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1995 Revisited – No. 14 CU 43, No. 21 Wisconsin 7

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.)

Previously posted1990 Revisited: No. 5 Colorado 31, No. 8 Tennessee 31

From the Daily Camera … Heading into his first game as a head coach, Rick Neuheisel made sure he was ready for anything.

“I think I was more prepared for that game than anything I’ve ever been prepared for in my life,” Neuheisel said this week in looking back at his debut as Colorado’s head football coach, Sept. 2, 1995, at Wisconsin. “I had every eventuality down on paper – what I was going to do, what could happen – because I just wanted so desperately to start well. I didn’t want there to be a snafu. I even had a halftime speech prepared without even having seen the first half.”

There was no snafu in Madison, Wisc., that night a quarter century ago when the then-34-year-old Neuheisel began a new era of CU football by leading the 14th-ranked Buffaloes to a stunning 43-7 rout of No. 21 Wisconsin.

Less than 10 months earlier, legendary CU head coach Bill McCartney retired after going 93-55-5 in 13 seasons (1982-94). Taking over a dismal program in 1982, McCartney turned CU into a power and won the program’s only national title, in 1990. McCartney’s final team, in 1994, may have been his best, but a mid-season loss at Nebraska cost them a shot at the national title.

Athletic director Bill Marolt kept the search for a replacement mostly internal and surprised many when he went with the least experienced of the bunch. Neuheisel was 33 years old at the time and been at CU for just one season, coaching the quarterbacks and receivers in 1994. He had no head coaching or coordinator experience.

CU wasn’t the only school to see Neuheisel as head coach material, though. In November of 1994, before McCartney retired, Michigan State talked to Neuheisel about its vacancy. The Spartans eventually hired Nick Saban.

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From the CU at the Game Archives“Baptism by Fire”

On September 2, 1995, some of the questions about Rick Neuheisel, head coach, would begin to be answered.

Colorado, which opened the season as the 14th-ranked team in the nation, would go on the road to face the Wisconsin Badgers. Wisconsin players had plenty to prove themselves. The Badgers had been embarrassed by Colorado, 55-17, in Boulder in 1994, and wanted to let their Big 10 brethren know that they would be a force to reckon with in 1995. What better way to accomplish this by defeating the Buffs in a night game regionally televised by ABC?

The Badgers came into the season opener ranked 21st in the nation.

Over 79,000 fanatical Badger fans poured into Camp Randall Stadium to witness the debut of Colorado head coach Rick Neuheisel. Although schedules are made years in advance, commentators could not help but note that Neuheisel would coach his first game as head coach of the Colorado Buffaloes in his hometown of Madison, Wisconsin.

Pressure?

Nah.

September 2nd – at Wisconsin           No. 14 CU 43, No. 21 Wisconsin 7

In the kickoff to the “Neu Era” in Colorado football, the Buffs served notice to the college football world that Colorado could not be taken lightly. Despite losing 10 starters to the NFL, the Buffs dominated the Badgers throughout, taking a 26-7 halftime lead before cruising to a 43-7 romp.

Not a bad entrance, Rick.

Quarterback Koy Detmer showed there was reason to believe he would ably succeed Kordell Stewart at the helm, completing 17-of-24 passes for 267 yards and three touchdowns. Rae Carruth hauled in only four of Detmer’s passes, but covered 100 yards in doing so, converting half of his receptions into two first-half scores.

Detmer, for his part, credited the offensive line for his success. “I didn’t have much pressure on me all night”, said the Buffs’ quarterback.

“The offensive line did a great job of keeping those guys out, picking up twists and stunts all night.” Three Buff rushers, dubbed by some in the media as the “Thoroughbred Trio”, combined for 157 yards and one touchdown on 32 carries. Sharing the offensive wealth were sophomore Herchell Troutman (15 carries for 76 yards), junior Marlon Barnes (10-for-48 yards, one touchdown), and junior Lendon Henry (7-33).

On defense, the questions concerning a shaky secondary were also answered. Wisconsin quarterback Darrell Bevell, victimized for four first half interceptions by the Buffs in the 1994 game, fared little better in 1995. Bevell was picked off only once by the Buffs, but could muster only 175 total yards passing, and was sacked five times.

Leading the defensive charge for the Buffs was safety Steve Rosga, who not only sacked Bevell twice, but also stole the ball out of tailback Carl McCullogh’s hands in the fourth quarter. After swiping the ball from his former high school teammate, Rosga rumbled 75 yards for the game’s final score.

After the game, Neuheisel was understandably excited. His enthusiasm, though, was not for himself. “A lot has been said about the changeover from coach Mac to me,” said Neuheisel, who with the win became the first Colorado head coach to win their debut game since Jim Yeager in 1946. “But unfortunately, that took the focus away from our eight seniors and I made a point to those guys that this game has nothing to do with Rick Neuheisel, although I’m a part of it. It really is a tribute to these seniors and to the Colorado tradition which was instilled long ago.”

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Dave Plati on Rick Neuheisel … 

I’ll tell you a story which puts Rick Neuheisel in a different light.

My mom died in June of 1995. She would always leave a message on my home answering machine, after every game. So that fall, we kicked Wisconsin’s butt in the season opener, and I’m off to the side after the game, and it occurred to me that, for the first time, I’m not going to get that call from my mom.

I wasn’t crying, but I was kind of … you know, it just kind of hit me. My dad was totally lost after my mom died, and it was hard on us. When you are in this business, sometimes you have to grieve at a later time, and it was at that moment that it hit me that my mom was gone.

Rick sees me, and he says, ‘Do you have your cell phone? Let’s call your dad”. I said, ‘What? You haven’t even spoke to your dad yet (to celebrate a victory in his first game as a head coach)’. So, we called my dad.

People want to rip Rick, but they really don’t know him.

Rick wasn’t a coordinator before he became head coach, and that bothered most people. The media got on him for the rides in the creek. That wasn’t a problem when we opened 20-4 under him. But it became a problem in ‘97 (when CU went 5-7). Then they blamed him for CU having to forfeit games. No. That was Darren Fisk, who came in under McCartney, and it wasn’t even him. It wasn’t a football problem. It was a compliance office thing. He didn’t write down that he was at a second JUCO for a week before he went to another, and they tagged us for that. I can guarantee that there are other schools where that happens, and it gets swept under the rug.

As for his leaving CU for Washington …

He turned down (Washington athletic director) Barbara Hedges twice. That was borne out of the only time that they ran two bowl games out of the same stadium on the same day. We played Oregon in the ‘98 Aloha Bowl, followed by Air Force against Washington after us. So Barbara Hedges is there, watching us play in the Aloha Bowl. Obviously, when you thump Oregon with 51 points, it gets the attention of everyone at Washington.

She liked how Rick was conducting the program. She got a hold of him the next day, and made him an offer. Rick said, ‘No, no. I’m happy at Colorado’. She called him again a two days later, and he tells her, ‘Here’s what you need to do to get a really good coach at Washington, and gives her the A,B,C, D of what she needs to do’. She calls back a few days later, ‘I’ve done all that. I still want you’.

Rick comes over to my house that Saturday morning. We call (Dick) Tharp (CU’s athletic director) from there. Tharp gave him the impression that he would either get back to him with a counter-offer, or at least a contract. What it all came down with Rick was that he wanted a contract, for security. Dick wasn’t willing to give him one. Washington was, and we were just waiting to hear back from Dick.

At that point, he calls all of the assistants over. The assistants are all over at my house. I’m working the Denver/Miami playoff game, so I’m like, ‘Sorry guys, I’ve got to go. So Rick, call me later and tell me what’s going on’.

So, I haven’t heard from him. I get down to the stadium, get down to the press box, and everyone is all over me. Well, Tharp told John Meadows. John Meadows told Dan Creedon (at the Boulder Daily Camera), and Dan Creedon told the world. Next thing you know – it’s out there. At that point, he’s gone.

Nobody realizes – Rick would have stayed.

… Continue reading story here …

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3 Replies to “BDC Revisits Game 1, 1995: No. 14 CU 43, No. 21 Wisconsin 7”

  1. Sorry Dave and Stu, I am still not a Ricky fan. Its nice that he showed some sympathy to Dave’s mourning. Not everyone, well maybe with the exception of a couple of currently elected politicians, is totally depraved.
    And as for the possibility that he would have stayed I am taking with a grain of salt. He hadnt been at UW more than a year when he was secretly negotiating for a job with the 49ers.
    His first year at UW was a great success albeit with a QB who now owns NFL career records. While he was there, however, he engaged in criminal coddling Tom Osborne would be proud of.
    I wasnt all that upset when he decided to leave CU until it was reported he was trying to persuade some Buffs to go with him. That kind of thing probably happens all the time but I still think its despicable. You cheat the fans and the rest of the team, who he wasnt trying to leave with, after recruiting them to CU.
    He was overrated as a head coach and finally exposed as such at his alma mater.
    While not as bad as coach failure as clown Lee Corso, Ricky is now a fellow sports pundit on the ESPNU morning show where he is the stick in mud straight man to Chris Childers where he can piously comment on other coaches. To quote the rarely appearing VK……….sheeesh

  2. I think Plati is great but his weak spot is defending ex coaches. Maybe Ol Tricky Ricky was telling the UW AD what it would take for him to leave. And Plati fails the mention the nasty comments he made about the program on the way out. And Plati is always telling us how great a person HWSRN is, but as a fan I really don’t care.

    Neuheisel won with Mac’s players. When that weol dried up he hit the road. HWSRN simply ruined the program with his incompetence. As a fan I don’t need to hear what great guys they are, it is irrelevant to the job they did

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