CU Games of the Day – October 24th

October 24th … CU has a 2-4 record on this date over the past 40 years … 1981: Steve Vogel makes an inauspicious debut as Buffs fall to a ranked Iowa State team, 17-10 … 1987: No. 1 Oklahoma was dominating their opponents by an average score of 48-6, so a 24-6 loss wasn’t all that bad … 1992: The 9th-ranked Buffs controlled an entire game for the first time in 1992, dominating Kansas State 54-7 … 1998: 12 penalties, along with four turnovers and key CU injuries helped the Kansas Jayhawks upset 17th-ranked Buffs, 33-17 … 2009: CU drove 71 yards on its first drive of the game against Kansas State, taking a 6-3 first quarter lead. The remainder of the game, however, the Buffs’ offense generated only 173 yards, turning the ball over four times in falling to the Wildcats, 20-6 … 2015: Quarterback Sefo Liufau threw for one touchdown and ran for another, and the Buff defense made that stand up in a 17-13 win over Oregon State …

  • 1981: No. 17 Iowa State 17, Colorado 10 … Steve Vogel’s numbers indicate the ineffectiveness of the offense on the day: 12-for-16 passing, but for only 89 yards and no touchdowns; two rushes for minus-three yards. … Essay: “Derek Singleton” …
  • 1987: No. 1 Oklahoma 24, Colorado 6 … At the first-ever night game for Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium), in front of a national ESPN television audience, the Buffs garnered national respect in battling Oklahoma for 60 minutes … Essay: “They’re No. 1 – a history of CU’s games against No. 1 teams” … 
  • 1992: No. 9 Colorado 54, Kansas State 7 … The Wildcats, with a respectable 3-2 record coming into Boulder, left town without an offensive touchdown, scoring only on a an interception return after the game was well in hand …
  • 1998: Kansas 33, No. 17 Colorado 17 … The young Buffs finally were exposed as the average team – talented, but young and banged up – that they were … Essay: “The Clock Strikes Twelve for Cinderella” …
  • 2009: Kansas State 20, Colorado 6 … Take away the first and last drives of the game, and you have an offensive “attack” which generated …. wait for it …. 79 yards. 11 drives; 79 yards … Essay:Road, Weary Road” … 
  • 2015: Colorado 17, Oregon State 14 … To celebrate the 17-13 defeat of Oregon State, with the Buffs claiming the No. 11 spot in the Pac-12, sounds hollow when put up against the history of the CU program … Essay: “We’re No. 1(1)”

October 24, 1981 – at Iowa State           No. 14 Iowa State 17, Colorado 10

Steve Vogel, the hero of the Oklahoma State game, made his first career start as a Buff in Ames against No. 14 Iowa State.

It was an inauspicious debut, as the Colorado offense struggled in a tough 17-10 loss to the Cyclones.

Vogel’s numbers indicate the ineffectiveness of the offense on the day: 12-for-16 passing, but for only 89 yards and no touchdowns; two rushes for minus-three yards.

Colorado was led by junior halfback Richard Johnson, who ran for 84 yards and Colorado’s lone touchdown. It would be Johnson’s highest yardage total and only score of the year, however, as much an indictment of the Colorado rushing game as Johnson’s efforts.

Other than Johnson’s touchdown, the rest of the Iowa State game was forgettable. The frustrations included a failed fourth-and-goal from the Iowa State one yard line in the first quarter and a fumble at the Cyclone 19 with five minutes to play in the game. “What could have been” was the common lament among Colorado players and fans.

Perhaps the most unusual aspect of the Iowa State clash is that Iowa State came into the game ranked No. 14 in the nation.

It was the highest ranked Cyclone team the Buffs ever faced. Iowa State came into the game with a 4-1-1 record, including a tie against Oklahoma in Norman and a 34-14 ambush of a previously unbeaten Missouri squad the week before the Colorado game.

Derek Singleton … 

The Iowa State game also marked the date of the beginnings of a tragic story for Colorado athletics.

On October 24th, Derek Singleton, the halfback who was the hero of the Oklahoma State game a week earlier, was not in Ames for the game against the Cyclones. Instead, he was in a hospital, where he was diagnosed with meningitis.

At the time of the initial diagnosis, Singleton was expected to make a full recovery. After a ten week battle with the illness, however, Singleton succumbed on January 1st.

His last play in a Colorado uniform proved to be the one for which he provided the most lasting memory.

… In Singleton’s honor, the University of Colorado created the “Derek Singleton Award”, given out each season to the Buff player exhibiting the Most Spirit, Dedication, and Enthusiasm. Punter Art Woods was the first recipient of the Derek Singleton Award, given out at the end of the 1982 season. Several players have won the Award multiple times, including running back Lee Rouson (1983-84), Mickey Pruitt (1985-87), Christian Fauria (1992-94), and Cody Hawkins (2007-08, 2010).

Game Notes …

– On the afternoon, Iowa State running back Dwayne Crutchfield ran the ball 47 times, the most rushes by any opponent in a single game in Colorado history.

– Perhaps the Buff game took something out of the vaunted Cyclone attack. After defeating Colorado to retain a top-15 ranking, Iowa State would go on lose its next three games, tumbling out of the polls and back into obscurity. The 1981 game represents the last game Colorado has played against a ranked Iowa State football team.

October 24, 1987 – at Oklahoma           No. 1 Oklahoma 24, Colorado 6

Coming into the 1987 game against Colorado, the Oklahoma Sooners were on a roll.

In the four games leading up to the Colorado contest, Oklahoma had blasted Tulsa, Iowa State, Texas, and Kansas State by scores of 65-0, 56-3, 44-9, and 59-10. For the year, the 6-0 Sooners were dominating their opponents by an average score of 48-6. In Big Eight play, the Sooners had amassed 20 consecutive wins over three seasons.

This did not bode well for a Colorado squad which had been shut out by the Sooners the previous two years.

Playing at night (the first-ever night game for Oklahoma’s Memorial Stadium), in front of a national ESPN television audience, the Buffs garnered national respect in battling Oklahoma for 60 minutes. Down 10-0 in the first quarter, it appeared that Colorado would simply be victim No. 7 on the Sooners roll to the Orange Bowl and the National Championship.

Then came the second quarter.

Colorado not only did not fold, they put a real scare into the home crowd of 75,004.

Twice in the second quarter, the Buffs drove deep into Sooner territory. Twice, however, Colorado could only come away with field goals, a 20-yarder and a 32-yarder by Eric Hannah. Still, the halftime score of 10-6 was disquieting for the No. 1-ranked Sooners.

For the game, the Buffs were able to muster only 213 yards of total offense against the Sooners top-ranked defense. Both teams stayed on the ground, as the two offenses combined to put the ball in the air only 18 times. On the ground, though, the Sooners were much more successful, rumbling for 358 yards and three scores.

The back-breaker for the Buffs came only 22 seconds into the second half. A good kickoff return by Anthony Stafford, two Buff penalties, and two plays put the Sooners ahead 17-6.

From there, the defenses took over, with the Sooners earning a 24-6 final score after a one yard touchdown run by Anthony Collins late in the fourth quarter.

With the loss, Colorado fell to 1-2 in the Big Eight, 4-3 overall. For the Buffs to return to the bowl picture for the third straight year, the Buffs would need to regroup in a big hurry.

They’re No. 1 … 

In Colorado’s football history, the Buffs have gone up against the No. 1-ranked team in the nation a number of times, with the 1987 Oklahoma contest being the ninth in school history. The Buffs’ cumulative record after the loss to Oklahoma in 1987? 0-9.

This is not to say that the Buffs have not come close.

In 1957, Colorado faced the Sooner machine of the 1950’s coached by Bud Wilkinson. Oklahoma came out on top in Norman that day, 14-13, but the Buffs’ effort was sufficiently impressive to knock Oklahoma from the No. 1 ranking. History repeated itself in 1975, when the Buffs returned to Norman, hanging tough before falling, 21-20. Once again, the one point win cost the Sooners the No. 1 spot in the national rankings.

The 14-point loss to the Sooners did not move Oklahoma out of the top ranking in 1987. But it did serve notice that the Buffs were coming of age.

Said Oklahoma coach Barry Switzer, now 14-1 against Colorado teams, “It’s evident Colorado is a very good football team. I came away feeling they have more speed and quickness than I have seen on a Colorado team in recent years.”

The emergence of Colorado – and the fall of Oklahoma – though, were still a few years away.

Game Notes … 

– Oklahoma fumbled nine times against Colorado, but the Buffs could not take advantage, recovering only three of the Sooners’ miscues.

– The Sooners amassed 412 yards of total offense, but that figure was still over 100 yards below Oklahoma’s season average.

– Sooner tight end Keith Jackson, who would go on to be named a consensus All-American in 1987, was held to one catch (for 12 yards) by the Buffs. Linebacker Brian Bosworth, who would go win the Butkus Award as the nation’s top linebacker, did not register enough tackles in the Colorado game to be listed among the top five tacklers for the Sooners.

– Oklahoma would be the No. 1 ranked team all season, until a late season victory over Missouri actually bumped the Sooners to No. 2. On November 7th, while 2nd-ranked Nebraska was idle, the Sooners defeated the Tigers, 17-13. The win was not impressive enough for the voters, however, as Nebraska supplanted Oklahoma as the nation’s No. 1 team the following week. The top ranking lasted all of one week for the Cornhuskers, however, as No. 2 Oklahoma took out No. 1 Nebraska, 17-7, to regain the top spot. An undefeated Oklahoma team went on to face another undefeated team, Miami, in the Orange Bowl, with the Hurricanes prevailing, 20-14. The 11-1 Sooners had to settle for a No. 3 final ranking (behind Miami and Florida State, which took out Nebraska, 31-28, in the Fiesta Bowl).

– Colorado would not play the No. 1 team in the nation again for 16 seasons. In 2003, the Buffs faced No. 1 Oklahoma (who else?) falling 34-20 in Boulder.

October 24, 1992 – Boulder           No. 9 Colorado 54, Kansas State 7

The 9th-ranked Buffs controlled an entire game for the first time in 1992, dominating Kansas State 54-7.  Colorado scored early and often, raising the home team total on the scoreboard on seven of its first 11 possessions in cruising to a 30-0 halftime lead before a sold-out Folsom Field crowd of 52,235.  The Wildcats, with a respectable 3-2 record coming into Boulder, left town without an offensive touchdown, scoring only on a an interception return after the game was well in hand.

The Colorado defense let the Kansas State offense know it was in for a long afternoon on the first series, as the Wildcats gained zero yards on three plays before punting. On the Buffs’ first possession, Kordell Stewart led the offensive unit on an eight-play, 74-yard drive, culminated in a two-yard pass from Stewart to tight end Christian Fauria. Two short drives – one after an interception, the other after a long punt return by Deon Figures – gave junior kicker Mitch Berger the opportunity to connect on two short field goals (of 25 and 23 yards), giving Colorado a 13-0 lead.

The Buffs already had more points than would prove necessary for victory, but given ample opportunities by the defense, the Colorado offense poured it on. Freshman running back Rashaan Salaam scored his first career touchdown on a two-yard run to put the Buffs up 20-0. A 16-play, 65-yard drive in the middle of the second quarter removed all doubt about which team would carry the day. This time, Stewart did the honors himself, scoring on a nine-yard run to up the lead to 27-0. The halftime score was 30-0, thanks to another short field goal (of 24 yards) with just nine seconds left before halftime.

After Berger connected on his fourth field goal of the afternoon of under 30 yards (this one from 29 yards out), Kansas State scored its only points of the afternoon late in the third quarter. A 52-yard interception return by C.J. Masters gave the Wildcats a brief moment to celebrate, but the Buffs restored order in the fourth quarter, scoring three more touchdowns. Junior tailback James Hill scored on runs of two and 15 yards, and Duke Tobin hit freshman Rae Carruth for a 20-yard score to close out the satisfying victory.

“It would be an understatement to say that the defense was dominant”, said McCartney. “The fact of the matter is I can’t remember a time our defense was so dominant in a game.”  The numbers backed up the Buffs’ head coach.  Kansas State was held to three first downs (0-for-10 on third down attempts), 47 offensive plays, and 16 total yards (the last record being a team and Big Eight record).  The ineptitude of the Wildcats’ offense led to thirteen punts, ten of which were returned for 167 yards by senior cornerback and kick return specialist Deon Figures.  Both of Figures’ numbers set school records, with the yardage record surpassing a mark set by Byron “Whizzer” White against Utah in 1936.

The Buffs were now 6-0-1, 2-0-1 in conference play.  As fate would have it, when the Associated Press poll came out the week after the Kansas State game, Colorado was tied for 8th in the nation with 1,046 total points.

The team the Buffs were tied with?  It was none other than the opponent up next on the calendar – the Nebraska Cornhuskers.

Game Notes … 

– Mitch Berger, who in substituting for the ailing Pat Blottiaux against Oklahoma, had kicked the game tying 53-yarder as time expired, got the starting nod against Kansas State, and went four-for-four, connecting from 25, 23, 24, and 29 yards.

– The Colorado offense ran an incredible 105 offensive plays against Kansas State, setting a school record. The previous high was 100 plays, run against Air Force in 1970 (a 49-19 win over  No. 10 Air Force, in a game which was played at Colorado Springs).

– The Buffs offense was diverse, with the offense running 55 rushing plays (for 176 yards) and 50 passing plays (for 338 yards). Not surprisingly, the Buffs held the ball for a season high 39:17 of game clock. The Buffs also set a new school record for third down conversions made (14, out of 23 attempts), breaking the old record of 13 set against Oklahoma State in 1989.

– For the offensive to have those numbers, the defense had to be setting some new standards as well. The Colorado defense had 1992 season best numbers in first downs allowed (3), fewest rushing attempts (24), fewest rushing yards (-24), fewest passing yards (40), fewest total plays (47), and fewest total yards (16).

– The three first downs allowed was not a school record (the record being zero, with Nebraska earning zero first downs against the Buffs in 1961 – a 7-0 Colorado victory in Lincoln). The 1961 Nebraska game also set the standard for fewest total plays allowed, 35, five fewer than Kansas State ran in 1992. Also not a school record was the fewest rushes allowed (24), with the record being 21 against Stanford in 1987 (a 31-17 Colorado victory).

– The minus-24 yards rushing, surprisingly, was not a school record, either, as the 1975 Buff defense “held” Wichita State to a minus-40 yards rushing (in 31 attempts) in a 52-0 rout.

– The 16 yards of total offense allowed to Kansas State, though, did set a team and Big Eight record. The previous best for any Colorado defense had been 31 yards allowed, again stemming from the infamous Nebraska game in 1961.

– The last record, fewest total yards allowed (16), also set a new team record. The previous best for a Colorado defense came in 1961, when the Buffs held Nebraska to 31 total yards in a 7-0 victory in Lincoln.

– Freshman running back Rashaan Salaam scored his first career touchdown against Kansas State. Salaam’s totals on the day, 14 carries for 75 yards, were season highs. Battling an ankle sprain all season, Salaam finished the 1992 season third on the team in rushing, going for 158 yards on 27 carries.

– Another freshman, receiver Rae Carruth, also scored his first career touchdown in the Kansas State game. Carruth’s five catches for 67 yards would also prove to be season highs. The freshman would go on to finish the 1992 season with 14 catches for 161 yards.

– On his way to the Thorpe Award for being the nation’s best defensive back, Deon Figures also led the team in punt returns, with 42 returns for 479 yards. His ten returns against Kansas State broke the school record of nine returns, set by Jeff Campbell against Missouri in 1986, while his yardage record of 167 yards eclipsed Byron “Whizzer” White’s 56-year old record of 159 yards, set against Utah in 1936 (it is worthy of note that White set his record of 159 yards on only three returns. White’s 53.0 yard average per return is a record not likely to be broken!).

– Sophomore tight end Christian Fauria had his best day in 1992 against Kansas State. His four catches for 67 yards, including a two-yard touchdown catch, were season highs.

– Junior wide receiver Charles E. Johnson had eight catches for 104 yards against the Wildcats. It was his third straight game catching passes going for at least 100 yards, an accomplishment never before achieved by a Colorado receiver. At the conclusion of the 1992 season, the CU athletic department had to create two new categories in the record book – Most 100-yard receiving games, Season; and Most 100-yard receiving games, Career. After the 1992 season, Johnson had both records, with six. (Johnson would go on to have six more 100-yards games in his senior year, to up his career record to 12).

– Freshman offensive guard Chris Hammond earned his first career start against Kansas State. Hammond would go on to start five of the final six games of the 1992 season.

– Another freshman who received his first start against Kansas State was defensive lineman Shannon Clavelle. Originally slated to red-shirt in 1992, Clavelle saw action in nine games, earning three starts. Clavelle was selected by the Big Eight coaches as the league’s Freshman Newcomer-of-the-Year on defense, and was tabbed as a third-team All-American by The Football News. Clavelle had six tackles against Kansas State, finishing the season with 29 total tackles.

– Kansas State would go on to win only two Big Eight Conference games in 1992, but did finish with a 5-6 overall record (thanks to Bill Snyder’s non-conference scheduling, which included wins over Montana, Temple, and New Mexico State).

October 24, 1998 – at Kansas           Kansas 33, No. 17 Colorado 17

After committing only two penalties against Texas Tech, the Colorado Buffaloes resorted to familiar form for the 1998 season, committing 12 penalties against Kansas. The penalties, along with four turnovers and still more injuries (including key injuries to running back Marlon Barnes and quarterback Mike Moschetti), helped the Kansas Jayhawks upset 17th-ranked Colorado in Lawrence, 33-17.

All phases of the game went dark for CU in the night sky in Lawrence.

The Buffs’ defense, which had held up admirably all season waiting for the offense to get up to speed, was shredded by running back David Winbush, who eluded the Buffs for 268 yards and three touchdowns. The 268 yards posted by the unheralded sophomore set a new standard for a CU opponent, eclipsing the mark of 258 rushing yards set by David Overstreet of Oklahoma in 1980 (yes, in the infamous 82-42 debacle).

The game started well enough, with Marlon Barnes putting the Buffs on top 7-0 in the first quarter on a three-yard run. A chance to go up 10-0 early in the second quarter went awry, though, when Jeremy Aldrich left a 37-yard field goal attempt out to the right.

Overall in the first half, the Buffs had four possessions and 235 yards of total offense … but only seven points to show for it. In addition to the missed field goal, the Buffs had two interceptions deep in Kansas territory, allowing the Jayhawks to remain in the game.

A 38-yard run by David Winbush tied the game midway through the second quarter, with a 24-yard field goal by Joe Garcia giving the Jayhawks a 10-7 halftime lead.

Kansas starting quarterback Zac Wegner left the game with a concussion late in the first quarter and did not return. Instead of folding, the Jayhawks rallied around backup quarterback Jay Alexander, who played error-free ball. Alexander, who was third-string but was inserted because Kansas Head Coach Terry Allen didn’t want to burn the red-shirt year of a prized freshman, completed 11-of-18 passes, with no interceptions and no turnovers.

The second half did not start well for the Buffs, with a Brady McDonnell fumble on the second half kickoff turning into a Winbush touchdown and a 17-7 Kansas lead. Mike Moschetti then led the Colorado offense on a 12-play, 65-yard drive, with Moschetti scoring on a one yard run to make the score 17-14 midway through the third quarter.

The game became a battle of backups late in the third quarter, when Buff quarterback Mike Moschetti went down with a concussion. Unfortunately for the Buff Nation, Colorado backup quarterback Adam Bledsoe, unlike his Kansas counterpart, did not have a flawless game.

In the fourth quarter, with the game still very much at issue, Bledsoe fumbled as he was being sacked. Kansas linebacker Tim Bowers picked up the ball and raced 48 yards for the touchdown to put the game out of reach. A 65-yard touchdown run by David Winbush in the fourth quarter turned the game into a rout, and put Winbush into the record books.

“What can I say?”, said distraught senior wide receiver Darrin Chiaverini. “They outplayed us. It’s not like we were out there not trying – we were.”

The Buffs were at a loss for explaining how a defense which had come into the game with the 13th-ranked total defense and 18th-ranked scoring defense in the nation could succumb to a team which had entered the game 2-5 (and 0-5 in Big 12 play), with one of its two wins coming over Division 1-AA Illinois State. On the evening, Kansas had 373 yards of total offense, including 258 on the ground.

“Our defense lives on the ability of the back-end guys to make tackles and the back-end guys didn’t make tackles tonight”, said a disappointed Rick Neuheisel. “This was one of those games where everything wrong that could have happened, happened.”

Neuheisel and the Buffs were now 6-2, 3-2 in Big 12 Conference play. A bye week was up next for the Buffs, who would have the chance to heal before facing what Neuheisel called a “three-game season”.

CU’s remaining home game was against hapless Iowa State, sandwiched between road games against ranked Missouri and Nebraska.

The 5-0 start, warts and all, now seemed like a distant memory.

The Clocks Strikes midnight for Cinderella …

The Kansas game ended around 9:45 p.m., Central Standard Time. For the 1998 Colorado Buffaloes, however, the clock finally struck midnight.

Decimated by injuries throughout the year, the young Buffs finally were exposed as the average team – talented, but young and banged up – that they were. That the 1998 Buffs had managed to put together a 6-1 record prior to the Kansas game was a testament to the tenacity of the young players and their coach. Yes, they were undisciplined at times. And yes, they did make stupid mistakes. But they were exceedingly beat up, and were now finally paying the price.

In 1991, CU had been forced to utilize 13 different lineups (seven offense, six defense) over the course of its 12-game schedule. It was the most shuffling the Buffs had been forced into in recent memory. In 1998, though, Colorado used 13 different lineups in the first seven games. Thus, out of a possible 14 different lineup opportunities, CU had used 13. With the Kansas game, the total was up to 15 out of a possible 16, and no letup appeared to be in sight.

Not only were the Buffs using different players each week, they were using younger and younger players each week.

Players making their first career starts in the first half of the 1998 season included two seniors (guard Ben Nichols, running back Marlon Barnes); three juniors (quarterback Mike Moschetti, running back Dwayne Cherrington, defensive end Fred Jones), five sophomores (tight end Tom Ashworth, defensive tackle Sean Jarne, safety John Sanders, running back Damion Barton, guard Chris Morgan); six red-shirt freshmen (guard/tackle Victor Rogers, center/guard Andre Gurode, fullback Marques Spivey, linebacker Albus Brooks, offensive tackle Erin Huizingh, defensive tackle Justin Bannan) and one true freshman (safety Michael Lewis, who made his first career start against Kansas State).

These new starters were not being thrown into battle simply because they were talented (which, fortunately, they were). Injuries simply continued to take their unprecedented toll. In the first half of the season (through six games) CU had already lost eight starters for a total of 20 games. The offensive line was the hardest hit, as the Buffs had not started the same five in any game, and two positions, center and right guard, had already had three different starters each.

All football teams have to deal with injuries. In 1998, Colorado simply had more than its fair share.

With only nine seniors seeing extensive playing time, though, the future still bode well for the Buffs. Young players were for the most part coming through, gaining immeasurable experience along the way. As Colorado limped into its bye week before facing Missouri, the pressing question wasn’t whether or not the 1998 squad was a good team, it was whether the players which would form the core of the teams for 1999 and 2000 could hang in there long enough to become a great team.

The 33-17 loss to Kansas dropped Colorado to 24th in the polls, but the pollsters weren’t so kind after the bye week. Despite not playing, the Buffs dropped out of the poll (to 26th overall), ending the 1998 streak at eight weeks, the seventh longest string in CU history.

In the ESPN/USA Today coaches’ poll, the Buffs managed to cling to the bottom rung of the poll, remaining in the 25th spot. A loss to 18th-ranked Missouri, though, would make even that ranking history.

Game Notes …

– As noted above, the 268 rushing yards posted by David Winbush set a new standard for an opponent, breaking an 18-year old record. Winbush’s effort would last as an opponent record for 14 years, until Ka’Deem Carey destroyed the record by going for 366 rushing yards against the Buffs for Arizona in 2012.

– The Jayhawks win was the first for Kansas over Colorado in Lawrence since 1981.

– Both teams finished with 373 yards of total offense, but Colorado’s season-high four turnovers – to none for Kansas – was the deciding factor (along with CU’s 105 yards in penalties).

– Jeremy Aldrich, who hit on 16-of-22 field goal attempts in 1998, connected on a season-best 46-yarder against Kansas.

– Three players had their first career starts against Kansas … freshman fullback Andy Peeke, junior offensive tackle Kane Cullum, and freshman linebacker Jashon Sykes. Of the three, only Sykes. who would go on to play in the NFL, had any other starts in the 1998 season.

– The Jayhawks’ victory proved to be the only Big 12 win of the season for Kansas. The Jayhawks would go on to win only one other game, a non-conference game against North Texas, to finish 4-7 for the 1998 season.

October 24, 2009 – at Kansas State          Kansas State 20, Colorado 6

Colorado drove 71 yards on its first drive of the game against Kansas State, taking a 6-3 first quarter lead. The remainder of the game, however, the Buffs’ offense generated only 173 yards, turning the ball over four times in falling to the Wildcats, 20-6. The Buffs wasted an outstanding effort from their defense on the afternoon, as the Kansas State offense was held in check for most of the game. Mistakes and penalties, however, continued to plague the Buffs, with Colorado falling to 2-5 on the 2009 season.

The morning start (11:30 CT) seemed to favor the home team, as Kansas State took the opening kickoff and moved smartly down the field. After only five plays, the Wildcats had a first-and-ten at the Colorado 12-yard line. The Buffs’ defense stiffened, though, and Kansas State was forced to settle for a Josh Cherry 25-yard field goal. The Buffs responded in kind with their first drive, converting two third downs in pushing the ball to the Kansas State 23-yard line. From there, the drive chart went as follows:

Rodney Stewart, rush for three yards; second-and-seven at the KSU 20-yard line;

Rodney Stewart, rush for nine yards; first-and-ten at the KSU 11-yard line;

Rodney Stewart, rush for eight yards; second-and-two at the KSU three yard line;

Rodney Stewart, rush for one yard; third-and-one at the KSU two yard line;

Rodney Stewart, rush for two yards – touchdown, Colorado.

It appeared as if the Colorado offense had a great game plan for Kansas State, and that the Buffs’ offense, with a 13-play, 71-yard drive, was ready to build on the momentum of the Kansas game. Even after Aric Goodman missed his first extra point of the season, the Buffs and their fans had to be confident that their first road win in two years was within their grasp.

Then the next 50 minutes were played.

The teams traded punts, with Kansas State taking over at its 42-yard line near the end of the first quarter. This time, the Colorado defense offered no resistance. The Wildcats did not face a third down on the drive, with Daniel Thomas taking the ball in from the four yard line to give Kansas State a lead they would not relinquish. The new score was 10-6, Kansas State, with 13:19 to play in the first half. Little did the 42,019 in attendance for the KSU homecoming realize at the time that the Wildcat defense would not require any further assistance on the day.

Matters went from bad to worse for Colorado a few moments later. After a holding penalty pushed the Buffs back to their 15 yard line, quarterback Tyler Hansen fumbled, with the Wildcats recovering at the Colorado 13-yard line. An eight yard run gave Kansas State a second-and-two at the CU five yard line, and a touchdown seemed imminent. Still, the Buffs held. Defensive lineman Will Pericak caught KSU quarterback for a five yard loss on the next play, and, after an incompletion on third down, Kansas State was forced to settle for a field goal.

13-6, Kansas State, but the Buffs had remained within a touchdown after giving up a turnover in the red zone. There was still cause for hope in the Buff Nation.

That would last for only a few more minutes.

The Colorado defense forced a three-and-out by the KSU offense the next two possessions – and was not rewarded. On fourth-and-ten on the second possession, Kansas State punter kicked the ball to the Colorado 23 yard line, where Jason Espinoza fumbled. Set up at the Colorado 20-yard line, Kansas State needed only four plays to score. Assisted by an offsides penalty by defensive lineman Curtis Cunningham on third-and-two at the Colorado 12 which gave KSU a first down, quarterback Grant Gregory scored on a five yard run with 1:11 left before halftime.

Cody Hawkins, who had been replaced at quarterback by Tyler Hansen, and who did not play against Kansas, came in to run the two minute drill. Hawkins, though, was intercepted at the Kansas State 46 with eight seconds remaining before half.

In the second quarter, Kansas State had three first downs (one by penalty), went zero-for-three on third down attempts, and had one completion (for five yards) on five passing attempts …

… and out-scored Colorado, 17-0.

Halftime score: Kansas State 20, Colorado 6.

The Colorado offense, which spent most of the first half in neutral, went in reverse in the second half. The Buffs punted three times in the third quarter, after drives which culminated in fourth-and-16; fourth-and-11; and fourth-and-19.

Only the play of the Colorado defense kept the game from becoming a rout. Between the two offenses, there were four first downs in the quarter, with 17 rushes netting a total of minus-one yard. Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen was sacked four times; Kansas State quarterback was sacked twice.

The fourth quarter saw a little more offense, but still no further points. Kansas State twice drove inside the Colorado 40-yard line, but came away without a score. The Buffs gave the Wildcats a gift opportunity to score midway through the quarter, when punter Matt DiLallo was stopped at the Colorado 17 yard line on a fake punt. Cody Hawkins had three incompletions before DiLallo ran for eight yards on fourth-and-ten. Given the ball inside the Colorado red zone, Kansas State drove to the Colorado four yard line before quarterback Grant Gregory fumbled, with the ball recovered by senior linebacker Jeff Smart.

Down two scores with 6:37 to play, the Buffs took off of their longest drive of the season. Starting at the four, Colorado, with Cody Hawkins in for his third drive of the game, engineered a 16-play, 94-yard drive – and still didn’t score. Converting two third-and-10’s along the way, the Buffs got as far as the Kansas State two yard line, where Hawkins, on fourth-and-goal, threw an interception in the end zone.

Final Score: Kansas State 20, Colorado 6.

On the day, the Colorado offense was only able to generate 244 yards of total offense. That number, as bad as it sounds, was actually much worse. Take away the first and last drives of the game, and you have an offensive “attack” which generated …. wait for it …. 79 yards. 11 drives; 79 yards. None of the intermediate drives generated as many as 20 yards of offense; four ended with negative yardage. Three ended in turnovers; one on downs. None of the drives lasted more than six plays.

All that kept the loss from being an embarrassing rout was the play of the defense. The Buffs held the Wildcat offense – which scored 62 against Texas A&M the week before – to 284 yards of total offense. None of the Kansas State drives went ten plays. After the two scoring drives which gave Kansas State a 10-6 lead, the Wildcats were shut down. No drive gained even 40 yards; seven of the 11 drives gained 15 yards or less.

Here’s how the second half drive chart went for Kansas State: punt; punt; punt; punt; fumble; end of game.

Had the Buffs shown even a modicum of offense, the 20-6 loss could easily have been a victory.

It seems pretty clear that the Colorado offense, ranked as one of the worst in the nation coming into the game, continues to regress. Ranked 108th in the nation in rushing offense, at 94 yards/game, the Buffs posted 60 yards on 31 carries (including four sacks). Ranked 103rd in the nation in total offense, at 311.5 yards/game, the Buffs totaled 244.

Surely the head coach knows that its time for drastic measures.


“Games can come down to four or five plays you have to make,” said Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins. “We never really got into any rhythm until the very last drive (which, in case you forgot, was led by Cody). K-State was very good in special teams and it helps when we turn it over.”

Four or five plays? The Buffs ran 68 plays, and put up 244 yards, less than four yards per play. Colorado ran for less than two yards a carry, and completed less than 50% of its passes. Rodney Stewart, the Buffs’ only real play-maker, ran the ball five straight times in the first drive, culminating in a touchdown. The remainder of the game, despite Colorado never being more than two scores down, Stewart had only 11 more touches.

Four or five plays? – Maybe twenty-four or twenty-five …

As to the question of the starting quarterback, Dan Hawkins once again demonstrated that he just doesn’t get it. After giving Tyler Hansen all of six quarters to prove himself (after Cody Hawkins had two-and-a-half seasons), Hawkins was non-committal about who would be the starter against Missouri. “We’ll see,” said Hawkins, all but guaranteeing himself another full week of second-guessing. “Guys, I’ve told you before. We’re going to do what it takes to win football games. How that all plays out, we’ll see.”

Hawkins was equally defensive about the lack of a demonstrated running game. “You would love to run the ball more, certainly,” said Hawkins. “I think had we hit a few more throws and done a few more things that way, it certainly would have opened up a little bit and that would have helped us.” So, the 60 yards on 31 carries is a result of not being able to “hit a few more throws”? Tyler Hansen was 7-for-14 for 89 yards; Cody Hawkins was 10-for-23 for 95 yards (79 of which came in the final drive, when the game outcome was no longer in doubt), with two interceptions. Yes, Hansen was sacked four times, but he is the quicker of the two quarterbacks. There is much more to be corrected, coach, than just being able to “hit a few more throws”.

Up next for the Buffs is Missouri. The Tigers, 41-7 losers to No. 3 Texas this past weekend, are 0-3 in Big 12 play this season. Missouri currently is the only team with a conference record lower than the Buffs, though Colorado is tied at 1-2 with Nebraska (surprising 9-7 losers at home to Iowa State) and Kansas. The Big 12 North is arguably the most upside-down division in college football, with Kansas State on top at 3-1, with Iowa State alone in 2nd at 2-2.

Two points you will hear often this week …

1) Colorado, had it won against Kansas State, would be entering the fourth week of conference play alone in first place in the North (with a 2-1 record); and

2). Colorado has been mauled the past two seasons by Missouri by a combined score of 133-10.

Happy Homecoming!

Game Notes … 

– Scotty McKnight continues his inexorable march up the Colorado career lists. McKnight had a catch in a game for the 31st consecutive game, extending his own record. His six catches gave him 130 for his career, moving into sixth place all-time (Charles E. Johnson had 127; 1990-93). McKnight’s 61 yards moved his total up to 1,437, good enough for eighth place all-time (passing Monte Huber, 1,436; 1967-69).

– Rodney Stewart’s 49 yards against Kansas State gives him 1,089 for his career, moving Speedy up to 43rd on the all-time list, passing a guy from my undergrad days, Lance Olander (1,051; 1978-1980), and Woody Shelton (1,065; 1950-52).

– The six points scored by the Buffs was the fewest against Kansas State since the Wildcats beat the Buffs 38-6 in 1984.

– For the sixth time in the 13 year history of the Big 12, the Buffs have started with a 1-2 conference record (though the Buffs have never started 0-3).

“Road, Dreary Road” …

I’m a stats freak.

Not a great revelation there. Anyone who has been a part of CU at the Game for more than a day knows that I can’t write a paragraph without some numbers being involved.

I am also a history Buff – in more ways than one. I received a B.A. in History from dear ‘ol CU, and I am a student of history when it comes to the University of Colorado football game (I can tell you, for instance, without looking and without fear of contradiction, that today – October 25th – is the 23rd anniversary of the signature game of the past 30 years, the epic 20-10 win over Nebraksa in 1986).

Being a stats freak and a history major is making it all the more difficult to endure what Dan Hawkins has done to the University of Colorado football program.

He was not the coach to break the Buffs’ eight year run in the polls (143 consecutive weeks), nor was he the first to post a losing season in over a decade (Rick Neuheisel took care of both of those records in 1997, when the Buffs posted a 5-6 record). He was not the coach to endure an eight loss season in almost two decades, nor the coach which caused an unfavorable national spotlight to shine on the Colorado program (that would be Gary Barnett, who suffered a 3-8 season in 2000, then was the focus of the recruiting scandal storm which haunted the program for most of the decade).

No, what Dan Hawkins has brought to the University of Colorado is a new set of lows, not thought possible just a few short years ago.

Under Dan Hawkins, the Buffs will post their fourth straight losing season in 2009, only the second time in school history CU has been mired in such a streak.

Under Dan Hawkins, the Buffs played their first-ever game against a Division 1-AA team – and lost.

Under Dan Hawkins, the Buffs were shut out for the first time in 20 years, ending one of the longest streaks in NCAA history.

Under Dan Hawkins, the Buffs are not even casually mentioned in the Top 25, after being a fixture for the better part of two decades.

And then there are the stats.

I used to love the Game Day Notes put out by the Colorado Athletic Department. I used to devour the 40-page weekly report handed out to the media (ballooning to near 60 pages by year’s end). Now, however, the Game Day Notes are a painful reminder of what once was, as Dave Plati gamefully tries to put a positive spin on what has happened to the CU program over the past four years.

One of the cornerstones of the Game Day Notes is the printout of “Top College Football Records (1989 – present)”. Here’s how far we’ve fallen:

When Rick Neuheisel took over in 1995, the Buffs had the 5th-best record in the country (1989-94), and had the best conference record of any team in the country (36-3-3);

By the time Gary Barnett took over the reigns, in 1999, Colorado had fallen to the 7th-best record in the nation (1989-98); and

When Dan Hawkins became head coach, the Buffs were out of the top ten, but still respectable, coming in at No. 14 (1989-2005).

Now? Colorado started the season ranked 21st, a few percentage points behind – of all teams – Kansas State. The Buffs this season have since been passed by … pause for irony … West Virginia and Toledo, and have been lapped by Kansas State. That’s right. The University of Colorado, using a starting date most favorable to the Buffs (1989), with a national championship and six ten-win seasons over that span, still has fewer wins in the past 21 seasons than one of the most feeble programs in the history of college football, Kansas State (the numbers are much worse if you start in 1990, taking away the Buffs’ 11-1 season and the Wildcats’ 1-10 season in the first year under Bill Snyder).

Equally sad, and particularly poignant as the Buffs’ road losing streak hits two full seasons, is Dave’s insistance insistence on continuing to include the “Road-Sweet-Road” column in the Game Notes. Going back to 1988, Dave points out, the Buffs have the 13th-best road record in the nation over that span. This record is incredible, considering the Buffs are now 2-17 on the road under Dan Hawkins over the past three-and-a-half seasons.

When Rick Neuheisel took over, the Buffs had the 4th-best road record in the nation.

When Gary Barnett took the helm, the “Road-Sweet-Road” column still had the Buffs with the sixth-best road record.

There will a few more road losses before the Dan Hawkins’ era comes to a close, as the Buffs still have to play in Ames and Stillwater (after Iowa State knocked off Nebraska in Lincoln, anyone still looking at that game as a “gimme”?), making it all the more difficult for the next head coach to pull the Buffs back into respectibility …

… and give us back “Road, Sweet Road”.

October 24, 2015 – at Corvallis           Colorado 17, Oregon State 13

Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau threw for one touchdown and ran for another, and the Buff defense made that stand up in a 17-13 win over Oregon State. The victory allowed the Buffs to snap school-record losing streaks, both in conference games (14) and conference road games (13).

Liufau threw for only 140 yards, and the Buffs were out-gained by the Beavers, 401 yards to 328, but after Liufau scored on a four yard run early in the fourth quarter to give Colorado a 17-10 lead, the Buff defense delivered. The Oregon State offense had its chances, but was held to three points in their final four drives of the game.

Donovan Lee led the Buffs in rushing, with 55 yards on eight carries, while Phillip Lindsay had 51 yards in nine attempts. Nelson Spruce collected his first touchdown of the season – and 21st of his career – in leading Buff receivers with six catches for 60 yards.

Continue reading Game Story here

“We’re No. 1(1)!!” … 

Twenty-five years ago, Colorado won the national champions. The Buffs went into the Orange Bowl as the defending Big Eight champions, and came away as the nation’s No. 1 team.

Less than fifteen years ago, Colorado was again in contention for participating in the national championship game. Instead, the BCS computers somehow figured that Nebraska, which had not won its division much less a conference championship, was more worthy to face Miami for the title than Colorado, even though the Buffs had beaten the Cornhuskers, 62-36, just two weeks earlier.

Just ten years ago, Colorado won its fourth Big 12 North title in five seasons. At the time, claiming “We’re No. 1” in the Big-12 North division didn’t seem to be all that much to crow about.

But such cheers seem like a fantasy compared to what has become of the Colorado football program … a shell of its former self.

To celebrate the 17-13 defeat of Oregon State, with the Buffs claiming the No. 11 spot in the Pac-12, sounds hollow when put up against the history of the CU program.

Yet the win should not be taken lightly.

The 17-13 win represents a small step in the progression of the program back to its former status as one of the top 25 teams in the nation.

Continue reading Game Essay here

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