October 13th – Boulder          No. 20 Colorado 31, No. 25 Texas A&M 21

Ranked for the first time in season under Gary Barnett, the Buffs endured a late Texas A&M rally to defeat the Aggies on Homecoming weekend, 31-21.

With less than a minute to play, the Aggies trailed only 24-21 and had the ball deep in CU territory.  A game-tying field goal attempt seemed imminent.  Then linebacker Joey Johnson, making his second start in place of injured star Jashon Sykes, scooped up a fumble by Aggie quarterback Mark Farris and returned the ball 52 yards for the deciding points.

With six minutes remaining, the Buffs seemed to have the game well in hand.

Up 24-14, Colorado marched the ball into A&M territory.  Taking time off the clock with a balanced attack which would net 353 yards on the afternoon, victory seemed secure.  On a third down in A&M territory, however, quarterback Craig Ochs threw an interception, giving the Aggies the ball and new life.

It took only two plays and 21 seconds for A&M to score to cut the Colorado lead to 24-21 with five minutes still remaining to play.  The Buffs were not able to run the remaining time off of the clock on their next possession, and the Aggies took over on their own nine-yard line with two minutes left.

Farris marched the Aggies quickly down the field, and had A&M on the edge of field goal range when a blitz by linebacker Kory Mossoni forced the Farris fumble.

“It was getting ugly out there for a while at the end,” Johnson said.  “We were definitely on our heels.”

Texas A&M coach R.C. Slocum agreed.  “We were confident the game was ours,” said Slocum.  “We had the momentum in the last drive and we felt good with how we were playing.  I have to give credit to Colorado for making the big plays.”

Colorado was held without a 100-rusher for the first time since the opening game loss to Fresno State, but the defense rose the occasion, holding A&M to 42 yards rushing.  Craig Ochs, despite the interception, was effective when he needed to be, connecting on 14-of-28 passing for 183 yards, including a touchdown and a two-point conversion completion to Derrick McCoy.  For his part, McCoy, replacing injured senior starter John Minardi, had a career-best 113 yards receiving on five catches.

The Buffs were now 5-1, 3-0 in Big 12 play.

The second consecutive win over a ranked team was enough to push the Buffs to a No. 14 ranking.  Discussion concerning the Buffs now centered on a run for the Big 12 Championship, a possibility which seemed ludicrous only a month earlier.  A win on the road against Texas, 5-1 and ranked No. 9, would possibly garner the Buffs a top ten ranking for the first time in four years.

The Buffs had won six of the last seven meetings with Texas, including three straight wins in Austin.  The Longhorns, despite the top ten ranking, were hurting.  A 14-3 loss to Oklahoma two weeks before the CU game had all but eliminated Texas from national title contention.  Texas handled Oklahoma State, 45-17, prior to meeting Colorado, but the 9th- ranked Longhorns still had something to prove.

The Buffs were about to face a reality check.

“Thanks, Fred”

Prior to the opening kickoff against Texas A&M, the 49,521 on hand for Homecoming were asked for a moment of silence in honor of Fred “The Count” Casotti, who had died the day before.  Casotti had suffered a series of strokes over the previous year, and had died from complications associated with recent setbacks.

Fred Casotti was the official historian for the University of Colorado Athletic Department.

He had first come to Boulder in the 1940’s, graduating from CU with a degree in journalism in 1949.  In 1952, after three years in his native Iowa, Fred returned to Boulder to take over as the Buffs’ sports publicity director.

He never left again.

Casotti worked for the next sixteen years in publicity, being elevated to associate athletic director in 1968 by CU head coach and athletic director Eddie Crowder.  Fred took the title of special assistant to the athletic director in 1985 under Bill Marolt, and was named the school’s official historian in 1987.  Casotti authored three books on CU football, and attended an incredible 477 CU football games.

But the numbers, as staggering as they are, do not tell the whole story.  The University of Colorado athletic department, particularly its football team, was Fred Casotti’s life.  The press box at Folsom Field had recently been named in his honor.

And I am honored to say that I knew him.

When I was looking through the CU media guide in 1996, in hopes of finding someone who would give me access to the CU historical records I would need to research this work, I noted the Staff Directory listing under the Director of Media Relations:

“Historian – Fred Casotti (Colorado ‘49) …………. 530-7072″.

It seemed like a good place to start, so I called.

Fred Casotti was not only accessible to this neophyte, he was supportive and accommodating.  He opened the doors to the Media Relations office to me and introduced me to Assistant Athletic Director / Media Relations Dave Plati.  While cautioning me that books about CU football, including all three of his, did not sell well, Casotti encouraged me to pursue my passion for CU football.

“What a special person Fred was,” said Bill Marolt the week of Casotti’s death.  “Fred didn’t have an agenda.  His agenda was CU and the athletic department.”

It was all too fitting that the Buffs played on the day after his death – in Folsom Field, on a crisp fall afternoon, on Homecoming, against a ranked opponent.

What would not have been appropriate would have been a Colorado loss.

Just when it looked like Texas A&M was going to rally for a win against Fred’s Buffs, Kory Mossoni forced a fumble which Joey Johnson picked up and returned for a touchdown.  It was the Buffs’ first fumble recovery of the season.

Was it just a coincidence?  Not to CU assistant coach John Wristen.  As he ran off of the field after the game, Wristen said, looking upwards: “You know that fumble at the end?  Thank you, Fred.”

Thank you, indeed.

 Game Notes … 

– Senior cornerback Terrence Wood had two interceptions against Texas A&M. Overall, Wood had four picks in his CU career. Ironically, enough, the four interceptions came in just two games, as Wood also had two against Colorado State (9/2/00).

– Texas A&M came to Boulder with a 5-0 record and a No. 25 national ranking. After losing to the Buffs, the Aggies lost three of its final five games to finish the regular season 7-4, 4-4 in Big 12 play. Texas A&M was invited to play TCU in the Galleryfurniture.com Bowl in Houston. The Aggies took out the Horned Frogs, 28-9, to finish the 2001 season with an 8-4 overall record.

– Fred Casotti wrote three books on Colorado football: Football: CU Style (1972); The Golden Buffaloes (1980); and CU Century: 100 Years of Colorado Football (1990).  I am proud to say that I have an autographed copy of the CU Century book. The inscription: “To Stuart – History can be fun – if it’s about the Colorado Buffaloes. I hope you enjoy these memories.”


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