1990 Revisited – No. 5 Colorado, No. 8 Tennessee 31

From the Daily Camera … (Note: The coronavirus pandemic has postponed the fall sports season in the Pac-12 Conference until at least January and that means no Colorado Buffaloes football this season. Instead, BuffZone.com will feature memorable games and players from the past as we look back at each week in CU football history. In this installment, we look back at the week of Aug. 24-30.)

(Note II: Along a slightly similar vein, I will be working through CU’s (original) 2020 schedule, with a game-by-game “review” of the game, with the Game Story, locker room quotes and Game Notes you have come to expect from CU at the Game. I will also track every Pac-12 game played that weekend, with updated standings as we work our way through the season. As a bonus, in additional to a “review” which I believe to be realistic, I will run an “Alternate Universe” in which CU posts a magical season. Look for the CU at Colorado State “results” next Saturday, September 5th). 

From the Daily Camera … Mickey Mouse was all smiles – as always – when he donned a football helmet, held a ball and stood next to a pair of coaching legends.

The announcement of the first Disneyland Pigskin Classic featured one of the world’s most lovable characters, as well as Colorado’s Bill McCartney and Tennessee’s Johnny Majors, on Feb. 21, 1990.

There were plenty of reasons to smile, as Disney was to host two of the premier programs in the country in the first game of the 1990 season and each school would collect at least $550,000 for playing the game.

… “We’re going to look back on it with a lot of frustration because we put ourselves in a position to win a game,” McCartney said afterward.

A remarkable left-handed flip from Buffs’ sensational quarterback Darian Hagan to speedy receiver-turned-running back Mike Pritchard resulted in a 78-yard touchdown run that gave the Buffs a 31-17 lead with 7 minutes, 11 seconds to play in the fourth quarter.

In the next five minutes, Tennessee quarterback Andy Kelly led the Vols on two scoring drives – a touchdown pass to Carl Pickens and Chuck Webb’s 4-yard touchdown run – to tie the game at 31-31 with 2:25 to go.

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From the CU at the Game Archives article for the game

No. 5 Colorado 31, No. 8 Tennessee 31

Colorado and Tennessee utilized contrasting styles in posting 31 points each as the 5th-ranked Buffs and the 8th-ranked Volunteers fought to a 31-31 draw in the opening game of the 1990 season. Colorado overcame five turnovers to put together 368 yards rushing, while Tennessee twice overcame two touchdown deficits in the fourth quarter to salvage the tie. Colorado’s Mike Pritchard, subbing for the suspended Eric Bieniemy, rushed 20 times for 217 yards, the sixth best rushing day in Colorado history, and the best opening day effort ever.

The Buffs committed three first quarter turnovers, including a Pritchard fumble on Colorado’s first play, yet trailed only 7-0. A methodical 19-play, 97-yard drive put the Buffs back in the game, culminated with a one-yard scoring plunge by senior fullback George Hemingway. The teams were knotted 10-10 at halftime.

Colorado quarterback Darian Hagan, intercepted just four times in all of 1989, was intercepted three times in the first half by Tennessee. “I just don’t know what happened,” said Hagan. “I messed up a lot of reads, and I just didn’t throw well.”

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Game Notes … 

– The game represented the first-ever meeting between the schools in football.

– Dave McCloughan’s 55-yard punt return for a touchdown marked the first such score by a Buff since Walter Stanley turned the trick in the 1981 season opener against Texas Tech. McCloughan would go on to lead the nation in punt returns in 1990, returning 32 kicks for 524 yards and two touchdowns.

– The tie was the first for Colorado since tying Oklahoma State, 25-25, in 1982, and the first tie in an opener since the 1965 squad battled Wisconsin to a 0-0 tie.

– On offense, four players received their first career starts in the 1990 season opener. Junior wide receiver Rico Smith joined junior tight end Jon Boman on the outside, while the line saw two new starters – junior Russell Heasley at right guard and senior Ariel Solomon at left tackle.

– Two defensive linemen had their first career starts against Tennessee. Red-shirt freshman Leonard Renfro started at left defensive tackle, joined by senior right defensive tackle Garry Howe. Sophomore Greg Biekert got his first start at linebacker, while junior Greg Thomas became a regular in the defensive backfield.

– Mike Pritchard’s 217-yard rushing effort, the best by a Buff in a season-opener ever, included the longest scoring run of the 1990 season, 78 yards. The 217-yard total would be matched by another Buff, however, later in the season. Most don’t remember the 217-yard effort put up by Eric Bieniemy, though, because it came in the infamous 5th-down game against Missouri.

– Senior safety Tim James had two interceptions against Tennessee, and would go on to lead the team with six interception in the 1990 season. James’ 13 career interceptions put him third in Colorado history, behind only John Stearns (16, 1970-72) and Dick Anderson (14, 1965-67).

– The 31 points surrendered to Tennessee marked the first time since the middle of the 1988 season in which the Colorado defense had surrendered more than 30 points in a game. It also marked the first time an opponent had more than 500 yards of total offense (503) since Missouri racked up 639 yards during the 1-10 1984 season.

– The Pigskin Classic lasted in Anaheim for five seasons, before  going on the road to home team venues for an additional eight years, with the final Pigskin Classic being played in 2002 between Ohio State and Texas Tech in Columbus, with the home team winning, 45-21 (in fact, all eight Pigskin Classics not played in Anaheim were won by the home teams). Despite having two top ten teams competing in the 1990 inaugural edition, only 33,458 came to see Colorado and Tennessee play.

– Tennessee would go on to finish the 1990 season with a 9-2-2 record. After an early season tie with Auburn, the Volunteers at one point sported a 4-0-2 record. In season losses to Alabama and Notre Dame were not enough to keep Tennessee from representing the SEC in the Sugar Bowl, where the Volunteers defeated Virginia, 23-22. Tennessee finished the 1990 season right where they started – at No. 8 in the final poll.

… And here is the You Tube video of the game … 



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