November 26th – Boulder           No. 3 Nebraska 33, Colorado 30 OT

The last play from scrimmage in the final Colorado/Nebraska game of the 20th century had the same result as the first play from scrimmage in the final Colorado/Nebraska game of the 20th century – a Nebraska touchdown.

Between those two scores, however, was written the script of one of the most memorable contests between the two schools in the 101-year history of the rivalry.

Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch scored on a one-yard sneak in overtime to give the third-ranked Cornhuskers a 33-30 overtime win over Colorado before a sellout Folsom Field crowd of 52,946. The short run brought an end to a furious Buff rally which witnessed a 24-point fourth quarter comeback. Jeremy Aldrich, CU’s all-time leading kicker, missed on a 34-yard field goal attempt as time expired in regulation which would have been the greatest comeback in Colorado football history.

From the outset, though, it did not appear that there would be a call for any last-minute heroics.

Ominously, Ralphie IV, the CU buffalo mascot, refused to run out on to the field before the game. The Buffs then attempted an onsides kick on the opening kickoff, which was recovered by Nebraska. On the Cornhuskers’ first play from scrimmage, Nebraska running back Dan Alexander took a pitch and promptly went around the right side for 50 yards and a touchdown.

14:45 still was left on the first quarter clock, and already the Buffs were in trouble.

Colorado’s first possession netted zero yards and a punt. Nebraska took the ball at their 40-yard line and quickly marched 60 yards in four plays for a 14-0 lead. The enthusiasm the Buff faithful had brought to the stadium was all but gone, with the only cheers coming from the thousands of red-clad Husker fans in attendance.

Any momentum the Buffs may have derived from a Jeremy Aldrich field goal late in the second quarter was quickly quashed by an 80-yard touchdown run by Dan Alexander two plays later. The score was 24-3 at halftime, and 27-3 at the end of three quarters.

Then the game got interesting.

First, Jeremy Aldrich connected on a 49-yard field goal to cut the Nebraska lead to 27-6. Next, after an exchange of punts, the Colorado defense, which had played tough since the second quarter, forced a fumble near midfield. For the first time all day, the Buffs’ offense clicked, driving 47 yards in just three plays for a score: a Marcus Stiggers eight-yard gain on a reverse; a 25-yard pass from Mike Moschetti to Javon Green; and then a 14-yard touchdown pass from Moschetti to John Minardi cut the lead to 27-13.

The Buffs were still down two scores, but 8:47 still remained to be played.

Nebraska’s offense, suddenly inoperative against a fired up Colorado defense, managed just six yards in its next possession, punting the ball back to the Buffs. This time, the Buffs marched 80 yards in 11 plays, culminating in a three-yard lob touchdown pass from Moschetti to tight end Dan Graham.

27-20, with 3:51 on the fourth quarter clock.

The Folsom Field crowd now in a frenzy, the Buffs attempted their second onsides kick of the day. This effort, unbelievably, was successful, with the onsides kick recovered by Damen Wheeler. Colorado now had the ball down only a touchdown. The Buff offense, which had generated only 117 yards in the first half, was now unstoppable. It took only four plays and 49 seconds for CU to travel 56 yards to tie the score. Moschetti hit Javon Green in the corner of the end zone from 21 yards out, and there was bedlam in Boulder. 27-27!!

The Colorado comeback was as quick as it was unlikely. Three touchdowns in just under six minutes. Almost three minutes remained as the fans geared up for overtime. But there was still some excitement left. After the Colorado defense forced yet another Nebraska punt, the Buffs took over on their five yard line.

Then disaster struck. Cortlen Johnson fumbled the ball on the Buffs’ 16-yard line. All that was left for Nebraska to do was run out the clock and kick the winning field goal. “The first thing that came to my mind was, ‘I can’t believe you just did this’ ” said Johnson after the game. “I didn’t want to come off the field. The defensive guys came up to me and said, ‘We’re going to get the ball back.”

A short Nebraska field goal to win the game, after all the Buffs had been through, would have been anti-climatic. The Buffs needed another miracle … and two plays later they got one. Nebraska fumbled the ball right back to the Buffs! Re-energized, the Colorado offense calmly drove down the field, traveling 69 yards in six plays to set up a game-winning field goal for Jeremy Aldrich. The kick sailed just right, though, and the game went into overtime.

In overtime, the Buffs took the ball first. Gaining only nine yards in the first three plays, coach Gary Barnett opted for a field goal. Aldrich was true from 33 yards out, giving Colorado its first lead of the game, 30-27. The Buff defense, though, could not hold one last time, as the Cornhuskers stayed on the ground for five plays, ending the game on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Eric Crouch.

“I don’t think I’ve ever seen more heart and resolve and fight in a team than what I saw there in the last 35 to 40 minutes,” said a teary-eyed Gary Barnett after the game. “Credit our kids for hanging in and hanging in instead of quitting. They just made a heck of a run at it.”

Section 208, Row 64 Seat 31

As you face the south endzone of Folsom Field, from say the 24-yard line, you are looking into the bowl of the stadium. Section 208, Row 64, is just off to the right of center. Just to the right of the right goal post, three-quarters of the way up.

The game-winning field … correction, what would have been the game-winning field goal, came right at us.

Jeremy Aldrich’s game-winning 34-yard field goal attempt with one second remaining in a tie game.

Why I was sitting in Section 208 instead of our season ticket Section of 216 is a long story involving obtaining extra tickets for the game. But there I was, with three guests for the game, surrounded on three sides by Nebraska fans. Aldrich’s kick, whom many felt was good, was never inside the upright. As it sailed right towards Section 208, it was just outside the right upright. It never wavered; never changed direction. Despite our fervent cries, it refused to hook inside the upright. It refused to end a victory drought against the Cornhuskers dating back to 1990. It refused to give the Buffs the greatest comeback in school history. It refused to give me the satisfaction of raising my arms in joy, of rushing out onto the Folsom Field grass to celebrate along with so many other long-suffering Buff faithful.

It came right at us.

And there was nothing we could do.

Nothing to do but watch as Nebraska made quick work of the Buffs in overtime.


A Good Loss

While the Buffs and their fans were still mourning the lost opportunity of the final moments of the Nebraska game, some good did come from the loss. Nebraska had come into the Colorado game ranked third in the Bowl Championship Series standings, behind undefeated Florida State and Virginia Tech. The Cornhuskers needed a convincing win over the Buffs, along with a win over Texas in the Big 12 Championship game, to play for the national title. The narrow escape from Boulder virtually eliminated the Cornhuskers’ title chances.

The game also had repercussions on the Buffs’ bowl chances.

The Big 12 had seven bowl eligible teams, but contracts for only six bowl slots. At the bottom of the list were Colorado and Texas Tech, both 6-5 (Oklahoma State lost its last game to Oklahoma to finish 5-6). The Red Raiders had an edge over the Buffs, in that they had trounced Colorado 31-10 earlier in the year, but now Colorado had the national attention of almost upsetting the third-ranked team in the nation. The near win was enough for the officials of the Bowl, formerly the Copper Bowl, who invited the Buffs to play 8-3 Boston College on New Year’s Eve. The national exposure, along with the extra practices a bowl bid represented, were of enormous value to the Buffs.

Still, the greatest impact of the game was several years from being realized. Fifteen recruits attended the Colorado/Nebraska game, and were on the sidelines for the comeback. Several of those present committed to play for Colorado. Whether the Nebraska game was the deciding factor for these players is speculation, but it had to help to have the loudest crowd in years cheering on the determined team effort.

By any account, as the Buffs settled in to practice for Boston College, hoping to finish the 1999 season on a winning note, few would soon forget the last Colorado/Nebraska game of the 20th century.

Here is the YouTube video of the game, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:


Game Notes –

– Dan Alexander’s 50-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage marked the fourth time in the last six games in which Nebraska scored against Colorado on the game’s first play.

– Javon Green had five catches for 100 yards, with Cortlen Johnson rushing for 135 yards on 25 carries. The game marked just the 19th time in school history that the Buffs were able to post a double-double in the same game. The pair were the team leaders for the season, with Cortlen Johnson the leading rusher in 1999 (172 carries for 835 yards and eight touchdowns) and Javon Green the leading receiver (40 catches for 663 yards and seven touchdowns).

– Colorado put up 504 yards of total offense against the nation’s third-ranked defense, with 284 yards coming in the fourth quarter alone. The Buff defense, after a rough start, finished holding Nebraska to 400 yards of total offense, while forcing five turnovers.

– The loss to Nebraska pushed Colorado down to third in the Big 12 North, with a 5-3 conference record. Based upon their victory over Kansas State, Nebraska went to the Big 12 title game (both finished 7-1 in conference play). Nebraska went on to defeat Texas in the Big 12 title game, 22-6, and then Tennessee in the Fiesta Bowl. The Cornhuskers 12-1 record was good enough for a No. 3 ranking in the 1999 final polls.

Leave a Reply

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