October 3rd – at Oklahoma          No. 15 Colorado 27, Oklahoma 25

Prior to 1995, no team – not in-state rival Oklahoma State, not long time rival Nebraska – no team had ever defeated Oklahoma four consecutive times in Norman.

In 1995, though, No. 4 Colorado romped over No. 10 Oklahoma 38-17 to set the new standard. With a 27-25 come-from-behind (again) win in 1998, the Colorado Buffaloes registered their fifth consecutive win over Oklahoma on their home turf, raising the bar yet again.

Quarterback Mike Moschetti threw three touchdown passes, while Marlon Barnes ran for a career-high 135 yards to lead the Buffs to a 5-0 record (2-0 in Big 12 play).

The game did not start out well for the Buffs, as Oklahoma produced an early seven-play, 80-yard drive to post the first points of the game on an 11-yard run by De’Mond Parker for a touchdown. Parker high-stepped into the end zone, and was called for a celebration penalty. The first quarter score was left at 6-0 after the 35-yard extra point attempt was missed.

Early in the second quarter, the Buffs took the lead for good.

Colorado capped a ten-play, 86-yard drive with a 19-yard scoring pass from Mike Moschetti to Darrin Chiaverini. On the Buffs’ next drive, a 57-yard catch and run by freshman tight end Daniel Graham set up a five-yard touchdown pass from Moschetti to Marcques Spivey gave the Buffs a 14-6 advantage.

A pair of Oklahoma field goals, one in the second quarter, one late in the third, made the score 14-12 heading into the fourth quarter.

The Buffs upped the lead to 20-12 early in the fourth when a 70-yard Colorado drive was finished off by a 20-yard touchdown pass from Moschetti to Roman Hollowell. Like De’Mond Parker in the first quarter, Hollowell was flagged for excessive celebration, and the 35-yard extra point attempted was missed, leaving it a one-score game at 20-12 with 11:15 to play.

A few plays later, it was 27-12.

Senior cornerback Marcus Washington intercepted a Patrick Fletcher pass and returned it 40 yards for a touchdown for a seemingly comfortable 15-point Buff lead with 10:17 to play in the game.

Thereafter, however, the previously stingy Buff defense helped keep the 71,217 Sooner faithful in their Owens Field seats. Right after the Marcus Washington pick six, the Buffs surrendered a touchdown on a two-play, 52-yard drive to make the score 27-18 (the two-point conversion attempt failed) with 9:16 still remaining.

A second fourth quarter Oklahoma score with 1:05 left made the score 27-25, giving the Sooners one last chance. When Darrin Chiaverini fell on the Sooners’ onside kick attempt, however, the cardiac Buffs were able to run out the clock to preserve a second consecutive two-point conference win.

“I said going in”, said Rick Neuheisel after the game, “I wouldn’t mind being an exposed 5-0. We know what the problems are, and we have a chance to fix them.”

The offense continued to be little more than acceptable. Even with Moschetti’s three touchdown passes and Marlon Barnes’ career effort, Colorado put up only 317 yards of total offense. The defense, which had been the bright spot of the team, had been the victim of unexplained lapses. Special teams had been an adventure – occasionally outstanding; but often dangerous.

Injuries also continued to pile up on the young Buffs, making the 5-0 record all the more precarious.

Promising freshman Cedric Cormier, who had dazzled CSU with his 82-yard punt return for a touchdown in the season-opener, was lost for the year after the Oklahoma game with a torn ACL. In all, 12 players had already been lost to the Buffs for a total of 30 games. “I’ve never seen anything like this”, said Neuheisel, “and neither has our trainer (Dave Burton).”

But the Buffs would not receive any sympathy from their next foe, 5th-ranked Kansas State.

The Wildcats were 4-0 on the young season, and was the media darling of college football. Long the doormat of the NCAA football arena, the Wildcats were the consensus choice to be the only Big 12 team with a shot at dethroning Nebraska as the Big 12 bully. Heading into the CU game, Kansas State had the statistics to back up this belief. Over admittedly weak opposition, the Wildcats were first in the nation in no fewer than eight categories, including scoring offense (62.3 ppg.), scoring defense (5.3 ppg.), and total defense (205.5 yds/game).

Colorado would not to be allowed the luxury of a merely acceptable performance if there were to be any chance of defeating Kansas State. A national television audience would witness the 5:00 p.m. kickoff in Boulder to see which of these two undefeated teams were for real.

Here is the YouTube video of the game … 


Silver Dollar Bar

Size is relative.

To those living in New York City, the Denver-Boulder metro area represents little more than a distant outpost. To those in Denver, the 35,000 souls living in Bozeman, Montana, (in 1998, anyway) seemed quite remote.

For those of us living in Bozeman, the town of Ennis, Montana, was considered small.

Only a few hundred souls lived there year-round, but it was in this quiet little town, where much of the population makes its living off of the world-class fishing in the area, that I found myself for the Colorado/Oklahoma game in 1998.

As President of the Gallatin Empire Lions Club, I was expected to attend the Lions Club District Convention in Ennis on October 3rd. (“Convention” was something of a misnomer. Around 100 were in attendance, and to accommodate even that number, most of the activity took place in the high school gymnasium). I had monetary contributions to present to the District Governor on behalf of my Club, and I needed to make a nominating speech for one of our Club’s members who was interested in becoming District Governor.

Long story short … I was stuck in this Montana hamlet on a college football Saturday.

But they didn’t say I had to be there the entire day.

Randy, with whom I had attended the CSU game, and who would travel with me to Boulder for the Kansas State game, was with me in Ennis. After lunch, we made our getaway. We were off, in search of … a television.

There were few options. All included bars.

We settled on the Silver Dollar bar. Even though the Colorado/Oklahoma game was a regional ABC telecast, the satellite at the bar could only pick up an inconsequential (to us) game between 0-3 North Carolina and a 1-3 Clemson. Since the Tar Heel/Tiger clash was also an ABC game, we hoped to at least pick up some highlights. Unfortunately, few were forthcoming, and we had to sweat out the afternoon.

We never saw the 27-12 4th-quarter score, a score which would have given us some relief. Sadly, the Buffs gave Oklahoma a makeup touchdown so quickly that the updates went from 20-12 to 27-18. Still, with a two-score lead, we were fairly comfortable as the day clock moved toward 5:00 p.m. The game had to over soon, didn’t it?

Finally, after much consternation, the final score, 27-25, was posted across the ABC scrawl.

Randy and I could return to the Lions Club Convention in peace.

Colorado was now 5-0, and was ranked 14th in the country. Had anyone offered me a 5-0 start for the Buffs, especially after the 5-6 debacle of 1997, I would have leapt at the chance.

So why didn’t we feel better?

The Buffs were decimated by injuries, with freshman plugging holes everywhere. The team had put together a grand total of one half of domination (the second half against Colorado State) all year, and Kansas State, though unchallenged, had bombed all four of its opponents, including a 48-7 drubbing of Texas.

Would this be the week when the Buffs would be exposed as a pretender?

Or would the Buffs play to the level of their competition and put forth their best game of the year?

In some ways, the answer to both questions turned out to be “yes”.

Game Notes –

– Sophomore safety John Sanders led the Buffs’ defense with 15 tackles, but was injured during the Oklahoma contest, and would miss the next three games. Sanders would go on to finish third on the team in tackles in 1998, with 65 (47 unassisted).

– Marlon Barnes made his first career start against Oklahoma. Despite missing the first three games of the season due to injury – and missing two more games before the end of the season, Barnes would go on to lead the team in rushing in 1998, with 572 yards on 121 carries.

– The win over the Sooners was not only the fifth in a row in Norman, but gave Colorado a four game winning streak, and an eight game unbeaten streak against Oklahoma (7-0-1, with the tie coming in 1992). Previously, the Buffs’ longest winning streak against the Sooners was … two games (1960-61 and 1965-66).

– With the win, the series against Oklahoma moved to 34-15-2, Sooners … so before the streak, the series was 34-8-1 – ouch!

– Oklahoma would go on to lose its next three games after falling to the Buffs, and would finish the season with a 5-6 record. A third consecutive losing season marked the end of the John Blake era in Norman (12-22), with the Sooners turning to a new head coach, Bob Stoops, for the 1999 campaign.


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