This Date in History – September 19th

Colorado on September 19th: 5-2 – 1953 – W Washington 21-20; 1959 – L Washington 21-21; 1970 – W Indiana 16-9; 1981 – L Washington State 14-10; 1987 – W Stanford 31-17; 1992 – W Minnesota 21-20; 1998 – W Utah State 25-6.

 September 19th – Colorado – best game on this date

#11 Colorado at Minnesota – September 19, 1992

 In 1992, the Colorado Buffaloes were looking for a “four-peat” as Big Eight champions.  In 1991, the Buffs had shared the title with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, with both teams finishing with 6-0-1 conference marks.  The 1992 season opened with two convincing wins, 37-17 over Colorado State, and 57-38 over Baylor.  Up next was a Minnesota team which the Buffs had dismantled, 58-0, in 1991.  The Golden Gophers were coming off of a 3-8 season, and had dropped their season opener to San Jose State.  It looked like an easy win for the 11th-ranked Buffs.

 If it had been easy, would we be talking about it still ……?

 September 19th – @ Minnesota                #11 Colorado 21, Minnesota 20

 The third game of Colorado’s 1992 season was played at night (6:00 p.m local time kickoff), and was played indoors (at the Metrodome in Minneapolis).  Whether the Buffs were confused by the surroundings or the time of day is unclear, but the 17-0 deficit Colorado found itself in midway through the third quarter was no mistake.  The Golden Gophers of Minnesota had dug a very large hole for the visitors from Boulder.

 Enter true freshman Koy Detmer.

 Posting the third greatest comeback (in terms of point deficit) in Colorado history, the Buffs rallied behind the little brother of BYU Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer to defeat Minnesota, 21-20.  Junior quarterback Duke Tobin was given the start for the injured Kordell Stewart, but Tobin, like the rest of the Colorado offense, was ineffective.  At the half, Tobin had completed only two of his 10 pass attempts.  The running game, when the five sacks of Tobin were factored in, had amassed a total of minus eight yards rushing. 

 With offensive statistics like those, the Buffs were lucky that their defense had come to play.  The only first half score came when Gopher Derek Fisher recovered a blocked Mitch Berger punt in the Colorado endzone to put Minnesota ahead, 7-0.

 Before the Buffs could put the offense in gear, though, the score was up to 17-0, Minnesota.  Then Koy Detmer began showing leadership qualities which belied his youth.  On CU’s second possession of the second half, Detmer hit Michael Westbrook on a 49-yard touchdown pass to cut the margin to 17-7.  On the Gophers= next possession, junior strong safety Dwayne Davis cut in front of a Marquel Fleetwood pass, returning it 31 yards for a Colorado touchdown.  After Minnesota briefly righted its ship, posting a field goal to raise the lead to 20-14, Detmer lead the Buffs on an 80-yard drive culminated in a 24-yard touchdown pass to Charles Johnson.  21-20, Colorado, with 12:02 left in the game.

 The final moments were not without their drama, however.  Minnesota kicker Aaron Piepkorn, who had earlier hit from 26 and 36 yards out, lined up for a 55-yard attempt in the game’s waning seconds.  The kick had the distance, but was wide right, and CU had survived.

 “I couldn’t be happier.  I couldn’t be prouder”, said a jubilant McCartney after the game, “I just thought our guys gave it up.  What I mean by that is that every ounce of energy those kids out there on defense had – they gave it up.”

 Koy Detmer’s plans for a red-shirt season were over, but McCartney would say it was worth it:  “I think we’ll remember the game he stepped in for a little while around here.”  Detmer’s teammates had nothing but praise.  Safety Dwayne Davis:  “He’s the classiest freshman I’ve ever seen.”  Receiver Michael Westbrook:  “He’s a character.  We’d figured he’d do what he did.”  Offensive tackle Jim Hansen:  “He’s my hero.  Did you see that fight we had (in the third quarter)? He was out there spearing some guy and I had to pull him out of there  ….  He’s amazing.  Absolutely amazing.”

 Kordell Stewart would still be the Buffs’ starting quarterback when he returned from his injury, but Koy Detmer had given Colorado fans a taste of what was to come.

 At least for those Colorado fans who had listened to the game.

 On the Radio

 The 1992 Colorado/Minnesota football game was witnessed by 33,719 fans, most of whom returned home disappointed.  Also disappointed that day were thousands of CU fans who were denied the opportunity to watch the game at home on television.  In 1992, the cable broadcasting network ESPN had a contract with the College Football Association.  The contract called for ESPN to have exclusive rights to broadcasting Saturday night college football.  As a result of the 6:00 p.m. kickoff, the Buffalo/Gopher game could not be televised by a Denver station.  The only way to follow the game was to listen to it on CU’s flagship radio station, KOA of Denver.

 For me, the television blackout did not present a dilemma.  I was in Montana, after all, and would not have been able to watch the game on television, anyway.  My problem was the scoring in the game.

 Or rather the lack thereof.

 As I settled in that Saturday evening to watch the ESPN offering (a pleasant to watch 29-14 drubbing of #12 Nebraska by #2 Washington) I knew that I would receive periodic updates from ESPN (at 28 minutes and 58 minutes past the hour – all you got back then), and I could also switch over to CNN Headline News for updates at 20 minutes and 50 minutes past the hour.  With CU being a ranked team, I was guaranteed at least four hourly reports on the score (games involving unranked teams were not afforded such constant attention).  Not the best of all possible worlds, but a fact of life to which I become accustomed in my first five seasons back in Bozeman.  The game was to be a blowout, so I was confident that my evening would be a relaxed one.

 At least until about an hour after the Buff game had kicked off.

 One full hour after the game had started, the television updates were still showing scores of:  Colorado 0; Minnesota 0.  “This can’t be right!”, I thought.  CU had scored 94 points in the first two games of 1992, and had blasted this same Gopher team 58-0 less than one year earlier.  Why weren’t the Buffs scoring?  What was happening in the Metrodome?

 I made a decision.

 In the pages of the football magazines strewn around my apartment were advertisements for fans to listen to their teams’ games.  For a price, you could call a number, enter your team’s code, and listen to the radio broadcast of your home town team.  Desperate to find out what was going on, I dialed.  No more than three (expensive) minutes later, I heard the play-by-play of the Golden Gophers blocking Mitch Berger’s punt.  I wanted a score; I got one.  7-0, Minnesota.

 Determining that I had just jinxed my team, I resolved not to call that number ever again (and I never did).

 But what about the Buffs?  I endured seemingly endless repetitions on ESPN and CNN of:  Minnesota 7; Colorado 0 -Halftime.  Then, an update:  Minnesota 10; Colorado 0.  Then:  Minnesota 17; Colorado 0. 

 What the Hell was going on?

 I turned to the only other source I had available to me:  Brad.  Brad was in Grand Junction, and I knew he would be listening to the game on a KOA affiliate.  By the time I got off the phone, the score had improved to 17-14, but the Buffs still trailed.  I hung up with Brad feeling a little better.

 Then the phone rang.  It was Charlie, my roommate my senior year in Boulder, now a television reporter in Nashville, Tennessee.  HE wanted to know what was going on with the Buffs.  I told Charlie what I knew.

 Then the phone rang again.  It was Mark, whom I had met my freshman year in Libby Hall, who was an aerospace engineer working in Dayton, Ohio.  HE wanted to know what was going on with the Buffs.  I told Mark what I knew.

 I called Brad back again.  It was now Minnesota 20, CU 14, just starting the fourth quarter.  I knew I really could not afford to spend the remainder of the game on the phone with Brad, so we quickly devised a system for me to get updates without either of us incurring charges.  Brad would call my number if either team scored.  If Minnesota scored, he would hang up after one ring.  If CU scored, he would hang up after two rings.

 Moments later, the phone rang.  One ring.  TWO RINGS.  And then silence.


 But was it a field goal or a touchdown?  A field goal would cut the lead to 20-17, but the Gophers would still be ahead.  A touchdown would give the Buffs their first lead of the game, 21-20.  ESPN provided the answer shortly thereafter, posting the 21-20 lead for CU.

 Now the waiting began.  Minutes ticked off the wall clock, with no call from Brad.  It was now after 8:00 p.m., Mountain time.  The game should have been over, but the phone did not ring.

 Finally, around 8:15 p.m., the phone rang.  One ring.  After what seemed like an inordinate amount of time, it rang again – the second ring.  Whew!  The Buffs had either scored again, or the game was over.

 Then the phone rang a third time.  Perhaps it wasn’t Brad, after all.  I raced to answer the phone.

 But it was Brad.  He was calling to confirm that the game had in fact ended 21-20.  Brad had just resumed breathing after KOA announcer Kent Groschong had initially called Aaron Piepkorn’s 55-yard attempt, which would have given Minnesota the victory, good.  The radio audience was then treated to the good news that the last-minute kick was indeed wide, and that the Buffs had won.

 A few minutes later, ESPN and CNN confirmed on my television screen what Brad had just told me.  The game was over, and the Buffs had survived.  I thanked Brad, hung up the phone only long enough to get a dial tone.

 I had to relay the information on to Charlie and Mark.


Best Games in College Football History – September 19th

 1970 – Kentucky 16, #13 Kansas State 3 – In the battle of the Wildcats, Kentucky upsets Kansas State, 16-3. KSU was led by quarterback Lynn Dickey, but the K-State star was sacked four times, and intercepted four others, as Kentucky held Kansas State to minus-91 yards rushing. Kansas State fell out of the polls with the loss, and, with the exception of a one-week stay at #20 in early November, was not heard from again in 1970.

 1981 – #11 Michigan 25, #1 Notre Dame 7 – Wolverine wide receiver Anthony Carter took out the top-ranked Irish all by himself, scoring the first two touchdowns of the game. The first came on a 71-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter; the second on a 16-yard catch in the third quarter. The loss would send #1 Notre Dame on a tailspin from which it would not recover. Notre Dame finished the season with a 5-6 record in the first season under Gerry Faust

1981 – San Jose State 28, Stanford 6 – Junior quarterback John Elway played injured, and it showed, as the Spartans intercepted five Elway passes and sacked him seven times. Running back Gerald Willhite led San Jose State on the day, a Spartan team coached by John Elway’s father, Jack.

 1987 – Florida 23, #11 Alabama 14 – Florida tailback Emmitt Smith made his first start, and the Gators upset 11th-ranked Alabama, 23-14. Smith had an impressive debut, rushing for 224 yards and two touchdowns, out-shining the Heisman trophy hopeful Bobby Humphrey, who had 73 yards rushing and no scores for the Crimson Tide. Both teams would go bowling in 1987, but neither finished in the Top 20.

 1992 – #21 Ohio State 35, #8 Syracuse 12 – The Orange had a great deal going for them heading their game against the Buckeyes. Syracuse was highly regarded, had a Heisman trophy candidate in quarterback Marvin Graves, had wide receiver Qadry “Missile” Ismail, and were playing at home against an Ohio State team the Orange had defeated in the 1991 Hall of Fame Bowl. The Buckeyes, rolled though, behind quarterback Kirk Herbstreit. Syracuse would recover to finish the season ranked 6th; Ohio State finished 18th.

 1998 – #6 Tennessee 20, #2 Florida 17, OT – Tennessee finally won one over Florida, winning for the first time in six tries. The game was close throughout, with neither team taking a lead of over a touchdown. In overtime, Jeff Hall kicked a 41-yard field goal for the Volunteers, but Collins Cooper could not match Hall’s effort, hooking an attempt from 32 yards out. The Volunteers would use the win as a springboard to the national championship in the first-ever BCS title game. Florida, for its part, would recover to finish 5th in the final polls.

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