This Day in History – November 19th


Colorado record on November 19th – 8-3

1892 – Denver Athletic Club – L 42-6;

– 1921 – Colorado State – W 10-0;

– 1927 – Colorado State – L 39-7;

– 1949 – Nebraska – L 25-14;

– 1955 – Iowa State – W 40-0;

– 1960 – Oklahoma State – W 13-6;

– 1966 – Air Force – W 10-9;

– 1977 – Kansas State – W 23-0;

– 1983 – Kansas State – W 38-21;

– 1988 – Kansas State – W 56-14;

– 1994 – Iowa State – W 41-20.


November 19th – Colorado – best game on this date

No. 7 Colorado v Iowa State –          November 19, 1994

A game between a 9-1 team and an 0-9-1 to finish off the regular season would normally not merit much attention nationally.  The 41-20 final score, after the 7th-ranked Buffs nursed a 20-13 lead into the fourth quarter, would not have merited much notice on ESPN.  For local writers, though, the game presented a year’s worth of headlines.  “Christian Fauria snares six catches; becomes Big Eight all-time tight end reception leader” would have been apropos.  As would have been “CU posts 576 yards of offense, sets team record for season average – 495.3”, or perhaps “Kordell Stewart becomes Big Eight all-time leader for total offense”.  All worthy events, but not on this day.  These headlines were overshadowed, first by Rashaan Salaam, then by the team’s head coach for the past thirteen seasons.

Salaam was effective against Iowa State, rushing for almost 200 yards and a touchdown in the game’s first three quarters.  The Buffs, though, could not put away the winless Cyclones, leading only 20-13 at the start of the fourth quarter.  Salaam was still 13 yards shy of the 2000-yard mark as the Buffs, leading 27-13 after a 23-yard run by Kordell Stewart to open the quarter, faced a first-and-ten at the CU 33-yard line.  Salaam took the handoff from Stewart, cut to his right, and raced down the sideline in front of his teammates for a 67-yard touchdown and into front-runner status for the Heisman trophy.  Salaam’s run gave him 2,055 yards on the season, and also gave him the titles of the nation’s leading rusher, scorer, and all-purpose runner.  Salaam’s final run of the day also gave CU its first real lead of the day, 34-13.

The remainder of the game was a celebration.  The 10-1 Buffs were heading for the Fiesta Bowl and a yet-to-be-named opponent.  Salaam was given a ride off of the field by his teammates, as 46,113 frigid fans (37 degrees at kickoff) kept themselves warm by cheering the third 10-win team in school history.  All in all, the fourth quarter heroics concluded a successful game and magical regular season.  Fans piled out of the stadium and into the late-afternoon sunshine, cold but content with the day.

But it wasn’t over yet.

Back from the store

 In Bozeman, I received updates from ABC and ESPN throughout the afternoon on the win over Iowa State. Frustration with the Buffs inability to put away ISU was quickly forgotten when the highlight of Salaam’s touchdown run flashed across the screen. The play made for perfect theater. Salaam reached the 2,000 mark in just the right fashion – at home, running right in front of the CU bench, on a long touchdown run to clinch the win. If Salaam had not already clinched the Heisman, that highlight alone may have sealed the deal. It would be replayed numerous times in subsequent weeks as college football analysts debated the issue.

Content with the afternoon’s events, I went to the store with my wife, Lee. Some time later, we returned to find the answering machine blinking. It was Charlie, a roommate from our CU days, calling from Tennessee. “What is McCartney thinking?” Charlie asked me by way of tape. “What is going on?”

Not understanding the message, and assuming Charlie was merely upset about McCartney’s play-calling on the day, I returned Charlie’s call. It was then that I learned the reason for Charlie’s consternation. I quickly clicked on the television, turned to ESPN, and quickly had confirmed for me what Charlie was telling me.

Colorado head football coach Bill McCartney had announced his resignation.

Press Conference

 Shortly after the Iowa State game had come to an end Bill McCartney came to the post-game press conference, something he had done 162 times before. His opening remarks were standard fare: “I want to celebrate all of these things that happened out there today …. Rashaan’s tremendous abilities and the support he had was just extraordinary …. And I felt really good about Kordell getting that record in the Big Eight because he hasn’t really received his due in my opinion.”

Then Coach Mac dropped his bombshell.

“I have an announcement to make. Lindi (McCartney’s wife), would you come up here? I have a lot of family here, and I’m resigning effective this year. I’m going to see us through the bowl game, if I’m permitted, and through the school year. But, we really need to get a new coach named prior to going out and recruiting.”

The questions from the astounded and unprepared press were predictable:

Why? “It’s time. I’ve been here 13 years and I just feel it’s time.”

Going to another school? The NFL? “There’s going to be rumors, or whatever. I’m not going anywhere.”

When did you decide? “Recently. Recently. I didn’t know how it would work out today, but I knew that today was the day to announce this.”

Colorado fans and players were shell-shocked. McCartney had been given a “lifetime” 15-year contract after the 1989 season. As it turned out, though, the contract was for five years with extensions. The first term of the contract expired January 1, 1995, and that was when Bill McCartney was to step down.

In his book, “From Ashes to Glory“, McCartney explained his decision:

“On the field I had succeeded beyond my wildest dreams. But on the home front, as a husband and father, I often felt like a failure. I was so busy pursuing my career goals that I was missing out on the Spirit-filled life that God wanted me have.”

McCartney caught a great deal of flak from the media because of the timing of the announcement. Rashaan Salaam had just a few minutes earlier capped perhaps the greatest single season in Buff history, Kordell Stewart had just concluded perhaps the best-ever CU career. But the headlines the morning after the Iowa State game were all about McCartney and his announcement. McCartney’s explanation: “I’d already told so many people that I knew the news would get out soon, and I wanted to be the one to tell the players.”

Marolt’s Bold Move

Colorado Athletic Director Bill Marolt was now faced with a difficult decision. Replacing a head coach is always difficult, but in most instances the team needing new leadership is one in disarray, suffering from a string of losing seasons. McCartney was going out on top, ten wins already posted with a bowl game still to play. Marolt received letters and faxes from “too many applicants to count”, and while several former CU assistants who were now head coaches (Illinois’ Lou Tepper, Northwestern’s Gary Barnett, and Vanderbilt’s Gerry DiNardo included) were considered, there were only four official candidates for the job. All four were in-house.

Four existing CU assistants were considered, each bringing different assets to the table. Defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz had seniority, with ten seasons in Boulder. Offensive coordinator and guards and centers coach Elliot Uzelac had the distinction of being the only candidate with head coaching experience (Western Michigan, 1975-80 and Navy, 1987-89). Assistant head coach and defensive line coach Bob Simmons already had the title of assistant head coach on his resume. Only Rick Neuheisel, the 33-year old quarterback and receivers coach, did not possess at least the title of coordinator.

Marolt chose Neuheisel.

“The thing I like about him is that he’s got a tremendous competitive background,” said Marolt of the 21st head coach in Colorado football history. “He’s been very successful at every level, but the thing that impressed me is that he didn’t accomplish those things as a celebrated athlete coming out of high school. He was somebody that walked on, somebody that took the challenge.” Marolt’s reference to Neuheisel’s upbringing would become a familiar story to Buff fans.

After leading his Tempe, Arizona, high school team to the state championship, Neuheisel walked on at UCLA, only to lead the Bruins to a Rose Bowl win his senior year (with Neuheisel being named MVP of the game. Brief stints in the USFL and NFL led to a job as an assistant at UCLA before being named to the CU staff February 28, 1994.

Nine months later, Neuheisel was the Buffs’ head coach.

Head coach Bill McCartney, who had endorsed Bob Simmons for the post, was nonetheless was supportive of the choice: “He’s a very gifted young man who is equipped to do what is necessary.” All that was left was for Neuheisel to head out on the recruiting trail, convince 18 year olds that the winning tradition established by Bill McCartney would continue.

No small task.

Picking up the Hardware 

Oh, by the way …

After the nine-day whirlwind which struck Boulder on November 19th with McCartney’s announcement and ended with Neuheisal’s hiring, CU players and fans had the opportunity to turn their attention to matters more immediate, like the awarding of the Heisman and other year-end awards.

Salaam’s 2,055 yards rushing seemingly guaranteed the Heisman, but there were other candidates. Penn State’s tailback Ki-Jana Carter and quarterback Kerry Collins led the undefeated and second-ranked Nittany Lions, while quarterback Steve McNair was putting up gaudy numbers for Division 1-AA Alcorn State. In the week leading up to the presentation, the media was convinced the race would be close.

When the announcement was made, however, it was a landslide. Salaam tallied 400 of 792 first-place votes, totaling 1,743 points. Carter was a distant second with 115 first-place votes, 901 points overall. Salaam, media-shy from his first days at CU, tried to down-play the honor. “Everybody is always singling me out. I don’t like that. I just want to be part of the group.” Salaam, though, was no longer part of a group. In addition to becoming the first-ever Buff to be awarded the Doak Walker Award (to the nation’s top running back) and the Walter Camp Award (to the national player of the year), Salaam was now to be forever linked to the Heisman. From his performance in the Fiesta Bowl to his position in the NFL draft, he would forevermore be referred to as: “Rashaan Salaam, Heisman Trophy Winner”.

Speaking of the NFL draft, speculation immediately began as to whether Salaam would return for his senior year. Only Archie Griffin of Ohio State had ever won two Heismans. Would Salaam attempt to become the second? Fans would have to wait, as all Salaam would say was that he would announce his intentions on January 6th, after CU’s battle with Notre Dame in the Feista Bowl.

Meanwhile, as Salaam was recording frequent-flyer miles receiving numerous national awards, the Buffs were again honored when senior defensive back Chris Hudson was presented with the Thorpe Award, given to the nation’s top defensive back. Winning out over Auburn’s Chris Shelling and Colorado State’s Greg Myers, Hudson followed former teammate Deon Figures as the second Buff to win the Thorpe in three years.

“He’s the best I’ve ever coached,” said secondary coach Chuck Heater. “He’s the best production guy, the best overall player, one with real smarts for the game.” Still, Hudson could not believe he had won. “I really couldn’t believe I won it”, said a choked up Hudson. “But it’s a dream come true.”

[The Buffs would go on to thump Notre Dame, 41-24, in the Fiesta Bowl, to conclude the 1994 season with an 11-1 record, ranked 3rd in the polls. The win was the 93rd of Bill McCartney=s career.]


Best Games in College Football History – November 19th

1966 – #1 Notre Dame 10, #2 Michigan State 10. Five years before Nebraska and Oklahoma squared off in the “Game of the Century”, the label belonged to the game played on November 19, 1966, between #1 Notre Dame and #2 Michigan State. The field was littered with future NFL stars. Michigan State featured wide receiver Gene Washington and defensive end Bubba Smith, while Notre Dame fielded linebacker Jim Lynch and quarterback Terry Hanratty. On the grey afternoon in East Lansing, neither team was able to muster much offense, and both teams played conservatively towards the end. While Michigan State did little with the ball after taking over at their 20-yard line after a missed field goal by Notre Dame with 4:39 to play, most fans remember Notre Dame running out the clock with conservative play calling at the end. Irish head coach Ara Parseghian was forced to defend the tie the remainder of his career, but the move was effective, as Notre Dame finished first in the final polls a few weeks later, with Michigan State relegated to a second place role.

1977 – Colorado State 25, #12 Arizona State 14 – One of the biggest wins in the history of the CSU program witnessed the Rams upset of 12th-ranked Arizona State. Defeating the Sun Devils for the first time in 16 tries in the series, the Rams rallied from a 14-3 second quarter deficit for the win. Led by all-American defensive end Mike Bell (17 tackles, six for losses), the Rams shut out the Sun Devils in the second half to run their record to 8-2-1. While both teams won their final games, 9-2-1 CSU stayed home, while 9-2 Arizona State was rewarded with a home game in the Fiesta Bowl. The Sun Devils could not take advantage of the home field, however, falling to Penn State, 42-30, finishing the season ranked 18th.

1983 – UCLA 27, USC 17 – Washington had the Rose Bowl in its sights. A win over Washington State would give the Huskies the Pac-10 title and a ticket to Pasadena. Apple Cup rival Washington State, though, had different ideas, taking down the Huskies, 17-6. Buoyed by news that Washington was losing, the UCLA, down 10-6 to rival USC, took the second half kickoff down for a touchdown and a lead they would not relinquish. Led by names familiar to Buff fans, quarterback Rick Neuheisel hit wide receiver Karl Dorrell on a seven-yard score, and the Bruins never looked back. UCLA was awarded the Rose Bowl bid based upon its 6-1-1 Pac-10 record, not upon its 7-4-1 overall record B the worst-ever for a Rose Bowl participant. Undaunted, UCLA took down heavily-favored 4th-ranked Illinois, 45-9, with Rick Neuheisel named the game’s MVP.

1988 – #7 Nebraska 7, #9 Oklahoma 3 – The game was not an offensive showcase, but a touchdown on the game’s opening drive proved sufficient for the Cornhuskers, as #7 Nebraska defeated #9 Oklahoma, 7-3. The Cornhuskers won the 1988 Big Eight title with its defense, holding Oklahoma without a touchdown for the first time in 62 games. The Sooners mustered only 137 yards of total offense, and, in the fourth quarter, with the game in the balance, OU netted zero first downs and minus-11 yards of offense in four fourth quarter possessions. Both teams earned January 2nd bowl games, but neither was successful, as both teams continued to struggle on offense. Oklahoma fell to Clemson in the Citrus Bowl, 13-6, finishing a 9-3 season ranked 14th (and behind 11th-ranked Oklahoma State), while Nebraska was thumped, 23-3, by Miami in the Orange Bowl to conclude the 1988 campaign 11-2, ranked 10th.

1994 – #22 Ohio State 22, #15 Michigan 6 – Ohio State head coach John Cooper, who had been 0-5-1 against Michigan since taking over for Earle Bruce, finally beat the Wolverines. Buckeye running back Eddie George was largely held in check, but his 71 yards and a score was good enough to take down Michigan. The Wolverine offense, which had its chances to score behind quarterback Todd Collins, was held without a touchdown for the first time since 1985. Both schools finished behind Penn State in the conference, but both earned bowl bids. Ohio State went to the Citrus Bowl, but ended the season on a sour note, falling to Alabama, 24-17, to finish 9-4, 14th in the nation. Michigan traveled to San Diego, where the Wolverines took out Colorado State in the Holiday Bowl, 24-14. Michigan, which had suffered through the “Miracle in Michigan” loss to Colorado earlier in the season, concluded the 1994 campaign with a 9-3 record, finishing 12th in the nation.

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