November 24th – at Nebraska          No. 23 Nebraska 37, Colorado 14

Colorado stayed with No. 23 Nebraska for the better part of three quarters, but the fourth quarter witnessed the Buffs succumb to a more talented team. In the end, the Buffs limped out of Memorial Coliseum in Lincoln on the short end of a 37-14 score.

The game did not start off well for 2-9 Colorado, with a Matt DiLallo punt being partially blocked on the Buffs’ first possession. The Buff defense made the Cornhuskers work for their first score, with Nebraska needing ten plays (and the aide of a phantom facemask call) to go 58 yards. A 15-yard scoring pass from Zac Taylor to Terrence Nunn gave Nebraska a 7-0 lead with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.

The Buffs bounced right back, however, with a scoring drive of their own.  The Colorado offense marched 75 yards in just six plays, with Bernard Jackson connecting with tight end Riar Geer for a 14-yard touchdown and a 7-7 game late in the first quarter.

The teams remained tied until late in the second quarter, when Nebraska regained the lead with a trick play. The Cornhuskers were facing a field goal attempt at the CU 29-yard line. Joe Ganz lined up as the kicker, but instead took a direct snap, hitting defensive end Barry Turner for a 29-yard touchdown and a 14-7 halftime lead.

Nebraska looked to take command with a long drive to open the third quarter, but Lionel Harris forced a fumble from running back Brandon Jackson at the CU 19-yard line. Thaddaeus Washington recovered for the Buffs, returning the ball to the CU 29-yard line. Four plays later, Omaha native Mell Holliday scored four plays later on a 45-yard run, tying the score at 14-14 three minutes into the second half.

The Cornhuskers regained the lead with a Brandon Jackson late in the third quarter with a two-yard run. Down 21-14 to open the final quarter, the Buffs still had a chance at an upset …

… but instead got rolled.

In the opening minute of the quarter, Mell Holliday was tackled in the end zone for a safety, giving Nebraska a nine-point advantage at 23-14. When the Cornhuskers scored off of the ensuing free kick on an 18-yard touchdown pass from Zac Taylor to Brandon Jackson, the game was over. An unnecessary touchdown – a seven-yard scoring run with 23 seconds left in the game – gave the ranked Cornhuskers a more “impressive” 37-14 victory.


Seeing Red

I was late.

After six months of planning. Six months of anticipation. And six hundred dollars for the plane ticket (motel room included).

I still missed the kickoff.

When the National Football League announced in the spring of 2006 that the first live broadcast for the new NFL Network would be the Kansas City Chiefs against the Denver Broncos on Thanksgiving night, I almost couldn’t believe my good fortune. My favorite NFL team (the Chiefs) against my least favorite team (the dreaded Broncos), the night before the Colorado/Nebraska game in Lincoln? What could be more perfect than a holiday football doubleheader?

Randy had often talked about going to a Nebraska game in Lincoln, and with the NFL giving a Thanksgiving day game to a city other than Detroit and Dallas for the first time in my memory, and placing it less than 24 hours (and less than 200 miles) from the Buffs’ game, the trip became mandatory.

The compulsive planner that I am, I had it all worked out. We would fly to Kansas City Thanksgiving day, head out to the stadium early for some tail-gating, then stay in K.C. Thursday night. We would then have plenty of time to make it to Lincoln for the 2:30 kickoff on Friday. We would then drive back to Kansas City Friday night and head back to Bozeman on Saturday.

Then Northwest Airlines canceled our early afternoon connecting flight from Minneapolis to Kansas City.

We were booked on a later flight, which got us into Kansas City only an hour and a half before kickoff, and left us in the Minneapolis airport for much of Thanksgiving afternoon. Still, it was only 30 miles from the airport to the stadium (and all on the Interstate), so if the flight was on time, we still had a good shot at making the game with time to spare.

Then the plane was late.

We were about a half hour late getting to Kansas City, but since we didn’t check any luggage, and had a rental car waiting for us, we left KCI in good order. Only an accident on the road to the game prevented us from making it to the stadium with time for a leisurely stroll to our seats. We parked the rental in an outer lot, then scrambled towards the glow of lights which was Arrowhead Stadium. We could hear the pregame introductions being blasted over the loudspeakers as we approached the gate.

We had made it!

Then the security guards turned me away.

I had brought with me my backpack. The same backpack I took with me into Folsom Field. All I had in it was my camera, radio, gloves, and a hat. Still, the guards were insistent. No backpacks. And no place to check the bag. I had no choice but to turn around and return the backpack to the car. I gave Randy his ticket, and told him, “see you in half an hour”. The outer parking lot where we had parked the car was a good ten to fifteen minute walk. As I turned back towards the darkness, I could hear the national anthem booming out into the night air.

By the time I made it to our seats, half of the first quarter had been played. Broncos’ quarterback Jake Plummer threw an interception on the game’s opening drive, and the Chiefs had turned the turnover into a field goal and a 3-0 lead. While I didn’t get to see the pick or the score, I did listen to the opening drives on my radio. It certainly helped that it was my team which was playing well early.

The game was all that I had hoped for. There were 80,866 on hand, the fifth largest crowd in Arrowhead Stadium history (and the largest since 1972), John Fogerty performed at halftime, and – best of all – the Chiefs won! Larry Johnson ran for 157 yards and the Chiefs dominated. Still, the Chiefs had to settle for field goals instead of touchdowns on their drives, not putting the game away until Lawrence Tynes put through a 21-yarder with just over two minutes to play to seal the 19-10 win.

After getting back to the hotel in time to get some sleep, Randy and I headed north to Corn country the next morning. Being late was not an issue here, as we made to Lincoln over two hours before kickoff. Surrounded by a red sea of Cornhusker fans, we sought out any signs of black and gold. We found some fellow travelers fairly quickly. In a parking lot fairly near the stadium, we found the “Buff Bus”, a converted short school bus which had been painted black and gold. The owners, sponsored by a Boulder brewery, were more than happy to share beer and stories. A small crowd gathered, and the neighboring Husker tail-gaters were friendly. One couple came over to offer us a “Cherry Bomb”, a weird combination of Red Bull and what appeared to be a cherry-flavored vodka. Even though the man’s outfit gave us pause (his red and white baggy pants were held up by red and white suspenders, giving him the look of a rodeo clown), we couldn’t turn down the hospitality.

Overall, there was little bad I could say about the Nebraska fans. There were a few remarks along the way, mostly by college age fans who had probably been imbibing for several hours before kickoff, but for the most part we were treated well. The stadium itself was a remarkable structure, with the new additions not quite blending with the old solid gray rock of the original Memorial Stadium, but most of the discordance was only observable underneath the stadium in the concession areas.

Once inside the stadium, though, one could not help but be impressed. The huge television replay screen dominated one endzone, and everyone was covered from head to toe in red. It was loud, but not as loud as Arrowhead Stadium had been the night before (even Randy, who had no love for the Chiefs, agreed). Perhaps it came from the fact that the Cornhuskers had trouble all afternoon putting the Buffs away. It was only 14-7 at halftime, and was tied 14-all late into the third quarter. Moreover, I sensed that the Nebraska fans, long noted for being some of the most knowledgeable in the nation, were a bit disconcerted about how Nebraska was winning the game. The Cornhuskers scored on a fake field goal. They also tried numerous other trick plays, from halfback passes to reverses, to a fourth down fake pooch punt. It was as if the red-clad faithful were murmuring to themselves, “do we need to do this against a 2-9 team? Shouldn’t we save some of these plays for the Big 12 title game next week?”

The final score gnawed at me all the way back to Kansas City. The final touchdown, making the final 37-14, came with less than a minute to play. Nebraska head coach Bill Callahan could easily have taken a knee instead of going for another score, but chose instead to go for “style points”, running up the final tally. That feeling – outrage, indignation – will not be something I will soon forget.

The Nebraska crowd set a new record for attendance – 85,800. This gave Randy and I a tally of over 160,000 red-clad fans in less than 24 hours. Counting the 93,000 in attendance at the Georgia game in September, my personal count for fans in red stood at over a quarter of a million for the season. (And I was certainly seeing red – in another definition – after the last score of the Nebraska game).

For the Buffs, counting the games against Arizona State, Iowa State and Texas Tech at home, who also wore red, and Oklahoma and Kansas on the road (for some reason, the Jayhawks, who normally were blue at home, decided to wear red for their home game against the Buffs), the Colorado football team saw a great deal of red in 2006. The team also saw red, in terms of deficits, in enduring the third worst record in school history.

What else the Buffs took from a 2-10 season, though, would remain to be seen.


Game Notes 

– Colorado finished with a 2-10 record, just the third ten-loss season in the 117-year history of the school.

– The loss to the 23rd-ranked Cornhuskers was the 14-straight loss by the Buffs to ranked teams.

– Jordon Dizon had a career-high 19 tackles to lead the Buffs.

– Mell Holliday’s 45-yard scoring run, along with a 44-yard run by Hugh Charles, represented two of the five longest plays from scrimmage for the Buffs the entire season.

– Despite the 2-10 record, Colorado finished the seasons with four players earning All-Big 12 first team recognition: kicker Mason Crosby (also named to several first-team All-American squads); linebacker Jordon Dizon; cornerback Terrence Wheatley; and defensive end Abraham Wright.

– Nebraska, with a 9-3, 6-2 record, went on to represent the Big 12 North in the Big 12 title game against No. 10 Oklahoma. A 21-7 loss to the Sooners sent the Cornhuskers to the Cotton Bowl. There Nebraska faced another No. 10 team, this time Auburn. A 17-14 loss gave Nebraska a final record of 9-5, outside of the final polls.



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