November 6th – at Kansas State           No.6 Kansas State 20, Colorado 14

The crowd of 52,077, the second-largest ever at Kansas State, was in a joyous mood.

On the field, their sixth-ranked Wildcats were in the late stages of a rout of Colorado, leading 20-0 in the fourth quarter. The public address announcer had just let the Kansas State faithful know that 2nd-ranked Penn State had fallen from the ranks of the unbeaten, 24-23, on a last-second field by Minnesota. The Wildcats’ second chance at a national championship appeared to be there for the taking.

But it was the Buffs who almost stole the show.

Down 20-0 with under seven minutes to play, the Buffs began an unlikely rally. With 6:21 remaining, Mike Moschetti hit Javon Green on a 64-yard touchdown to trim the Kansas State lead to 20-7. After a Wildcat punt, the Buffs struck quickly. Once again, the connection was from Moschetti-to-Green, as the junior wide receiver broke several tackles on the way to a 70-yard score. All of the sudden, it was 20-14, with 4:12 still remaining.

The party atmosphere which had permeated Kansas State stadium fell to a hush as Colorado recovered the ensuing onside kick. Backup free safety Roderick Sneed, however, was called offsides. The Wildcats subsequently held the ball until only 1:59 remained. A final drive by the Buffs fell to the earth in the form of an incomplete fourth down pass with 30 seconds left on the clock.

Kansas State had its victory, and Colorado had fallen to 5-4 (4-2 in the Big 12), but the Buff defense could not be blamed for the loss. Held below 35 points for the first time all season, the Wildcats could only muster 197 yards of total offense. 68 of those yards came on a touchdown pass from Wildcat quarterback Jonathan Beasley to Quincy Morgan late in the first quarter. The only other touchdown of the game for Kansas State came after a blocked punt set the Wildcats up at the Colorado 12-yard line just before half.

m hurting right now for the defense, because I know how hard they played,” added Buff tailback Dwayne Cherrington. Cherrington “led” the Buff rushing attack with 32 yards on 13 carries. Overall, with five sacks considered, Colorado had a total of only 10 yards rushing.

25 passes, and was picked off three times. 13 on third down conversion attempts.

Left on the Buffs’ schedule were Baylor, 1-8 after a 45-10 loss to Kansas, and 8-1 Nebraska, fresh off of a 37-0 pasting of 21st-ranked Texas A&M. While Nebraska was now set to face Kansas State in Lincoln for the Big 12 Northern Division title, Colorado would travel to Waco, Texas, for a game which would bring little national attention.

But for Buff fans, however, the game was very important. The game against the Bears meant an opportunity for a sixth win – and bowl eligibility.

Be Careful What you ask For ….

How is it that the saying goes?

“Be careful what you ask for, as you will surely get it”.

The week leading up to the Kansas State game, I sent an e-mail to Brad. In it, I noted that I would not be too upset if the Buffs, 16-point underdogs to Kansas State, kept the game within ten points. With two consecutive good wins under our belts, I didn’t want to lose the forward momentum the program appeared to have gathered. A close loss to the sixth-ranked team in the nation, on the road, would not be a step back, and the Buffs could finish the season with a win at Baylor and at least be assured of a bowl bid.

Well, I got want I wanted. The Buffs lost by only six points, and even had the ball in the final minute with a chance to win. I had no reason to be upset.

I lied.

“Kansas State overlooked us,” said Javon Green after the game. “We definitely scared them.”

“Scared them?”.

This was Kansas State, for crying out loud. In 1995, Rick Neuheisel’s first campaign, the Buffs traveled to Manhattan to face the Wildcats in the season’s final game. Colorado was 8-2 on the season, 4-2 in Big Eight play. Kansas State had only one loss in conference, and was ranked No.7. A loss, and the Buffs would finish 4-3 in conference, coming in fourth place. A win meant second place (behind undefeated Nebraska), and a Cotton Bowl bid. Colorado went on to defeat Kansas State, 27-17, going on to finish 10-2 and ranked 5th in the nation.

That game against Kansas State was a watershed moment for Neuheisel in his first year as coach. A loss and a fourth place finish would have meant the Buffs had taken a step back from the national prominence left to Neuheisel by the retiring Bill McCartney. But the Buffs came through. Kansas State had been put back in its place.

In 1999, however, a “close” loss was perceived as a moral victory. Colorado was now 5-4, and would have to win out, including a bowl win, to match the efforts of the 1998 squad. Yet there was no clamoring for Barnett’s head, no anger at the mediocre team the Buffs had become. Status as the main competition to Nebraska in the Northern Division of the Big 12 had been ceded to Kansas State.

“We’re right there (with Kansas State)”, said Barnett after his Buffs had come within a quarter of being shut out for the second time in his brief tenure as coach. “I don’t see any difference between our two teams.”

I did. Kansas State fans were prepping for a showdown with Nebraska for the opportunity to play for the national title. Colorado fans were praying that the Buffs would not overlook Baylor and that a sixth win would be sufficient to garner an invite to a bowl in San Antonio, Tucson, or Shreveport, Louisiana.

Alluding to the Buffs’ opportunity to play for the Big 12 Championship with a win over Kansas State, the coaches handed out to the players t-shirts before the game reading: “Champions are crowned in November.”

The Buffs were now 0-1 in November, and there would be no championships in 1999.

Close losses and moral victories don’t count.

Even if you hope for them.

Game Notes —

– The Kansas State win over Colorado was the third consecutive for the Wildcats.  Never before, in the 55-game series between the teams, had Kansas State won three straight over the Buffs.  (In fact, only once before, in 1973-74, had the Wildcats so much as won twice in consecutive years).  The overall series now stood at 39-15-1, Colorado.

– There were only 411 yards of total offense between the two teams, with just under half (202) coming on three long scoring plays. Overall, there were 18 punts in the game, 16 three-and-outs, six turnovers, and only one of the 69 rushing attempts went for over nine yards.

– More defensive numbers – of the 115 plays in the game, 71 gained two yards or less (36 by Kansas State, 35 by Colorado). Each team had just 12 plays of five plays or more. There were only 17 total first downs, with ten by Kansas State (four by penalty), and only seven by Colorado.

– Quirky scoring … In the 1998 and 1999 games, Kansas State out-scored Colorado 36-0 in the first 53 minutes of those games, with the Buffs rallying to outscore the Wildcats, 23-0 in the final seven minutes.

– CU quarterback Mike Moschetti had the Buffs’ longest punt of the season, 70 yards, against the Wildcats, with the punt coming on a quick kick.

– Despite being held in check for most of the game, the two touchdown passes from Mike Moschetti to Javon Green, covering 70 and 64 yards, were two of the four longest plays by the Colorado offense all season.

– Four Buffs had at least ten tackles against the Wildcats – safety Michael Lewis (12), linebacker Jashon Sykes (12), nose tackle Justin Bannan (10) and linebacker Drew Wahlroos.

– Kansas State would rise up to No. 5 in the nation after defeating Colorado. The following week, however, the Wildcats fell to No. 7 Nebraska, 41-15, dropping to 9th. After a 66-0 rout of Missouri and a 24-20 win over Washington in the Holiday Bowl, Kansas State finished 6th in the final poll, the highest final ranking in school history.

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