CU Games of the Day – October 25th

October 25th … CU has a 2-5 record on this date over the past 40 years … 1980: Buffs not competitive in a 45-7 loss to No. 9 Nebraska … 1986: CU defeats No. 3 Nebraska, 20-10, in a game which set the stage for CU’s national championship run. Complete game story, below, including highlight videos of the game, of Jeff Campbell’s reverse touchdown, and of Lance Carl’s touchdown on a halfback pass … 1997: In an otherwise forgettable season, the Buffs take it to Texas, defeating the Longhorns, 47-30 … 2003: No. 1 Oklahoma jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead, then held Colorado at bay for the remainder of the evening, winning 34-20 … 2008: The Missouri Tigers, ranked 16th and out of the national championship race after two consecutive losses, took out their frustrations against an over-matched Colorado Buffalo squad, throttling the Buffs, 58-0 … 2014: CU fought back from a 17-0 first quarter deficit, out-scoring No. 25 UCLA 17-0 in the fourth quarter to force overtime at 31-31, but fell in two overtimes, 40-37 … 2019: Steven Montez threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, running for a fourth, but it was not enough to keep CU from losing to USC for the 14th-consecutive time, falling 35-31 before 48,913 fans in Boulder …

  • 1980: No. 9 Nebraska 45, Colorado 7 … Tom Osborne: “One problem our offense had is Colorado controlled the ball well and kept it away from us” – Huh?  … Essay: “What Are our School Colors, Anyway?” …
  • 1986: Colorado 20, No. 3 Nebraska 10 … My No. 1 game in my 40+ years of being a Buff fan – ‘Nuff said … Essay: “Signature Win of All Signature Wins” … 
  • 1997: Colorado 47, Texas 30 … In the 1997 preseason AP poll, CU was ranked No. 8; Texas No. 12. The game looked on the calendar to be a potential preview of the Big 12 Championship. By late October, though, the game was for pride …
  • 2003: No. 1 Oklahoma 34, Colorado 20 … Playing before the largest crowd in Colorado history, 54,215, Oklahoma posted its third win over Colorado in less than twelve months … Essay: “Moral Victories” …
  • 2008: No. 16 Missouri 58, Colorado 0 … Dan Hawkins brought about some ignoble than this – ending CU’s 143-game streak without a shutout (in the Top Ten all-time … Essay:Beginning of the End?” … 
  • 2014: No. 25 UCLA 40, Colorado 37 2OT … The Buffs went toe-to-toe with the Bruins for much of the game, finishing with 500 yards of total offense … to 509 for UCLA … Essay: “The Wrong Anniversary”
  • 2019: USC 35, Colorado 31 … There was a time – a decade, actually – when the Colorado defense could be counted upon to hold a two-score lead … but not against USC in 2019 … Essay: “Loyalty: What it Means to be a CU fan in 2019”

October 25, 1980 – Boulder          No. 9 Nebraska 45, Colorado 7

Just what the Buffs needed.

An 0-6 season record, with once-beaten and 9th-ranked Huskers coming to town.  Nebraska, led by running backs Jarvis Redwine and sophomore sensation Roger Craig, was on its way to leading the nation in rushing and a 10-2 record.  Matching the final 45-7 result of the Missouri game from the week before was not intentional, unless, of course, Nebraska had decided in advance to set the score.  With the way the Buffs were playing, naming the score in the locker room before the game started would have been the most difficult decision Nebraska head coach Tom Osborne would have had to make all day.

Apparently, though, I did not see the game the same way others viewed it.  Most Colorado fans witnessed a game where the Buffs rushing “attack” was led by Lance Olander, who gained 48 of Colorado’s total of rushing 89 yards.  Randy Essington threw two interceptions on the way to 151 passing yards, completing 15 passes on 27 attempts.

Still, according to the newspaper accounts, the 45-7 score was not indicative of what actually occurred.  The Denver Post headline on October 26, 1980:  “More To It Than The Score”.  In a Boulder Daily Camera story entitled “Fairbanks Sees Some Light in NU Romp”, Colorado head coach Chuck Fairbanks was quoted as feeling a “certain sense of satisfaction in the competitiveness of the team”.


Coach Osborne of the Cornhuskers, though, must have had some of the same Gatorade.  Osborne’s post-game quotes:  “Boy, am I glad that’s over” and “One problem our offense had is Colorado controlled the ball well and kept it away from us.”

Gosh, Tom, Nebraska had the ball for over half of the game (31:18 to be exact).  Imagine what Coach Tom’s quotes would have been like if he hadn’t been up 31-0 at halftime.

What are our school colors, anyway? … 

The infamous switch to baby blue uniforms was not to come to Boulder until the 1981 season, but I may have been forgiven in the fall of 1980 for wondering what Colorado’s school colors truly were.  Silver and gold were the official school colors, but the team played in black and gold.  Okay, this I could handle.

But then why were the stands of Folsom Field routinely covered in red?  There were significant imports of crimson-clad fans for the Indiana game, even more for the Oklahoma massacre, and now, in the only sellout of the 1980 season, Folsom looked like (and worse – sounded like) a Cornhusker home game.

My first introduction to Husker-hating came from having to sit through the seemingly non-stop cheering (gloating?) by the Nebraska faithful who came to watch their team roll over my Buffs.

(A distaste which did not dissipate when Nebraska and Colorado went their separate ways to new conferences in 2011).

Game Notes … 

– The 1980 Nebraska win represented the Cornhuskers’ 13th straight win in the series.

– After an 18-14 non-conference loss to No. 16 Florida State, No. 3 Nebraska fell to No. 10 in the polls. An undefeated run through the Big Eight got the Cornhuskers back up to No. 4 before a regular season-ending 21-17 loss to No. 9 Oklahoma relegated Nebraska to a Sun Bowl date with Mississippi State. A 31-17 win over the Bulldogs left Nebraska with a 10-2 record in 1980, and a No. 7 final ranking.

1986 – Colorado v. Nebraska – Preface

In September 1989, almost three years after the Colorado/Nebraska game of 1986, Brad and I traveled to Seattle, Washington for the Colorado/Washington game.  Colorado was in the midst of the most tumultuous season in its 100-year history, entering the game undefeated, but also on the heels of the loss of quarterback Sal Aunese, who had succumbed to cancer the week before.  The game story for the can be found here, but the relevance of that game to 1986 came just after the 1989 Washington game had ended.

It had rained for much of the second half, so, by the end of the game, the sellout crowd had thinned to a thousand or so Buff fans, soaked but jubilant over the Buffs’ 45-28 victory.  Walking through the parking lot after the game, Brad and I encountered a group of young Buff fans gathered around a van.  They warmly greeted the sight of the black and gold we were wearing, and Brad and I in turn hailed the meeting of fellow travelers.  In our brief conversation, Brad and I learned that this group of five or six were all pledges from the same CU fraternity; freshman who had driven all night from Boulder just to attend the game.

Walking away, Brad and I chuckled to ourselves as to the exuberance of the “youth” we had encountered.  Then it hit us:  These Buff fans had begun their college careers in 1989, and had never seen the Buffs lose.

Deep breath. They had never seen the Buffs lose.

For two fans who had endured the depths of pathetic 1-10 seasons, this was unfathomable.

Living through those tough times, though, was what made the 1986 upset win over Nebraska so special.  For most of the next 15 seasons,  there would be very few games which the Buffs were not favored to win, and hardly any games in which Colorado was not given at least a reasonable chance at victory.

This was not the case on October 25, 1986.

October 25, 1986 – Intro

The Buffs entered the 1986 game against Nebraska 2-4.  Wins against Missouri and Iowa State had Colorado 2-0 in Big Eight play, but this was as much due to scheduling as to any improvement by the Buffs.  Nebraska, ranked third in the nation, was not impressed by Colorado’s unblemished conference record.

The Cornhuskers were also 2-0 in conference, but were 6-0 overall, having won their first six games by an average score of  41-16.  If that wasn’t daunting enough, the Buffs were faced with the fact that no Nebraska squad had lost to Colorado since 1967.  The last time the Buffs actually beat the Cornhuskers in Boulder had come way back on October 22, 1960, when Dwight David Eisenhower was packing up the White House, concluding his second term in office.

I had been in Boulder for six of those losses to the Cornhuskers. Now a third year law school student,  I was not confident that this would be the year that things would change.

Nor was the media.

Hard as it is to believe now, there was a time when not every game was televised. Far from the public eye, the 1986 CU/Nebraska game was not on television anywhere.  Not in Denver, Lincoln, or anywhere else.  (ABC was showing the game between 6th-ranked Penn State and 2nd-ranked Alabama).

No one foresaw the history which was to unfold.

As gametime neared on the afternoon of Saturday, October 25th, 1986, Brad and I, along with a few other stalwarts from the law school, took our place in the Senior Section.  We did not arrive in time for the pre-game pep rally, which included music and discount coupons for concessions.  (Colorado Governor Richard Lamm had even gotten into the act of trying to promote the Buffs, putting out an Executive Order proclaiming October 25, 1986, as “Gold Rush Saturday”).

We had excellent seats – just past the 40-yard line, about 10 rows up, right behind the Colorado bench.  A crowd of 52,440, seventh-largest crowd ever at Folsom to that time, crammed into the stadium on a warm October afternoon to see how long Colorado could stay with the mighty Cornhuskers.

October 25, 1986 – The game

1st Quarter

Colorado received the opening kickoff, and the Buffs’ wishbone had some early success.  Colorado recorded a first down and moved the ball out to the CU 40-yard line before being forced to punt.  Colorado’s All-American candidate, punter Barry Helton, pinned the Cornhuskers back on their 11-yard line for their first possession.  After picking up a first down and a total of 20 yards, Nebraska was also forced to punt.  A poor punt by Husker John Kroeker and a good return by Colorado’s Drew Ferrando gave the Buffs great field position – 1st-and-ten at the Cornhusker 48-yard line.

The Buffs could not capitalize, however, and punted again after gaining only seven yards.  The Colorado defense, as it would all day against the vaunted Nebraska attack, stopped quarterback Steve Taylor and the Husker option without a first down.  In his second attempt, Husker punter Kroeker was even less successful, shanking a fifteen yard punt into the Nebraska sideline.  Buff fans went nuts, as Colorado again started a drive in Husker territory, this time taking the first snap from the Nebraska 47-yard line.

This time the Buffs would capitalize, though not without help from the visitors.  Not once, but twice in succession, the Cornhuskers were drawn offsides.  First-and-ten, now from the 37.  On Colorado’s next play, junior quarterback Mark Hatcher ran the triple option left, pitching the ball to freshman halfback O.C. Oliver as Oliver reached the sidelines.  Loss of two; second-and-12 from the 39.

In the stands, the grumbling began.  Ever the pessimist, I feared that we were wasting another golden opportunity.  Twice inside Cornhusker territory, but four plays from scrimmage over two drives had netted five yards.  Can’t waste chances to score, I remember mumbling to myself.

The Buffs did not.  On the next snap, Hatcher again ran the option, this time to the right sideline.  As two Huskers were dragging him down five yards behind the line of scrimmage, Hatcher pitched the ball to  ….  JEFF CAMPBELL!  REVERSE!  Campbell, the walk-on freshman split end, raced down the left sideline with a convoy of blockers in front.  Twenty yard line, fifteen, ten, five …. Campbell leaped for the goalline as he was being tackled ….  TOUCHDOWN! TOUCHDOWN, COLORADO!

In the stands, we could not yell loud enough or jump high enough.  The scoreboard read 7-0 Colorado, with 4:39 left in the first quarter.  True, we had gone up 7-0 in the first quarter in Lincoln the year before (only to finally succumb 17-7), but any lead, any time, over the hated Cornhuskers was special.  No one in the stands was so overcome with emotion as to boast that the Buffs had obtained a lead they would never surrender, but no one at the time knew how memorable this day would become.

Back on offense, Nebraska lined up after the kickoff, determined to restore order.  But it was the Colorado defense which set the tone, forcing a fumbled pitch on third down.  Nebraska recovered, but was three-and-out for Nebraska for the second consecutive drive.

Break No. 1:  No team of Colorado’s caliber and lineage could have upset an undefeated team like Nebraska without a few major breaks along the way.  Colorado’s first huge break came on the ensuing Nebraska punt.  Kroeker got off a good punt this time, and Jeff Campbell, the hero of moments ago, almost became the goat.  Campbell caught the punt, but promptly fumbled the ball.  Replays showed that it was indeed a fumble, but the linesman called Campbell down, and Colorado retained possession.

The Buffs could not capitalize on their new found fortunes, and in the span of three plays lost two yards.  After a Helton punt, Nebraska started on its own 35 yard line, and this time would not come off the field in three plays.  On second down, quarterback Steve Taylor raced for 17 yards to the Colorado 48-yard line.  Add 15 yards for a late hit, and suddenly the Huskers were 1st-and-ten at the Buffs’ 33-yard line.  The quarter came to an end with Nebraska 2nd-and-eight at the Colorado 31.

It had been a fun quarter, but now reality was setting in.  The powerful Nebraska offense, averaging over ten points per quarter for the season, could not long be denied.

Or could it?

2nd quarter

Time for a reality check.  Colorado was up 7-0 against Nebraska?  Couldn’t last, we thought.

First play of the second quarter, Taylor dropped back and threw to the left flat downfield …. INTERCEPTED!  Senior right cornerback Solomon Wilcots caught the errant pass at the Buffs’ 20 and returned the ball to the 25-yard line.

Ten rows up in the Senior Section, a few true believers began to emerge.  Perhaps fate had played a hand this day.  Perhaps it was Colorado’s day to exorcise the demons.  As for me, I was elated by Wilcots’ pick, but there were almost 45 minutes to go.  Far from celebration time.

Pessimism seemed well founded after the Buffs again went three plays and out.  A good Helton punt pushed the Cornhuskers back to their 20-yard line, but the cheers and exhortations yelled out to the Buff defense as they took the field now sounded more like wishful pleas.

The Cornhuskers’ next play from scrimmage is memorable … for what did not happen.  Nebraska ran a reverse of their own, with wingback Dana Brinson running for seven yards.  The play went for only seven yards because junior safety Mickey Pruitt stayed home, fought off a blocker, and held up Brinson until help could arrive.  What could have been a long gainer resulted only in second-and-three at the Nebraska 27-yard line.

The Buffs defense again answered the call.  The next two plays netted a loss of two yards, and Nebraska was forced to punt for the fourth time in the game.  Colorado went nowhere with its drive, and Helton’s punt was returned by Dana Brinson some twenty yards to the Nebraska 38.  A fifteen yard late hit gave Nebraska the ball at the Colorado 47-yard line.

Up in the press box, KOA radio announcer Larry Zimmer noted to his listening audience:  “Nebraska is at the Colorado 47 to start the drive“.  The emphasis was on the last phrase, with the tone one of impending doom.

We knew it had been too good to last.

Nebraska garnered a first down on a pass from Taylor to I-back Keith Jones.  After no gain of first down, the Huskers faced second-and-ten from the Colorado 32.  Taylor again went back to pass.  This time, Taylor was pressured by blitzing Mickey Pruitt.  Spinning away, the quarterback was then hit by freshman defensive lineman Arthur Walker …. FUMBLE!  Curt Koch finally fell on the ball all the way back on the Nebraska 45-yard line.

Break No. 2: The Nebraska fumble, coming after gaining great field position, had not only stymied a Cornhusker drive, it set up the Colorado offense in enemy territory.

Coach Bill McCartney was criticized often over the course of his career by many (myself included) for being too conservative on offense.  A wishbone attack lends itself to ball control, but if ever there was an opportunity to go for the jugular, this was it – Crowd in a frenzy; Nebraska punch drunk and reeling; and the ball on the Cornhusker side of the field.

But Bill was Bill.  Three runs up the middle, two by fullback Anthony Weatherspoon (a.k.a. “Spooooon” to the crowd), netted only five yards.  Fourth-and-five at the Nebraska forty.  Out trotted junior kicker Dave DeLine to attempt a 57-yard field goal.  DeLine had been successful on only four of ten attempts coming into the game, and had been on the verge of replacement before connecting on a 47-yarder against Iowa State.

Moans from the crowd.  An opportunity lost for the Buffs.

This was the Buffs’ day, however.  DeLine booted the 57 yard kick though the uprights, to the amazement and joy of the evermore voluminous Colorado faithful.  10-0!  A ten point lead, with only 4:33 remaining in the first half!  Even Colorado couldn’t blow a lead of ten points before half.  If we could just hold on, the day would be memorable.  If nothing else, the band at least would be receiving its most raucous applause in years (Author’s note:  if you haven’t ever noticed, the attention and reception the band receives at halftime of most college football games is almost directly proportional to the success of the home team in the first half).

Nebraska was forced to start its next drive at its own 16, thanks to fine downfield coverage on the kickoff.  On first down, a halfback option pass fell incomplete.  Not much in the video replay to watch, but to me it was a turning point in the game. Why? My memory of this play was a little voice in my head screaming: “Ohmigod. OH-MI-GOD!  A halfback option?!? From Nebraska?!? They don’t know what to run against our defense!”.

Mighty Nebraska, undefeated and scoring at will against its first six opponents, was here in Boulder, with only a few minutes remaining in the second quarter of a game against a 2-4 team, and the Cornhuskers were resorting to gadget plays.  That Colorado was using trick plays was to be expected; for Nebraska to be using them in a 10-0 game was a sign:

… Colorado’s game plan had the Cornhuskers confused.

A small swell of confidence began to grow.

Two more plays by the Cornhusker offense netted only one yard.  Nebraska was again forced to punt.  This was the fifth punt of the first half for a team averaging fewer than four punts per game coming in.  A long punt put the Buffs at their own 33-yard line.

Just run out the clock, we thought.  10-0 at half is more than we could have ever hoped for.

The demons which had led to eighteen straight defeats to Nebraska would not go quietly, however.

On first down, quarterback Mark Hatcher pitched the ball to O.C. Oliver.  Oliver took one step …. FUMBLE!  In the broadcast booth, the lament of Larry Zimmer spoke for us all:  “that’s the one thing the Buffaloes didn’t want to do!!”

Nebraska ball.  First-and-ten at the Colorado 27 yard line.  A wave of pessimism fell over the stadium.  “I knew it was too good to last.”  “Why can’t we beat these guys?” 

Fortunately, the Buffs’ defense was not within earshot.

First down. Keith Jones stopped for a loss of three by linebackers Darin Schubeck and David Tate.  Second down.  Taylor’s pass knocked down at the five yard line.  Third down.  Taylor pass into the endzone was long and out of everyone’s reach.

Three plays.  Minus three yards.  The Buffs had held!!  When kicker Dale Klein’s kick went wide right, it was almost too much to believe.  A turnover deep in Colorado territory, and the Buffs had not surrendered a point.

The Buffs ran out the remaining minute or so on the clock, and there it was:

Halftime.  Colorado 10, Nebraska 0.

3rd Quarter

Nebraska’s halftime statistics looked like misprints:  Taylor, eight carries for 9 yards; Brinson, two carries for 2 yards; and Jones, eight carries for -3 yards.  This from a Nebraska offense averaging 335.2 yards and 5.5 yards per carry coming into the contest.

In the stands, we all knew that Bill was often out-coached at halftime, and Nebraska would get the ball to start the second half.  All we could do was hold our breath and pray.

At the start of the third quarter, though, it looked as if it was Colorado which had come up with the adjustments, not Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers could only muster one first down before being stopped at their 40 yard line.  The crowd, excited before, was now really into it.  The Buffs’ offense, for its part, put together its first sustained drive of the game.  From its own 35 yard line, Colorado marched:  Oliver for 13 yards to the 48; “Spoon” up the middle for four; Oliver for four more; Hatcher for two more yards to the Cornhusker 40, first down!  A pass interference call on a short pass to tight end Jon Embree provided a new set of downs from the Cornhusker 38-yard line.  Oliver then took a pitch down to the 32.  After a gain of a yard to the 31, the Buffs faced a third-and-two.  “Spoon” up the middle again, this time for three yards and a first down at the 27.

I couldn’t believe my eyes!  It was usually the other way around to start the second half:  Colorado struggling on offense; the opposition marching down the field against the mismanaged Buffs’ defense.  This was the best of both worlds.  Not only had the Cornhuskers failed to restore order to the game, the Buffs were driving for another score, and taking time off of the clock to boot!

First-and-ten at the 27 of Nebraska.  A Hatcher keeper was stopped for no gain, but a facemask penalty gave the Buffs a first-and-five from the 22.  Weatherspoon carry through the middle, down to the 18.  Second-and-one.

Nothing could stop us now!

With second and short, Coach Bill defied his own reputation.  A halfback pass from Michael Marquez to Jon Embree was broken up in the end zone.  Even “conservative” Bill was mixing it up.  On third down, normalcy was restored, with Weatherspoon going up the gut for two yards and a first down at the Nebraska 16 yard line.  The drive had been sustained by a third consecutive conversion on third down, and the clock to continued to roll …

Then it happened.

The demons arose from their slumber.  Weatherspoon was given a handoff by Hatcher.  A hit in the line popped the ball into the air … fumble.  Recovered by Nebraska.  The drive that seemed destined to result in a Colorado touchdown had been thwarted.  The Cornhuskers had been given new life.

The defense, though, had not come this far to be denied.

After moving the ball out to their 27, the Huskers resorted to another trick play, a double reverse to wingback Dana Brinson.  It started as a big gain, as Brinson came around to the right, towards the Colorado sideline.  Brinson seemed like he was heading right for us up in the stands at the 40-yard line when he was hit at the 35 by free safety Rodney Rodgers.  The football squirted loose and rolled free near the 40.  The play unfolding right in front of us and the Colorado bench, thousands screamed in unison “BALL!!!!” (as if our pointing and yells would be of some value to the players on the field).

With or without our assistance, Mickey Pruitt fell on the ball at the Nebraska 40.  With the play directly in front of us, those of us in the Senior Section were the closest witnesses to the Buffs’ good fortune. HERE WE GO!

Nebraska had been stuffed.  It was time to go in for the kill.

First down from the 40.  Oliver slashes left for eight to the 32 – flag!  Late hit!  The referee marched off 15 more yards.  First-and-ten from the Nebraska 18.  Back inside the Cornhuskers’ 20 with a first down for a second time in the third quarter.  The Buffs would not denied this time, would they?

Well, yes they would.

This time, though, it was not a turnover.  On first down, Hatcher attempted to run right, but was pushed back for a loss of ten.  Two more plays on got the Buffs only as far as the 25 yard line.  From there, DeLine missed a 42-yard field goal attempt.

Opportunity lost.

Still the score was unchanged: 10-0, Colorado, and the third quarter was running out.

Nebraska’s offense, though, still could not figure out the Buffs’ defense.  After a twelve yard completion for a first down, the Huskers could only muster a four yard run and two incomplete passes before being stopped.  The Colorado defense left the field to a well deserved standing ovation.

Colorado started it’s next drive at it’s own 24 yard line, and the situation deteriorated from the outset.  After gaining no yards on a pitch to Oliver, the Buffs were slapped with an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, taking Colorado back to the 12-yard line.  From there, Oliver was stuffed for a loss of two yards.  On the next play, Hatcher kept the ball, running off of left tackle.  Apparently stopped after a gain of three, Hatcher was stripped of the ball …. FUMBLE!  The Cornhuskers swarmed to the ball and recovered.  Coach McCartney and tight end Jon Embree protested vehemently that Hatcher was down, but to no avail.

First down, Cornhuskers, at the Buff 14-yard line.

What had been elation, as the Buffs had flirted with scores inside the Nebraska 20-yard line just a few moments before, was now depression.  Even the spirited Buff defense could not be expected to hold the Huskers from scoring so close to the goalline.  The Colorado fans cheered on the defense as they ran onto the field, but it was the multitudes of Nebraska fans in attendance who were more vocal.  The fact that the thousands of red-clad Husker faithful were being heard for the first time in the game was of little consolation.

It took only three plays for Nebraska to break through, as quarterback Steve Taylor scored on two yard run to make the score 10-7.  With the touchdown, red and white balloons were released by the fans of Nebraska in celebration of their team’s first points.  This led to some derisive comments from the Senior Section.  “Took you long enough!”,  “We’re still ahead!”, but these jeers were just whistles in the graveyard.  We knew what had seemed a victory which had seemed so obtainable a few minutes before was slipping away.

One minute left to play in the third quarter, and it was 1984 and 1985 all over again.  Close, but not enough.

Or so it seemed.  Freshman halfback M.J. Nelson gave the Buffs an immediate lift by returning the Nebraska kickoff out to the Colorado 38 yard line.  On first down, Hatcher kept the ball, running left for ten.  First down at the Colorado 48 as the third quarter came to a close.

Colorado 10, Nebraska 7, after 45 minutes.  Could the Buffs hang on?

4th Quarter

“Conservative”  Bill McCartney started the fourth stanza by going for broke.  On a pitch right to O.C. Oliver, the halfback pulled up …. an option pass!  Oliver lofted the ball downfield to the 25 yard line, where junior split end Lance Carl was waiting.  The beaten Nebraska safety leaped in desperation to try and deflect the pass, but it fell instead to Carl, in stride.  Carl danced into the endzone …. TOUCHDOWN, COLORADO!

Eight seconds into the fourth quarter, and the Buffs were back in front by ten, 17-7.  14:52 left in the game, and every Buff fan was to become a clock-watcher for the rest of the game.

Dana Brinson brought the ensuing kickoff back to the Husker 30 yard line.  “DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE!” exhorted the crowd, but the Nebraska offense had tasted success and was determined to score.

After a 24-yard run by Taylor, fullback Tyreese Knox rumbled for 31 more yards down to the Buffs’ 25 yard line.  Taylor again, down to the 15.  Just like that, Nebraska had rolled down the field.  The high octane offense which had been stuffed by the Buffs for three quarters seemingly had it in gear for the stretch run.

Break No. 3:  This was crucial.  On the next play, quarterback Taylor rolled right and threw to the end zone.  There he found tight end Todd Millikan, who, fortunately for the Buffs, did his best Jackie Smith imitation.  (Jackie Smith, as many football fans know, was a Hall of Fame caliber tight end, who played most of his career for the St. Louis Cardinals.  Sadly, though, he is most often remembered for a play in the Super Bowl when we was a member of the Dallas Cowboys.  Late in the game, Smith was open in the end zone.  Roger Staubach’s pass was on target, but bounced off of Smith’s chest.  The Cowboys had to settle for a field goal, and went on to lose the Super Bowl to the Pittsburgh Steelers.)

Millikan had the ball in his chest in the end zone, but the ball squirted out.  Instead of being a 17-14 game with eons of time left, the Huskers had to re-set at second-and-ten.  After a two-yard pass to Knox, the Huskers faced a key play.  Third-and-eight from the Buffs’ 12 yard line.  Taylor set up in the pocket to pass, but was quickly swarmed under.  Hit by Mickey Pruitt, the ball came loose, but it was ruled an incomplete pass.  Fourth down!  Dale Kline made the 29-yard field goal, but a major bullet had been averted.

17-10, Colorado.

After a touchback on the kickoff, the Colorado offense took the field with one task in mind:  Ball control, resulting in a score to push the advantage back beyond a touchdown.  Seemed easy enough on paper; the trick was to pull it off against the Nebraska defense.  Hatcher for six; then “Spoon” bulled his way across the thirty for a first down.  On the next play, Hatcher dropped back to pass.  Pressured, he lofted the ball up the middle.  Just over the fingertips of two Cornhusker defenders, the ball floated into the waiting arms of tight end Jon Embree.  Twenty five yards to the Husker 45-yard line.  First down!  A drive, but it was still a one score game, and there were still 11 minutes to go.

Hatcher then carried for three yards, and it was Jeff Campbell time again.  End around, from almost the exact same spot on the field as the first quarter touchdown.  This time, Campbell was pushed out of bounds at the Husker 25 after picking up 15 crucial yards.

Three plays later, it was fourth-and-nine from the nineteen.  Dave DeLine stepped onto the field to attempt a 36-yard field goal.  Everyone in the stadium held their breath as DeLine, now successful on only five-of-11 kicks on the season, stepped into the ball.  The kick was true, and the lead was back to ten.  20-10, with 7:44 left in the game.

A ten-point lead was much better than seven, but no one was leaving.

The kickoff return after the Buffs’ field goal had a little bit of everything.  Dana Brinson took the ball deep, seemed to be stopped near the 15 yard line, got away, ran up the sideline, and, as he was pushed out of bounds, fumbled the ball into the air.  Perhaps still high on the adrenaline of kicking the field goal, Dave DeLine came out of nowhere to attempt to bat the ball back into the field of play.  DeLine was unsuccessful, but in the melee, Nebraska was called for a penalty, and was forced to start the drive from their own eight yard line.

Now we’ve got them!

Or so we thought.

On first down, Taylor passed to Brinson coming across the middle.  Brinson raced toward the sideline, being stopped only after he had reached the Nebrasks 45 yard line.  “Aarrgh!” went the cry in the stands.  “This is too easy, guys!”. “C’mon, defense!” we screamed.

The Buffs responded.  After an incomplete pass, the Huskers gained five to midfield.  Third-and-five.  Taylor faded back, but could fine no teammate open.  Pressured, Taylor finally succumbed to defensive tackles Curt Koch and Jim Smith.  SACK!  FOURTH DOWN!  The defense had held, and precious time had been taken off of the clock.

With the punt, the Buffs took over at their 16-yard line.  The Buffs went conservative, but this time no one disagreed with Coach Bill’s tactics.  Three plays gained six yards, and the Helton punt went out of bounds at the Nebraska 44-yard line.

The Cornhuskers were out of options.

Down ten points with less than five minutes to go, it was score or go home a loser.  Taylor immediately completed a pass down to the Colorado 45-yard line.  Eleven yards and a first down.  Forced out of the pocket on the next play, Taylor was forced to run for no gain.  Clock running.  There were now under four minutes left.  Another completion down to the Buff 34-yard line.

Still time to pull out a dramatic comeback.  After all, Nebraska was Nebraska, and Colorado was, well, Colorado.

Taylor back to pass.  Looking across the middle.  Pass on it’s way, down to the 23 …. but linebacker Barry Remington steps in front of the receiver …. INTERCEPTED!  BUFFS’ BALL! Only 3:14 remaining.


In the stands, there was no more reason for pessimism, no more grumbling or assumptions of the worst.  It had happened!  The unthinkable!  Colorado over Nebraska!  David had beaten Goliath, and all was right with the world.

Under such circumstances, one can be forgiven for forgetting oneself.  As Remington intercepted the pass, the sound was incredible.  The feeling was unforgettable.  I jumped high into the air, placing myself and others at high risk of injury.  (In the student section, you stand for the entire game.  From a position of standing on a seat, jumping up is hazardous, for if you do not come down square on your seat, you could quite easily fall).  At that moment, though, I didn’t care. Everyone else around me was jumping up and down, high-fiving and hugging.

While the party had begun in the stands, there was still some work to be done on the field.

Colorado took some time and time-outs away from the Cornhuskers in running three plays before punting.  Nebraska took over at it’s 35-yard line, but now the Cornhuskers were without any time outs, and were still down ten points.  Chris Blakeman came in at quarterback for Nebraska, but had no more success than Taylor had had.  After passing for a first down to the Husker 47, Blakeman was sacked way back at the Husker 33-yard line by defensive lineman Arthur Walker.

What happened next would not have happened in a bowl game or a “Game of the Year”.

With the sack, the lack of time-outs, and general disregard for that which was going on, confusion reigned.  After a short completion and an incomplete pass, Blakeman completed a pass out in the flat.  With less than a minute to go, the receiver ran out of bounds in order to stop the clock.

One problem … It was fourth down, and the receiver stepped out of bounds short of the first down.  No one immediately caught this simple fact.  The bowl behind the south endzone was filled with Colorado students, primed to storm the field.

After a conference of officials, someone noted that Nebraska had failed to gain ten yards in the allotted four plays.  The football was awarded to Colorado.  Turned over on downs.

Sixteen seconds remained on the game clock, but it did not appear that the game would be allowed to finish.  After the referee signaled Colorado ball, the students in the bowl flooded the south end zone.  Destination:  Goalpost!  The problem was that there was still time on the clock.  After a fifteen-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty was assessed to the Buffaloes, Mark Hatcher took the snap, kneeled down, and it was all over.  20-10!

 The south goalpost already down, the “security” personnel formed a circle around the north goal post.  It was a futile effort.  Several Buff players, including David Tate and Conley Smith, assisted with the chore, and the post came down to the cheers of thousands on the field and in the stands.

I went down with Brad after the final gun (I remember yelling at those who ran onto the field early, my ever present pessimism fearful that somehow, someway, some sort of forfeit could be assessed against the Buffs for failing to complete the game ).

Walking around on the field after the game, I tried to soak up as much of what was going on around me as I could.  We had been down on the field before, as Folsom was a favorite place for frisbee football, but this was quite different.  Hoarse from cheering, exhausted from the emotion, all I could do – all any of us could do – was to try and revel in the moment.

In the locker room coach Bill McCartney tried to quiet the troops for some post game wisdom.  McCartney, who had four years earlier named Nebraska as Colorado’s rival, to the ridicule and snickering of many, could only get out the following before being drowned out in cheers:  “Men, this is as sweet as it gets!”


To the media, McCartney was more restrained.  “I’m really happy for the kids.  I’m really happy for the people in the community.  I’m really happy for those who have suffered so long.”

For the players, it was sweet justice.  Beating Nebraska was the ultimate.  Linebacker Eric McCarty, who had been one of the in-state heroes who had signed on with Colorado in the dark days of the early 1980’s:  “This is why I came here.  This was a dream game.  We had a sunny day then it clouded up and at the end the sun came poking through after we had won the game.”

Tight end Jon Embree, another local star who stayed home to play for the Buffs:  “This is the reason I came here, to beat Nebraska.  This made up for the last four years I have been here.  This is just forever, man.  This is it!”










October 25, 1986 – The aftermath

Halloween in Boulder used to be a celebration above and beyond the call of duty.  Scaled down in later years after a number of alcohol-related arrests and a bad reputation, the Mall Crawl associated with Halloween in the 1980’s was a sight to behold.  That the game in 1986 was the same weekend as the unofficial kickoff to the Halloween celebration just made a huge party that much more euphoric.  Portions of the uprooted goalposts made all of the Greek parties, and the score, “20-10”, was left on the scoreboard in the stadium through the weekend.

After being witness to such a great game, the true fan craves only one thing:  to re-live the moment.  Sportscenter on ESPN was mandatory watching that Saturday night, as were all of the local news telecasts.  The main problem: no one had a tape of the game.  No television station had more than sideline shots.

How to preserve and savior history?

Entrepreneurs to the rescue.

KOA, the major radio station in Denver, had carried the game.  Colorado, of course, had its game films.  Soon, a forty-five minute slice of heaven was created.  For only $19.95 (and yes, I paid it without hesitation), you could own a patchwork of the game.  Most of the game’s action was preserved, with the play-by-play of Larry Zimmer and the commentary of Kent Groshong spliced in over the game film.  Some plays were omitted, and the pause between plays was removed entirely.  Still, there were occasional replays, and some plays were shown again in slow motion for more dramatic effect (guess which two plays received the most attention).

My favorite parts of the tape were two pieces of commentary by play-by-play man Larry Zimmer.

The first came during a lull in the action, where he referred to the Nebraska Cornhuskers as the “Nebraska Bugeaters”, which was one of the first nicknames for the hated Cornhuskers.  The second was toward the end of the game, when a camera shot picked up thousands of red-clad Nebraska fans leaving en masse.

The commentary: “They (Colorado players, coaches, and fans) have waited a long time for this.  So many times, the red flood has come into Folsom Field, and they have gone back across the border to the north a winner.  It won’t be this time”. If you listen to the CU at the Game Podcast, you know that each podcast opens with this Larry Zimmer quote).

(Author’s note:  one other statement proved memorable.  At one instance, Larry Zimmer refers to the referee as “J.C. Loudermilk”, immediately catching himself and stating correctly:  “Louderback”.  Why memorable?  Four years later, the very same referee was to be the referee in the infamous Colorado/Missouri fifth down game at Columbia.)

While many other games in my decades of watching Colorado football have given me sweet memories, none are greater than the feeling we had on the afternoon of Saturday, October 25, 1986.


Here is the KOA/game film tape of the game … 

October 25, 1997 – at Texas           Colorado 47, Texas 30

During the week leading up to the Kansas game, the Colorado coaching staff had adopted the phrase “relentlessly positive” as the slogan for the remainder of the season. It was the staff’s intention to keep the Buffs upbeat and optimistic, despite the 2-3 start to the 1997 season.

The first week of the new campaign was a great success, in part due to an inept Kansas squad which came to Boulder carrying a suspect 4-2 record (only one win over a team with a winning record).

The schedule now put forth a greater test for the now 3-3 Buffs … the Texas Longhorns, with the game to be played in Austin.

Coming into the game, the Buffs had several factors working for them. First, Colorado had a five game winning streak against Texas, dating back to 1989. Second, the Longhorns, who had shocked the nation in upsetting Nebraska in the inaugural Big 12 Championship game in 1996, were struggling as much as the Buffs.

Like the Buffs, the Longhorns were 3-3 on the season. Texas had struggled to beat Rice (38-31) and Oklahoma (27-24), while being mauled by UCLA (66-3) and Oklahoma State (42-16). Entering the Colorado game, the Longhorns were coming off of a 37-29 defeat at the hands of the Missouri Tigers, a team Texas had not previously lost to since 1916.

In the 1997 preseason AP poll, Colorado had been ranked No. 8; Texas No. 12. The game looked on the calendar to be a potential preview of the Big 12 Championship. By late October, though, the game was for pride and potential bowl possibilities.

One needed to be “relentlessly positive” just to have enthusiasm for the game.

Fortunately for Colorado, Texas struggled just that much more. The Longhorns’ defense could not stop the Buffs, and CU rolled to a 47-30 win.

Trailing 3-0 midway through the first quarter, the Buffs put together a nine play drive, culminating in quarterback John Hessler’s 18 yard option keeper for a 7-3 CU lead. It would be a lead Colorado would not surrender the remainder of the day.

Still, at times it appeared that the Buffs were unaccustomed to success. Perhaps fearful that a blowout would cause the regional ABC television crowd to start channel surfing, the Buffs refused to put the Longhorns away. With less than two minutes remaining in the first half, Hessler hit receiver Phil Savoy on a 45-yard pass to put the Buffs on top 24-10. Unable to withstand prosperity, CU allowed Texas to march 80 yards in just three plays to score on a one-yard Ricky Williams run as time expired in the second quarter. 24-17, Colorado, at halftime.

In the third quarter, the Buffs again had the chance to put Texas away. Quarterback James Brown threw interceptions on the Longhorns’ first three possessions of the second half, the first of which was returned by safety Ryan Sutter 34 yards for a score to put the Buffs up 31-17. The other interceptions, though, led to only 9 more points, however, as the Buffs failed to show a killer instinct.

Down 40-17 entering the final stanza, Texas tried to make a game of it, scoring twice . The second touchdown made the score 40-30 with 5:08 remaining. With time still left for a Texas comeback, the CU offense finally put the game away, constructing a nine-play, 80-yard drive, culminating with a one yard dive by Herchell Troutman with only 32 seconds left on the game clock.

47-30, Colorado.

Colorado now had a 4-3 record, 2-2 in conference play. The Colorado defense picked off two Texas quarterbacks a total of five times, the best such mark since 1992 (v. Oklahoma). Coming into the Texas game, the Buffs’ coaching staff had expanded upon the “Relentlessly Positive” theme of the week before.

“Continue to Climb” was the new mantra. The struggling Buffs had gone on the road against an equally desperate team, and had come out a winner. For his part, head coach Rick Neuheisel felt the team was back on track: “I said our goals after the two game losing streak were to: one, get ourselves into the postseason; and two, make sure that we stay positive, regardless of what was taking place.”

After the Texas game, both goals were well on their way to achievement.

Just one week later, both goals were in great jeopardy.

Game Notes …

– The Buffs inability to score touchdowns after turnovers proved beneficial for CU kicker Jeremy Aldrich. The sophomore tied a school record in connecting on four field goals. Aldrich hit a 35-yarder in the second quarter to give the Buffs a 10-3 lead, and then hit from 26, 48, and 46 yards in the third quarter, extending the CU lead from 31-17 to 40-17.

– Senior safety Ryan Sutter had two interceptions on the day, with the three other picks coming from junior linebacker Terrell Cade, freshman cornerback Ben Kelly, and sophomore cornerback Damen Wheeler.

– Marlon Barnes led the Buffs with 93 yards on 17 carries, and would likely have had his second consecutive 100-yard game, but left the game with a knee sprain after a second half kickoff. Wide receiver Phil Savoy led the wide outs with 92 yards on only four catches.

– For the second game in a row, the Buffs posted over 200 yards rushing (208) and 200 yards passing (211).

– After losing to Colorado, the Longhorns fell to 3-4 on the 1997 season. Texas, ranked 12th in the preseason poll, would go on to win only one more game to finish 4-7. The losing season brought an end to the John Mackovic era in Austin. Mackovic, the former head coach of the Kansas City Chiefs in the NFL, finished his six year stint at Texas with a 41-28-2 overall record, with one Big 12 championship but three losing seasons. Mackovic’s replacement? Mack Brown.

October 25, 2003 – Boulder           No. 1 Oklahoma 34, Colorado 20

Oklahoma jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead, then held Colorado at bay for the remainder of the evening, winning 34-20. Playing before the largest crowd in Colorado history, 54,215, Oklahoma posted its third win over Colorado in less than twelve months.

The Buffs were 25-point underdogs at home to the Sooners, and it looked early on as if Oklahoma would easily cover the spread. Sooner quarterback Jason White, who would go on to win the 2003 Heisman Trophy as the nation’s best player, connected with Brandon Jones on a 54-yard touchdown on the Sooner’s third play from scrimmage. Oklahoma covered 70 yards on its second drive, scoring on a two-yard run by Renaldo Works to make the score 14-0 with 6:03 left to play in the first quarter.

The expected Sooner domination was coming to pass.

But then something funny happened on the way to the rout.

The Buffs started playing well …. or at least better.

Joel Klatt connected with D.J. Hackett on three passes on the Buffs’ next drive, including a three-yard scoring pass late in the first quarter to cut the lead to 14-7. The only other first half score was a 42-yard field goal by Oklahoma. The Buffs’ defense forced two first half turnovers, keeping the Sooners within range at halftime, 17-7.

In the second half, Oklahoma slowly pulled away. Another field goal and another White touchdown pass, this time a 15-yarder to Mark Clayton late in the third quarter pushed the lead to 27-7.

At last, is seemed, the Sooner contingent could began to relax.

But the Buffs, out-gained in the third quarter, 155-16, did not go quietly. Joel Klatt hit Brian Calhoun for a 21-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter to cut the lead to 27-14. On the Buffs’ next possession, the anemic Colorado offense, which didn’t have a rushing first down until the fourth quarter (and that was on a 20 yard fake punt run by John Torp), put together a 61-yard drive. The drive was culminated on a nine yard scoring pass from Klatt to Derek McCoy. The jubilation of the Colorado crowd was only slightly dampened when the extra point attempt was blocked, leaving the score at 27-20.

Over five minutes still remained, and the Buffs were within a touchdown of the No. 1 team in the nation.

A stop by the CU defense, and the Buffs would have the opportunity to shock the college football world. With 2:13 left, the Sooners faced a third-and-six. Instead of succumbing to the moment, the Sooners demonstrated why they were the top-ranked team in the country. Jason White hit Mark Clayton on a short pass, and Clayton did the rest. Fifty-nine yards later, Oklahoma had its game-clinching touchdown and a 34-20 win.

“I’m really proud of this football team,” said Gary Barnett, whose team fell to 3-5 (1-3) on the season. “We laid it on the line and we came up short to a really good team. I think Oklahoma left here knowing that this is a good team that’s really improving … “.

There were some positives in the defeat.

The Colorado defense was not embarrassed – at least the streak of giving up over 40 points every game came to an end at five – but did give up 434 total yards. The Buffs’ offense did score on the Sooners … but only had 40 yards rushing. Joel Klatt passed for 187 yards … but was sacked seven times.

Despite running for his life most of the night, Klatt remained optimistic about his team. “Our team played exceptionally better than we have all year,” said Klatt. “We played well in all phases of the game, as you saw a much more complete Colorado Buffaloes team here tonight. I think that is what you will see from here on out.”

The complete Colorado Buffaloes team was going to have to play well the remaining four games if the Buffs were to have a chance at a bowl game. Now 3-5 overall, the remaining games were on the road against Texas Tech and Iowa State, and at home to Missouri and Nebraska.

Up next were the Red Raiders, 5-3 (2-2) on the season. Texas Tech was coming off a blow out loss to Missouri, 62-31. The Tigers, for their part, were 6-2 (2-2), right behind Nebraska, 7-1 (3-1) in the Big 12 North standings. The only game in the final four in which the Buffs figured to be favored was the Iowa State game. The Cyclones were now 2-6 (0-4), coming off a shutout loss to Nebraska, 28-0. For Colorado to go bowling, the Buffs would have to win three out of four of the remaining games – after losing five of their past six.

Texas Tech provided interesting possibilities, at least to the fan of offense. The Red Raiders led the nation in scoring (45.1 points/game) and passing offense, connecting for 513.5 yds./game. Colorado was ranked dead last, 117th, in pass efficiency defense, and third to last, 115th, in passing defense. Almost unbelievably, the Buffs’ defense was still better than the Red Raider defense in yards allowed. The Buffs were surrendering 457.0 total yards per game, but that was still better than the 503.8 total yards per game given up by the Red Raiders.

Texas Tech scored in bunches, but also gave up points in bunches.

Hope existed that if the Buffs played as well as in the Oklahoma game, a win on the road was a possibility.

Moral Victories

The week before playing Colorado, Oklahoma played the Missouri Tigers. After playing Oklahoma to a 10-10 standoff through the first quarter, the Sooners ran off 21 unanswered points to take a 31-10 halftime lead on their way to a 34-13 win. Asked if his team could take anything from holding the Sooners to three points in the second half, Missouri head coach Gary Pinkel was quoted by the St. Louis Post-Dispatch as saying:

“I’m not a moral victory guy. The first thing I told my football team was, ‘I’m disappointed we didn’t win the game.’ “.

One week later, Colorado was also on the short end of the final score against the Sooners, succumbing 34-20 after rallying to within a touchdown with five minutes remaining. Asked a similar question to the one posed to Gary Pinkel a week before, Colorado head coach Gary Barnett responded:

“I always say that I don’t like moral victories, but at this point in time, I guess you have to take this as one.”

Was this a sign of how far the Buff program had fallen in just one season?

Missouri had not been bowling since 1998, but their second-year head coach was refusing to take three quarters of even play against the nation’s best team as a positive sign. Pinkel wanted his team to settle for nothing short of victory. Yet here was the Colorado head coach reaching for silver linings to explain away a 3-5 record. “At least we didn’t get embarrassed”, seemed to be the message.

I must admit that before the kickoff of the CU/OU game, I was as calm as I had been in years. I had actually taken the time to enjoy the company of my friends with whom I attended the game. Normally, I am a nervous wreck before a game, whether I am attending in person or just a spectator from 700 miles away. I am always anxious about the outcome, about the effect of this week’s game on next week’s game, on the effect of this game’s outcome on the entire season, and even its effect on recruiting.

But before the Sooner game, I was calm. Colorado had the worst scoring defense in the country, playing against the No. 1 team in the nation, which just happened to have the No. 2 scoring offense in the country. Hmm. No. 2 (45.7 points/game) v. No. 117 (40.1 points/game). Colorado was a 25-point underdog. The CU media guide (to its credit) does not list a history of point spreads, but I certainly could not think of a time in the past decade when the Buffs were almost a four-touchdown underdog at home.

So even was looking for moral victories. Oklahoma had scored on its opening drive in each of its first seven games in 2003, so I thought it would be a moral victory for the Buffs if they could keep the Sooners from scoring on their first drive.

Oklahoma’ first drive: three plays; touchdown.

So much for that moral victory.

Yes, the Buffs did play the Sooners even after falling behind 14-0 early in the first quarter. Yes, the defense played its best game of the season. Yes, the Buffs played with heart and enthusiasm not seen since the opening game against CSU.

And yes, CU lost, 34-20.

A moral victory?

The CU media guide for 2003 was 484 pages long, second in length nationally only to the Texas media guide in length.

Yet for all of its girth, the Colorado media guide did not contain a heading for “moral victories”.

If Colorado was to take something of value from the Oklahoma loss, it would have to carry over onto the field against Texas Tech.

Here is the YouTube video of the game, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:

Game Notes

– Beore the bar was raised to 54,215, the previous Folsom Field record for attendance, 54,063 was set against Nebraska in 1995 (a 44-21 Nebraska win, 10/28/95).

– With the loss to Oklahoma, Colorado’s record against (subsequent) Heisman Trophy winners fell to 1-8-1. The only win came over Eric Crouch of Nebraska (the 62-31 win in 2001), with the tie coming against Oklahoma and HB Billy Vessels. (The 1952 CU/OU game ended in a 24-24 tie).

– In the decisive third quarter, Oklahoma held the ball for 11:22, to just 3:38 for the Buffs.

– With the loss, Colorado fell to 0-10 all-time against teams ranked No. 1 at the time of the game. Six of the ten contests came against Oklahoma (Nebraska, three times; USC, once).

– The Buff loss to Oklahoma was the first home loss by the Buffs to a conference opponent in three years (a 35-27 loss to Iowa State, November 11, 2000).

– After defeating Colorado, the No. 1 Sooners would not be tested again during the remainder of the regular season. Oklahoma went on to defeat its next four opponents (including No. 14 Oklahoma State) by an average score of 56-9. Heavily favored in the Big 12 championship game, Oklahoma was surprised by No. 12 Kansas State, 35-7. The Sooners then fell to No. 2 LSU, 21-14, in the Sugar Bowl, to finish the 2003 season 12-2, ranked No. 3 in the final polls.

October 25, 2008 – at Missouri          No. 16 Missouri 58, Colorado 0

The Missouri Tigers, ranked 16th and out of the national championship race after two consecutive losses, took out their frustrations against an over-matched Colorado Buffalo squad, throttling the Buffs, 58-0. In holding Colorado to 199 yards of total offense, Missouri handed the Buffs their first shut out loss in almost twenty seasons.

For the fifth time in eight games, Colorado allowed its opponent to score on its opening possession. A short kickoff set up the Tigers at their own 44-yard line, and it took all of four plays and 69 seconds for Missouri to post all of the points they would need on the night. Two passes from Heisman trophy candidate Chase Daniel to Heisman trophy candidate Jeremy Maclin set Missouri up at the Colorado four yard line, with Derrick Washington doing the honors one play later.

The Buffs’ first possession was a tragic comedy of errors. Starting at their own 33 yard line, the Buffs marched backward in quick succession:

Tyler Hansen, making his first start at quarterback – rush for loss of nine yards;

Rodney Stewart – rush for one yard;

Tyler Hansen, sacked for a loss of nine yards;

punter Tom Suazo, in for his second punt of the season, mishandled the snap, tackled for a loss of fifteen yards at the Colorado five yard line.

Four plays, minus 32 yards.

It took Missouri three plays to punch it in from the five, with Chase Daniel hitting tight end Chase Coffman from a yard out. 10:48 still to play in the first quarter, and Missouri had already matched the point total the Buffs had scored in each of its last three games.

And then it got bad.

A three-and-out by the Buffs resulted in a short field for the Tigers. The Colorado defense did force Missouri to take 13 plays to march 55 yards, but march the Tigers did. 21-0 Missouri.

The Buffs managed one first down before the end of the quarter, but then punted the ball back to the Tigers. An interception by CU safety Ryan Walters set up the Buffs in Missouri territory, but any hope of a Colorado resurgence ended three plays later after the Colorado drive netted a loss of one yard.

Again, the Colorado defense made scoring difficult for the Missouri offense – but not difficult enough. A 15-play, 80-yard drive made the score 28-0 with 8:10 still to play in the first half. A fumble by Cody Hawkins and a three-and-out by the Colorado offense were followed, respectively, by Jeff Wolfert field goals.

At halftime, the Faurot Field scoreboard read: Missouri 34; Colorado 0.

The Tigers had 34 points, the Buffs had 13 total yards of offense.

And then it got worse.

The Buffs did take the second half kickoff and put together a drive. Three first downs put the ball in the Missouri red-zone, but there the drive stalled. Rather than try a 34-yard field goal, Dan Hawkins elected to go for it on fourth-and-three at the Missouri 17-yard line. A Cody Hawkins pass to Patrick Williams, however, fell incomplete, and the Missouri shut out was preserved.

The teams matched three-and-outs before Missouri struck again. A 30-yard punt return by Jeremy Maclin set the Tigers up in CU territory, and Missouri needed only four plays to travel 44 yards to up the score to 41-0 on a four yard pass from Daniel to Daniel Alexander.

Another three-and-out by the Buffs, coupled with another good punt return by Maclin, set up the Tigers for a 39 yard touchdown drive, with Daniel hitting Maclin for a 30-yard score. 48-0.

A field goal and a 55 yard touchdown run by De’Vion Moore pushed the score to 58-0 with 4:45 to play. A last minute drive by the Buffs, the best of the night, garnered five first downs and a second trip to the Missouri red-zone. The game ended on the Missouri eight yard line after Tyler Hansen hit Josh Smith for a two yard gain as time expired.

“It’s all on me,” said Dan Hawkins after the game. “I did an awful job of getting them ready. I have to do a better job.” Offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich was also quick to jump on the sword. “I take 100 percent responsibility for how things turned out here tonight.”

Not so fast, said quarterback Cody Hawkins. “Coaches are always going to try and take the blame because they care about us as players and as people,” said Hawkins, who hit on 9 of 17 passes for 86 yards, was sacked twice and had a lost fumble. “I really think as an entire team we didn’t play even close to the level we’re able to play at today.”

Fine. Everyone was to blame. There was plenty to share. The Colorado offense netted only 199 yards for the entire game (66 of which came on the last drive), and only 14 first downs (five on the final drive). The Colorado defense, playing on its heels the entire game, gave up 491 yards of total offense to Missouri, sacked Chase Daniel only once, and gave up eight conversions on 13 third down attempts.

The special teams? Where to start? Tom Suazo’s fumble, setting up the Tigers at the CU five yard line on the Buffs’ first possession? The 25.3 yard net/punt average on the other nine chances Suazo and Matt DiLallo?

There was little or no time to regroup. If the Buffs were to make anything out of their quickly deteriorating 2008 season, it had to come in the next two weeks. Colorado would next play Texas A&M in College Station before returning home to face Iowa State. A bowl bid and a chance at a winning season for the 4-4 Buffs would hinge on the outcome of those two games.

“It starts with everyone looking at themselves in the mirror,” said senior defensive tackle George Hypolite. “We’ve been beat worse than this and it’s not the end of the world.”

It just felt like it.

Note … Here are the You Tube video highlights from the game:

Beginning of the End?

Dan Hawkins has logged 33 games as the Colorado head coach. The pariah of Colorado coaches, Chuck Fairbanks, coached 33 games in Boulder.

Fairbanks went 7-26.

Hawkins is 12-21.

For the record, Bill McCartney, in his first three seasons in Boulder, went 7-25-1, and he received a contract extension in the midst of a 1-10 third campaign. Dan Hawkins received his contract extension a few weeks ago.

Due to the extension of the seasons to 12 games, plus the bowl game from last year, Hawkins still has four games (hopefully five) in his third year. His record is marginally better than those of either Fairbanks or McCartney (though far shy of the 33 game records of Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett).

Is it time to start wondering whether Hawkins is the right man for the job?

Clearly, Dan Hawkins deserves great credit for cleaning up the negative perceptions about the Colorado program, and for resurrecting fan support. How long will the fan support last, though, if the Buffs do not show improvement on the field?

This is Hawkins’ third season. The 2-10 debacle was a write off for most, and the 6-7 record showed sufficient improvement to satisfy most observers. At this point of the 2008 season, though, continued growth appears to be unlikely.

6-7 looks pretty darn good, and may be a long shot after the display put on by the Buffs in Columbia.

The Buffs’ inconsistencies are frustrating, to say the least. The Colorado defense has, for the most part held its own (the 58 points scored by Missouri notwithstanding – the average starting field position for Missouri’s seven touchdown drives was the CU 48 yard line). The Colorado special teams, but for Josh Smith’s record number of return yards, have been abysmal. Punter Matt DiLallo, a two year starter, hasn’t been able to hold on to his job and kicker Aric Goodman has missed six field goal attempts in a row (and seven of ten overall).

The Colorado offense? The Buffs are last or close to last in the Big 12 in almost every significant offensive category, and with Saturday’s numbers, will likely remain so placed the remainder of the season. In his last season at Boise State (2005), Hawkins’ Broncos scored 59 touchdowns. The year before that – 69 scores. The Buffs, through 2/3 of the 2008 season, have 18 touchdowns, on a pace for 24 total scores. Where’s the magic?

Yes, the offensive line has been decimated. However, in 2007, the year the Buffs had so few linemen that the spring game had to be a scrimmage, CU still generated 38 touchdowns.

Colorado, in Hawkins’ third year, should be past personnel excuses. These are Hawkins’ guys.

And they can’t compete.

I’m not going so far as to say that the next two games are a referendum on whether Dan Hawkins should be the coach at Colorado in 2009. That is all but assured.

The next two games, though, will go a long way in determining whether the 2009 campaign will be his last in Boulder.

The Shut Out String

The shut out string was the last of the statistical holdouts from the time when Colorado was still a national player.

Consecutive weeks ranked in the Associated Press poll? Started in 1989; ended in 1997.

Consecutive bowl games and winning seasons? Started in 1985; also came to a close in 1997.

Consecutive seasons defeating at least one ranked team? Started in 1988; ended in 2000.

The above are still noted in the weekly press release from the media relations office, but they are now afterthoughts 30 pages in. They were significant for a long time. Now they are relics from the past.

Other Dave Plati specials in the weekly media release include “Top College Football Records – 1985 to present” and “Top College Football Records – 1989 to present”. Problem is, it wasn’t that long ago that the Buffs were in the top ten in these categories (the Buffs were 8th in the “best since 1989? category as recent as the start of the 2004 season). Now, Colorado has slipped out of the top 20 in each category, and Dave is going to have to start using a smaller font just to keep the Buffs on the page.

The last claim to statistical greatness came to a crashing halt against Missouri. 242 consecutive games without being shut out, dating back almost exactly 20 years to a 7-0 loss to Nebraska on November 7, 1988. Every week, there were two full pages of the media release devoted to the streak. Colorado was up to ninth on the all-time list, and had the third longest active streak.

There were several close calls along the way. Nine times the streak came down to the fourth quarter, most recently a touchdown scored against Florida State with just 3:39 remaining (and on fourth down, no less).

The Florida State score was from 11 yards out, with the Buffs trailing the Seminoles, 16-0. Dan Hawkins could have gone with the field goal, but his “play to win” philosophy meant going for the touchdown. Against Florida State, the strategy was rewarded.

Twice against Missouri, on the first and last drives of the second half, it failed.

While I have no issue with the “play to win” philosophy, and while I certainly would not insist on scoring late in the game just for the sake of posting a score, there should have been other factors at work against the Tigers.

On the first drive of the third quarter, the Buffs’ offense put together an 11-play, 64-yard drive, only to come away with nothing when a fourth-and-three pass fell incomplete at the MU 17 yard line. Two reasons why the Buffs should have gone for the field goal at that time:

First, CU was already down 34-0. The Buffs had scored a total of 42 points in the last ten quarters combined. A comeback was not imminent. Why not give your beleaguered offense something positive for the opening drive effort? A field goal would not have changed the outcome – but a touchdown wasn’t going to change the final result, either.

Second, and more importantly – the Buffs have a kicker whose mind is not all there. Aric Goodman has missed his last six attempts. A miss on a 34-yarder in a 34-0 game? Not a huge deal. Why not get your kicker out there, on an opposing team’s turf, and let him try and feel some success? I’m guessing Dan Hawkins want to use him again at some point this season. Why not let him work it out when a miss would not be crucial?

Plus, Dave Plati would still have one last vestige from the golden era of Colorado football to put into the weekly media release.

October 25, 2014 – Boulder          UCLA 40, Colorado 37 (2OT)

Colorado fought back from a 17-0 first quarter deficit, out-scoring No. 25 UCLA 17-0 in the fourth quarter to force overtime at 31-31. After the teams traded field goals in the first overtime, and the Buffs had posted a field goal in their second overtime possession, Bruin quarterback Brett Hundley scored on an eight yard run to give the Buffs their second double-overtime loss of the season, 40-37.

The Buffs went toe-to-toe with the Bruins for much of the game, finishing with 500 yards of total offense … to 509 for UCLA. The Buffs went for a season-high 233 yards rushing, with Michael Adkins going for 107 yards on 17 carries and a touchdown. But it was not enough to overcome the 309 yards rushing posted by the Bruins, with two players going for over 100 yards. Running back Paul Perkins had 19 carries for 180 yards and two touchdowns, including a 92-yard score on UCLA’s second play from scrimmage. Brett Hundley, in addition to passing for 200 yards and a touchdown, had 12 carries for 110 yards and the all-important eight yard score to bring CU’s upset bid to an end.

Read full Game Story here

The Wrong Anniversary …

The 2014 season for the University of Colorado marks a multitude of anniversaries.

It’s the 125 season of collegiate football in Boulder, and the game against No. 25 UCLA represented the 100th Homecoming in CU history. This fall also represents the 90th season of playing football in Folsom Field and the 80th anniversary of CU adopting the nickname “Buffaloes”.

On the field, the 2014 season marks the 40th anniversary of the Buffs taking down Alabama in the Liberty Bowl, the 35th anniversary of the first college game televised by ESPN (Oregon at Colorado), as well as the 25th anniversary of CU’s perfect 11-0 regular season in 1989.

This weekend, the 20th anniversary of the 1994 team was being celebrated. Heisman trophy winner Rashaan Salaam, who ran for 2,055 yards that season, was the grand marshal for Homecoming, with the “Miracle in Michigan” being celebrated last month on its 20th anniversary.

The 2014 Buffs has also gotten into the act of honoring the 1994 team. In the 40-37 double-overtime loss to No. 25 UCLA, the Colorado offense generated 500 yards of total offense. The Buffs have now posted over 400 yards of total offense in seven straight games, a streak not seen since the first seven games of the 1994 season.

Unfortunately, however, that’s where the comparisons between 1994 and 2014 end.

The 1994 team, in posting seven straight games with over 400 yards of total offense, roared out to a 7-0 record and a No. 2 national ranking. The 2014 team, meanwhile, has gone 2-5 over its seven game streak of offensive prowess.

So much for comparing 2014 to 1994.

Continue reading Game Essay here

October 25, 2019 – Boulder           USC 35, Colorado 31

Senior quarterback Steven Montez set his 38th school record in starting his 32nd consecutive game, and for 45 minutes against USC, Montez looked like a hero. Montez threw for 324 yards and three touchdowns, running for a fourth, but it was not enough to keep Colorado from losing to USC for the 14th-consecutive time, falling 35-31 before 48,913 fans in Boulder.

The Trojans rallied from a ten-point fourth quarter deficit for the victory. USC quarterback Kedon Slovis hit wide receiver Michael Pittman for two touchdowns in the final 11 minutes – with the scores covering 44 and 37 yards – to take down the Buffs.

The Buffs had 520 yards of total offense to 518 for the Trojans, but couldn’t sustain drives in the fourth quarter. Laviska Shenault had nine receptions for 172 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown reception, but the effort was wasted as the CU defense failed to hold an opponent under 30 points for the 12th consecutive game.

“I said, ‘You can look at this two different ways. You can sit there and feel sorry for yourself and say woe is me. Or you can look at yourself and say this is the type of team we can have,’” Tucker said as to what he told his team in the locker room after the game. “If you take care of the ball, take it away, run the ball, finish in the red zone, stop the run and get off the field on third down, then you have a really good chance to beat anybody.”

The win kept USC atop the Pac-12 South standings, while the Buffs sunk lower into the Pac-12 South basement. The fourth consecutive loss left the Buffs with a 3-5 overall record, 1-4 in Pac-12 play.

Read full Game Story here

“Loyalty”? – What it means to be a CU fan in 2019 … 

In my prediction for the Washington State game last week, I concluded with:

The Washington State defense is not in the same league as the Oregon defense, but can the CU offense exploit the Washington State defense’s deficiencies enough times to keep up with the Cougar offense?

I would like to say yes, but the Buffs are going to have to make it happen on the field before I can start picking them again …

Prediction … Washington State 35, Colorado 24 … 

To which a CU at the Gamer posted in the comments section:

Read your stuff for years and admired your Buff “loyalty”? . Today I heard defeatism and whining. This team is NOWHERE near the canvas tent built by MacIntyre….this team doesn’t fold … 

The punctuation notwithstanding (why both the quotes and a question mark? Not sure), I was struck by the comment. It didn’t bother me that the reader disagreed with my assessment of the Buffs’ chances in their game against the Cougars – I encourage (even hope for) your comments.

If you disagree with my position, that’s fine with me.

What did strike me was the “loyalty”? part of the comment.

Continue reading Game Essay here


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