CU at the Game Preview – Nebraska (Note: you will have to scroll down to read the preview and reveiw)

If the internet traffic is any indication, there is very little credibility to the Nebraska argument that Colorado is not its main rival. Cyberspace is riddled with Cornhusker fans salivating at the chance to get even for the 65-51 CU win in Boulder last season.

Can the 5-6 Buffs stay with the 7-4 Cornhuskers? The CU at the Game “T.I.P.S.” are up for your review and critique, including two stats to keep a close eye on this Friday ……

Read The Entire Preview!…

Nebraska 40, Colorado 31 (Note: you will have to scroll down to read the preview and reveiw)

A heart-breaking last minute loss to Nebraska will keep Colorado home for the holidays for the second time in three seasons. Below is a look at the game’s highlights, including locker room quotes and final statistics.

PLUS, if you are not in the mood just yet to re-live the recap of the game, I offer you “Coach Mac v. Coach Hawk” – a look at the first three seasons for each coach at Colorado. Both endured three losing seasons to open their CU careers. Both received contract extensions during their third tumultumous campaigns.

Coach Mac’s fourth season turned out pretty well. Now, as for Coach Hawk’s fourth season …..

Read The Entire Review!…

Trivia you Absolutely Need to Know – Nebraska

When sparring with Nebraska fans, you must remember to call them by one of their original nicknames, the “Bugeaters”. What other strange names have the Cornhuskers gone by?

In 2007, Nebraska tied for last in the Big 12 North. Previous to last year, when was the last time Nebraska finished last in football?

Why did “Herbie the Husker” disappear from NU sidelines for a number of years

Read Trivia…

This Day in History – November 28th

This late in the season, you are going to find rivalry games.

November 28th does not disappoint. This date is loaded with great rivalry games, including:

1981 – #11 Penn State takes on Dan Marino and #1 Pittsburgh.

Three – three! – games involving Texas and Texas A&M: 1985, #15 Texas A&M beats up on #18 Texas; 1997, #15 Texas A&M takes on Ricky Williams and the Longhorns; and 2003, Vince Young and the #6 Longhorns take care of business against the Aggies.

1992 – just for fun. #1 Miami and Heisman trophy candidate Gino Toretta take on San Diego State and their Heisman hopeful, Marshall Faulk.

For Buff fans, I have good news and bad news. The good news? Colorado is 7-3 all-time on November 28th. The bad news? All seven wins took place prior to 1960.

Still, I offer for you the 1997 Colorado/Nebraska game. John Hessler leads the 5-6 Buffs on a desperate comeback against the Cornhuskers. Despite the outcome, the final quarter remains compelling drama to this day …..

Read On…

What are you going to do next week?

This is it, CUatthegamers!

You may have been lulled into a false sense of security, knowing that game previews went out on Wednesday nights all season, and that reviews would be posted the morning after each game.

What will you do now? is not going away. Recruiting is in full swing. Bowl game previews are just ahead. There will be news and information to share throughout the off-season. How will you know if something new has been posted on

By being on the email update list, of course! It’s absolutely free. There are no obligations. You can’t get off the list anytime you like, and your email address will not be used for any other purpose.

What is there to lose? Send me an email at – and stay informed year ’round!

Archive Game of the Week

When you are playing your main rival, many games stand out in your mind. The 20-10 win over Nebraska in 1986 remains the game in my mind, but there are others, including 62-36 in 2001.

For the archive game of the week, since the Buffs are in Lincoln, I have chosen the 1990 Colorado/Nebraska game. The set up needs little introduction. #9 Colorado v. #3 Nebraska. The winner was likely to be Orange Bowl bound, and would be a contender in the national championship race.

For three quarters, the Buffs faltered.

At the start of the fourth quarter, it was Nebraska 12, Colorado 0.

Then, a fourth quarter for the ages ……

Go To The Archived Game of The Week…

CU At The Game – Nebraska Preview

The Buffs enter the rivalry game against the Cornhuskers with the same season-saving risk as last year – lose and you’re done; win and you get a bowl bid. Unlike last year, though, the 5-6 Buffs will not be playing at home. Also, instead of facing a 5-6 Nebraska squad in disarray, Colorado will be facing a Cornhusker team which has won four of its last five games, and has scored less than 28 points in only one Big 12 Conference game this season.

How can the offensively-challenged CU squad pull off the upset in Lincoln? I give you this week’s “T.I.P.S.”

T – Talent

Well, it’s official. The Buffs are a triage unit of historic proportions. Heading into the Nebraska game, CU has lost 109 games due to injury or illness, with all but ten of those 109 games from players on the two-deep or regular contributors on special teams. Associate Athletic Director Dave Plati, CU’s Sports Information Director for the past 25 years, reports that he has no record of the Buffs having so many key players lost to injury in one season.

For the Nebraska game? In addition to those who are out for the season, like Ryan Miller and Rodney Stewart, the Buffs are hurting in the defensive backfield. Senior safety Ryan Walters, who played only one series against Oklahoma State, remains in a protective boot, and is listed as questionable for Nebraska. The Buffs’ other senior safety, D.J. Dykes, who missed all of the Oklahoma State game with an undisclosed illness, is also unlikely to play this Friday. This leaves the responsibility of containing the Nebraska passing game to red-shirt freshman Anthony Perkins and true freshman Patrick Mahnke, both of whom saw most of the action against the Cowboys on November 15th.

As to the offense Perkins and Mahnke will be trying to stop, there was a report this week that Nebraska starting quarterback Joe Ganz had injured his shoulder. Ganz had an MRI on Monday (November 17th), and sat out practices earlier this week. According to Nebraska officials, Ganz suffered only a “minor shoulder injury”, and will be ready to go against Colorado on the 28th. Whether Ganz will be able to go full speed, or if the Cornhuskers are just trying to redirect the media and the Buffs, we won’t know until kickoff.

If Ganz is a full go, he will lead a potent offense against Colorado. Ganz is 12th in the nation in total offense, putting up over 300 yards per game (Cody Hawkins, in contrast, is averaging just over 150 yards of total offense per game). The favorite receivers for Ganz are wideouts Nate Swift and Todd Peterson, who, like Ganz, are seniors. The running game was supposed to be led by another senior, Marion Lucky, who was the leading returning rusher in the Big 12 this season. Lucky, however, has been supplanted as the Cornhuskers’ featured back by sophomore tailback Roy Helu, Jr.

Fortunately for the Buffs, the Nebraska defense, statistically one of the worst in the nation in 2007, is only marginally better in 2008. The Nebraska pass defense is 90th in the nation, giving up 234 yards per game, while the Cornhuskers are ranked 91st in scoring defense, giving up 29 points on average throughout the season (and an average of 41 points per game in the three NU outings so far in November).

While getting into a scoring duel with the Cornhuskers is a tough assignment for the points challenged Colorado offense, it may be the only way to beat Nebraska this weekend.

I – Intangibles

As Yogi Berra would say, “This is like deja vu all over again”. For the fourth time in 11 years, the Buffs will be playing Nebraska with a bowl trip and a potential winning season on the line.

In 1997, the 5-5 Buffs faced off in Boulder against an undefeated and 2nd-ranked Cornhusker squad. A second half rally led by quarterback John Hessler (recounted below in the”This Day in History” section) came up just short, and the Buffs stayed home from the post-season for the first time in ten seasons.

In 2003, the Buffs were 5-6 and on a two-game winning streak when the 25th-ranked Cornhuskers came to Boulder. In a see-saw battle which saw four lead changes, Nebraska emerged with a 31-22 victory. The Buffs lost the game, but the Cornhuskers lost their coach, as NU head man Frank Solich was fired the following evening despite the win over CU.

In 2007, Colorado finally broke through. Both teams were 5-6 coming into the contest, and Nebraska seemed to be in the best position to make post-season plans when the halftime score read: Nebraska 35; Colorado 24. Back-to-back interceptions to start the second half, including a 31 yard interception return for a touchdown by Jimmy Smith, ignited a 34-point explosion, leading the Buffs to a 65-51 victory and a bowl bid.

The one thing the first three “do-or-die” games for CU had in common was that they were all played in Boulder. This will be the first time that the Buffs will have a “bowl bid or go home” on the line in Lincoln. Also working against Colorado is the Buffs’ history in Lincoln. Colorado is only 8-24 all-time at Memorial Stadium, with only three of those wins (1990, 2002, and 2004), coming in the past forty years.

Still, two of those wins were in the recent past, and Colorado has won four of the past seven games overall in the series. The small band of seniors who are still with the program, including five or six starting on defense (depending on whether safety Ryan Walters can play), can leave the program as one of the few groups to take three of five from the Cornhuskers.

The Cornhuskers are 7-4, and believe they may be in line for a New Year’s Day bowl (Gator) if they defeat the Buffs. Nebraska would be 8-4, and will have closed out the season with three convincing wins (not to mention a state full of fans looking to travel after being shut out last season). To say Nebraska has nothing on the line in the regular season finale would be inaccurate.

But it pales in comparison to what the Buffs are playing for this weekend.

P – Preparation / Schedule

This is why I don’t gamble.

For Colorado and its die-hard fans to be able to get through the next nine months with some semblance of sanity, there could not be any tongue-wagging from Boulder’s northern neighbor. Colorado State went into yesterday’s game with Wyoming with a 5-6 record. The Rams needed to defeat the Cowboys in Laramie, and get some help, in order to secure a bowl bid.

The Rams, down 14-3, in the second quarter, stormed back to a 31-20 win.

Fine. The Rams finished 6-6, but bowl-eligible does not necessarily mean bowl-bound. A 6-6 Mountain West team is not likely to attract many bowl bids. The conference only has four guaranteed slots, and a mediocre mid-major team with a 6-6 record is not as likely to get an offer as a 6-6 team from a BCS conference. Heading into Saturday, the conference already had four teams with eight wins.

Then Utah beat BYU, 48-24, to all but sew up a BCS bowl bid. As a result, everyone in the Mountain West conference moves up a slot, and a fifth bowl-eligible team will now be given one of the MWC’s guaranteed positions.

But, wait. UNLV was also 5-6 heading into yesterday’s finales, and was playing lowly San Diego State. If the Rebels were to finish 6-6, they would likely be more attractive to a bowl committee, and the Rams could still be shut out. San Diego State was 1-10 entering the game, with an 0-7 record in Mountain West play.

Final score: San Diego State 42; UNLV 21.


So, the Rams will be going bowling under first-year head coach Steve Fairchild. If the Buffs fail to beat Nebraska, and finish 5-7, you might as well slap honey on us Buff fans and strap us to tree outside a bear’s den.

Three straight losing seasons under Dan Hawkins? Steve Fairchild turned around a program in one season – what’s up with your coach?

Enjoying that off-season conditioning? The Ram players are getting in some extra practice for their warm weather bowl.

What’s it like to cheer for a team whose coach is 13-24?

Who do you think should be favored in the 2009 opener – a team with a winning coach, or a team with excuses who is too afraid to play at a neutral site?

If the Buffs don’t win on Friday against Nebraska, it will be brutal.

Anyone one of three games on Saturday could have spared us from the above. All three turned out the wrong way.

Better luck with the game in Lincoln.

S – Stats

If there is a statistic that is more bizarre this season than the Buffs leading the Big 12 Conference in pass defense (but only 73rd in the country), it is this: Nebraska is ranked second in the Big 12 Conference in pass defense in 2008 – and ranked 90th in the nation.

The Big 12? A Woody Hayes “three yards and a cloud of dust” conference it ain’t.

The Buffs can score on the Cornhuskers if they throw the ball well. No secret there. The question is: can the Buffs throw the ball effectively and consistently? If the first 11 games of the 2008 season are any indication, the answer is “no”. The Buffs are accumulating less than 200 yards passing per game, good enough for only 86th in the nation, with seven of those games were played against teams in a conference which cannot stop the pass.

So, where do the Buffs’ hopes lie?

When you are ineffective moving the ball, it helps when you only have to move it a short distance.

Nebraska is 110th in the nation in turnover margin. The Cornhuskers have turned the ball over 23 times in 2008, while gaining only 11 (only 0-11 Washington, with 10, has generated fewer). In the last six games, the Colorado defense has generated only five turnovers. A similar lack of production will simply not do this weekend.

The math is quite simple – Colorado needs to generate at least three turnovers against Nebraska (and perhaps convert one of those directly into a score) for the Buffs to win.

The other manner in which the Buffs can help themselves is in the area of punt returns. Nebraska is ranked 91st in the nation in net punting. Josh Smith, who had never been a kick returner prior to this season, has already contributed his name to the Colorado record books. Smith has 1,742 yards of total offense this seasn, mostly from returns, and is on a pace for 1,900 – third all-time only to Rashaan Salaam and Byron White in CU annals. Smith is ranked only 31st nationally in punt returns, but his average is significantly lower than it would otherwise be if Smith took more fair catches and didn’t suffer as many one and two-yard returns.

Smith needs to break loose once or twice against a mediocre punt team from Lincoln to set up his offensive teammates with easy scoring chances.

There you go. Super simple. Control the ball, create turnovers, take advantage of opportunities, and play to win.

Nebraska is better than it was this time last year. Colorado, though with the same record, is arguably worse. The Buffs fell behind 35-24 last year before storming back. Will these Buffs have a similar resolve?

Tune in Friday at 1:30 (MT). We’ll find out together.

[comment… ]

CU At The Game – Nebraska Review

November 28th – at Lincoln Nebraska 40, Colorado 31

Colorado was in the lead early and in the lead late, but was not in the lead when it mattered most, as Nebraska scored ten points in the last two minutes of play to pull out a 40-31 win over the Buffs in Lincoln. A school-record 57-yard field goal by Cornhusker kicker Alex Henery gave Nebraska a 33-31 lead with 1:43 to play, and defensive end Ndamukong Suh returned a tipped Cody Hawkins pass 30 yards for a touchdown to seal the win for Nebraska a few plays later. The loss was the seventh of the season for Colorado, leaving the Buffs home for the holidays for the second time in three years.

Contrary to the Buffs’ modus operandi for much of the 2008 season, the finale started out spectacularly well for Colorado. On the game’s second play from scrimmage, Cody Hawkins hit tight end Riar Geer for a 68-yard touchdown and a 7-0 CU lead less than a minute into the contest. After a Brad Jones sack of Nebraska quarterback Joe Ganz forced a Cornhusker punt, the Buffs again only needed two plays to score. A Cody Hawkins to Josh Smith completion for 44 yards set up the Buffs at the Cornhusker 36 yard line, with Demetrius Sumler scoring on the longest running touchdown play of the season on the very next play.

[The 68 yard pass to Geer, the 44 yard pass to Smith, and the 36 yard run by Sumler rank as the #1 and #2 longest pass plays of the season, and the longest rushing touchdown of the season. Where was this offense all year?]

Unable to handle the prosperity, the Buffs found themselves tied before the end of the first quarter. On the Cornhuskers’ first possession after the Sumler touchdown run, Joe Ganz hit Nate Swift for a two-yard touchdown to complete a nine-play, 64-yard drive. A three-and-out by the CU offense set up Nebraska at their 47, and one play later, the score was tied. Joe Ganz hit Mike McNeil for a 53-yard touchdown on NU’s first play, and with four minutes still remaining in the first quarter, the score was knotted up, 14-14.

Cody Hawkins was intercepted by Tyler Wortman on the Buffs’ next possession, setting up the Cornhuskers at the CU 33. The Buff defense allowed the Cornhuskers as far as the CU seven yard line, but a sack of Ganz by senior defensive tackle George Hypolite forced Nebraska to settle for a 35 yard field goal by Alex Henery as the Cornhuskers took their first lead of the game with 12:08 to play in the first half, 17-14.

The Buffs responded on their next drive. A 57 yard kickoff return by Josh Smith set up the Buffs at the Nebraska 36. Tyler Hansen came in for his only drive of the game, getting CU to the Nebraska 20 before the Buffs were stopped. Aric Goodman, who had missed eight field goal attempts in a row prior to connecting during the Oklahoma State game, made it two in a row as his 37-yarder tied the score at 17-all.

In a half in which Nebraska held the ball for 21:42 (to 8:18 for CU), the Buffs were lucky to be tied at 17-17, and were lucky just before halftime to tie the score 24-all at the break. After Nebraska put together a 12-play, 64-yard drive to take a 24-17 lead late in the second quarter, the kickoff return was fumbled by Maurice Cantrell, setting up the Cornhuskers at the CU 36. Three plays later, Nebraska lined up for a 50-yard field goal attempt. The Cornhuskers attempted a fake, but the Buffs were ready. The fake was anticipated by the Buffs’ Jimmy Smith, who took the pitch from the holder, Jake Wesch, before it could reach the kicker, racing untouched 58 yards for a Colorado score.

The two teams headed off to the locker rooms tied at 24-24, in what could only be described as a wild first half.

It appeared that the 116 combined points posted in the 65-51 win for Colorado in 2007 was in jeopardy of being surpassed as both teams scored on their opening drives of the second half. Nebraska drove 69 yards in nine plays for their score, but had to settle for a 27 yard field goal by Henery. The Buffs also held the ball for nine plays, going a total of 65 yards, but the CU drive netted a touchdown. In a drive kept alive by an 18-yard pass from Hawkins to Geer on third-and-ten, the Buffs faced a fourth-and-one at the Nebraska four yard line. Eschewing a field goal attempt to tie the game, the Buffs went for a first down, and were rewarded with a touchdown, as Demetrius Sumler scored his second touchdown of the game from four yards out to give CU a 31-27 lead with 5:39 to play in the third quarter.

Most of the remainder of the game witnessed the Colorado defense making a valiant attempt to protect the CU lead.

First, Nebraska used up almost eight minutes of clock on its next drive, but came up empty as a Joe Ganz fumble was recovered by senior defensive end Maurice Lucas at the Colorado five yard line.

Next, after a sack of Cody Hawkins back at the CU seven, a short punt by Tom Suazo set up Nebraska at the Buff 26. The Colorado defense again held, forcing a field goal attempt. A 37-yarder by Henery brought Nebraska to within a point, at 31-30, with 8:09 still to play in the game.

The Colorado offense did take 3:34 off of the clock on its next drive, but it was not enough to keep Nebraska from having enough time to take the lead. Joe Ganz was sacked by safety Patrick Mahnke for a 15 yard loss back to the CU 40 yard line, forcing Nebraska to attempt a 57-yard field goal with 1:50 to play. Alex Henery was successful on the school record kick, giving the Cornhusker the lead, 33-31, with only 1:50 left to play.

Time still remained for the Buffs to mount a drive and win the game. With the season and a bowl bid on the line, the Colorado offense posted one first down, but on second-and-ten at the CU 33, a Cody Hawkins offering was tipped and intercepted by Ndamukong Suh. The defensive lineman lumbered 30 yards with the ball, scoring with under a minute left to end the Buffs hopes for an extended season.

40-31. Nebraska.

“It’s never easy. I think we’re clearly on the right path, and our guys are doing the right things, and they have got a great future ahead of them,” said Dan Hawkins of the Buffs’ loss to Nebraska, ending Colorado’s season with a 5-7 record. “I thought we got a little more aggressive last week against (Oklahoma State), and got more aggressive this week, and got more confidence, so I think the guys have a little belief going into the offseason that if we get all healed up and grow up we’re going to be fine.”

The statistics belie the closeness of the game. Nebraska held almost a two-to-one edge in time of possession (39:36 to 20:24), out-gained the Buffs 412 yards to 291, and had 23 first downs to only 13 for Colorado. Cody Hawkins hit on 14 of 24 passes for 249 yards, but his three interceptions ultimately doomed the Buffs’ chances. “(Nebraska) did an awesome job,” said Cody Hawkins after the game, “but we have very few seniors, so a lot of the young guys can use this as motivation going into next year. Guys will find that fire inside, we will get the guys missing this year healthy, and hopefully we’ll have a great spring.”

There will be no more practices, no more springs, and no more opportunities for the 15 Buff seniors. Hit hardest will be the defense. Three defensive linemen from the starting lineup, defensive tackles George Hypolite and Brandon Nicholas as well as defensive lineman Maurice Lucas, will be lost. Brad Jones will be lost from the linebacking crew, and starting safeties Ryan Walters and D.J. Dykes are also on pace to graduate.

The next opportunity for these young Buffs to demonstrate on the field that they have matured and are prepared to take the program to the next level is nine long months away. While there is always much to discuss during the off-season, with recruiting and spring practice to keep the core fans pacified, the fact is that the program is on a string of three consecutive losing seasons. Dan Hawkins’ overall record is 13-24. Of the eleven head coaches hired in 2006, only Chuck Long of San Diego State (fired recently) and Al Golden at Temple (which expects to have losing seasons regularly, but which was 5-7 this season), have worse overall records than that posted by Dan Hawkins.

The Buffs will face seven teams in 2009 which still have bowl practices for which to prepare. It will not be enough to just defeat the worst teams, and have one good game against a better team, for 2009 to be considered a success. Improvement and consistency will be the watchwords for 2009.

It can’t get here soon enough.

Here is a link to the YouTube video of the game.


Coach Mac v. Coach Hawk

With the 40-31 loss to Nebraska, the Buffs ended the 2008 season with a 5-7 record. The losing mark represents the first time since 1982-84 that the Colorado football program and its fans have endured three consecutive losing seasons. Not coincidentally, and perhaps ironically, those three losing campaigns were the first three seasons of the Bill McCartney era.

The wounds are still healing from the pain of the loss to the Cornhuskers, as well as dealing with the reality of seven losses in nine games after a 3-0 start to the 2008 season. There will be plenty of time in the next few months to dwell on what happened and why, so for today I would like to take a step back and view the Buffs’ first three seasons under Dan Hawkins in light of the Buffs’ first three seasons under Bill McCartney.

What they inherited.

Bill McCartney was named Colorado head coach in June, 1982, coming to Colorado from the staff of Bo Schembechler at Michigan. The Buffs in 1982 were a team in disarray. The previous head coach, Chuck Fairbanks, had been lured away from the New England Patriots in 1979 to take the CU program to the next level. The experiment backfired. In three seasons in Boulder, Fairbanks accumulated a 7-26 record. When Fairbanks left for the USFL after spring practice in 1982, there was much criticism of Fairbanks’ timing for leaving – but few were sad to see him go.

Dan Hawkins had, at least on paper, more to work with than McCartney upon his arrival in Boulder. In the three seasons prior to the hiring of Hawkins, all under Gary Barnett, the Buffs had a 20-18 overall record. Despite the mediocre record, Colorado had posted back-to-back Big 12 North titles in 2004 and 2005.

But there were significant issues just beneath the surface. The recruiting scandal had taken its toll on the program, and the quality of players recruited had dropped off significantly. There was a stigma about the program; an air of negativity which permeated the entire athletic department. When the Buffs qualified for the Big 12 title game despite losing the regular season finale to Nebraska, 30-3, it was almost a curse rather than a blessing. A 70-3 mauling at the hands of a Texas team which would go on to win the national championship game a month later, sealed the fate of Gary Barnett, and left the Buffs’ program in a tailspin.

First two campaigns.

In Bill McCartney’s first season, 1982, the Buffs went 2-8-1. While the final results were a step back from the 3-8 season posted in 1981, there were signs of progress. The Buffs won on the road for the first time in recent memory, with the second win coming in convincing fashion (28-3) over Kansas in the second to last game of the season. McCartney’s Buffs then went 4-7 in 1983, including wins over rival Colorado State (the first game played against the Rams since 1958 – trust me, that was a big win), as well as two wins in the last three games of the season. While the 4-7 mark was a losing one, the forecast was “good times ahead” for the CU program.

In Dan Hawkins’ first season, 2006, the Buffs went 2-10. This was certainly a step back from the 7-6 record of 2005, yet Hawkins was largely given a pass by the media and fans. The Colorado program endured a ten game losing streak, but four of those losses had come at the end of the 2005 campaign. Hawkins’ Buffs then went 6-7 in 2007, including wins over #3 Oklahoma, Colorado State, Texas Tech, and Nebraska. While the 6-7 mark was a losing one, the Buffs did get a bowl bid, the forecast was “good times ahead” for the CU program.

Third season.

In 1984, McCartney’s third season, the bottom fell out. The momentum of the 4-7 campaign was lost. The program narrowly avoided its first-ever winless season with a 23-21 win over hapless Iowa State when the Cyclone kicker missed an easy game winner late. Still, Athletic Director Bill Marolt rewarded Bill McCartney with a contract extension during the dismal 1-10 campaign. Fans and the media were incredulous. McCartney, the defensive coordinator at Michigan, fielded a defense surrendering over 400 yards per game, one of the worst numbers in the nation. The Colorado secondary had managed to snag three interceptions – all season.

In 2008, Hawkins’ third season, the bottom – while it didn’t fall out, it certainly was weakened. The momentum of the 6-7 bowl campaign in 2007 was lost, and the program narrowly avoided its first-ever solo last place conference finish with nail-biting wins over hapless Iowa State and Kansas State. Still, Athletic Director Mike Bohn rewarded Dan Hawkins with a contract extension during the dismal 5-7 campaign. “Dan has consistently demonstrated a high level of professionalism, dedication, integrity and commitment to not only the football program but to the entire university,” said Bohn in his mid-season announcement of the contract extension. Some fans and media were incredulous over the timing of the extension. Hawkins, the offensive genius of Boise State, fielded an offense so unproductive that it was ranked last in the Big 12 in total offense and scoring offense, and had endured the first shutout in twenty years.

What happened next.

In 1985, with the help of in-state talent which decided to stay home, McCartney and the Buffs’ players put together the first winning season for Colorado since 1978. The Buffs went 7-5, including a bowl appearance. McCartney would not suffer another losing season at CU, bowing out after the 11-1 1994 campaign. McCartney’s 99 wins are the most for any coach in Colorado history.

In 2009, with the help of in-state talent which decided to stay home, Hawkins and the Buffs’ players put together ……

We’ll have to wait and see.

Wishbone, anyone?

[comment… ]

Trivia you Absolutely Need to Know – Nebraska

– National Championships – five – 1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, and 1997 (the ‘97 title being shared with Michigan)

– Heisman trophy winners – three – Johnny Rodgers (1972); Mike Rozier (1983); and Eric Crouch (2001).

– Hard to believe, but there was a time when the Cornhuskers were amongst the mortals in college football. In the 1940’s, Nebraska went through six coaches and an overall .374 winning percentage.

– When Nebraska fell to a 7-7 record in 2002, a number of NCAA record streaks came to an end. Put to an end (but still records) were streaks of winning seasons, ended at 40, nine-win seasons (33), and consecutive weeks in the Associates Press poll (348).

– In 2007, Nebraska finished tied for last in the Big 12 Conference North Division, tying Iowa State with a 2-6 conference record. The last time the Cornhuskers finished in the basement? Try 1957, when Nebraska finished alone in the cellar with a 1-5 conference record (1-9 overall).

– Nebraska holds the second and fourth longest win streaks over an opponent in NCAA history. The 36 straight wins over Kansas (1969-2004) ranks as the second longest winning streak of all-time (behind only Notre Dame over Navy, which ended at 43 this season). The fourth longest streak ever is Nebraska over Kansas State, with 29 consecutive wins (1969-1997). Nebraska’s longest win streak over Colorado was 18 games (1968-1985).

– The most famous (or infamous) nickname for the Cornhuskers, before their current name was adopted in 1900, is the “Bugeaters”. There were others, though, which are equally forgettable, including the Treeplanters, Rattlesnake Boys, Antelopes, and the Old Gold Knights.

– For all of Nebraska’s success on the field, and the large number of award winners who have played for the scarlet and cream, you would think that the Cornhuskers would have a large lead on the Buffs for first round NFL draft picks. Comparably, though, the 30 picked in the first round out of Lincoln is not a great deal higher than the 22 picked in the first round out of Boulder.

– The “Blackshirts” tradition started humbly enough, when, in the 1960’s, head coach Bob Devaney began assigning black practice jerseys to the defensive starters. The tradition, though, has grown into one of great pride and tradition in Huskerland.

– Herbie, the Cornhusker mascot, was not seen on the Nebraska sidelines for a number of years. The inflatable rubber character was the butt of many jokes. Then, in 2003, the university announced that after “a rigorous exercise routine, resulting in the loss of 70 pounds of fat and an increase in 50 pounds of muscle mass”, Herbie was prepared to make a comeback. The new “Herbie” began patrolling the sidelines in 2003.

– Famous alumni – football – In addition to the three Heisman trophy winners noted above, there have been numerous national award winners and consensus All-Americans who have played for Nebraska, including Irving Fryar, Broderick Thomas, Will Shields, Tommie Frazier, and Grant Wistrom. At the head of this list, though, may be Dave Rimington, two-time All-American center. In 2000, the Rimington Award was created, given each year to the nation’s top center (in 2003, the award was expanded to give out awards in Division 1-AA and Division II).

– Famous alumni – other – Johnny Carson (entertainer), Warren Buffet (financier), and Gen. John J. “Black Jack” Pershing (general).

[comment… ]

This Day in History – November 28th

November 28th –

1981 – #11 Penn State 48, #1 Pittsburgh 14. As late as the October 26th poll in 1981, Penn State was ranked #1. A 17-14 loss to Miami set the Nittany Lions back, but they refused to allow in-state rival Pittsburgh to take the glory, routing the #1 Panthers on November 28th, 48-14. Pitt quarterback Dan Marino made it look easy early on, connecting on two first quarter touchdown passes to give the Panthers a 14-0 lead. For the next three quarters, though, it was all Penn State. Seven Pittsburgh turnovers contributed to the rout, as Penn State quarterback Todd Blackledge and running back Curt Warner led a balanced attack for the Nittany Lions. The loss opened the door for undefeated Clemson, which went on to claim its first national title. Both Pitt and Penn State won their bowl games to conclude the 1981 season, with Pitt defeating Georgia in the Sugar Bowl (24-20) and Penn State defeating USC (26-10) in the Fiesta Bowl. In the final poll, Penn State finished 3rd; Pittsburgh 4th.

1985 – #15 Texas A&M 42, #18 Texas 10. A 42-10 rout of arch-rival Texas gave the Aggies of Texas A&M their first Cotton Bowl berth since 1967. The 9-2 Aggies were led by quarterback Kevin Murray, who had three touchdown passes on the day. Six turnovers killed any chances the Texas may have had, with the Longhorns not scoring until a 57-yard field goal was made by kicker Jeff Ward. The Aggies would go on to make the best of their bowl opportunity, dominating Auburn, 36-16, in the Cotton Bowl. The two big wins to end the season moved Texas A&M to #6 in the final poll. Texas, though, went the other direction, falling to Air Force in the Bluebonnet Bowl, 24-16, to finish 8-4 and unranked.

1992 – #1 Miami 63, San Diego State 17. The top two Heisman candidates in 1992, Miami quarterback Gino Toretta and San Diego State running back Marshall Faulk, squared off just as Heisman trophy ballots were being submitted. The game between the undefeated Hurricanes and the 5-4-1 Aztecs demonstrated quite clearly that having talent around you helps in your Heisman campaign, as Toretta’s Hurricanes routed Faulk’s Aztecs, 63-17. Toretta passed for 310 yards and a score in three quarters of work, while Faulk missed the game with a knee sprain. Miami, whose winning streak was extended to 29 games with the win, seemed poised to repeat as national champions. The Hurricanes, though, lost to Alabama, 34-13, in the Sugar Bowl, leaving Toretta’s Heisman trophy win as the only consolation for a disappointing end to the 1992 season.

1997 – #15 Texas A&M 27, Texas 16. The Longhorns had the nation’s leading rusher in Ricky Williams, but the Aggies had the complete package as Texas A&M defeated Texas, 27-16. Williams had 183 yards rushing and two scores, but could not prevent Aggie head coach R.C. Slocum from winning his 83rd game, the most of any coach in Texas A&M history. (Slocum would go on to coach through the 2002 season, amassing an overall record of 123-47-2). On the other bench, the A&M game was the last for Longhorn head coach John Mackovic, replaced after a 4-7 with former North Carolina head coach, Mack Brown.

2003 – #6 Texas 46, Texas A&M 15. In fairness to the Texas fans, here is a game played on November 28th in which the Longhorns prevailed. Longhorn quarterback Vince Young and 97 yards passing and 90 yards rushing, but spent most of the day handing off to tailback Cedric Benson, who carried the ball 35 times for 283 yards and four touchdowns. Texas held onto an uncomfortable lead of 20-15 in the third quarter before Cedric Benson scored his second and third touchdowns to put the game out of reach. Texas A&M finished its season with a 4-8 record under first-year head coach Dennis Franchione, while Texas went on to fall to Washington State in the Holiday Bowl, 28-20. The loss left the Longhorns with a 10-3 overall record and a #12 final ranking.

November 28th – Colorado – best game on this date

The good news – Colorado is 7-3 all-time in games played on November 28th.

The bad news – all seven wins came before 1960.

The Buffs were a perfect 7-0 throughout most of the 19th and 20th centuries, first playing on November 28th in 1895 (a 14-0 win over Colorado Mines). There have been wins on November 28th against Colorado State, Air Force, and even Oklahoma (in 1912! – a 14-12 in a game played in Denver). The last three games played on November 28th have all been against Nebraska, and all have been losses. In 1987, the Buffs were 7-3, but lost at home to the 5th-ranked Cornhuskers, 24-7. In 1997, the Buffs were 5-5 heading into Lincoln to face #2 ranked Nebraska, falling just short, 27-24. In 2003, the Buffs were 5-6, but were again denied a bowl bid by the 25th-ranked Cornhuskers, 31-22.

Of the three which I have a write up on, the ‘97 game was the most gallant and most tragic ….

#2 Nebraska 27, Colorado 24 – November 28, 1997

Coming into the 1997 Nebraska/Colorado game, the Cornhuskers were undefeated and ranked 2nd. The Buffs were reeling at 5-5, having lost two of its last three games. It seemed that all Buffs’ fans and ABC could hope for was a competitive game.

They got one.

In coming as close to a win over the Huskers as the Buffs had come since the 19-19 tie in 1991, Colorado gave itself some hope for the future, and dampened Nebraska’s chances for a third national championship in four years.

The first quarter was played evenly, with Nebraska escaping with a 3-0 lead. Colorado actually outgained the Cornhuskers, 83 total yards to 77, but the Buffs could not convert a 50-yard field goal attempt, while Nebraska was successful from 25 yards out.

Nebraska seemed to take control of the game with a ten play drive in the second quarter, culminating in a 19-yard touchdown run by quarterback Scott Frost. But the Buffs were more resilient than expected countering with an 11-play, 78-yard drive resulting in a 30 yard Jeremy Aldrich field goal to keep the Buffs within shouting distance of the Cornhuskers at 10-3.

The second half was a tale of two distinct parts. In the third quarter (but for two big plays by the CU offense) and into the fourth, Nebraska dominated. Taking the second half kickoff, Nebraska needed all of two plays to score. On first down from their own 20 yard line, the Cornhuskers gave the ball to running back Ahman Green. Sixty four yards later, Green was pulled down from behind by cornerback Ben Kelly. Apparently not winded by the first run, Green again received the call. The result was a 16-yard touchdown run and a 17-3 Nebraska lead. The Cornhusker “drive”: 2 plays, 80 yards, 30 seconds off of the third quarter clock.

This could very well have been the beginning of the end, but the Buffs countered with a short drive of their own. On CU’s first play of the third quarter, John Hessler rolled outside of the pocket and hurled a bomb down the right sideline. At the other end of the play, Colorado wide receiver Darrin Chiaverini, who appeared to been out of bounds just before the ball arrived, hauled in the 45-yard pass. On the very next play, Hessler hit sophomore running back Dwayne Cherrington on a perfectly executed screen pass. Cherrington managed the remaining 35 yards on his own. Colorado’s scoring “drive”: 2 plays, 80 yards, 27 seconds.

Take that. Nebraska’s lead was now 17-10.

Undaunted, the Cornhuskers turned to a more a methodical strategy, putting together an eight play drive covering 77 yards. Green again did the honors, scoring from 11 yards out for a 24-10 Cornhusker advantage. Later in the third, Nebraska took 13 plays to cover 45 yards, converting a 45-yard field goal to go up by three scores, 27-10.

The fourth quarter remained, but all that appeared to be at issue was how big Nebraska could make the score.

A funny thing happened on the way to the blow-out, however. Nebraska, going for the big play and the game-clincher, could not finish the job. After the field goal, Nebraska had four more possessions. Each of the four drives started in Colorado territory, but each time -in a remarkable tribute to the resolution of the Colorado defense – Nebraska came away without scoring. Up 27-10, the Cornhuskers were comfortably ahead, but were not able to run up the score the way the Husker faithful had hoped.

Then it happened. With 4:59 remaining, CU quarterback John Hessler returned to the game. In the stands, it had appeared in the previous series when sophomore quarterback Jeremy Weisinger had entered the game that CU was conceding the contest, and was looking to give the heir apparent to Hessler some game experience. With Weisinger at the helm, CU had lost four yards in three plays and punted.

But there was Hessler. (As it turned out, Hessler had not been pulled. Head coach Neuheisel had mistakenly assumed that a thumb injury was more serious than it was). Down three scores with less than five minutes to play, it was the last chance for the Colorado offensive seniors to make a stand.

First drive. Colorado took over on its own 23 yard line after senior safety Ryan Sutter (yes, yes, that Ryan Sutter) had stripped the ball from Ahman Green. Three consecutive completions against a softer Husker defense put the Buffs at the NU 36. After Hessler picked up 13 on a scramble (partially negated by a holding penalty), Hessler hit sophomore wide receiver Marcus Stiggers on a 32-yard strike.


In the stands, we celebrated. 27-17 was more than respectable under the circumstances. Nebraska had been a three touchdown favorite, so a ten point game for the 5-5 Buffs was not a bad showing -or so we thought.

Onside kick #1. Only 3:16 remained, and Colorado trailed by ten points. No choice for anything but an onside kick. Everyone in the stadium, including the Cornhuskers, knew it was coming. CU kicker Jeremy Aldrich lined up for the kick, but instead senior fullback Darren Fisk kicked the ball. Fisk’s kick went straight to Nebraska tight end T.J. Debates. Debates, though, allowed the ball to bounce straight off of his chest, and Fisk quickly ran in to cover his own kick. Colorado ball at its own 45. As Fisk would say after the game, “I couldn’t get a touchdown in my career, but I got an onsides kick.”

Second drive. Hessler to fellow senior Phil Savoy for 22, then to senior Herchell Troutman for 15. On second-and-ten from the 18 yard line, Hessler hit wide receiver Robert Toler, who made a nice catch in the end zone. Suddenly, with 2:34 still to play, its Nebraska 27, Colorado 24.


In the stands, it was bedlam. Hundreds, if not thousands, had left earlier in the fourth, when Weisinger came in to play and with the home team down 17. No one was leaving now, and we were screaming for the Buffs to continue what would be one of the greatest comebacks in CU history.

Onside kick #2. This time Aldrich made the kick. After the ball had traveled the required ten yards, it took a high bounce. Ben Kelly, racing down the sidelines, had the ball slip through his fingertips and out of bounds. Nebraska ball. (A photo in the Rocky Mountain News the next morning showed just how agonizingly close Kelly came to recovering the kick).

Nebraska now had possession with 2:33 to play. Three plays netted the Cornhuskers 9 ½ yards, forcing a punt. Colorado would have one last opportunity.

The situation was still bleak. Down three, with 52 seconds left in the game, CU took over at its own 20 yard line with no time outs. But there was the chance. A chance no one had given the Buffs just a few minutes earlier

Final drive. Hessler immediately hit Savoy for 16 yards and a first down. After two incompletions, Hessler again hit Savoy, this time for 14 yards to mid-field. First down, Colora…..

But wait. The side judge threw a flag on Savoy for pass interference. Instead of first-and-ten at mid-field, Colorado now faced third-and-25 from its 21. Only thirty seconds remained. An incompletion on the next play made it fourth-and-25.

Last chance.

Fourth-and-25 from the Buff 21 yard line, the Buffs’ senior quarterback John Hessler found senior wide receiver Phil Savoy at the 40 yard line. Savoy dodged, juked, and struggled to get the first down, finally being thrown out of bounds in front of the Colorado bench at the 43 – three yards short of a first down. Nebraska ball with just enough time for one snap. Frost knelt down at the 43, and the game was over.

What was lost to the frenzied crowd on Colorado’s last play was John Hessler, who, while Savoy was struggling desperately to evade several members of the Husker secondary, was racing after his pass, screaming at Savoy: “Phil! Pitch the ball! Phil!!!”. Hessler’s plea went unheard, and the Buffs’ season was over.

Colorado’s final offensive play of the 1997 season was the entire season in miniature. Backed up by its own mistakes, in a desperate situation due to its own lack of effort and emotion earlier in the game, CU still, at the end, seemed to be a team of destiny. One of the greatest comebacks in college football history was theirs for the taking, just as the season had promised to be one of the best in Colorado history. And yet, when the play needed to be made, when the expectations had again been raised to lofty levels, the Buffs disappointed.

What was possible was now history.

What was to have been historic was now what could have been.

One Reply to “Nebraska – Coach Hawk v. Coach Mac – the first three seasons”

  1. Stuart

    Thanks for a great year of insightful analysis, thoughtful critiques and awesome history lessons. Your efforts are truly appreciated. It’ll be a looooong offseason but, I know your updates will get me through. I’m looking forward to them!

    PS Let’s hope Year 4 of Hawk Love goes the way of Mac’s tenure, I’m really sick of the negativity many of our fellow Buff fans are spewing.


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