CU Games of the Day – October 20th

October 20th … CU has a 1-5 record on this date over the past 40 years … 1984: Buffs lead No. 5 Nebraska, 7-3, at the end of three quarters, but can’t hold it, falling 24-7 … 1990: CU puts together a complete game for the first time all season, scoring on its first drive on the way to a 17-0 first quarter lead and a 41-10 win over 1-4-1 Kansas … 2001: Looking to secure their return to the national spotlight, the Colorado Buffaloes instead stumbled badly, falling to No. 9 Texas in Austin, 41-7 … 2007: 15th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks moved their record to 7-0 (3-0 in Big 12 play), holding on to defeat Colorado, 19-14 … 2012: USC quarterback Matt Barkley threw for 298 yards and six touchdowns while leading the Trojans’ 50-6 victory over CU … 2018: CU fell to No. 15 Washington, 27-13. The Huskies out-gained the Buffs, 351 yards to 263, in a game controlled by the defenses …

  • 1984: No. 5 Nebraska 24, Colorado 7 … In a portend of what was to come two years later, Buffs give Cornhuskers all they can handle … Essay:You Tell ‘Em, Bill” …
  • 1990: No. 14 Colorado 41, Kansas 10 … On the day, the Buffs amassed 463 yards of total offense, holding Kansas to 210. It was an overall victory which had proven so difficult to achieve in 1990. … Essay: “Poll Watching” … 
  • 2001: No. 9 Texas 41, No. 14 Colorado 7 … It was a rout in Austin … nothing like the rematch in Dallas a few months later for the Big 12 Championship …
  • 2007: No. 15 Kansas 19, Colorado 14 … Jordon Dizon on 4-4 Buffs: “We weren’t out-coached, we we’re out-played, but they just made more plays than we did at the end of it” … Essay:Land of Opportunity” … 
  • 2012: No. 11 USC 50, Colorado 6 … Colorado had never posted an 11-game loss season in over 100 years of football, but the USC game made it clear that 11 losses were on the way … Essay: “Reassessing Goals” …
  • 2018: No. 15 Washington 27, Colorado 13 … Mike MacIntyre: “It all boils down to they converted their fourth downs and we didn’t. That was the meat and potatoes of the game” … Essay: “Pull of the Band-Aid and Move On” …

October 20, 1984 – Boulder           No. 5 Nebraska 24, Colorado 7

All too soon for Buff fans, it was time again to face the Huskers.

Nebraska came into the contest ranked 5th in the nation, with the only blemish in the Huskers 5-1 record coming in a upset loss to Syracuse, 17-9, on the road. Since the non-conference loss, Nebraska had posted two Big Eight wins against Oklahoma State and Missouri, and was not looking for a difficult game against the 1-5 Buffs.

The game, however, did not turn out to be the rout the sellout crowd of 51,124 (including a good 20,000 red-clad Husker fans) expected to see.

You tell ’em, Bill! … 

The Husker red in the stands for the 1984 game was not new, nor unexpected. But don’t blame Colorado head coach Bill McCartney. During the summer leading up to the 1984 campaign, McCartney wrote a letter to all of the Buff season ticket holders, imploring the fans not to sell their tickets to Nebraska fans. The letter, which was published in the local papers and even received mention in Sports Illustrated, reminded season ticket holders that there would be no public sale of tickets for the Nebraska game. Season ticket holders would control the entire Colorado allotment. “I am asking you not to sell or give your tickets to Nebraska followers”, wrote McCartney. “Please give this your sincere consideration. I am available to discuss this with you personally.”

By gameday, 1984, it seemed that only Nebraska fans would want to attend this particular game. The Cornhuskers were installed as 30-point favorites. Nebraska boasted the third rated defense in the country, while Colorado had the 105th (that’s last, folks) rushing offense in the nation. Nebraska came in averaging over 30 points per game, while Colorado was surrendering an average of over 35 points a contest.

Both sides acknowledged that emotion was Colorado’s main, and perhaps only, ally.

Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne: “If emotion could play football, Colorado would play as well as it could play. This is a game they have pointed for more than any other.” Bill McCartney: “Obviously, we’ll have to be very emotional to pull this off, and we will be.”

To add to the emotion, the Buffs would play in black and gold for the first time in five years. Also, Ed Reinhardt returned to Denver the week leading up to the game, showing some signs of coming out of his month-long coma.

Emotion can be a powerful tool. Without emotion, there would have been no reason to suit up for this, or for that matter any other, game. But emotion has its limits.

In 1984, the limits were three quarters.

At the end of the third quarter of the 1984 Colorado/Nebraska game, the Folsom Field scoreboard read: Colorado 7, Nebraska 3. It was not a typo. The Nebraska offense had been held to three points. All the more remarkable, the Colorado defense, which had failed to hold any of its first six opponents to less than 20 points, had corralled the mighty Cornhuskers.

All of the scoring had come in the second quarter. After Dan McMillen recovered a Nebraska fumble, the Buffs drove 63 yards in nine plays, capped by a 16-yard touchdown pass from Steve Vogel to split end Loy Alexander on the first play of the second quarter. A 38-yard Cornhusker field goal just before halftime did little to subdue the Colorado fans, nor did it much to appease the red-clad Husker faithful.

After a scoreless third period, the Huskers put the Buffs away.

Quarterback Travis Turner put Nebraska on top for the first time, 10-7, with a one yard touchdown run less than a minute into the final stanza. Colorado quarterback Steve Vogel then was picked off by safety Bret Clark at the Buffs’29-yard line. (For the day, Vogel was an ineffective 10-of–35 for 84 yards and two interceptions). Five plays later, it was 17-7 Nebraska, and the game was over.

An 11-yard touchdown pass made the final score 24-7, a score somewhat more palatable to the Nebraska fans who had managed to find Colorado tickets.

The gutty Colorado defense had held as long as it could, but received no support from the offense. The Buffs mustered only 137 yards of total offense, compared to 452 for Nebraska. (Small consolation Department – the 452 yards gained and the 24 points scored by the Huskers were the fewest against the Buffs since 1976). Still, the opportunity was there. Bill McCartney: “If ever there was a day when we had a chance (at beating Nebraska), it was today. We just couldn’t get it going on offense.”

Red Swarm … 

When Bill McCartney came to Boulder in 1982 and designated the hated Huskers as the mortal enemy, few took him, or the “rivalry”, seriously. What McCartney did not know at the time, but was soon to learn, was that in the early to mid-1980’s, Folsom Field represented a home game for the Huskers. Sure, Colorado sold out each Nebraska home game, but that was due more to the Nebraska faithful crossing the border to watch their team as to any sense of rivalry in Boulder.

Geography played a part. Many of the Husker faithful in western Nebraska were actually closer to Boulder than they were to Lincoln. More to the point, however, was the fact that the Cornhuskers sold out every home game, and had since 1962. For many who “bled Red”, the Colorado game represented their only opportunity to watch their beloved team play in person.

Look at the numbers. In 1984, the Buffs failed to draw over 40,000 fans for any other game, yet hosted a sellout crowd of 51,124 for the Nebraska game. In fact, from 1979 to 1985, Folsom Field was at capacity for only four games, and three were games against the Huskers (the lone exception being the Notre Dame game in 1983).

How did this play in Boulder? For motels and restaurants, it was a boon. For those of us who were early risers (and there are not too many college students who fit this category on a Saturday morning), it was actually fun to go down to the Pearl Street mall to watch the spectacle. It was not hard to pick out the Husker fans. They were clad in red from head to toe. Every possible article of clothing which could be marketed by Nebraska had been, and had been purchased without hesitation. Hats, shirts, pants, socks, earrings, belts, and shoes all carried the Nebraska logo.

It was great comedy to make fun of these fanatics, but we kept our comments to ourselves. There was little verbal jousting. The Huskers were better. Nothing could be said by either faction that would change that simple fact.

(Author’s Note: to be fair, I myself have been accused of possessing only two types of clothing – work clothes and clothes with the CU logo. While this is not entirely accurate, I do admit to possessing a significant amount of Colorado paraphernalia. Still, I am not as funny looking as those Nebraska fans … am I?)

In the stands during the game, all civility came to an end. The stadium, while full, was not a photo opportunity for the Media Relations office at CU. Most of the bowl in Folsom Field was red, and many areas in the rest of the stadium were pock-marked with Nebraska red. The only area where red was not welcome, and indeed suspect, was the student section. When the Cornhusker fans would cheer, we would boo. When the Nebraska fans began chanting the familiar “Go Big Red! Go Big Red!”, we would try and drown them out with “Go C U! Go C U!”. When the games were out of hand, though, our chants were more from resentment than enthusiasm. All too often, beer-influenced fights would break out in the stands where red met gold. As often as not, after the cries of “better dead than red” grew old, the only consolation for the students became “we may have lost the game on the field, but at least we won the fights in the stands”.

October 20, 1990 – at Kansas           No. 14 Colorado 41, Kansas 10

Colorado put together a complete game for the first time all season, scoring on its first drive on the way to a 17-0 first quarter lead and a 41-10 win over 1-4-1 Kansas.

Eric Bieniemy rushed for 174 yards on the afternoon, but his three touchdowns were the story of the day. Bieniemy’s second touchdown tied, and his third touchdown broke, Bobby Anderson’s record for career rushing touchdowns. Bieniemy new touchdown total was 35, setting the new standard with five games still to play.

Colorado scored first in a game for the first time in 1990, with a 36-yard field goal by Jim Harper to give the Buffs an early 3-0 lead. A 31-yard touchdown run by Eric Bieniemy, who had 174 yards on just 18 carries on the day, gave Colorado a 10-0 lead midway through the quarter. The rout appeared to be on when Darian Hagan hit Mike Pritchard for a 44-yard touchdown with time still left on the first quarter clock.

Kansas did make a game of it briefly in the second quarter.

A controversial call on a Hagan fumble (Bieniemy claimed he had the ball, but possession was awarded to Kansas at the Colorado 11-yard line), set up a Jayhawk touchdown. “When they gave them that fumble down there on the 10- or 11-yard line, that was a big factor in this game,” said Bill McCartney. “It put Kansas back in position. It put them to within 10 points, and it brought the crowd back into the game.”

Two possessions later, a 26-yard field goal by Dan Eichloff made the score 17-10 late in the half. Once again, though, Darian Hagan worked the two-minute drill for the Buffs, leading Colorado down the field as time expired. Jim Harper connected from 42 yards out to give Colorado a 20-10 halftime edge.

As had been the case with Iowa State, the Buff score just before half seemed to deflate the Buffs’ opponent. As had been the case against the Cyclones, the Buffs dominated the third quarter against the Jayhawks. Eric Bieniemy scored two of his three touchdowns, going in from 41 and ten yards out to put the game out of reach, 34-10. Safety Dave McCloughan returned a punt 90 yards for the final score of the day late in the third quarter, with a scoreless fourth quarter a time for reserves to get some playing time.

“Once we were able to re-establish momentum, then the key was the second half kickoff,” said McCartney, “taking the ball and going 80 yards”.

For Kansas, it was another tough day on the field. “As a coach, you are always looking for secrets to beating a team,” said Jayhawk head coach Glen Mason, whose team fell to 1-5-1, 0-2-1 on the season. “Today, there were no secrets.”

On the day, the Buffs amassed 463 yards of total offense, holding Kansas to 210. It was an overall victory which had been so commonplace in 1989, but which had proven so difficult to achieve in 1990. “Feels good,” said All-American guard and captain Joe Garten. “It’s good for our hearts, and a lot of our fans’ hearts. We don’t like to go down to the wire, but you take them any way you can get them.”

Colorado was now 6-1-1, 3-0 in conference play, with the next two weeks to decide the Buffs’ season.

Colorado had Oklahoma at home, followed by Nebraska in Lincoln. The outcome of those two games would determine whether Colorado would be playing in Miami on New Year’s night. Oklahoma, ranked as high as fourth in the nation after opening the season 5-0, had lost its last two games, 14-13 to Texas, and 33-31 to Iowa State in a shocking upset. The 5-2 Sooners were down to No. 22 in the polls, but it was still “Oklahoma” the Buffs would be taking on at Folsom Field. “Now, we’ve got the great ones coming,” said Joe Garten, referring to the “Big Red Weekends” against Oklahoma and Nebraska.

“We’re an improving team. And we’re getting better,” said Bill McCartney. “I feel good about our club going into these two games.”

Poll Watching … 

Colorado’s fifth win in a row gave the Buffs an overall record of 6-1-1. Unlike the previous week, when a win over Iowa State had resulted in no movement in the polls, the win over Kansas vaulted Colorado back into the top ten for the first time since the third week of the season.

New No. 10 Colorado was assisted by a number of upsets, as No. 3 Tennessee lost to unranked Alabama, 9-6, to fall to 4-1-2 on the season. In addition, No. 7 Florida State was defeated by No. 5 Auburn, 20-17, No. 10 Michigan lost to No.22 Iowa, 24-23 (to fall to 3-3 on the season, dropping the Wolverines from No. 1 to No. 20 in just two weeks), and No. 11 Georgia Tech was tied by North Carolina, 13-13 (inconsequential nationally at the time; but vital for Colorado at the end of the season).

The fates were shining on Colorado, although there was no way of knowing it at the time. Upsets were allowing a team with one loss and one tie to remain in the national arena. Only No. 8 Miami, which was 4-2 after falling to Notre Dame, 29-20, in the final “Catholics v. Convicts” brawl, was in the top ten despite two blemishes on its record.

Colorado was now receiving credit for its difficult early season schedule, and the Missouri debate was now subsiding. Nebraska, on the other hand, was still in search of respect. Undefeated on the season, the fourth-ranked Cornhuskers remained at No. 4 despite the No. 2 and No. 3 teams (Miami and Tennessee) both losing the previous weekend. “There’s a perception that we haven’t played anybody,” said Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne. “Our schedule (including non-conference games against the likes of Baylor, Northern Illinois, Minnesota, and Oregon State) hasn’t been overwhelming.”

No kidding.

Still, Nebraska was undefeated and ranked No. 4, in prime position to play for the national title. Colorado needed a perfect conference record – and a little more luck – to put itself into a similar position.

Game Notes … 

– Dave McCloughan’s 90-yard punt return was easily the longest of the 1990 season, but it was still eight yards short of the all-time record, a 98-yarder by Bob West against Colorado College in 1944 (part of a 40-6 Colorado victory). McCloughan, with 524 yards in punt returns (on 32 attempts, including two touchdowns), would go on to lead the nation in punt returns in 1990.

– Oddly enough, in Colorado’s national championship season of 1990, it wasn’t until the Kansas game – the eighth game of the season – that Colorado scored the first points of the game.

– While Eric Bieniemy moved the all-time rushing touchdown mark from 34 to 41, he would still fall just short of the single-season rushing touchdown record. Bieniemy would go for 17 rushing touchdowns in 1990, just one shy of the mark of 18 set by Bobby Anderson in 1969, and matched by J.J. Flannigan in 1989.

– Bieniemy’s 174 yards rushing, coupled with Mike Pritchard’s 114 yard receiving (on only four catches), marked only the eighth time in school history that Colorado had produced a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in the same game.

– Linebackers Chad Brown and Greg Biekert each posted 13 tackles against Kansas. Biekert would go on to lead the team in tackles, with 150, while Brown was second, with 106. Biekert would go on to be named first-team All-Big Eight in 1990, while fellow sophomore Chad Brown would have to wait his turn for the spotlight. At the end of the 1990 season, fellow linebacker Alfred Williams, fifth on the team in tackles (88), but first on the team in sacks (12.5) would be named the Butkus Award winner for the nation’s best linebacker.

– Colorado and Kansas were almost identical in passing numbers, with the Jayhawks posting 136 yards to the Buffs’ 135. On the day, however, Colorado rushed for 328 yards, holding Kansas to a mere 74 yards on 44 carries.

– Kansas, 1-4-1 before the Colorado game, would rally to defeat Kansas State and Oklahoma State the following two weekends, but would drop the final two games of 1990 to finish 3-7-1, 2-4-1 in Big Eight play. 1990 was the ninth straight season without a winning record in Lawrence, a string which would be broken in 1991 (when the Jayhawks finished with a 6-5 record).

October 20, 2001 – at Texas          No. 9 Texas 41,  No. 14 Colorado 7

Looking to secure their return to the national spotlight, the Colorado Buffaloes instead stumbled badly, falling to No. 9 Texas in Austin, 41-7.

With the loss, the Buffs absorbed their worst drubbing since a 52-7 disaster against Nebraska on Halloween, 1992.  Freshman Longhorn running back Cedric Benson rushed for 100 yards and two scores as Texas cruised to 425 yards of total offense.

Three first half turnovers and a missed field goal from short range doomed the Buffs to a long afternoon.  Still, Colorado was down only 17-7 late in the second quarter.  Senior quarterback Bobby Pesavento started for injured Craig Ochs, who was out with recurring symptoms from a concussion suffered a month earlier. For his part, Pesavento was efficient if not effective.

The Buffs, despite the turnovers, had moved the ball, and had put up a nine-yard scoring run by Cortlen Johnson to make the score 10-7 in the second quarter.

With just under two minutes to play in the first half, though, the game changed for good.

Texas was up, 17-7, but was pinned inside its five-yard line.  The Longhorns seemed content on going into halftime with a ten-point lead, when a safe screen pass to Cedric Benson turned into a fifty-yard gain.  A few plays later, Benson scored from four yards out, and the rout was on.

The Buffs briefly showed signs of life in the second half.

After stopping Texas on three plays to open the third quarter, the Buffs marched to the Longhorns’ 30-yard line, only to be stopped on fourth-and-two.  This failure seemed to take the life out of the Buffs, and the remainder of the game was a formality.

“That was a meltdown,” said Gary Barnett, absorbing his worst loss as the Buffs’ coach.  “It’s been a while since nothing went right.  This was one of those days.”

For Colorado, it was suddenly time to regroup.  A five game winning streak, the Buffs’ best since opening the 1998 season 5-0, was history.  Up next was Oklahoma State, 2-5, 0-4 under first year head coach Les Miles.  The Buffs had taken nine of the last ten contests against the Cowboys, but Colorado, now with a loss in Big 12 play, could not take anyone for granted.

Game Notes …

– With the loss, the 4-2 Buffs dropped from 14th to 25th in polls.

– The Buffs went 2-1 in the three game stretch against ranked opponents. Colorado had not done as well in such a gauntlet since going 2-1 to finish out the 1996 season against Kansas State (W), Nebraska (L), and Washington (W).

– Texas was ranked 9th when CU went to Austin, but the lower ranking was largely due to the Longhorns’ 14-3 loss to Oklahoma two weeks before. The Sporting News tabbed Texas as its No. 1 team in its preseason rankings.

– Running back Chris Brown was stopped behind the line of scrimmage on a run against Texas. This would not seem unusual, especially in a rout, but the loss represented the first time all season Brown had been caught behind the line. The 124-consecutive rushes without a loss set a school-record, besting the 122 attempts without a loss record set by John Tarver in 1971.

– Daniel Graham had five catches against for 58 yards, becoming CU’s all-time leader in receiving yards by a tight end, surpassing his position coach, Jon Embree, who amassed 1,166 yards on 80 catches (1983-’86). Graham would finish his CU career with 106 catches for 1,543 yards, both CU records.

– After taking out the Buffs, Texas moved up to No. 7 in the national polls. Four more wins to close out the regular season left the Longhorns with a 10-1 record and a No. 3 ranking. Winners of the Big 12 South, Texas faced a re-match with the Buffs in the Big 12 title game. After falling to the Buffs, Texas was invited to play Washington in the Holiday Bowl. In a high-scoring affair, the Longhorns took out the Huskies, 47-43. The 11-2 Longhorns finished the season ranked No. 5 in the final polls.

October 20, 2007 – Boulder           No. 15 Kansas 19, Colorado 14

15th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks moved their record to 7-0 (3-0 in Big 12 play), holding on to defeat Colorado, 19-14. Sophomore quarterback Todd Reesing led the Jayhawks in both passing and rushing, almost single-handedly defeating the Buffs for the second year in a row. The win was the first for the Jayhawks in Boulder since 1995, and kept the Jayhawks undefeated on the season, one of only five teams in Division 1-A still able to make that claim.

Kansas, playing its first game of the season outside of the Sunflower State, came into the game against Colorado averaging over 50 points per game. At the half, though, the score was only 3-0, Kansas. The Buffs had the first scoring opportunity of the game, moving deep into Jayhawk territory on their second possession. A fumble by running back Hugh Charles at the Kansas 13-yard line, however, ended the drive.

Early in the second quarter, Kansas took the lead on a 48-yard field goal by Scott Webb, capping a 58-yard drive highlighted by a 53-yard run by quarterback Todd Reesing on a third-and-four from the Jayhawks’ 17-yard line.

Colorado had several opportunities to tie the game or take the lead in the second quarter. Senior kicker Kevin Eberhart missed on a 45-yard attempt which would have tied the score midway through the quarter. Then, after the Buffs recovered a fumble at midfield with under two minutes to play before halftime, it appeared that Colorado would have one more chance to tie the game or take the lead. A Cody Hawkins’ pass, though, was intercepted and returned back to the Kansas 45-yard line, where the ball was promptly fumbled back to the Buffs. Rather than trying another long field goal, the Buffs opted for a Hail Mary, which fell quietly to the Folsom Field end zone turf to end the half.

Both teams scored on their opening drives of the second half. Colorado took the second half kickoff and marched 80 yards in ten plays. The drive was aided by a fourth down delay of game penalty against the Jayhawks (for interfering with the long snapper) which kept the drive alive.

The touchdown was scored on a trick play, as quarterback Cody Hawkins simulated a fumble on the snap, allowing tight end Tyson DeVree to slip past the Jayhawk secondary. Hawkins hit the wide open DeVree for a 27-yard score and a 7-3 Colorado lead. The lead was short-lived, however, as Kansas needed only five plays to cover 58 yards to go up 10-7. A two yard run by by Jake Sharp gave the Jayhawks an advantage they would not relinquish.

The game seemed to get away from the Buffs over the next fifteen minutes.

After a second Cody Hawkins’ interception, the Jayhawks upped the lead to 13-7 on a 35-yard field goal by Scott Webb. On their next possession, Kansas took control. The Jayhawks put together a 15-play, 94-yard drive to up their advantage. Highlighted by four third-down conversions, the Jayhawks held onto the ball for over seven minutes on the drive, culminated on a four yard pass from Reesing to tight end Derek Fine. The two-point conversion attempt failed, but that mattered little to the Kansas faithful, as they had a 19-7 lead with ten minutes to play.

On CU’s second possession after the Jayhawk score, the Buffs put together their second 80-yard drive of the game. This one also took ten plays, and when Hawkins hit running back Byron Ellis from five yards out, the score was suddenly 19-14, with 3:42 still left to play.

A three-and-out by the Jayhawks only added to the enthusiasm of the 51,940 on hand. Colorado, however, was unable to generate a first down on its next possession. A fourth down pass, and the game, fell through the arms of freshman wide receiver Josh Smith on fourth-and-13.

“It’s not about being close,” said Dan Hawkins after the game. “I like our guys’ effort and heart and all of that. They’ve shown that time and time again, and I don’t question that at all. But just like all of us every single day in our jobs, you’re just trying to get that much closer to perfection and chase it.”

How close the Buffs came was notable in the game statistics.

Kansas came to Boulder third in the nation in scoring, averaging over 50 points per game, but left town with only 19. The Buffs actually had more first downs than the Jayhawks (19-17), and more total yards (353-333). Colorado ran more plays (78-62), and had the better of it in time of possession. Still, Kansas had the edge in the only stat which mattered – 19-14.

“If you look at this game, it comes down to making plays,” said senior linebacker Jordon Dizon, who during the week was selected as one of the ten semi-finalists for the Butkus Award, given out to the nation’s top linebacker. “We weren’t out-coached, we we’re out-played, but they just made more plays than we did at the end of it. We just have to find a spark and make some plays.”

Time was now short for the Buffs to figure out how to make those plays. With the loss, Colorado slipped to 4-4 (2-2). Up next was Texas Tech, which had been ranked 22nd before getting spanked by No. 15 Missouri, 41-10 (Kansas and Missouri had been tied in the poll that week). Prior to the loss to the Tigers, the Red Raiders had been second in the nation in scoring (just ahead of Kansas), and first in the nation in total offense.

The Buffs had shown marked improvement in their defensive effort between the Kansas State and Kansas games. Similar improvement would be necessary if the Buffs were to escape Lubbock with a win – something no other Buff team had ever accomplished.

Land of Opportunity

On Jeopardy! a few days before the Colorado/Kansas game, there was a question about which state was now calling itself the “Land of Opportunity”. My guess was New Mexico. I knew that New Mexico had long called itself the “Land of Enchantment”, and I reasoned that “Land of Opportunity” was just as obscure, so why not New Mexico? The correct answer, though, turned out to be Arkansas [side note: Arkansas? The “Land of Opportunity”? Really? Sounds like fodder for a Dennis Miller rant – but I digress].

For the Colorado Buffs, Folsom Field on October 20th was the “Land of Opportunity”. The Buffs just chose not to take advantage.

It could be said that losing by five points to the 15th-ranked team in the nation is nothing to be ashamed of. It could be said that holding a team over 30 points below its scoring average (just as the Buffs had done with Oklahoma), is something to hold out as a sign of progress for a program which had seen regular blowouts in the end of the Barnett era.

“I was probably three plays from walking in here with a big cheesy grin on my face and acting like it’s the last day of school,” said quarterback Cody Hawkins in his post-game press conference.

But c’mon. This is Kansas we’re talking about. Kansas!

The lost opportunities were many:

– Hugh Charles fumbling deep inside Kansas territory on the Buffs’ second possession;

– The missed Kevin Eberhart field goal, which would have tied the game in the second quarter;

– The inability to hold Todd Reesing in the pocket. The game was scoreless, and the momentum clearly up for grabs, when Reesing turned a scramble on a third-and-four into a 53-yard run, setting up the first Jayhawk score. A similar, though shorter third down scramble, kept alive what turned out to be the game-winning, 15-play drive in the third quarter;

– The two Cody Hawkins’ interceptions, one of which kept the Buffs out of field goal range just before halftime, the other of which set up the second Kansas field goal;

– The face mask penalty on the kickoff after the Buffs had taken a 7-3 lead. The penalty gave the ball to Kansas near midfield, and five plays later, the Buffs were behind to stay (though it must be said that the Buffs did cut down considerably on the penalties. After being penalized over ten times against both Baylor and Kansas State, the Buffs had only four penalties for 35 yards against Kansas);

– The dropped passes, particularly two by senior wide receiver Dusty Sprague, both of which would have kept drives alive by converting third downs; and

– The inability to finish the game when given the opportunity by the Jayhawks. The game had an Oklahoma feel to it when the Jayhawks mangled their chance to get out of Boulder without giving the ball back to the Buffs after CU scored to cut the lead to 19-14. Instead, Kansas went backward, and even threw in an incomplete pass to help out the Buffs’ cause. Still, when given the chance to pull off the upset at the end, the Buffs’ went minus-three yards in four plays to end the game.

What now for the 4-4 Buffs?

Given the option back in August of having a 4-4,2-2 team two-thirds of the way through the 2007 season, most Buff fans would have leapt at the chance (including me). After all, this was a 2-10 team in 2006, and a .500 record was about as much as we were hoping for. Still, after going 4-2 through the first half of the season, expectations were raised. Now, instead of harboring delusions of a Big 12 North title and “comeback of the year” awards, Colorado was faced with an uphill climb to a bowl game. The next two weeks would be tough. A mad Texas Tech team, on the road, then back home to face the Missouri team which made the Red Raiders angry in the first place.

CU had never won in Lubbock, and the Red Raiders could score points in bunches. Even with the 41-10 rout by Missouri, Texas Tech was still averaging 45.0 points per game. Would the CU defense be able to hold a third team this season 30 points under its average? Would the CU offense, averaging only 17 points over the previous two weeks, be able to post a 30-point game? Would the Buffs ever win the turnover battle?

The final third of the season could play out with the Buffs needing wins on the road against Iowa State, and at home against Nebraska, just to become bowl-eligible. Even six wins, though, didn’t guarantee a spot (a 6-6 Kansas team had sat home a year earlier). The Big 12 has eight guaranteed bowl spots, but as many as ten conference schools were in position to have six or more wins by season’s end. Seven wins guarantee a bowl, but that meant the Buffs needed to finish 3-1.

The Buffs had the opportunity to go 3-1, or even 4-0, and take the guess work out of going bowling. It would take an upset or two to get there, though.

Just such an opportunity slipped through the Buffs’ fingers against Kansas. There weren’t too many such chances left to be had.

October 20, 2012 – at Los Angeles          No. 11 USC 50, Colorado 6

USC quarterback Matt Barkley threw for 298 yards and six touchdowns while establishing USC’s new career mark for touchdown passes, while Trojan wide receiver Robert Woods set a pair of school records himself in the Trojans’ 50-6 victory over Colorado. Woods set a single-game school record for touchdown catches, with four, and passed Dwayne Jarrett on USC’s career receptions list with his 217th career catch on his third scoring grab.

Colorado, meanwhile, couldn’t get out of its own way, turning the ball over six times, while the Buff defense presented only token opposition to the USC offense. In falling for the 16th time in 20 games under Jon Embree, Colorado endured its 11th blowout loss under the Embree regime.

Fighter Mike Tyson once famously said, “Everyone has a plan until they get punched in the face”.

If Colorado had a game plan to take on USC quarterback Matt Barkley and the Trojan wide receivers, that plan lasted all of two plays. Barkley hit Woods for an 11-yard gain on the game’s first play from scrimmage, then connected with Marqise Lee for a 55-yard touchdown on play number two.

Fifty seconds into the game, and USC had all the points it would need to secure a victory.

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Reassessing Goals … 

Back in August, “A Bowl is the Goal” was the mantra for the University of Colorado and their fans.

Colorado is now at 1-6 on the season after a 50-6 demolition by USC. With another beat down at Oregon up next, a bowl game is no longer an option – not that it has been since the second week of the season.

Some long-standing records are in danger of falling over the next five weeks, records which no Buff fan wants to hear about.

In its 123-year history, Colorado has never had seven consecutive losing seasons. One more loss, and the Buff Nation will have endured seven straight losing campaigns … with the end of that streak nowhere in sight.

Since 1915, Colorado has never finished last in conference play. A win over Washington State gave the Buffs a Pac-12 win, but it will likely take another win for this record to remain in tact.

Colorado has never had an 11-loss season, but 2012 might be the year it actually happens.

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October 20, 2018 – at Seattle          No. 15 Washington 27, Colorado 13

Colorado, down a number of starters and playing the back half of a tough road swing, was in the game until the midway point of the fourth quarter, eventually falling to No. 15 Washington, 27-13. The Huskies out-gained the Buffs, 351 yards to 263, in a game controlled by the defenses.

The Huskies were led by quarterback Jake Browning, who went was held to 150 yards passing, but also contributed 25 yards rushing on scrambles. Buff quarterback Steven Montez went 17-for-28 for 144 yards, with one touchdown and one interception, but was harried all afternoon by the Washington defensive line. Travon McMillian led the Buffs in rushing, with 25 carries for 86 yards.

Notably, all of CU’s points were scored by true freshman. With star wide receiver Laviska Shenault out with a toe injury, CU’s touchdown was scored by true freshman wide receiver Daniel Arias, who turned his first career catch into a 37-yard touchdown. The Buff field goals were posted by true freshman kicker Evan Price, who was good from 37 and 26 yards. Price was in for James Stefanou, out with a hip injury.

“I thought our kids played hard,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “We had our chances and Washington had their chances. But it all boils down to they converted their fourth downs and we didn’t. That was the meat and potatoes of the game.”

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After a Tough Loss to Washington, Buff fans need to tear off the Band-Aid and Move on …

Anyone who follows CU at the Game knows that I am a big believer in schadenfreude.

The “satisfaction or pleasure felt at someone else’s misfortune” is not for everyone. There are those who say they cheer for Colorado State when the Rams are not playing the Buffs, but I have never understood that sentiment. If the Rams and Cornhuskers (as long as they remain on the Buffs’ schedule) go 0-12 every season, that’s just fine with me.

Schadenfreude led me earlier this week to Go Big Redcast, a podcast put out by Nebraska Cornhusker fans. With the Buffs coming off of a tough loss against USC, I wanted to ease my pain by hearing about the suffering of the Husker Nation. Nebraska was off to the worst start in school history (0-6), and in the midst of a school-record ten-game losing streak overall. I tuned in expecting to hear Cornhusker fans mourning the state of their program.

Instead, I heard fans trying to stay upbeat, trying to see the progress being made in Scott Frost’s first year. Sure, they were upset about Nebraska blowing a ten-point lead in the final five minutes in what was to become an overtime loss to Northwestern last weekend, but they still tried to find the positives from the game.

The relevance of that podcast to Colorado’s 27-13 loss to No. 15 Washington?

The lesson it taught me about keeping things in perspective.

Am I upset about the Buffs falling to the Huskies in a game they could have won?

You bet. The play-calling was again suspect, and the Buff squandered an opportunity for season-altering win.

Continue reading Game Essay here


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