October 24th – at Kansas           Kansas 33, No. 17 Colorado 17

After committing only two penalties against Texas Tech, the Colorado Buffaloes resorted to familiar form for the 1998 season, committing 12 penalties against Kansas. The penalties, along with four turnovers and still more injuries (including key injuries to running back Marlon Barnes and quarterback Mike Moschetti), helped the Kansas Jayhawks upset 17th-ranked Colorado in Lawrence, 33-17.

All phases of the game went dark for CU in the night sky in Lawrence.

The Buffs’ defense, which had held up admirably all season waiting for the offense to get up to speed, was shredded by running back David Winbush, who eluded the Buffs for 268 yards and three touchdowns. The 268 yards posted by the unheralded sophomore set a new standard for a CU opponent, eclipsing the mark of 258 rushing yards set by David Overstreet of Oklahoma in 1980 (yes, in the infamous 82-42 debacle).

The game started well enough, with Marlon Barnes putting the Buffs on top 7-0 in the first quarter on a three-yard run. A chance to go up 10-0 early in the second quarter went awry, though, when Jeremy Aldrich left a 37-yard field goal attempt out to the right.

Overall in the first half, the Buffs had four possessions and 235 yards of total offense … but only seven points to show for it. In addition to the missed field goal, the Buffs had two interceptions deep in Kansas territory, allowing the Jayhawks to remain in the game.

A 38-yard run by David Winbush tied the game midway through the second quarter, with a 24-yard field goal by Joe Garcia giving the Jayhawks a 10-7 halftime lead.

Kansas starting quarterback Zac Wegner left the game with a concussion late in the first quarter and did not return. Instead of folding, the Jayhawks rallied around backup quarterback Jay Alexander, who played error-free ball. Alexander, who was third-string but was inserted because Kansas Head Coach Terry Allen didn’t want to burn the red-shirt year of a prized freshman, completed 11-of-18 passes, with no interceptions and no turnovers.

The second half did not start well for the Buffs, with a Brady McDonnell fumble on the second half kickoff turning into a Winbush touchdown and a 17-7 Kansas lead. Mike Moschetti then led the Colorado offense on a 12-play, 65-yard drive, with Moschetti scoring on a one yard run to make the score 17-14 midway through the third quarter.

The game became a battle of backups late in the third quarter, when Buff quarterback Mike Moschetti went down with a concussion. Unfortunately for the Buff Nation, Colorado backup quarterback Adam Bledsoe, unlike his Kansas counterpart, did not have a flawless game.

In the fourth quarter, with the game still very much at issue, Bledsoe fumbled as he was being sacked. Kansas linebacker Tim Bowers picked up the ball and raced 48 yards for the touchdown to put the game out of reach. A 65-yard touchdown run by David Winbush in the fourth quarter turned the game into a rout, and put Winbush into the record books.

“What can I say?”, said distraught senior wide receiver Darrin Chiaverini. “They outplayed us. It’s not like we were out there not trying – we were.”

The Buffs were at a loss for explaining how a defense which had come into the game with the 13th-ranked total defense and 18th-ranked scoring defense in the nation could succumb to a team which had entered the game 2-5 (and 0-5 in Big 12 play), with one of its two wins coming over Division 1-AA Illinois State. On the evening, Kansas had 373 yards of total offense, including 258 on the ground.

“Our defense lives on the ability of the back-end guys to make tackles and the back-end guys didn’t make tackles tonight”, said a disappointed Rick Neuheisel. “This was one of those games where everything wrong that could have happened, happened.”

Neuheisel and the Buffs were now 6-2, 3-2 in Big 12 Conference play. A bye week was up next for the Buffs, who would have the chance to heal before facing what Neuheisel called a “three-game season”.

CU’s remaining home game was against hapless Iowa State, sandwiched between road games against ranked Missouri and Nebraska.

The 5-0 start, warts and all, now seemed like a distant memory.

The Clocks Strikes midnight for Cinderella

The Kansas game ended around 9:45 p.m., Central Standard Time. For the 1998 Colorado Buffaloes, however, the clock finally struck midnight.

Decimated by injuries throughout the year, the young Buffs finally were exposed as the average team – talented, but young and banged up – that they were. That the 1998 Buffs had managed to put together a 6-1 record prior to the Kansas game was a testament to the tenacity of the young players and their coach. Yes, they were undisciplined at times. And yes, they did make stupid mistakes. But they were exceedingly beat up, and were now finally paying the price.

In 1991, CU had been forced to utilize 13 different lineups (seven offense, six defense) over the course of its 12-game schedule. It was the most shuffling the Buffs had been forced into in recent memory. In 1998, though, Colorado used 13 different lineups in the first seven games. Thus, out of a possible 14 different lineup opportunities, CU had used 13. With the Kansas game, the total was up to 15 out of a possible 16, and no letup appeared to be in sight.

Not only were the Buffs using different players each week, they were using younger and younger players each week.

Players making their first career starts in the first half of the 1998 season included two seniors (guard Ben Nichols, running back Marlon Barnes); three juniors (quarterback Mike Moschetti, running back Dwayne Cherrington, defensive end Fred Jones), five sophomores (tight end Tom Ashworth, defensive tackle Sean Jarne, safety John Sanders, running back Damion Barton, guard Chris Morgan); six red-shirt freshmen (guard/tackle Victor Rogers, center/guard Andre Gurode, fullback Marques Spivey, linebacker Albus Brooks, offensive tackle Erin Huizingh, defensive tackle Justin Bannan) and one true freshman (safety Michael Lewis, who made his first career start against Kansas State).

These new starters were not being thrown into battle simply because they were talented (which, fortunately, they were). Injuries simply continued to take their unprecedented toll. In the first half of the season (through six games) CU had already lost eight starters for a total of 20 games. The offensive line was the hardest hit, as the Buffs had not started the same five in any game, and two positions, center and right guard, had already had three different starters each.

All football teams have to deal with injuries. In 1998, Colorado simply had more than its fair share.

With only nine seniors seeing extensive playing time, though, the future still bode well for the Buffs. Young players were for the most part coming through, gaining immeasurable experience along the way. As Colorado limped into its bye week before facing Missouri, the pressing question wasn’t whether or not the 1998 squad was a good team, it was whether the players which would form the core of the teams for 1999 and 2000 could hang in there long enough to become a great team.

The 33-17 loss to Kansas dropped Colorado to 24th in the polls, but the pollsters weren’t so kind after the bye week. Despite not playing, the Buffs dropped out of the poll (to 26th overall), ending the 1998 streak at eight weeks, the seventh longest string in CU history.

In the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, the Buffs managed to cling to the bottom rung of the poll, remaining in the 25th spot. A loss to 18th-ranked Missouri, though, would make even that ranking history.

Game Notes –

– As noted above, the 268 rushing yards posted by David Winbush set a new standard for an opponent, breaking an 18-year old record. Winbush’s effort would last as an opponent record for 14 years, until Ka’Deem Carey destroyed the record by going for 366 rushing yards against the Buffs for Arizona in 2012.

– The Jayhawks win was the first for Kansas over Colorado in Lawrence since 1981.

– Both teams finished with 373 yards of total offense, but Colorado’s season-high four turnovers – to none for Kansas – was the deciding factor (along with CU’s 105 yards in penalties).

– Jeremy Aldrich, who hit on 16-of-22 field goal attempts in 1998, connected on a season-best 46-yarder against Kansas.

– Three players had their first career starts against Kansas … freshman fullback Andy Peeke, junior offensive tackle Kane Cullum, and freshman linebacker Jashon Sykes. Of the three, only Sykes. who would go on to play in the NFL, had any other starts in the 1998 season.

– The Jayhawks’ victory proved to be the only Big 12 win of the season for Kansas. The Jayhawks would go on to win only one other game, a non-conference game against North Texas, to finish 4-7 for the 1998 season.

—–

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.