Top Five Plays of CU’s 2016 Season

Update … wasn’t content with listing just five top plays … there are 20 to choose from in this poll.

From … In a season filled with big wins, it’s no doubt hard to narrow down the list of big plays to just a handful.

We want your help to pick the top plays of the year, and we’re here to get you started. Here are 20 big plays from the 2016 Colorado football season, plays that helped the Buffs produce a 10-3 record, a Pac-12 South title and a top-10 ranking.

We’ve listed them in chronological order, and have included a video in case you’d like to refresh your memory.  You will be able to vote for your top plays of 2016.

How it will work: We have posted all 20 plays to Facebook and between Tuesday, Dec. 13 and Thursday, Dec. 15, we want you to vote for as many plays as you want by simply liking the videos you want to vote for.  Share your favorites with your friends and get them to vote, too.  We will then use the Facebook voting to pick the top 16 plays and also use it as a seeding system for a Sweet 16 bracket.  Once we have all the match-ups (1 vs. 16, 2 vs. 15, etc.) are determined, we will go a head-to-head vote on Twitter until we get a play of the year as voted on by the fans.

We have placed all 20 videos in a Facebook play list, so you can click here and scroll down slightly to Playlists and scroll through each video to vote for it.

Continue reading story here


My Top Five … 

When you ask someone about their “favorite” anything – favorite movie, book or flavor of ice cream – the answers are by definition subjective.

My rankings of the top five plays of CU’s 2016 season (so far!) are based upon pure emotion on my part … how I felt at the moment these plays occurred, coupled with the importance of those plays to the outcome of the game and their contribution to the Buffs’ magical season.

… Your critiques, and suggestions for other significant plays this season, are, of course, welcome …

First, some honorable mentions:

— CU at No. 4 Michigan … Derek McCartney’s 18-yard fumble return for a touchdown. The score came just four minutes into the game, and came on the heels of 37-yard scoring pass from Sefo Liufau to Devin Ross. On a third-and-seven Chidobe Awuzie blitzed, sacking Michigan quarterback Wilton Speight, forcing a fumble. Derek McCartney went 18 yards with the fumble to give the Buffs a 14-0 lead, leaving the crowd of 110,042 in stunned silence.

— CU v. Oregon State … Shay Fields goes for three touchdowns against Oregon State – in the first half. Any fears of a hangover after the upset win over Oregon were quickly alleviated as Shay Fields set a school record for touchdown receptions in a half, scoring on passes of 51, 33, and 63 yards as the Buffs sprinted out to a 37-6 halftime lead on their way to a 47-6 rout.

— CU at Stanford … Kenneth Olugbode’s fumble recovery ends a Cardinal threat. Colorado out-gained the Cardinal, 359 yards to 263, but squandered scoring opportunities, posting all of ten points in four red zone scoring chances. The Buffs nursed a 7-3 lead into the fourth quarter, but Stanford was primed to take the lead with a first-and-goal at the CU four yard line early in the final stanza. Instead, a fumbled snap was recovered by Buff linebacker Kenneth Olugbode, ending the threat. The final two possessions for the Cardinal ended in interceptions, allowing Colorado to escape with a 10-5 victory.

— CU at Oregon … Byrce Bobo’s circus touchdown catch to take the lead against Oregon. The Oregon game will be remembered for Ahkello Witherspoon’s interception in the end zone in the final minute (see below), but Witherspoon’s heroics wouldn’t have come to pass without Bobo’s 31-yard touchdown catch with 8:43 to play, giving the lead back to Colorado at 41-38. The enthusiasm for the catch was tempered, though, by the fact that the play was initially ruled an incompletion, and had to be reversed by instant replay.

— CU v. UCLA … Isaiah Oliver’s punt return for a touchdown against UCLA. In a season in which the CU offense posted over 500 yards of total offense six times, the CU/UCLA game was a defensive struggle, with 514 yards of total offense posted by the two offenses … combined. The game was tied at 10-10 through three quarters, with the Buffs taking a 13-10 lead early in the fourth on a 37-yard field goal by Chris Graham. Then, with 5:27 to play, Isaiah Oliver, who had a 42-yard punt return earlier which led to a field goal, took a Bruin offering back 68 yards to give Colorado a 20-10 victory … the first time CU had won by that score since the epic 20-10 victory over Nebraska in 1986.

My Top Five Plays of the 2016 season … 


No. 5 … Phillip Lindsay’s 75-yard scamper against Arizona State

Set up … October 15th – Arizona State (5-1) at Colorado (4-2)

The Sun Devils rolled into Boulder with a 5-1 record, with a No. 24 ranking in the USA Today coaches’ poll (No. 27 in the Associated Press poll). While perhaps something of a paper tiger, Arizona State was not a team to be taken lightly. Oh, and Arizona State had not only never lost to Colorado in Pac-12 play, the Sun Devils were 7-0 all-time against Colorado.

The teams went back and forth in the first half, with the teams tied at 10-10 early in the second quarter. The Buffs had forged a 23-10 lead by halftime, and had a significant lead in total yards, but the outcome was still in doubt …

… until the first play of the third quarter.

Taking over at the 25 yard line after a touchback on the opening kickoff of the second half, Sefo Liufau handed the ball off to Phillip Lindsay. Twelve seconds and 75 yards later, the Buffs were up 30-10, and the game was all but over.

A Top Five Play because … it meant that the Buffs were for real. It was not just the first win for the Buffs over the Sun Devils, it was a dominating victory over what was then perceived to be a quality opponent. The 75-yard run by Phillip Lindsay took the chances of a Sun Devil comeback from slim to none. In romping to a 40-16 victory, Colorado out-gained Arizona State, 580 yards to 199. Phillip Lindsay ended the night with 26 carries for 219 yards and three touchdowns, asserting himself as an elite back in the Pac-12.

YouTube video of Phillip Lindsay highlights:



No. 4 … First quarter against Colorado State

Set up … September 2nd – Denver … Colorado State (0-0) v. Colorado State (0-0)

Neither team had played a down in nine months, but there was plenty of reason for anxiety in the Buff Nation on the first Friday night of the 2016 campaign.

After all, Colorado State was coming off of a 7-6 season in 2015, and had been to four straight bowl games. Colorado, meanwhile, was coming off of a 4-9 season, and hadn’t been to a bowl game since CU’s incoming freshmen were in the fourth grade. A loss to the Rams, and the hot seat ranking for Mike MacIntyre (No. 6 in the country in the preseason) would have gotten just that much warmer.

The Play(s) … Had to cheat a little on this one, as the first quarter was a series of plays which were perhaps the best for the Buffs all season. The Rocky Mountain Showdown first quarter drive chart: CSU – three-and-out … CU – 11 plays, 73 yards, touchdown … CSU – three-and-out … CU – six plays, 70 yards, touchdown … CSU – three-and-out … CU – five plays, fumble (okay, nobody’s perfect) … CSU – three-and-out – CU – three plays, 61 yards, touchdown … CSU – three-and-out.

The first quarter carnage broken down … Total yards: CU, 253; CSU 10 … First downs: CU 12; CSU 0 … Score: Colorado 21, Colorado State 0

A Top Five “Play” because … that first quarter set the tone for the entire season. There had been plenty of talk about “The Rise” over the off-season, but the optimism was tempered by the realities: Colorado was 10-27 under Mike MacIntyre, 2-25 in Pac-12 play. It had been a positive off-season, but Buff fans needed to see it translate on the field … and Buff players gave their fans a taste of how special the 2016 would become.

YouTube highlights of the CU/CSU game:



No. 3 … Kenneth Olugbode fumble return for a touchdown against Utah

Set up … November 26th – Boulder … No. 21 Utah (8-3) at No. 9 Colorado (9-2)

Utah had lost its chance to win its first Pac-12 South division crown the week before in a last minute home loss to Oregon. That didn’t diminish the Utes incentive, though, as a win over the Buffs would deny Colorado a Pac-12 title game berth.

Utah took the early lead on a punt return for a touchdown, but the Buffs came back to take a 13-7 second quarter lead. A pair of 22-yard field goals by the Utes tied the game in the third quarter, with both teams failing to take advantage of red zone opportunities. Early in the fourth quarter, it was 20-16, Colorado, and it appeared clear that the game would come down to one big play.

And it did.

The Play … With 11:05 remaining, Utah took over at its own 13-yard line. On first down, quarterback Troy Williams handed off to running back Joe Williams. The Utah running back, who had averaged over 200 yards per game the past five weeks, was stuffed for a three-yard loss, with the ball stripped by linebacker Rick Gamboa. The loose ball was scooped up by Kenneth Olugbode, who returned the fumble ten yards for a Colorado touchdown.

A Top Five Play because … the score gave the Buffs a 27-16 lead, the first two-score lead of the game. The game was close throughout (CU had a 378 to 339 edge in total offense), and both teams squandered red zone opportunities (CU settled for two short field goals; Utah settled for three). Once the Buff defense was afforded a two-score cushion, the Pac-12 South title became a reality in waiting. Utah did score a touchdown with 1:34 remaining, but Olugbode’s score made it too-little, too-late for the Utes … and the Buffs were Pac-12 South champions.



No. 2 … Late touchdown and fumble recovery give Buffs a win over Washington State

Set up … November 19th – Boulder … No. 20 Washington State (8-2) at No. 12 Colorado (8-2)

Both teams controlled their own fate in the race to the Pac-12 title game. The Cougars came to Boulder with a 7-0 Pac-12 record, bidding to become the first team in the six-year history of the Pac-12 to make it through conference play without a loss. The Buffs, meanwhile, were looking for their first win over a ranked team since 2009 (0-23), and the first win for Mike MacIntyre over a ranked team as a head coach (0-19 overall; 0-12 at Colorado).

The game went back and forth, with each team taking turns in the lead. The Buffs took an early 7-0 lead, but the Cougars had a 14-7 advantage by the end of the first quarter. Washington State had a 17-14 lead at halftime, but it was the Buffs who took a 28-24 advantage into the final stanza. A 48-yard field goal by Chris Graham gave Colorado a 31-24 lead, but it was still just a one score game.

Until …

The Play(s) … Taking over at their own 37-yard line with 7:46 remaining, and nursing a one-score lead, the Buff offense put together a nine-play drive to put the game away. The drive was capped by a 13-yard touchdown run by Phillip Lindsay, with Lindsay taking a Cougar safety along for the ride for the final four yards. The play was reminiscent of a Lawrence Vickers run through a Colorado State defender at almost the exact same site on the field in 2005.

The Buffs were now up by two scores, 38-24, but the potent Washington State offense still had 4:18 to change the scoreboard. Instead, five plays into the WSU drive, Cougar quarterback Luke Falk was sacked by Jimmie Gilbert, with the fumble recovered by Addison Gillam, ending Washington State’s last chance at victory. That play reminded me of Barry Remington’s interception of a Nebraska pass with 3:14 remaining in the 1986 game. On both occasions, the Buffs had two score leads, with the late turnover sealing the victory.

A Top Five Play because … The win gave Colorado a 9-2 record, kept the Buffs’ hopes of a Pac-12 title alive, and, just as importantly, gave the Buffs and their fans their first win over a ranked team in seven years. It was, at least for me, powerful due to the raw emotion felt by the 48,658 on hand for the game. The lead changed hands four times, and neither team had more than a one score advantage before Lindsay’s score. A huge win for the program, and an exciting game for the Buff Nation.



No. 1 … Ahkello Witherspoon’s game-saving interception 

Set up … September 24th – Colorado (2-1) at Oregon (2-1).

Colorado raced out to leads of 23-7 and 33-17 over Oregon, but the Ducks battled back. A 21-0 run in the third quarter gave Oregon a 38-33 lead heading into the fourth quarter. Steven Montez then hit Bryce Bobo for a 31-yard touchdown to give the Buffs a 41-38 advantage with 8:43 to play. Thereafter, the Buffs were left to try and hang on, with Oregon mounting a pair of drives into CU territory in the final minutes.

The Play … Oregon drove the ball deep into Colorado territory in waning seconds of the contest. A missed interception by safety Tedric Thompson had kept the drive alive, with a 16-yard completion from Oregon quarterback Dakota Prokup to Dwayne Stanford setting Oregon up at the Colorado seven yard line. The clock ticked under one minute to play. A tying field goal was all but inevitable, with plenty of time for a game-winning touchdown. Instead, on first-and-goal, Prokup threw a fade to the corner to wide receiver Darren Carrington. Buff cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon, though, had inside position, intercepting the pass with 48 seconds remaining, preserving the Buff victory.

A Top Five Play because … of the impact the game had on not just the Colorado program, but on Oregon as well. Think about a parallel universe wherein Dakota Prokup, rather than lofting the ball into the endzone on first-and-goal, instead took off on a quarterback draw, scoring easily and giving the Ducks a 45-41 victory. Oregon would have been 3-1 on the season, on schedule to an eight- or nine win campaign. The Buffs, meanwhile, would have been 2-2, have yet another “close loss” on their resume, with road games against Pac-12 powers USC and Stanford on the immediate horizon.

I had thought, back in August, that the 2016 season might be the year in which the Buffs closed the gap between Colorado and Oregon. I thought the Ducks might slip back to around 8-4, with the Buffs having a shot at 7-5. Not quite parity, but much closer than the huge abyss which had separated the two teams since Colorado joined the Pac-12 in 2011.

Instead, the game proved to be more like two bullet trains passing one another at 200 mph. The Buffs used the game as a launching pad to a 10-3 season, while the Ducks spiraled downward to a 4-8 disaster.

A win over a team which finished last in the Pac-12 North cannot be hailed as a “signature win”, but Ahkello Witherspoon’s interception in the final minute at Autzen can certainly be classified as one of the best moments of CU’s 2016 season.

YouTube highlights of the CU/Oregon game:









Mike MacIntyre at Autzen 




5 Replies to “Top Five Plays of 2016”

  1. Lets also not forget about BoBo’s insane catch to get us the lead back in the 4th quarter of that game. It at least stopped the bleeding of us letting yet another game slip out of our hands. That catch + 2 pt conversion would not have happened last year or 2 years ago. This team needed that game to finally know how to win a game we are expected to lose. And BoBo’s put the belief that it was finally going to happen in their minds, and Witherspoon sealed the deal. What a glorious october day that win was. Will remember it for a long time. Go Buffs.

  2. Witherspoon’s interception was the biggest play by far, nothing else is even close. It gave the team the knowledge that their previously inevitable results of hard fought games against top tier competition always ending in a loss was no longer “inevitable”. They didn’t ALWAYS have to lose, they could win, and things could break THEIR way for once.

    This team needed something to break their connection to the miserable past and this play did it. While other plays during the season had just as much of an outcome on the results of a game, no other play even comes close in its affect on the mindset of the players and the program. College football is as much about momentum and mindset as it is about skills and abilities. That play made a statement about what was now possible, not inevitable. They ran with it. Thanks Akhello!

    1. Yo WarBuff,

      I agree completely. The “Money Gang” came of age that day and throughout the rest of the season showed they were one of the best in the country. The D is the reason for the turnaround year and amazing 10 wins, and that play by Witherspoon set the tone for the Defense the rest of the year.


    2. Just echoing everyone else. Totally agree. For our Buffs this was the moment that proved the hard work pays off and never giving up actually works. On the other side I agree this is also the straw that broke Oregon. It showed everyone that if you keep punching them in the mouth they will fold.

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