up the phone.

29-14 was not overly impressive, but a win was a win.

Over the next half hour, I watched the network game of the week as I waited for updates to confirm CU’s win.

I didn’t like what I saw. The next posted score was 29-21, and Fresno State was back within one score. I called Brad again. I listened to Brad paraphrase the play-by-play from the radio as the Bledsoe-led Buffs went three-and-out. I nearly lost an eardrum as Brad screamed after the blocked punt.

I couldn’t hang up now.

Over the next few tension-filled minutes, with Fresno State on the Buffs’ goalline, I listened as Brad described the action. When Ziegler fell on the fumble to seal the win, the feeling was not so much of joy as it was of relief.

The Buffs had gotten by and were 2-0, and moved up to No. 15 in the country in the next poll.

I could not argue with the final results. The Buffs had received their “wake up call”, as Chiaverini had put it, and would put it all together against a smaller and slower Utah State squad.

Suurrre they would.

Game Notes –

– Jeremy Aldrich’s three successful field goals gave him eight consecutive  makes, tying a school record. Aldrich would go on to set the new record, making his ninth consecutive field goal, a  44-yarder against Utah State, before having his streak snapped with a miss from 42 yards out later in that same game.

– Junior tailback Dwayne Cherrington backed up his 100-yard rushing performance against Colorado State with a 21-carry, 97-yard game against Fresno State. The first two games of the 1998 season, though, would prove to be a high-water mark for Cherrington. Plagued by injuries the remainder of the season, Cherrington would rush for only 153 yards total the rest of the 1998 season.

– The Buffs’ goal line stand to end the Fresno State game was honored as the national “Compaq Defensive Play of the Week”.

– The Colorado game was the season opener for Fresno State under second-year head coach Pat Hill. The Bulldogs would go on to lose their first three games of 1998, but would rally to win four of their last five, finishing 5-6. Under Pat Hill, Fresno State would not again have a losing record until 2006, with seven consecutive winning seasons and bowl appearances in between.


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