CU Games of the Day – October 26th

October 26th … CU has a 3-2 record on this date over the past 40 years … 1985: “Resurgent” Colorado gave No. 7 Nebraska a game (17-7), playing with a third-string quarterback … 1991: No. 16 CU defeats Kansas State, 10-0, a Wildcat team which would go on to post its best record since 1954 … 1996: John Hessler and Steve Rosga rescue the Buffs with a come-from-behind 28-24 win over Texas … 2002: Texas Tech Kliff Klingsbury had 65 pass attempts, but no touchdowns, in a 37-13 CU victory … 2013: Ka’Deem Carey rushed for four touchdowns and Arizona extended Colorado’s Pac-12 losing streak to a dozen games with a 44-20 win over the Buffaloes at CU’s Homecoming …

  • 1985: No. 5 Nebraska 17, Colorado 7 … Buffs make a game of it, making our first road trip to Lincoln (followed by a Denver/Kansas City game in Kansas City the next day a little more palatable … Essay: “Road Trip!” …
  • 1991: No. 16 Colorado 10, Kansas State … In Year Three under Bill Snyder, these were no longer the “Mildcats”, giving the Buffs all they could handle … Essay: “Nerves of Spaghetti” … 
  • 1996: No. 8 Colorado 28, Texas 24 … Down 10-0 and Texas threatening, Steve Rosga comes to the rescue with an interception, with John Hessler leading Buffs to a second half comeback … Essay: “Poll Watching” …
  • 2002: No. 21 Colorado 37, Texas Tech 13 … Kliff Klingsbury was the nation’s leading passer, but his 65 passes netted no touchdowns and four interceptions as the Buff defense dominates … Essay: “Brayton’s Line in the Sand” …
  • 2013: Arizona 44, Colorado 20 … A testament to how far CU had fallen into the abyss was that CU staying with Arizona for three quarters was seen as progress … Essay:Closing the Gap” … 

October 26, 1985 – at Nebraska           No. 5 Nebraska 17, Colorado 7

“Resurgent Colorado”, as the Buffs were called in the Nebraska Homecoming program, met the Cornhuskers in a game televised to the western half of the nation by ABC. It was Colorado’s first nationally televised game since a newly-formed all-sports network by the name of ESPN had televised the 1979 Colorado/Oregon game (the first game ever for ESPN – but it was shown on tape delay).

At stake, as strange as it sounded, was nothing less than first place in the Big Eight Conference. Both teams came into the game 5-1 and undefeated in conference play, with Nebraska’s only loss coming at the hands of Florida State, 17-13, in the season opener.

Nebraska was on a five game winning streak and ranked No. 5 in the nation, but they couldn’t afford to take the Buffs lightly. The same Missouri Tiger squad which had been rolled by the Buffs, 38-7, just two weeks earlier, had bounced back to give the Cornhuskers a scare before succumbing, 28-20. After surrendering over 500 yards of offense to Colorado, the Tigers had forced Nebraska into tying an NCAA record by kicking seven field goals. The lone touchdown for the Nebraska against Missouri did not come until the fourth quarter.

The win over Missouri had represented yet another victory for the Big Red … but it was not an easy one.

It was enough to give the Colorado fans a glimmer of hope heading into Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium. (The betting crowd did not buy into this theory, making Nebraska a 21-point favorite for the game).

For an underdog on the road, it is essential to get off to a good start.

Colorado did just that, scoring on the Buffs’ second drive. A two-yard run gave Colorado an early 7-0 first quarter lead. Still, Colorado fans could not afford to be overly jubilant. The problem for the Buffs wasn’t the touchdown.

The problem was who scored the touchdown.

The two yard run putting Colorado on top came from senior quarterback Craig Keenan.

Craig Keenan?

Keenan had last been seen at quarterback in 1984, starting the last three games. A passing quarterback, Keenan fell to third on the 1985 depth chart in the newly implemented wishbone offense. Rick Wheeler, the second string quarterback, had played most of the Iowa State game after Mark Hatcher went down with an injury. With Hatcher still out, Wheeler earned the start against Nebraska. Wheeler, however, suffered a knee injury during the first quarter scoring drive, and did not return.

The rest of the game, the Colorado offense suffered, in part because of playing a third-string quarterback in Keenan, and in part because of an inspired effort by the Nebraska defense. The Buffs would muster only 218 yards of total offense on the day, with three fumbles muting any attempt at sustaining a drive. After the offense had staked the team to a 7-0 lead, it would fall to the defense and special teams to try and win the game.

CU star punter Barry Helton did his part.

Helton was called on to punt eight times, and the sophomore responded with a 50.5 yard average. Helton’s outstanding effort gave the Buffs’ defense a fighting chance. Nebraska running back Doug DuBose scored on a one-yard run just before half to knot the score at 7-7, but fullback Tom Rathman broke the Buffs’ back with an 84-yard scoring run late in the third quarter to give the Cornhuskers a lead they would not surrender.

A fourth quarter field goal gave the 76,014 in attendance the opportunity to breathe a sigh of relief in finally posting a two-score advantage, and the 17-7 score held up.

A hard fought game had earned the Buffs some respect, but not a win. Now 5-2 with two ranked teams in the next three weeks (Oklahoma State and Oklahoma), the mettle of the 1985 team would again be tested.

Road Trip … 

I do not recall the exact moment when we decided to make the road trip to Lincoln in 1985 for the Colorado/Nebraska game, but travel we did. Perhaps the inspiration came from a need to get out of town, away from the grind of my second year in law school. Perhaps it was the alignment of the planets which had Colorado playing Nebraska on Saturday, October 26th, and the Denver Broncos playing the Kansas City Chiefs in Kansas City, on Sunday, October 27th, giving us the opportunity to visit both venues in one weekend.

In all likelihood, though, it was the simple fact that, for the first time in my six years at Colorado, it seemed that the Buffs had a legitimate shot at beating the hated Cornhuskers.

(Our enthusiasm for the big game against the Big Red was not felt throughout campus, though. In a story by Terry Henion of the Denver Post, who interviewed students on campus the week before the game, the following quotes were typical: “I think they’ve been pretty lucky. They’re still a bad football team …. I got sick of football here a few years back”, and, “We think it’s great they’re winning and all that, but we’re not going to go around wearing the school colors or anything.” No, Buff-mania was not rampant in Boulder.)

I would never have considered making the trip alone, and fortunately, I didn’t have to. My best friend Brad was equally nuts about the Buffs. The day before the game, Brad and I packed everything we owned which was black and gold into my car (a 1981 Chevy Citation), and headed off for Huskerland.

Traveling all day Friday, we made it to Lincoln in time to pick up our friend Mark, who was flying in from Dayton, Ohio.

I had known Mark since 1980, my freshman year at in Boulder. Mark is yet another lifelong friend I met on the second floor of Libby Hall. Mark was a brilliant aerospace engineer, and blazed through college with little effort. Please allow me to digress with an example: When Mark was allowed out of the Engineering building to take a few elective courses as an upperclassman, he and I took some political science classes together. My method of studying was to make an outline of the required material, then memorize my outline for the test. Mark’s method of studying was much easier. Mark would listen to me as I attempted to recite my outline from memory. From this exercise alone, Mark would proceed to ace the test. It always amazed me that, for me to do well, I had to spend hours pouring over material, hours more formulating an outline for the test, then even more hours memorizing the outline. All Mark had to do was read through my outline the night before, and he would do just as well as I did. And this was in a class in my major!

By 1985, Mark had graduated with a degree in aerospace engineering, and was working for the Air Force at Wright-Patterson Air Force base in Dayton, Ohio.

Mark worked on systems for – get this – Air Force One.

While waiting for Mark that Friday night at the Lincoln airport, Brad and I felt like the proverbial sore thumbs. Awash in a sea of red, we seemed practically neon decked out in our black and gold. This being said, I must report that there was nary a bad word said. The waitress at the airport restaurant, in fact, seemed to go out of her way to be cordial.

After picking up Mark, we retired to our hotel. Turning on the late local news, we hoped to pick up a sports report discussing the upcoming Nebraska/Colorado game. What we saw was in depth coverage of football, but it wasn’t about the Buffs. It was coverage of the Nebraska Junior Varsity game played that afternoon.

(Another digression: Since eliminated due to a reduction in the number of scholarships allowed football programs, junior varsity teams were at one time an integral part of major college football. Despite its importance to the future success of the team, though, most JV games were rarely worth of mention, much less television news coverage. For comparative purposes I, who most would consider to be a faithful Buff fan, did not even know Colorado had a JV team until I came across some statistics for the 1984 JV team while doing research for CU at the Game).

I remember shaking my head as the sports anchor relayed to the Nebraska fanatics the statistics from that afternoon’s contest. This was our first real taste of how truly committed the Husker fans were to their team.

We certainly weren’t in Kansas, Toto.

Gameday – Lincoln, Nebraska

I have aspirations of visiting all of the hallowed venues of college football. I would love to take in such games Alabama/Auburn; Michigan/Ohio State; and USC/UCLA, just to name a few. I have watched these rivals wage war on television countless times, but, as I learned in 1985, you have to be there in order to appreciate the sights and sounds of a major college football stadium.

While in 1985 the Colorado/Nebraska game was not the major event it would later become – after all, the Buffs hadn’t beaten the Cornhuskers since 1967 – you couldn’t tell the difference from the size of the Husker crowds. The 1985 game was a sell-out. This was not unusual. Every single Nebraska home game since 1962 has been sold out. Let me repeat myself: every…single…home…game…since 1962 has been sold out. It’s one NCAA record for which Nebraska fans can rightly be proud.

Having been witness to the traveling hoards of Cornhusker fans when they came to Boulder, Mark, Brad and I thought we were prepared for red-clad home fans.


If anything, the hometown Huskers were clad in even more red than their traveling brethren. The sea of red visible on television does not do justice to this crowd. Nebraska fans are numerous, loud, and proud. When they did the wave, it was almost scary.

Yet, for the most part, Nebraska fans – and it may pain some Buff fans to hear this, but it is true – are friendly. There have been many incidents of trash-talking and fan bashing on both sides over the years, but in 1985 we were treated well. (I know, I know. An argument can be made that the Nebraska faithful were nice to us back then only because they did not see Colorado, and, by extension their fans, as a threat. Perhaps.)

One more nice thing about the Husker fans – blasphemy, but the truth hurts sometimes. I must admit that the Nebraska Cornhusker fans are some of the most knowledgeable football fans I have ever encountered. Again, some may qualify this. The argument: well, what else do the people in Nebraska have? There are no professional sports teams to draw attention away from their team, and pride in the team gives the state an identity (not unlike Alabama and its fans). Still, I left Lincoln impressed.

An encounter early in the 1985 game solidified this feeling. Heading into the Nebraska game, we already knew that quarterback Mark Hatcher was hurt and would not play. Then, in the first quarter, Colorado’s second string quarterback, sophomore Rick Wheeler, also went down with an injury. From our vantage point, high in the bowl of Memorial Stadium, Brad, Mark, and I looked at each other quizzically as number 14 jogged onto the field. Who was this guy? Who was the Buffs’ third string quarterback?

It was Craig Keenan.

Keenan had subbed for Steve Vogel in 1984, actually starting the last four games of the season. In the off-season switch to the wishbone, however, Keenan, who was a passing quarterback, had fallen to third on the depth chart (it had even been speculated in the Denver media that a sophomore with no varsity experience, Alan Strait, was being considered as a possible replacement over the senior Keenan). By midseason of the Buffs improbable 5-1 season, Keenan had been forgotten by most fans, including Brad, Mark, and myself.

Not to worry. The couple behind us filled us in on the particulars, reminding us of Keenan’s strengths and weaknesses.

The couple, however, was not from Boulder.

They were from Lincoln.

Think about that for a second. Brad, Mark, and I, were Buff fans to the core, yet the Nebraska fans behind us knew more about the Colorado third string quarterback, a quarterback their team had never faced, than we did.

Leaving the game, weary but not totally defeated, we sought out fraternity row. Not to get our faces beaten in, mind you, but to find Cindy.

Cindy is yet another Libby Hall alum. Now a physician (attorneys, engineers, doctors – Colorado alums seem to do pretty well in the real world), at the time Cindy was in a sorority, and had made the trip to Lincoln with a number of her sorority sisters. We were seeking out Cindy as she and a friend of hers from the sorority were going to go to Kansas City to see the Broncos game with Brad, Mark, and I.

Road Trip Part II – Did you say “World Series”? … 

I am not a fan of major league baseball. I do follow the Atlanta Braves, and have since Hank Aaron was hitting homers out of Atlanta Fulton County Stadium in the early ’70’s. Still, baseball never caught my fancy like football.

Why bother to mention the sport, then? Well, as fate would have it, as our little band was heading south out of Lincoln, Nebraska, we were heading right for the Show-Me-State showdown, the 1985 World Series matchup between the St. Louis Cardinals and the Kansas City Royals. Game 6 of the series was being played in Kansas City that very Saturday night, October 25th, 1985.

For those of you who follow baseball, you recall that Game 6 of the 1985 Series was pivotal, and involved a controversial play. Down three games to two in the Series, Kansas City was down to its last few outs. A “safe” call at first base, when the replay showed the runner was clearly out, spurred the Royals on to a come-from-behind win. The Royals won game 7 in a rout, capturing the 1985 World Series.

Over the years, we have told several versions of our brush with the 1985 World Series, including a story wherein we make it to Royals Stadium around the seventh inning, sneak in, and watch the historic and controversial ending to Game 6. In fact, truth be told, all we did was drive by the stadium on Interstate 70, noting the illuminated stadium as we drove on, trying to figure out which exit to take in order to find our hotel.

Kansas City Chiefs … 

From the safety of time and distance, I can admit from here in Bozeman, Montana, to what my friends already know and have come to accept – I am Kansas City Chiefs fan. Ever since Jan Stenerud put Montana State University on the map in 1967 by being drafted by the Kansas City Chiefs, I have been a Chiefs fan.

Brad, however, was a die-hard Denver Broncos fan.

In 1985, though, Brad and I were able to put our differences aside for one afternoon. We strode into Arrowhead Stadium together – he in his Broncos shirt, I in my Chiefs hat. We each had our source of support. For the game, I had the home crowd majority. Our seats, though, were amongst the Denver fans.

The game itself, I am sad to report, was a Broncos win. In one weekend, my Buffs had lost to my least favorite college team, Nebraska, and my Chiefs had lost to my least favorite pro team, the Broncos.

This, and we still had the entire state of Kansas and an all-night drive before us.

We drove all night, listening initally to the Royals rout of the Cardinals in Game 7 of the Interstate 70 series. We reached Boulder around 7:00 a.m. on Monday, October 28th.

Believe it or not, I did attend my 8:00 a.m. class in the Fleming Law Building that day.

I can’t say for certain that I took good notes.

October 26, 1991 – at Kansas State          No. 16 Colorado 10, Kansas State 0

The 1991 Kansas State team was different from the Wildcat teams which Big Eight teams had grown accustomed to playing.

Third year coach Bill Snyder was building a program in Manhattan.  The joke of the conference throughout much of the ‘1980’s (and, in all honesty, for a number of decades), Snyder had taken a woeful team over in 1989, going 1-10 in first campaign.  The second team improved to 5-6, and in 1991 the Wildcats were 4-2, falling only to No. 3 Washington and No. 9 Nebraska.  The 38-31 scare put into the Cornhuskers in Lincoln put the world on notice that these Wildcats would have to be dealt with from here on as a serious threat.

It was all the Buffs could do to come away with a 10-0 win against a resilient Wildcat squad.  The Colorado defense carried the day, posting a shutout for the second time in a season for the first time since 1977.  Colorado sacked Wildcat quarterback Paul Watson nine times on the day, including three by sophomore defensive tackle Leonard Renfro.

Colorado’s offense could muster only one touchdown, and that coming after Kansas State’s Watson fumbled the ball deep in Wildcat territory early in the second quarter. Sophomore nose tackle Jeff Brunner recovered the fumble, giving the Buffs a golden opportunity.  Lamont Warren capped the 13-yard “drive” with a seven yard run.  Midway through the third, kicker Jim Harper connected from 29 yards out to post the final points of the game.

Not a convincing win, but for the 5-2 Buffs (3-0 in conference play), a win was a win.

The next poll saw the Buffs move up only one spot, to No. 15, but rankings were no longer the focus.  Four games remained in the season, and the three teams remaining on the Buffs’ schedule not named Nebraska had a combined record, as October came to a close, of 6-13-2.  The season, and the chance to three-peat as Big Eight champions, then, would come down to one game.  The Cornhuskers, despite a 63-6 mauling of hapless Missouri, held at No. 9 in the polls.  Nebraska was also 3-0 in Big Eight play.

It was pretty clear to anyone who looked at the Big Eight standings as the 1991 calendar turned to November:  The winner of the Colorado/Nebraska game would become the prohibitive favorite to represent the conference in the Orange Bowl.

For a Colorado team which struggled out of the gate to a 2-2 non-conference record, the thought of returning to Miami as the three-time defending Big Eight champions had a nice ring to it for the Buffs and their fans.

And there was this salient fact:  Nebraska had to travel to Boulder for the showdown.

Nerves of Spaghetti … 

After being four years removed from living in Boulder, you would have thought that I would have been used to it.

I was sweating out yet another Colorado game from a great distance.

Yes, Kansas State was 4-2.  And yes, the Wildcats had given the Cornhuskers all they could handle before succumbing by seven in Lincoln.  But come on.  This was KANSAS STATE.  These were the “Mildcats” from Manhattan!  Kansas State was the only team in the early 1980’s which had made Colorado look good.  When the 1991 schedule was laid out, the Kansas State game was perceived as nothing more than a bye week between the Oklahoma and Nebraska slugfests.

Still, the 10-0 win was far from easy.

I was in Bozeman, patiently waiting for updates of the inevitable Colorado rout.  The television offerings for the day were sparse (the only games between ranked teams that week were No. 12 North Carolina State v. No. 19 Clemson and No. 20 East Carolina v. No. 23 Pittsburgh – hardly dream match-ups for television executives), making the wait all the harder.  I stayed tuned as No. 5 Notre Dame struggled to defeat a mediocre USC squad at home, waiting as returns slowly came in: 0-0 at the end of the first quarter; 7-0 Colorado at half.  The 10-0 lead in the third gave some breathing room, but it was not until the “F” for final replaced the “4” for 4th quarter in the updates did I relax.

The win over Kansas State was not pretty, but it was a win.  A victory over the hated Cornhuskers, at home, would send the Buffs back to Miami.  The national title chase was long gone, but a 10-2 season, complete with a top ten finish, was not out of the question.  Colorado was riding an 18-game conference winning streak, and the three-peat was there for the taking.

There would be sweating for the Nebraska game, but at least it would all be laid out before me.  I was not planning on attending the game in person (November home games were rarely attended after I moved to Bozeman.  I drove to most games, and travel conditions across Montana and Wyoming in November were not those one could depend on).  Brad would be there along with Scott, though, and I would be able to tune into the game as ESPN had picked up the game as its national Saturday night game.

I would shiver throughout the contest, but only from nervousness. Brad and Scott’s shivers were from the cold.

Kickoff temperature for the Nebraska game was 12 degrees, with a wind-chill factor of minus-eight.

Game Notes … 

– When Colorado did not score in the first quarter against Kansas State, it marked the first time since 1987 in which the Buffs had not scored in each quarter against the Wildcats (a string of 15 quarters).

– The Buffs sacked Kansas State quarterback Paul Watson nine times, tying the mark Colorado posted against Wyoming in the opener, with nine being the second-most sacks ever in a game by the Colorado defense. Leonard Renfro’s three sacks were a team high for the season.

– Senior nose tackle Joel Steed, who had two sacks amongst his seven tackles against Kansas State, would go on to be named a first-team All-Big Eight defensive lineman, and was also a first-team Walter Camp All-American.

– Red-shirt freshman safety Chris Hudson had his fourth of four interceptions on the season against the Wildcats. Hudson led the team in interceptions on the season, and in so doing became the first freshman ever to lead the team in interceptions, and the first non-starter to do so since 1964. Hudson would go on to win the Thorpe Award for the nation’s best defensive back after the 1994 season.

– Red-shirt freshman offensive tackle Derek West received his first career start against Kansas State, subbing for an injured Craig Anderson. While West did not have any other starts in 1991, he would go on to start every game in 1992, 1993, and 1994, earning honorable mention All-Big Eight honors as a senior.

– Lamont Warren had 26 carries (a season-high for the Buffs) for 118 yards and one touchdown.

– Michael Westbrook’s seven receptions (for 91 yards) was also a season-high for the Buffs, as were Darian Hagan’s 25 pass attempts and 12 pass completions.

– Kansas State would go on to win three of its final four games in 1991, posting a 7-4 record … the best record for a Kansas State team since 1954, when the Wildcats finished with a 7-3 record.

October 26, 1996 – Boulder           No. 8 Colorado 28, Texas 24

The Texas Longhorns, who in 1995 closed out the final season of the Southwest Conference with a 10-2-1 record, including a 7-0 record in conference play, bottomed out in 1996 on the last Saturday in October in Boulder, Colorado.

After succumbing to the Buffs, 28-24 in Boulder, Texas fell to 3-4 on the 1996 season. No one knew at the time that the next loss for the Longhorns would not come until New Year’s Day in the Fiesta Bowl.

Early in the game against the Buffs, Texas appeared to be anything but a 3-3 team.

An interception thrown by Colorado quarterback Koy Detmer led to a Texas field goal early in the first quarter. A few minutes later, a 66-yard punt return quickly resulted in a 13-yard touchdown pass from quarterback James Brown to receiver Wane McGarity. With the Buffs already down 10-0, Detmer threw another interception, returned by Longhorn cornerback Bryant Westbrook to the Buffs’ 20-yard line.

Things looked bleak indeed for the 5-1 Buffs.

Steve Rosga to the rescue … again.

Just as he had against Oklahoma State, the Buffs’ free safety picked off an opponent’s pass to the CU end zone. There was no 105-yard runback for a touchdown this time, but the interception did save the day for Colorado.

A 54-yard touchdown connection between Detmer and Rae Carruth early in the second quarter pulled the Buffs to within 10-7. Only five plays later, though, Texas was back up on top by ten, courtesy of a 50-yard bomb from Jones to Michael Adams.

The Buffs responded with a Lendon Henry run from four yards out to pull within 17-14 at halftime. The drive, taking six plays and covering 45 yards, was highlighted by a 28-yard pass from Detmer to Chris Anderson on a fourth-and-two to keep the drive alive.

Down only three after the disastrous opening few minutes, a 17-14 deficit at half would normally not seem that bad. Unfortunately for the Buffs, though, quarterback Koy Detmer was crunched on the Buffs’ final drive before halftime, giving him a second-degree concussion.

As in 1995, quarterback John Hessler would be called upon to rescue the Buffs in a big game.

The junior from Brighton responded. The Buffs took their first lead of the game late in the third quarter on a trick play … which didn’t work. Running back Herchell Troutman took a handoff from Hessler at the Texas 13-yard line, and was supposed to throw the ball back to the quarterback. The Longhorns, though, sniffed out the play, and had Hessler covered. Troutman improvised, breaking several tackles on his way to a 13-yard touchdown run.

Colorado 21, Texas 17.

Texas reclaimed the lead after a 76 yard drive in 12 plays, setting the stage for Hessler to perform another comeback.

Hessler led the Buffs on a 16-play, 90-yard drive consuming 7:18 of the fourth quarter clock, with Hessler himself doing the honors on a one-yard dive behind consensus All-American guard Chris Naeole. In the final 3:16 of the game, Texas had two more opportunities, but Rosga second interception of the day thwarted one drive, and a desperation heave on the game’s final play fell harmlessly to the Folsom Field turf.

Final score: Colorado 28, Texas 24.

Talk after the game was all about Rosga, who in addition to his two interceptions, had 11 tackles and a fumble recovery on the way to being named the Big 12’s defensive player-of-the-week. Rick Neuheisel: “I think he was magnificent. I’ve always thought Steve Rosga was an underrated player …. when I look at the films I’ll be amazed again at his performance.”

Poll Watching … 

With the win over Texas, CU jumped to No. 7 in the Associated Press poll (Alabama’s loss to Tennessee didn’t hurt). Up two spots in the last two weeks, it was easy to adopt the mantra: “One spot a week will result in a National Championship”. In front of Colorado were only four undefeated teams: Florida; Ohio State; Florida State; and Arizona State (Wyoming was also undefeated, but had risen only as far as No. 17 in the polls). Only two one-loss teams were in front of Colorado, Nebraska and Tennessee, but the Buffs still had a shot at Nebraska. Florida and Florida State still had to play one another, and Ohio State still had to face No. 9 Michigan.

The math still worked for Colorado to position itself as not only the first Big 12 champion, but also a competitor for the national title.

But how good were the 1996 Buffs?

Coloraod was 6-1 overall, and three of four of the Buffs’ previous opponents had been ranked in preseason (Texas A & M had been ranked No. 13; Kansas, No. 24; and Texas, No. 8). Still, all three had fallen from favor by the time Colorado played them, so the victories had lost some luster. Colorado was now 6-0 in 1996 against unranked teams; 0-1 against the only ranked team – Michigan – it had faced. And now the Buffs’ starting quarterback, Koy Detmer, had been knocked out of a game with a concussion.

The jury was still out on the highly-rated Colorado Buffaloes.

Game Notes … 

– With Koy Detmer injured, the Buffs relied more on the running game. The Buffs ran a season-high 50 times against the Longhorns, with Herchell Troutman going for 98 yards on 24 carries, and Lendon Henry posting 85 yards on 18 carries.

– For Steve Rosga, being named the Big 12 Defensive Player-of-the-Week was becoming a common occurrence, being named to the honor for the second time in three weeks (also against Oklahoma State).

– Senior guard Chris Naeole, who led John Hessler into the endzone for the game-winning touchdown, would go on to be a consensus first-team All-American in 1996. Naeole, along with teammate Matt Russell, would also go on to be one of 12 semi-finalists for the Lombardi Award, given out annually to the nation’s best lineman (offense or defense).

– The victory over the Longhorns gave Colorado its first lead in the series. Texas had won the first four meetings between the two schools (1940-75), but Colorado’s win was its fifth straight (1989-96), giving CU a 5-4 edge overall.

– After falling to Colorado, Texas had a losing overall record, 3-4, and was 2-2 in the Big 12. The Longhorns, though, rebounded, winning their remaining  four games to finish 6-2 and first in the Big 12 South. Texas went on to upset Nebraska, 37-27, in the first-ever Big 12 championship game.

October 26, 2002 – Boulder           No. 21 Colorado 37, Texas Tech 13

Texas Tech quarterback Kliff Kingsbury came to Boulder as the nation’s leader in pass completions, attempts, yards passing and touchdowns. Kingsbury left town with a sore arm, no touchdowns, and a loss, as the Colorado defense rose to the occasion in leading the Buffs to a convincing 37-13 win.

Kingsbury did get his yards, 268 in all, but on 36-of-65 passing and no touchdowns. The Red Raider quarterback had been intercepted only six times in 419 attempts in leading Texas Tech to a 5-3 record, but was picked off four times by the Buffs. “To state the obvious, that was a heck of a defensive effort,” stated Colorado head coach Gary Barnett. “All week everybody was talking about their offense and their quarterback, and our defense just sat back quietly and waited for the challenge.”

Texas Tech took a 3-0 lead on its first possession of the game, aided by two Colorado penalties. After a 46-yard kickoff return by Roderick Sneed, the Buffs responded with a 48-yard field goal by Pat Brougham to tie the score. Colorado took a 10-3 lead thanks to a 41-yard interception return to the Red Raider five yard line by linebacker Kory Mossini, setting up a three-yard scoring run by Chris Brown.

Tech tied the score on a two-yard run by Taurean Henderson late in the first quarter, and then took its second lead of the game, 13-10, early in the second quarter on a Robert Treece 42-yard field goal. A short punt gave CU good field position late in the half, with Robert Hodge hitting Derek McCoy from 14 yards out with 13 seconds remaining to give the Buffs a 16-13 halftime edge (Brougham missed the extra point).

While the first half was a back-and-forth battle, the second half was all Colorado.

Bobby Purify turned a short Robert Hodge pass into a 36-yard touchdown to raise the score to 23-13 early in the third quarter. Then the defense took over. Texas Tech crossed midfield only once in the second half, while the Buff defense out-scored both offenses. First, safety Medford Moorer intercepted a Kingsbury pass and returned it 51 yards to up the CU edge to 30-13. The icing on the cake came late in the fourth quarter, when senior defensive tackle Tyler Brayton caused Kingsbury to fumble, then rumbled 14 yards with the fumble to make the final 37-13.

With the defense making a statement, the 149 yards put up by Chris Brown were almost overlooked. Brown raised his season total to 1,303. Leading the nation in rushing after eight games, Brown was starting to receive some mention in Heisman trophy circles. With undefeated and 2nd-ranked Oklahoma up next, the national spotlight would be on Colorado. If Brown could continue keep his streak of 100-yard plus games in tact, and if the Buffs could pull off an upset in Norman, Chris Brown would find himself in the thick of the Heisman race.

But the Sooners had one of the nation’s best defenses. Oklahoma was ranked 12th in the nation in rushing defense (99 yards/game), 6th in the nation in passing defense, and 2nd in total defense and scoring defense.

Brayton’s Line in the Sand

It is not often that a team’s season can be altered so dramatically by an off-the-field incident. Yet, moments before the UCLA game, such a moment took place in the Colorado locker room. The Buffs were 1-2, reeling from a 40-3 demolition at the hands of USC. Unranked after being a preseason top ten pick, the Buffs faced undefeated and 20th-ranked UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl in Los Angeles. A 1-3 record was a distinct possibility, with undefeated Kansas State up next on the schedule. The memory of the 3-8 2000 campaign, when the Buffs never recovered from an 0-4 non-conference slate, was on everyone’s mind.

The Buffs were just about to head onto the field for the opening kickoff. Senior defensive tackle Tyler Brayton looked around the locker room, and he didn’t like what he saw. In Brayton’s view the Buffs, in their opening warmup on the field, had the look of a team prepared to lose. Brayton was a team captain, but was not one to make speeches. Still, he was not about to let this team, his team, go out onto the field not prepared to win. Brayton took a piece of tape and placed it across the doorway. In essence, Brayton declared to the team that only CU players who had come to play that day needed to cross that line.

The Buffs responded with a 31-17 win, and had not looked back since, reeling off five straight wins. Brayton’s ultimate reward came at home against Texas Tech. With 4:22 remaining and the Buffs comfortably ahead, 30-13, Brayton sacked Red Raider quarterback Kliff Kingsbury. Brayton caused Kingsbury to fumble, picked up the fumble himself, and carried the ball 14 yards for his first collegiate touchdown. In unfamiliar territory, Brayton did not know what to do with the ball, so he threw it deep into the student section. Under the puritanical rules of the NCAA, Brayton was immediately flagged for a 15-yard celebration penalty. “I’ve never scored in college,” Brayton said in his defense. “I didn’t know what to do. It was crazy.”

The Buffs ultimately made the 35-yard extra point, so there was no harm in Brayton’s spontaneous celebration. The Buffs now had a five game winning streak. Colorado was 4-0 and alone atop of the Big 12 North division. The Buffs’ ranking was back up to No. 13. Colorado’s 6-2 overall record may not have been what the Buffs and their fans may have envisioned in August, but as the calendar turned to November, all of the Buffs’ preseason goals were still before them, including a repeat as champions of the Big 12.

The future? Who knew? With a win over Oklahoma, the Buffs would climb back into the top ten in the polls, and be positioned to mess with the BCS computers just like in 2001. If Colorado were to run the table, finish 11-2 (including winning a likely re-match with Oklahoma in the Big 12 championship game), the Buffs could once again make the argument that they should play in the national title game despite having two losses.

While there is no way of knowing how the Buffs’ season would have unfolded without Brayton’s speech, it was undeniable that Colorado was 5-0 after his ultimatum.

Now it was on to Norman, Oklahoma, to determine whether the Buffs would be a player in the national championship sweepstakes.

Game Notes

– The 65 passes by Klingsbury set a record for the most passing attempts v. Colorado. The previous record was 64 pass attempts, set by Brandon Stewart of Texas A&M – 9/28/96 – in a 24-10 Buffaloes’ victory. Klingsbury’s 36 completions fell short of the record 39 set by Adam Hall of San Diego State eight weeks earlier.

– The four interceptions by the Colorado defense was the most by the Buffs since nabbing four v. Oklahoma (in a 38-24 Buff win, 10/30/99).

– Defensive back Clyde Surrell had 17 tackles v. Texas Tech (15 solo), both highs for the Colorado defense in the 2002 season.

– Roderick Sneed had kickoff returns of 48 and 64 yards v. Texas Tech, the latter being the longest for any Buff since Ben Kelly had two 100-yard kickoff returns for scores in 1999.

– The Buffs scored over 30 points for the fifth straight game, the best such streak since doing six in a row in 1994-95.

October 26, 2013 – Boulder          Arizona 44, Colorado 20

Ka’Deem Carey rushed for four touchdowns and Arizona extended Colorado’s Pac-12 losing streak to a dozen games with a 44-20 win over the Buffaloes at CU’s Homecoming.

Carey, the nation’s leading rusher, ran for 119 yards on 23 carries. But it was his quarterback, B.J. Denker, who surprised the Buffs on the ground with a career-best 192 yards on 15 keepers.

Colorado was held to 349 yards of total offense, with freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau going 17-for-32 for 212 yards, a touchdown and an interception. No Colorado runner had more than 54 yards, while Paul Richardson had seven catches for 132 yards, including a 75-yard touchdown reception in the first quarter.

Continue reading Game Story here

Closing the Gap … 

CU has a problem.

Not with the coaching staff … I believe there is general consensus that Mike MacIntyre and his staff are doing a good job, and have the team headed in the right direction.

Not with the players … Yes, it has to be admitted that CU might have only a handful of players on its roster who would start for Oregon, USC, or Stanford. That being said, the team does seem to be unified in purpose, and you would be hard pressed to find fans who question the effort of those players who are currently on the roster.

Not even with the administration … Granted, it is easy to be frustrated with the lack of progress on facilities improvements (we’re now only a little over a month out from the self-imposed ‘$50 million by December 1st’ goal – anyone see that happening?). But again, you have to give the administration props on several levels of progress (including coaching hires), and must give new athletic director Rick George the opportunity to understand the lay of the land before anyone can start assigning doubt or condemnation.

No, CU’s problem is with the rest of the Pac-12.

The Pac-12 right now is just too damn good.

Continue reading Game Essay here

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