CU Game of the Day – September 14th

NoteTo help us get through our CU football withdrawal, I’ll be posting a “Game of the Day” everyday through to Thanksgiving weekend, with links to some of the best CU games over the past 40 years.

September 14th … Another date which has not been kind to the Buffs, with three games in which ranked CU teams lost to ranked opponents … In 1991, the 12th-ranked Buffs lost, 16-14, to No. 23 Baylor on a last minute field goal … In 1996, the 5th-ranked Buffs lost, 20-13, to No. 11 Michigan (with ESPN GameDay on hand in Boulder) … In 2002, the 18th-ranked Buffs were trampled by No. 17 USC, 40-3 … 

But … There was one game played on September 14th which was a huge victory. In fact, it was so important that Bill McCartney said of the victory, “I think that could be a turning point for our program”. And, you know what?

He was probably right.

Read on …

September 14, 1985 – Boulder           Colorado 21, Oregon 17

Mickey Pruitt’s sack of Oregon quarterback Chris Miller as time expired allowed Colorado to raise its season record to 2-0 for the first time since 1978 with an exciting 21-17 win over the Ducks in Boulder.

The Buffs offense made it look easy in the first quarter, racing to a 14-0 lead. Sophomore fullback Anthony Weatherspoon scored on a ten-yard run, followed shortly thereafter by a three yard touchdown run by quarterback Mark Hatcher.

After the quick start, though, Oregon dominated through the middle quarters, forging a 17-14 advantage early in the fourth quarter.

Then the game really got interesting.

Quarterback Mark Hatcher scored on a 22-yard run early in the fourth quarter to put the Buffs back on top, 21-17. After that, the defense was asked to take over. Specifically, the game, and the fragile confidence of Colorado’s young team, came down to the play of two sophomore defensive backs, David Tate and Mickey Pruitt.

With the Buffs holding on to a tenuous four-point lead after Hatcher’s run, Oregon drove down the field. The drive was thwarted, however, by an interception by David Tate at the Buffs’ 10 yard line. After the pick, the Buffs were held deep in their own territory and were quickly forced to punt. Punter Barry Helton did his part, with a 68-yard kick down to the Ducks 13-yard line.

5:23 still remained. Colorado 21, Oregon 17.

The Ducks, led by future NFL quarterback Chris Miller, methodically drove from its own 13 to the Colorado three-yard line as the clock ticked off the final minutes of the game.

Oregon had a first-and-goal at the Colorado five yard line with a minute left to play. Three plays netted only two yards, however, with Buff fans pleading with the defense to hold on for one more down.

Faced with fourth-and-goal at the Colorado three yard line, Chris Miller called time out.

Only nine seconds remained on the game clock.

The game would come down to one play.

What would it be for the Buffs? Would Colorado double its 1984 win total in only the second week of the season, or would the black cloud which had hung over Folsom Field for the previous six years again rain upon the Buffs and their faithful fans?

Enter Mickey Pruitt.

Sophomore strong safety Mickey Pruitt was a member of Bill McCartney’s first recruiting class. It was fitting then, that it was Pruitt who broke through on a safety blitz, flushing Miller out of the pocket, sacking the Oregon quarterback before Miller could get off the pass.

Ball turned over on downs.

Game over. Colorado 21, Oregon 17.

How big was the win?

Coach McCartney after the game: “I think that could be a turning point for our program.”

In retrospect, who can argue with that statement?

Here is a You Tube video of the final play, one of Bill McCartney’s Top Five plays:

Ed Reinhardt Day

Only 30,373 were in attendance for the 1985 Colorado/Oregon game.

That’s a shame.

The occasion deserved nothing less than a sellout crowd of 50,000+. Not only because of the win, but because of the halftime activities that afternoon. The Oregon game in 1985 was designated at Colorado as “Ed Reinhardt Day”. After collapsing in Eugene after the Colorado/Oregon game the year before, Reinhardt spent two months in a coma. By September, 1985, Reinhardt was in an extensive rehabilitation program at Craig Hospital in Denver.

Halftime festivities saluted not only Reinhardt, but also the Oregon team and the city of Eugene, Oregon, whose outpouring of assistance had not gone unnoticed in Boulder. Reinhardt’s presence was an emotional lift for a program which needed one.

The exciting win could well be attributed to a player who never played a down in the game, Ed Reinhardt.

Game Notes –

– Both quarterback Mark Hatcher (16 rushes, 114 yards) and fullback Anthony Weatherspoon (25 rushes for 101 yards) eclipsed the 100-yard barrier against Oregon, with Ron Brown (eight rushes for 83 yards) not far behind. The Oregon game marked the first time since 1978 (v. Kansas) that Colorado had two players rush for over 100 yards in the same game.

– Colorado out-gained Oregon on the afternoon, 390 yards to 328, with the two teams taking different paths to offensive yards. The Buffs had 342 yards rushing to only 106 for the Ducks, but Oregon had 222 yards passing, while Colorado completed only two passes (in five attempts), going for 48 yards.

– Junior linebacker Barry Remington, who would go on to lead the Buffs in tackles in 1985 with 162, led the Buffs with 22 tackles (13 unassisted) against Oregon.

– Barry Helton’s 68-yard punt certainly helped the Buffs against the Ducks, but it was well short of the school-record 84-yard punt (“without roll”) Byron “Whizzer” White laid on Missouri in 1937. Oddly enough, Helton’s effort was his only punt of the afternoon.

– Oregon would go on to finish the 1985 season with a 5-6 record; 3-4 in the Pac-10. In a harbinger of what the Buffs were to face later in the season, Oregon, two weeks after facing Colorado, would fall to No. 14 Nebraska, 63-0.

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