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Dave Plati War Stories – Part III – On ’86 Nebraska game; the ’90 Championship season; and Salaam’s Run the Heisman

Previously posted … Part I – “The Resignations of Bill McCartney and Rick Neuheisel” … can be found here

Part II – “On Broadcasters: Keith Jackson, Joel Klatt, Chris Fowler … and O.J. Simpson”can be found here

Dave Plati, whose official title is CU’s Associate Athletic Director / Media Relations Director (full bio can be found here) has been a part of CU athletics history for over four decades, and has many stories. He was kind enough to share some of them with CU at the Game

On the the 1986 Nebraska game … Colorado 20, Nebraska 10 – The Signature Wins of All Signature Wins

It was ‘partly’ televised. That was a cool effort. We were going to upset them. After the O.C. Oliver to Lance Carl touchdown put us up 20-10 at the start of the fourth quarter, they never had the ball again down only one score.

We get a call from ABC in New York. ‘We’d love to get this on video. What can you do?’. They were trying to get a hold of Channel 7, but they couldn’t reach anybody. Well, Channel 7 was here, and Bob Beattie was there at the game. So Bob goes up to the photo deck, and I don’t know how they did it, but I think they got the last few minutes of the game on the air.

That was the fastest we ever got the stat book done. The fans had rushed the field after Nebraska had turned the ball over on downs (with 16 seconds remaining). (Mark) Hatcher is going to take a knee. It’s going to be a one-yard loss. I said, ‘Book it right now – let’s get rolling’. Part of me is like, ‘it had better happen this way’. So, we had the final stats out like nine seconds after the game ended.
The official stats sheet in the 1986 Nebraska game shows Mark Hatcher losing one yard on the final play, which led to this memory …

“Don’t mess with a New York Italian”Colorado 34, Oklahoma 17 – October 19, 1991

We were leading Oklahoma, 34-17, and were on their one yard line at the end of the game. We had 502 yards of total offense for the game. Balls on their one. Mac is not going to run up the score. Hagan takes a knee at the two. All of the sudden, on the stats sheet, it turns into a three-yard loss, and we end the game with 499 yards of total offense on the day. I’m like, ‘What are you doing? You don’t do stuff like that!’.

But the Oklahoma SID never liked me We got into it early in my career. We were at an SID meeting for the Big Eight. He literally said, in answer to a question, ‘Well, that’s okay for Oklahoma and Nebraska, but how do the little schools feel?’.

This was my very first SID meeting, so later on I answered a question, ‘That’s okay with the academic schools, but how do Nebraska and Oklahoma feel about it?’. From then on, the Oklahoma SID had it in for me … Don’t mess with a New York Italian.

The 1990 National Championship season … More than the 5th down and Rocket

People remember the 5th down game (against Missouri). Well, there were 92 documented slips during the game. Boman walks into the end zone, if he doesn’t slip at the three (setting up the controversial ending on the goal line).

People remember the Rocket (and the clipping call which brought back a Notre Dame touchdown, preserving a 10-9 CU victory), but if you look at the wide film there are at least one other clip somewhere else. Notre Dame just went for it.

Our two biggest breaks, though, during the 1990 seaosn, if you ask me, were in the first two games of the season. If you recall in the Tennessee game (the season opener, which ended in a 31-31 tie), if (Tennessee running back) Chuckie Webb doesn’t turn in, and runs out of bounds (at the end of the game), they are going to try a 50-yard field goal.

Then, the Stanford game, did (Eric) Bieniemy get over on fourth-and-one? It was close. We had four cracks from the one. If that had gone the other way, it would have been a different season.

Rashaan Salaam’s run to the Heisman Trophy 

Rashaan did not like doing TV. He did not like seeing himself on camera. He was a handsome guy, but he hated doing interviews for TV. I remember that he didn’t want to do an interview after we beat Wisconsin here in 1994, because we were going on the road to play Michigan the next week. He was fighting with me about it, but at this point, he’s not a Heisman candidate.

Then we beat Michigan, the ‘Miracle’ game, and if you recall, ESPN did a whole breakdown, interviewing like 11 different players and coaches. Rashaan had probably the key play on the whole play, and people don’t remember who he blocked – it was a future Bronco, Trevor Pryce.

Price slipped Berti’s block, Salaam picked him up, and then Berti gathered himself and just pancaked him. So, that was a key play, and I’m like, ‘Rashaan. You have got to do this TV interview’. He finally acquiesced. He finally did it. He wasn’t happy about it, but did get some national publicity.

That same week, I was getting grief for not pushing Kordell as CU’s Heisman candidate. I was like, ‘Hey, Westbrook had the catch. He had 150+ yards receiving. Salaam ran for more yards than any opposing back in the Big House than any back in 21 years. I can’t separate the three.’ They had to separate themselves, and they did that after the Nebraska game (a 24-7 loss in Lincoln on October 29th, in what would prove to be CU’s only loss of the season). Part of that was what Rick Neuheisel said was Elliot Uzelac’s plan to beat them at their own game – not throwing a pass over 15 yards down field against an average secondary. You want to see Rick get red, bring up that game.

Now here’s Rashaan. He’s a Heisman candidate. He doesn’t like doing interviews. It was a confidence problem – that’s all it was. I stuck him into a collection of the most worthless interviews, just to get him some practice. I told him that they were Heisman voters, and he was like, ‘All right. I’ll do it’. They weren’t Heisman voters – I just told him that. I told him later that he did about 30 interviews with Heisman voters that weren’t really that. I just wanted him to get polished.

But then, he was able to speak to a crowd of about 2,500 at the Heisman dinner, the big one they have after (the presentation of the trophy). And part of that was because he got polished doing fake interviews.

Our office has always taken pride in getting our athletes, and training them for interviews. We don’t sit in on interviews, or stop interviews. We let them sink or swim on their own. Over the years, there have been very few instances where an athlete has said something bad.

Even Mel will tell you that, in the SEC, a lot of assistant coaches aren’t allowed to interview. He thinks that is a detriment. The assistant coaches have to have the same kind of practice for when they become head coaches. Otherwise, they don’t know how to do it. Fortunately, we’ve never had that kind of restraint.

Still to come … The final installment (Monday morning) … Some memorable occasions (inventing the “red zone”; Oklahoma State basketball team plane crash) …

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2 Replies to “Dave Plati – On the National Title Season and Salaam’s Heisman Campaign”

  1. Actually, I let the Nebraska SID at the time (the great Don Bryant, an icon in our business) know ahead of time what I was gonna say. He thought it’d be funny!

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