CU Game of the Day – September 15th

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 15th … A day with a series of tough losses … 1984: Ed Reinhardt injured as Buffs fall in final minute of play … 1990: CU’s only loss of the season comes on the road against Illinois … 2007: A tough 16-6 loss to Florida State in CU’s first-ever “Blackout” game … 2012: One of the worst games in CU history, as the Buffs hit bottom against Fresno State (check out my essay for the game) … 

But … There was one game played on September 15th which was a victory came just two years ago … CU’s only win on this date in the past 40 years came in a 48-14 rout of … New Hampshire.

Check out the stories for all five games below …

September 15, 1984 – at Oregon           Oregon 27, Colorado 20

The Oregon Ducks, like CU’s opening opponent, Michigan State, had posted a 4-6-1 record in 1983. Unlike the Spartans, though, the Buffs had no history from which to draw incentive. The last meeting between the two teams had been in 1979, with the Buffs falling 33-19 at home in Chuck Fairbanks’ debut as Colorado head football coach.

In 1984, Oregon was able to outlast Colorado, holding off the bumbling Buffs, 27-20. Dropped passes, 11 penalties, and continuing difficulties with the kicking game condemned the Buffs to a second straight failed fourth quarter comeback.

Unlike the Michigan State game, the Buffs did well in their first drive in Eugene. Despite starting on the eight yard line, Colorado put together a 92-yard drive, with junior wide receiver Ron Brown hauling in a 68-yard touchdown pass from Steve Vogel for the early score. Kicker Larry Eckel, however, missed the extra point, and the Buffs’ enthusiasm was tempered.

After falling behind 17-6 at halftime, Colorado rallied in the second half to take the lead. Two one-yard touchdown runs by Lee Rouson put the Buffs on top, 20-17. Rouson’s second score, coming on the first play of the fourth quarter, was capped by a two-point conversion pass from Vogel to tight end Ed Reinhardt.

The lead was short-lived, though, as Oregon kick returner Tony Cherry took the ensuing kickoff 66 yards to the Colorado 28-yard line. After tacking on  15 yards for an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against the Buffs, and Oregon needed to travel only 14 yards to reclaim the lead, 24-20.

A 40-yard field goal by the Ducks’ kicker, Matt MacLeod, with 2:51 remaining gave Oregon a 27-20 lead. The Buffs, though, were not finished. After driving to the Oregon 43-yard line with 1:36 left, the Buffs had a first-and-ten. Quarterback Steve Vogel dropped back and lofted a pass to split end Loy Alexander. Alexander, who had five catches on the day, was inexplicably behind the Oregon defenders at the Oregon seven yard line. As had been the case with Colorado receivers all day, however, Alexander dropped the ball.

Three incompletions later, the Buffs turned the ball over on downs, and Oregon was 2-0 for the first time since 1965. Colorado was 0-2, with powerhouse teams of Notre Dame and UCLA up next.

It would have been understandable for Bill McCartney to be disheartened after losing a close game for the second week in a row.

It would have been forgivable if Bill McCartney was mono-syllabic in his post-game press conference.

But there were no post-game locker room quotes from McCartney. In fact, McCartney could not be reached for comment.

He was on his way to Sacred Heart Hospital in Eugene, where tight end Ed Reinhardt was fighting for his life.

Ed Reinhardt

Most University of Colorado fans, when the 1984 game against Oregon is mentioned, do not remember the score. Buff faithful can only remember one aspect to the game – the near death of tight end Ed Reinhardt.

There was no forewarning before the game as to what was to happen. The only attention Reinhardt received prior to that fateful Saturday was from the Oregon defensive coaches. After Reinhardt’s record-setting 10-catch performance against Michigan State, the Ducks were more focused on stopping the sophomore tight end. For most of the afternoon, they were successful, holding Reinhardt to four catches and 48 yards.

Reinhardt’s final catch of his career came late in the game, around 3:55 p.m. local time. He was tackled hard, but refused help as he stumbled off the field on his own. At 4:00 p.m., Reinhardt collapsed on the Colorado sideline. Comatose, Reinhardt was carried from the stadium on a stretcher just as the game was ending.

Upon leaving the field, Coach McCartney was informed by trainer Brian Barry of Reinhardt’s condition. McCartney immediately requested and received assistance from the Eugene police department in securing a ride, and left for the hospital. There he was informed that his tight end was undergoing emergency brain surgery.

The sophomore, who played at Heritage High School in Littleton, underwent over three hours of surgery for a subdural hematoma (bleeding inside the brain). After the surgery, Dr. Arthur Hockey, a neuro-surgeon who had been on call and who had attended the game, indicated Reinhardt’s prognosis “is uncertain. He still could not survive”.

Reinhardt was in a coma.

Reinhardt’s parents flew in. McCartney kept the vigil with the family as the team flew back to Boulder. Reinhardt was in critical condition with his future, if not his life, very much in doubt.

The next few days would bring an increased appreciation for Bill McCartney, a deeply religious man who was true to his faith. His concern for Ed Reinhardt went well past that of a head coach. At the same time, a special bond developed between the cities of Boulder, Colorado, and Eugene, Oregon. The outpouring from well-wishers was overwhelming. It seemed that the citizens of Eugene could not do enough for Ed Reinhardt and his family. It would be a relationship which would not be soon forgotten.

With Ed Reinhardt remaining indefinitely in an Oregon hospital, the University of Colorado football team was faced with a daunting task. Two frustrating defeats, one of their own struggling to survive, and a trip to Notre Dame on the schedule.

What was to happen next was unfortunately all too predictable.

September 15, 1990 – at Illinois           No. 21 Illinois 23, No. 9 Colorado 22

Howard Griffith scored from a yard out with 1:18 to play to give the Fighting Illini a 23-22 win over Colorado. 21st-ranked Illinois exacted a measure of revenge for the 38-7 pasting the Buffs had put on the Illini in 1989, pulling out the win on a 10-play, 63-yard drive to erase a 22-17 deficit. Quarterback Jason Verduzco did what his famed predecessor, Jeff George, could not – he out-performed the Colorado defense. Verduzco completed 23-of-29 passes for 222 yards and two touchdowns in leveling Illinois’ record at 1-1.

Colorado jumped out to a 17-3 lead early in the second quarter. After spotting Illinois a 3-0 lead, Darian Hagan led the Buffs on a nine-play, 80-yard drive, finished off by a two-yard touchdown run by fullback George Hemingway. An interception by safety Tim James led to a 54-yard field goal by junior Jim Harper raised the lead to 10-3. Less than two minutes later, after a 42-yard punt return by Dave McCloughan, Hagan hit wingback Michael Simmons for a 32- yard touchdown pass to give the Buffs a 17-3 cushion.

A touchdown drive late in the second quarter by the Illini changed the course of the game. What was maddening for the Buffs after the game is that the score shouldn’t have come to pass. A third-and-nine pass was bobbled by linebacker Chad Brown, allowing running back Wagner Lester to grab the ball for an 11-yard gain. “It wasn’t a strong pass,” said Brown after the game. “I just couldn’t bring it down.” Still, things looked good for Colorado, as the defense later forced a fourth-and-15 at the Colorado 36-yard line. Illinois head coach John Mackovic decided to go for it. “I wanted them to go for it,” Bill McCartney said later. Unfortunately for the Buffs, the Illini completed a 17-yard pass, then scored on an eight yard pass from Verduzco to Elbert Turner with 28 seconds left before halftime.

17-10, Colorado, at the break.

After a 43-yard field goal attempt midway through the third quarter was blocked, Illinois tied the game with a five play, 64-yard drive. The Buffs regained the lead, though, just a few minutes later. Linebacker Greg Biekert, who would go on to post 19 solo tackles on the afternoon, tackled Howard Griffith in the Illinois endzone to give Colorado a 19-17 lead at the end of the third quarter. Jim Harper connected from 26 yards out to give the Buffs a 22-17 lead before Illinois’ final drive gave the Illini the win.

“Offensively, we’re not converting like we did a year ago,” McCartney said. “Our defense is solid, but we’re not taking advantage of it. Our defense played well enough to win. We just didn’t have enough offense.”

The Colorado Buffaloes, touted as national championship contenders in all of the preseason college football magazines, were now 1-1-1 on the year. Midway through the month of September, and Colorado was all but out of the title chase. No team had finished #1 with a loss and a tie since 1965, when Alabama won the national championship with a 9-1-1 record.

Realistically, the national championship was no longer to be the Buffs’ primary focus. “This loss takes us out of contention,” said Bill McCartney, “and I’m sure it will drop us in the rankings.”

The loss to Illinois dropped the Buffs to 20th in the next poll. A date with 22nd-ranked Texas in Austin was up next. Colorado had defeated the Longhorns, 27-6, in Boulder to open the 1989 campaign, but this was not 1989. Texas was 1-0 in 1990, having defeated Penn State, 17-13, in its season-opener. What was more, Colorado had traveled to Austin only twice in school history, and had limped home to Boulder 0-2, with the combined points total being: Texas 115; Colorado 7.

All signs pointed to a Colorado loss and a 1-2-1 record.

Fortunately for Colorado, the prediction of the downfall of the Buffs was as inaccurate as the preseason hype had appeared three weeks into the 1990 campaign.

September 15, 2007 – Boulder          Florida State 16, Colorado 6

A week after surrendering over 400 yards of total offense to Arizona State, the Colorado defense came to play against Florida State. The Buffs held the Seminoles to 221 total yards, but the CU offense could not take advantage, failing to score until the final result of the contest had been determined. At the final gun, the scoreboard showed a 16-6 Buff loss before a Folsom Field crowd of 52,951.

The kickoff, set for 8:15 p.m., was the latest in Colorado football history. The game was moved to late Saturday night for national broadcast by ESPN. Still, most of the nation missed almost all of the first quarter, as the Alabama/Arkansas game (won in the last minute by Alabama, 41-38), went well over its allotted time. As if sensing the lack of a spotlight, both the Buffs and the Seminoles opened with little offensive production. The Buffs actually held the ball for 11:39 of the first quarter, but could not crack the scoreboard. A 16-play, 60-yard drive produced no points, as Buff kicker Kevin Eberhart was wide left on his 37-yard field goal attempt.

On the Buffs’ next possession, CU quarterback Cody Hawkins was intercepted by cornerback Tony Carter, who returned the ball to midfield. Two plays later Florida State running back Antone Smith raced past the Colorado defense for 36 yards and a touchdown and a 7-0 lead five minutes into the second quarter. After a three-and-out possession by Colorado, Florida State drove 50 yards in nine plays, setting up a 31-yard field goal by FSU kicker Gary Cismesia.

Down 10-0 at the half, the Buffs showed signs of life to open the third quarter.

After holding the Seminoles to a punt to open the stanza, Colorado put together a nine play drive which took the Buffs to the FSU 13-yard line. With the Buffs on the verge of their first touchdown since the first quarter of the Arizona State game, the CU crowd, with almost everyone “blacked out” for the occasion, reached its highest decibel level since the opening kickoff. A sack and two failed draw plays later, Kevin Eberhart missed his second field goal of the game, this time from 46 yards out. Two drives later, after a 44-yard punt return set the Seminoles up at the Buff 15 yard line, Florida State took a 13-0 lead on a 27-yard field goal by Cismesia.

A third field goal by Cismesia, this time from 37 yards, gave the Seminoles a 16-0 lead with 13:37 left in the game. At this point, for those who hadn’t left Folsom Field in search of a bed before midnight, the only real question remaining was whether the Buffs could avoid the shutout. With a streak of 224 games on the line, the Buff offense continued to run in reverse. The next two drives by Colorado netted minus-10 yards.

Taking over at the Buff 29-yard line with 4:37 remaining, Colorado’s offense put together only its second sustained drive of the evening. Cody Hawkins, who would put up a near-school record 54 attempts in the game, connected with fellow freshman Scotty McKnight for three first downs, taking the Buffs to the Florida State 11-yard line. Three incompletions later, the Buffs faced a fourth-and-ten with just over three minutes remaining. A third field goal attempt would have possibly extended the scoring streak, but coach Dan Hawkins continued to play for the win. On this occasion, the Buffs were rewarded, as Cody Hawkins hit tight end Tyson DeVree for a touchdown to make the score 16-6 with 3:39 remaining (the two-point conversion attempt was unsuccessful).

After a failed onsides kick attempt, the Buffs’ defense held the Seminoles one last time, getting the ball back for the offense with 1:36 remaining. Another productive drive ensued, and for the second successive drive, the Buffs found themselves at the Seminole 11-yard line. This time, however, Hawkins was intercepted in the end zone, again by cornerback Tony Carter, preserving the 16-6 win for Florida State.

“You have to run the football to win consistently, and we didn’t do that” said Dan Hawkins after the game (with sacks and fumbled snaps included, the Buffs finished the evening with a minus-27 yards rushing) . “You also can’t drop back and throw the ball 65 times. But they’re a good team.”

The prevailing theme in the Colorado locker room after the game was that, despite the loss, the Buffs could play with anyone in the country. Head coach Dan Hawkins: “This was a chance for us to play a big program, and we obviously believe we can go in and beat anybody.” Defensive tackle George Hypolite: “What we can take away from tonight’s game is that we can play with anybody”. Linebacker Jordon Dizon: “It was a crazy game. I thought we played well as a defense and it showed us that we can play with anyone.”

“Playing” with anyone was one thing. Defeating them was another. The Buffs were now 1-2 on the 2007 season. Up next was Miami (Ohio). The RedHawks were also 1-2, having defeated Ball State on the road in their opener, before falling in overtime against Minnesota and 47-10 to Cincinnati. If the Buffs were to become bowl eligible, there were certain “must wins” on the schedule. Arizona State and Florida State were not “must wins”.

Miami was one.

Basic Black

The idea had come from the students, and it wasn’t until late in the week that the CU administration embraced the concept. A “blackout” was put together for the latest start in Buff history. While the students coming to the game were specifically requested to wear black to the Florida State game, most of the alumni and fans decided to participate as well. The result was an impressive sea of black for the national ESPN audience (at least those who stayed up for the 10:15 p.m., eastern time kickoff).

To me, this is what college football is all about.

Yes, I could have stayed home and watched the game on television. I could have forgone the 700-mile drive. I could have gone to bed an hour earlier, simply going upstairs to bed after the Buffs finally scored, avoiding all together the long walk back to the car and the traffic gauntlet back to Tony and Julie’s.

Still, I didn’t want to miss out on being a part of it. There is something about the atmosphere of the college game which I can’t give up. I normally avoid crowds; anyone who knows me well knows that I hate standing in line. Yet I am more than willing to put myself into crowds in excess of the population of my entire county back home in Bozeman every time I step into Folsom Field.

The Buffs came into the game with a 3-12 record under Dan Hawkins, all the more reason to stay home for the game. Still, aside from being part of the crowd in Folsom, I continued to see the glass as being half full. Yes, the offense had been unproductive, and at times maddeningly inconsistent. Still, there were glimmers. Cody Hawkins, for all of his youth, usually made good decisions (remember, for as much as we have read and heard about the coach’s son, and for as long and as well as we seemingly already know him – this was still Hawkins’ first start in Boulder).

There were multiple times Saturday night when Colorado had a freshman quarterback handing off to a freshman running back or throwing to a freshman receiver. This experience by trial and error will pay off in time. The defense played very well against Florida State. Such efforts, if assisted by even a moderately productive offense, should produce wins against the likes of Miami (Ohio), Baylor, Kansas, and Iowa State. Oklahoma and Nebraska were clearly better talents, but games against Missouri, Kansas State, and Texas Tech were winnable under the right conditions.

If in August we were told that the Buffs were going to be 1-2 to start the season, we would have figured that was about right. Coming from behind to beat CSU was huge. It allowed Buff fans a chance to relax for a few weeks without the stress of a “must win” game. That stress would return for the upcoming weekend. A win against Miami (Ohio) would put the Buffs at two wins, equal to last year’s total, and on pace to put together a bowl-worthy season. A loss would leave the Buffs with a 1-3 non-conference record, with third-ranked Oklahoma, scoring over 60 points per game, up next on the schedule.

I planned on coming down to Boulder for the Oklahoma game. Making the drive to watch a 2-2 team put up its best shot against a national championship contender? Worth the trip.

Making the drive to watch a 1-3 team play the role of sacrificial lamb to a team looking to post unworldly numbers to impress pollsters? Now that’s a long drive.

At least I still had the scoring streak to root for!

September 15, 2012 – at Fresno          Fresno State 69, Colorado 14

Colorado sent their fans scurrying for their remotes, and the media relations office for the record books, as the Buffs were humiliated by Fresno State, 69-14. Colorado fell behind 35-0 in the first quarter, and 55-7 at halftime, as records fell throughout the game … records which Buff fans would have just as soon left in the past.

At the outset, the only record which was known to be at risk was for the hottest game in which Colorado was a participant. The temperature at kickoff was 102-degrees, tying the record for the warmest Buff game on record with a game against Arizona State in Tempe in 2007. The crowd was only 27,513, but the number of Bulldog faithful who will have claimed to be on hand for the massacre will certainly climb as the years go by.

The game started ominously enough, as Fresno State returned the opening kickoff out to the 35-yard line. A three-yard stop on first down by defensive back Parker Orms was negated by a personal foul call on the Buffs. Instead of second-and-13, Fresno State had a first-and-ten near midfield. The Bulldogs then marched smartly down the field, facing only one third down in the drive, culminated by a Robbie Roush four yard touchdown run.

7-0, Fresno State. 12:06 to play in the first quarter.

The Colorado offense managed one first down, on a 12-yard pass from quarterback Jordan Webb to tight end Kyle Slavin. On Webb’s next pass, though, the junior threw his first interception of the year. Fresno State was in business again at the CU 45-yard line.

This drive only took the Bulldogs five plays, with quarterback Derek Carr hitting Robbie Rouse for a nine-yard touchdown.

14-0, Fresno State, 9:08 to play in the first quarter.

A quick three-and-out by the Colorado offense concluded with a fourth-and-21 at the Buffs’ own two yard line. A short punt combined with a decent return set up the Fresno State offense at the Buff 12-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, Carr and Rouse hooked up again, this time from 12 yards out, and the rout was on.

21-0, Fresno State, 7:17 to play in the first quarter.

Red-shirt freshman quarterback Connor Wood then took over for Jordan Webb, but the results were no better. Another three-and-out by the Colorado offense gave Fresno State another opportunity for a quick score. The Buff defense was put in much better position by a 53-yard punt by Darragh O’Neill, which was downed at the Fresno State six yard line. A false start penalty moved the ball back to the three. No matter. Carr, on the next play, hit wide receiver Isaiah Burse for a 97-yard touchdown.

28-0, Fresno State, 5:34 to play in the first quarter.

… Continue reading story here …

Five Stages of Grief

For those dealing with a loss, the “Five Stages of Grief” has been a mantra for decades.

The Buff Nation has lost its football program, and, in the past month, has had to endure the Five Stages of Grief – Denial, Anger, Bargaining, Depression and Acceptance.

Denial

Remember August?

The rest of the college football was in agreement when it came to the fortunes of the University of Colorado football program.

Everyone, and I mean everyone, predicted the Buffs would finish last in the Pac-12 South. Never mind the fact that, since World War I, Colorado had never finished last alone in conference play. 2012 would be the year the Buffs would occupy their first basement since 1915.

Athlon had the Buffs as only the 84th-best team in the nation. CBSSportsline had the audacity to pick at No. 107. In the Pac-12 media poll gave Colorado a total of 164 points. The team picked to finish last in the Pac-12 North, Oregon State, garnered 205 points. The Buffs were not only the worst team in the Pac-12 South, according to those who followed the Pac-12 for a living.

The Buffs were the worst team in the Pac-12. Period.

“No”, cried the Buff faithful. Colorado had lost 28 seniors, to be sure, but there was new young talent everywhere. The coaching staff which had entered the 2011 season with a head coach and two coordinators who had never held those positions before had had a year to learn their trade. The schedule was much kinder than had been the 2011 gauntlet of 13 straight games. The Buffs had erased the road losing streak, and had won two of their final games in November.

Matching the three wins of 2011 was a certainty. Five wins and continued progress was a realistic possibility.

Six wins and a bowl game were the goal.

With the Buffs sequestered, closed away from peering eyes, there was no way to chart progress. Eyebrows were raised when Jordan Webb was annointed as the starting quarterback just eight days into fall camp, but, we reasoned, the coaches know what they are doing, and perhaps Webb will just be a care-taker to help all of the new young talent as the team got its feet wet in the early season, when the victories would come most easily.

We were in denial …

Anger

The anger came less than two quarters into the first game of the season.

Up 14-3 against Colorado State, the Buffs had turned the ball over near midfield.

No problem. The defense forced a three-and-out, with no damage done.

Less than a minute remained before halftime, and the Rams were forced into a punting situation. The Buffs had a two-score lead, and would get the ball back to start the second half.

Then, the inexplicable happened. Instead of allowing the ensuing punt to fall harmlessly to the turf, the Buffs attempted to field the ball. Fumble. One play later, the score was 14-10, and the momentum for the game, and perhaps the season, was turned.

Up in the stands, we talked about not doing anything silly (read: stupid) before the end of the half. When the punt was muffed, I took my CU at the Game hat and banged it multiple times against the seat in front of me – a rarity for me (I like to think of myself as being more the Hank Stram type, with a suit and tie and rolled up program in my hand). Colorado had taken a good situation, and, by poor coaching/communication/execution (take your pick), had given a team with an eight game losing streak new life.

Then, in the third quarter, the Buffs gave their fans additional reason to fear the upcoming season. Colorado coaches were selling CU as a power rushing team. Yet, on fourth-and-goal at the one yard line, the Colorado play call was a roll out pass. The play, much to CU fans anguish, failed miserably.

That the play could have worked is immaterial. That the Colorado coaching staff did not simply line up and muscle the ball in was a clear sign that the Buff Nation had been sold a false product.

Bargaining

I give you the Sacramento State game, fourth quarter.

The home game against the Hornets from the Big Sky Conference started out the way it was supposed to, with the Buffs taking a 14-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

All was not exactly right with the world, as the stench from the CSU loss still lingered, but a win was a win. The Buffs needed to work on their fundamentals for the remaining 52 minutes, pad their stats, and start worrying about Fresno State.

Instead, Sacramento State stayed in the game, clawing its way back, then taking the lead.

By the start of the fourth quarter, Colorado was back on top, 28-24. A dominating victory was now out of the question, and the Buff Nation was left to simply beg and plead for their team to pull out a victory.

Any victory.

Three times Colorado took possession of the ball in the fourth quarter, holding onto a lead. Three times the Buff fans pleaded with the offense to put together a drive, to put the game out of reach, to seal the victory.

Three times the offense failed.

When Sacramento State took over possession for the last time, with just over two minutes to play in the game, the bargaining began in earnest.

One play, we asked of the defense. Just make one play! We promise not to ridicule your making us sweat out a game which you should have won handily! We promise to praise your victory!

Just make one play!

Of course, it was not to be. Sacramento State 30, Colorado 28.

Depression

It was hard to find words which would console Buff fans.

It was hard to find reason not to believe that Colorado, which had never had a ten-loss season before 1980, was now looking at the first winless season for the program since Year One, 1890. That year, the Buffs lost all four games they played, and were out-scored by the ridiculous total of 217-4.

Now, Colorado fans had to face the reality that the Buffs were on pace for an 0-12 season. The season was not only going to be bad, but it was going to be bad in historic fashion.

The easiest two games were in the books, and they were both losses. Five Pac-12 foes were now ranked, including teams which had posted losing seasons in 2011, fired their coach, and then scored upset victories over ranked teams in the second game of their new coaches’ tenures. Why could other programs turn things around in two games, while Colorado was going backward in two seasons?

It was one thing to be smoked by USC and Oregon. Now, Colorado was looking at being smoked by everyone on the schedule.

A loss to a 1-AA team? Again? How in the name of all that is Holy was that possible?

The Colorado football program had prided itself in being one of only a handful of schools which had never dipped its toes into the 1-AA/FCS pool. Let Kansas State play the directional schools, Buff fans sniffed, we’ll take on all comers.

In 2006, Colorado lowered its standards for the first time … and lowered its caliber of play.

The 19-10 loss to Montana State in the first game of the Dan Hawkins’ era was a shock. But the Buffs were not done. Colorado had to rally to defeat Eastern Washington in 2008, and had now fallen to a Sacramento State team which had won only two FCS games in the past 11 months, and those victories were over Northern Colorado and Idaho State, teams which posted a combined 2-22 record in 2011.

As Bill Murray famously said at the beginning of Stripes, after he had lost his job, his girlfriend and his apartment all in the same day …

“And then, depression set in”.

Acceptance

It took less than one half of one quarter of the Fresno State game to end all reasonable expectations for the University of Colorado football program.

Colorado was already down 21-0, and had done pretty much everything wrong it could have.

Then, it got worse.

The Buffs sent me scrambling for the record book, in order to find out how bad the beating was, as records were being set on almost every play.

The longest rushing play against Colorado? 90 yards, by Walter Mack of Kansas in 1980.

Not anymore … Robbie Rouse, 94 yards for a touchdown to make the score 28-0 in the first quarter.

The longest passing play against Colorado? 98 yards, Kelly Donahue to Willie Vaughn, again Kansas, this time in 1987.

Still a record … Derrick Carr’s pass to Isaiah Burse covered only 97 yards, making the score 35-0 in the first quarter.

The most points in the first quarter? 29, by Oregon in 2011 (I had remembered the record as being 28, by UCLA in 1980, in my very first game as a CU freshman, but I stand corrected).

Not a record any longer … as Fresno State, a 4-9 team in the WAC in 2011, put up 35.

The most points in the first half? 56, again by UCLA in 1980 (by the way, the Bruins pulled in the reins in the second half. The final was 56-14).

Almost, but not quite a new record, as the Bulldogs had to settle for a 55-7 halftime lead.

There is simply no other way to put it … Colorado is the worst team in Division 1-A football.

The remainder of the 2012 season will be a quixotic run to see if the Buffs can find someone willing to overlook them long enough for Colorado to avoid an 0-12 finish. Fans of other teams will ridicule us, mock us. Some will do even worse … pity us.

That’s okay. We have reached the final stage of grief, acceptance.

We know that the Buffs are beyond repair. We know that the coaching experiment with Jon Embree, as much as we wanted (hoped?) it would work, is a failure of epic proportions.

Can Colorado fire a coach in September? Not realistically.

But, barring a miracle – the experiment will last only two years.

The Colorado football program as we have known it has died. We need to accept that.

We need to push through the final stage of grief … and move on.

September 15th, 2018 – Boulder           Colorado 45, New Hampshire 14

Travon McMillian ran 162 yards and two touchdowns, leading Colorado to a 45-14 victory over New Hampshire. The Buffs led 28-0 at halftime, with a McMillian 75-yard run for a score on the first play of the third quarter, putting to rest any doubt as to the final outcome.

Steven Montez went 14-for-19 for 166 yards, including a 28-yard touchdown pass to Laviska Shenault to open the scoring. In all, the Buffs posted 491 yards of total offense, to 270 for the Wildcats. In the first half, when the Buffs were building a 28-0 lead, the Colorado defense held the New Hampshire offense to 76 yards on 39 offensive plays.

“First of all, New Hampshire played incredibly hard,” said Mike MacIntyre after the game. “What a gorgeous day in Colorado today. It was extremely hot out there (90-degrees at kickoff). I thought our team came out and played hard and physical. We had a couple of mistakes that made the game last a little longer than it should have but I was very pleased with our state of mind and our aggressiveness in the game.”

Game Story … With the temperature at kickoff a full 90-degrees, the 42,360 who came to Folsom Field for CU’s home opener against New Hampshire were looking for the Buffs to make quick work of the Wildcats, so that they could either seek shelter from the blistering sun, or at least get back in line for another beer.

The Colorado defense was more than happy to do its part.

On a third-and-16 from the New Hampshire 34-yard line, Christian Lupoli was intercepted by Buff linebacker Rick Gamboa, who returned the pick 17 yards to the Wildcat 28-yard line. Two plays later, on third-and-ten, quarterback Steven Montez hit Laviska Shenault at the UNH ten yard line. Shenault split two defenders, walking into the end zone. Colorado 7, New Hampshire 0, five minutes into the game.

The remainder of the first quarter was a series of punts, with neither team looking impressive on offense. The Buffs, in fact, ended the first quarter with four rushes for a minus-11 yards, with Steven Montez being sacked twice by the New Hampshire defense.

The Wildcats had the ball to start the second quarter, but a sack of quarterback Lupoli by linebacker Jacob Callier halted the drive. A 20-yard punt return by Ronnie Blackmon set the Buffs up at the Colorado 45-yard line.

Senior running back Travon McMillan took it from there.

A 20-yard run opened the drive, with the Buffs deciding enough was enough for their struggling offense. McMillian carried the ball five times on the eight play drive, capping it off with a one-yard touchdown run. Early in the second quarter, the Buffs finally had a two-score lead, 14-0.

Rather than folding, the New Hampshire offense put together 12-play drive. The Wildcats covered 60 yards of Folsom Field turf, but ultimately came up empty when a 42-yard field goal attempt by kicker Jason Hughes hit the right upright.

Three Travon McMillian runs went for 12 yards, setting up the New Hampshire secondary. Steven Montez hit a wide open Tony Brown for a 53-yard gain, taking the ball down to the UNH ten-yard line. After a Travon McMillian gained four yards on first down, Kyle Evans raced to the left corner, scoring on a six-yard run.

What happened been a nervous 7-0 lead early in the second quarter was now a comfortable 21-0 lead with 3:41 before the break.

Just 73 seconds later, it was 28-0.

Continue reading game story here

Colorado non-conference play not only met, but exceeded, expectations

Incoming UCLA head coach Chip Kelly was asked in July at the Pac-12 Media Day about whether the Bruins would be undergoing a rebuilding year in 2018. The Bruins had finished 6-7 in 2017, and had fired their head coach, Jim Mora.

Kelly response stuck with me. “I don’t think it’s my job to temper or excite the fans,” said Kelly. “My job is to prepare our team as best we can … If there are expectations, that’s a good thing. I’d rather be in a place where there are expectations than in a place where they don’t care”.

Now, you would be hard pressed to find a fan base anywhere in the nation which declared, “We don’t care” (okay, with the possible exception of Kansas – at least until the past two weeks). Fans are passionate, and care deeply about their teams (if you don’t believe me, pause for a second and relive how you felt when Nebraska’s final pass to the end zone went wide on the final play of the game in Lincoln).

And yet … there are levels of passion. There are fan bases which care less about their teams success than do others. Fan bases at Alabama, Ohio State, and yes, Nebraska, are more fervent than the Buff Nation (case in point. Colorado sold 42,360 tickets for game against New Hampshire, but only 29,839 came through the turnstiles … and half of those left at halftime. Imagine that happening in Lincoln?).

The past decade or so, over a span of poor play unprecedented in the 125-year history of the program, Colorado fans have been worn down. We have been beaten up, and we have and beaten down. CU lost to Montana State and Sacramento State. The Buffs were embarrassed by the likes of Fresno State and Toledo.

For me, one of the best examples of how low my expectations had fallen came in 2012. After watching USC’s Matt Barkley throw for six touchdowns in a Trojan rout, the title of the essay for the game reflected my despair: “I feel bad that I don’t feel worse“.

This 2018 Colorado team, however, has rekindled my faith in the football program.

Continue reading game essay here

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