CU Games of the Day – October 9th

October 9th … CU has a 2-3 record on this date over the past 40 years … 1982: No. 7 Nebraska took out CU, 40-14, but the Buffs hang tough for three quarters in Bill McCartney’s first crack at the Cornhuskers … 1993: No. 20 CU handles Missouri, building a 27-3 before coasting to a 30-18 victory … 1999: Ben Kelly finishes what he started – Kelly opened the game with a 100-yard kickoff return before ending it with an interception in a 46-39 overtime win over Missouri … 2004: The Buffs were down 28-0 before scoring two consolation touchdowns in the fourth quarter in a 42-14 loss to No. 21 Oklahoma State … 2010: The second straight shutout loss in Columbia helps to bring the Dan Hawkins’ era to an end …

  • 1982: No. 7 Nebraska 40, Colorado 14 … The 15th-straight loss to the Cornhuskers was a turning point for the program … Essay No. 1: “In Search of a Rival”Essay No. 2: “Meeting Coach Bill” – My first chance to meet Bill McCartney …
  • 1993: No. 20 Colorado 30, Missouri 18 … Exactly 11 years after facing Nebraska for the first time, Bill McCartney ties Fred Folsom for the most wins in CU history (77) … Essay: “Bill McCartney and Fred Folsom” …
  • 1999: Colorado 46, Missouri 39 (OT) … Both teams had a punt blocked. Both teams had the opportunity to put the other away, each failing to rise to the occasion … Essay: “A Tough Team to Love”
  • 2004: No. 21 Oklahoma State 42, Colorado 14 … My 100th CU game is a downer, as the Buffs are not competitive against the Cowboys … Essay No. 1: “My 100th game; much like my first” … Essay No. 2: “My top five Colorado games – 1980-2004”
  • 2010: No. 24 Missouri 26, Colorado 0 … CU went 20 years without being shutout before Dan Hawkins came along, and got shut out twice in a row on the road against Missouri … Essay: “Missouri Five-0″ … Dan Hawkins makes his mark (in a negative way) …

Check out the stories for all five games below …

October 9, 1982 – Boulder           No. 7 Nebraska 40, Colorado 14

Many times, the numbers say it all.

1980: Nebraska 45; Colorado 7.

1981: Nebraska 59; Colorado 0.

The last two lopsided losses to the Cornhuskers were only the most recent. In the series, the totals were intimidating. Fourteen straight Nebraska wins overall vs. Colorado. No wins for the Buffs against the Cornhuskers in Boulder since 1960.

Nebraska’s record coming into the 1982 game: 3-1, ranked seventh in the nation. Colorado’s record: 1-3 and going nowhere.

With this background, and a final score of 40-14, it would be easy to dismiss this game as another Husker rout in a long string of mismatches.

Such a conclusion would be wrong.

Yes, the Buffs did lose that day. Yes, it was the 15th straight loss to Nebraska. But, no, it was not the typical yawner for the Cornhuskers. Colorado quarterback Randy Essington passed for 361 yards, the most-ever by a Nebraska opponent. Two Colorado receivers, Donnie Holmes and Dave Hestera, each had over 100 yards receiving. Before Nebraska scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter, the score was an unnerving – at least to the Husker Nation – 20-14 at the start of the fourth quarter.

The game, though a loss, was the genesis for what was to become in the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s one of the most hotly-contested rivalries in college football.

In Search of a Rival … 

Having gone to school at Missouri, Bill McCartney was familiar with the Big Eight, its rivalries, and its history. After all, it was his alma mater which had come up with the notion of a “Homecoming” for its border war game against the Kansas Jayhawks. In a long association with the Michigan Wolverines, McCartney had seen “rivalry” re-defined for him, having been a part of Wolverine rivalry games against Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame.

Coming to Colorado, he wanted to focus on Colorado’s rivalry game.

But he couldn’t find one.

McCartney stated he was surprised to learn that Colorado really did not have a rival. Colorado State and Air Force, the other two Division I schools in the state, were members of the Western Athletic Conference and were not regularly played. Utah had once been a fierce rival of Colorado, with the first of over 50 games in the series being contested way back in 1903. However, Colorado and Utah hadn’t met since 1962. Other schools in the Big Eight had either in-state rivals, like Kansas/K-State or Oklahoma/Oklahoma State, or traditional rivals based on proximity, like Kansas/Missouri, or excellence, like Nebraska/Oklahoma. Colorado had a history with the other Big Eight teams, but no real rivalry.

Coach Mac set out to change that. Learning that Nebraska was the most hated of the Big Eight teams by Colorado fans, McCartney declared Nebraska to be the Buffs’ rival. All other games on the calendar in the Buffs’ locker room would be stenciled in in black; the Nebraska game would be highlighted in red. McCartney barnstormed throughout campus, speaking to alumni groups and student gatherings in an attempt to incite the fans to come to the game, and, just as importantly, not to sell their tickets to the Husker masses who flocked every other year to Boulder to watch their team. A bonfire was planned for the week leading up to the game. No one in the football department would be allowed to wear red. Everyone would focus on the Nebraska game.

To most in Boulder, this hype was amusing, if not a little disconcerting. Why Nebraska? Colorado hadn’t beaten Nebraska since 1967, and was being routed routinely by the Cornhuskers. Over the previous ten years, the average score was 40-12. If Colorado couldn’t beat Drake or Wyoming at home, why go after the top dog?

McCartney would not be dissuaded, though, and his ability as a motivator first became evident in the 1982 game. Against the mighty Huskers, Coach McCartney was able to look up at the scoreboard as the fourth quarter began and note that his team trailed the seventh ranked team in the nation by a score of only 20-14. For the Colorado program, embarrassed 59-0 in Lincoln with basically the same squad a year earlier, this was a moral victory of the highest magnitude. That the highly ranked Huskers put it into a higher gear and scored 20 unanswered points in the fourth quarter was of little consequence. Colorado had found a direction, along with the man to lead them.

Meeting Coach Bill … 
I feel I can say with some degree of confidence that Bill McCartney does not remember the occasion of our meeting.

I, however, will never forget it.

It was the week leading up to the 1982 Nebraska game. Coach McCartney was making the rounds of every alumni and student group he could find, trying his best to convince everyone to come to the game and watch Colorado upset the mighty Cornhuskers.

I happened to be among a group of 30 or so who were attending a DRC meeting the night Coach Mac came to see us. DRC stands for Dormitory Representative Council, which was a group of volunteer students living in the Colorado dorm system who get together once a week to discuss dorm issues, from the mundane (ice cream machines in the cafeterias) to the serious (establishing and maintaining a program of volunteers to be available to escort women across campus at night). With 23 dormitories spread across the campus, and with the backing of a student-oriented Housing Director in Dan Daniels, the DRC was not a body without input or responsibilities.

Bill McCartney came to speak to our relatively small gathering less than a week before the game. Stop for a moment and think about that! A scant five days before the Buffs were to face the No. 7 ranked team in the nation! The same team which had crushed Colorado 59-0 a year before, the same team which McCartney had staked his fledgling reputation on beating, and yet there he was. Speaking to a handful of students, imploring us to attend the game and will the Buffs on to victory.

My first reaction was that the man was crazy. Crazy not only for thinking he had a shot to beat a team of Nebraska’s lineage, but for being away from his post so close to the game.

Shouldn’t he be watching game films or something?

By the end of the short talk, though, head coach Bill McCartney had demonstrated why he had been hired to coach at Colorado. In just a few minutes, McCartney had us so fired up that he had us believing that we – not the Buff football team “we” – but the “we” in the room – could go out and lay waste to the hated Cornhuskers. He had us convinced that if we all believed in and supported the team, that this would be the year that the red hoard from Nebraska would at long last go home with an “L”.

Bill McCartney was and is that great a speaker. His reputation as a motivational speaker is not without merit. He walked into our meeting as a curiosity, he walked out leaving a room full of believers. While I did not always agree with everything that Bill McCartney did on or off the field, and while admitting that at least once I was upset enough that I wanted to go down on to the field during the game to renew our acquaintance (see: 1984 UCLA game), my respect for Bill McCartney as a motivator of his team never wavered after getting a dose of Bill, up close and personal, in the fall of 1982.

– Game Notes … 

– The Buffs out-scored Nebraska 14-0 in the third quarter – but Nebraska out-scored Colorado 40-0 in the other three quarters.

– Randy Essington completed 24-of-51 passes for 361 yards against Nebraska, setting several school records in the process. His passing yardage of 361 yards stood until 1992, when Koy Detmer went for 418 v. Oklahoma. His pass attempt total – 51 – was matched later in the season by Steve Vogel against Kansas State. Their combined record stood until Joel Klatt had 54 attempts in a game against Kansas in 2003.

– The 361 yards passing was also a record for Nebraska – the most the Cornhuskers had ever allowed an opponent to that date.

– Tight end Dave Hestera had six catches for 105 yards; wide receiver Donnie Holmes had seven catches for 107 yards – the first time in Colorado history that two Buffs had over 100 yards receiving in the same game.

– The 53,022 in attendance for the Nebraska game was by far the highest total of the season. Second-best was almost 10,000 fewer – and that was for a game against Oklahoma (43,908).

– Nebraska came to Boulder as the No. 7 team in the nation, and would not leave the top ten in the rankings the entire season. The Cornhuskers would go on to run the table in the Big Eight, heading to the Orange Bowl with an 11-1 record (a 27-24 September loss to No. 8 Penn State being the only blemish). Nebraska took on No. 13 LSU in the Orange Bowl, defeating the Tigers, 21-20, finishing No. 3 in the final polls (Penn State would go on to win the national title, defeating No. 1 Georgia, 27-23, in the Sugar Bowl).

October 9, 1993 – Boulder           No. 20 Colorado 30, Missouri 18

The Missouri Tigers presented themselves to the Buffs as the perfect opponent to rebound from a two-game losing streak.

Missouri was 1-2-1 on the 1993 season, including an embarrassing loss to Texas A & M (73-0) and a 10-10 tie to lowly SMU. Another bonus: the Buffs were coming off of a bye week, and had extra time to re-group and regain focus on the Big Eight conference schedule.

After a sometimes impressive, sometimes lethargic, performance, Colorado was able to secure a 30-18 win.

The Buffs’ defense, earning much of the criticism for Colorado’s 2-2 start, played significantly better than the unit which had been ranked 96th in the nation heading into the game. Six new defensive starters were inserted, including freshman linebacker Matt Russell and sophomore lineman Shannon Clavelle.

For the most part, the defense held Missouri in check as the Buffs mounted a 27-3 lead before permitting late consolation scores. “Defensively, I was pleased with the way we played in the first half”, said coach McCartney. “I thought I saw a good looking defense out there.”

The game opened slowly, with only two field goals being posted in the first twenty minutes of play. With 9:08 to go before halftime, Lamont Warren scored on a 28-yard pass from Kordell Stewart to cap a 12-play, 83-yard drive to give Colorado a lead it would not surrender. A 23-yard field goal by Mitch Berger just before halftime gave the Buffs a 13-3 lead at the break.

Any hopes of a Missouri comeback were dashed when the Buffs took the second half kickoff and marched down the field for a score.

The 12-play, 84-yard effort was completed with a one-yard run by Kordell Stewart. When Lamont Warren scored on a 12-yard run on Colorado’s next possession, the lead was 27-3, and the game was no longer in doubt. Two fourth quarter touchdowns by Missouri made the score respectable, but the Tigers were not closer two scores the remainder of the game.

Offensively, the surprising rushing game continued to impress.

The focus of much off-season discussion, the running game, entering the game ranked 14th in the nation with 228 yards per game, posted a championship-caliber effort. Led by Lamont Warren (137 yards on 17 carries) and Rashaan Salaam (89 yards on 15 attempts), the Buffs ran over Missouri for 343 yards. When combined with Kordell Stewart’s 183 yards passing on the day, Colorado surpassed the 500-yard mark in total offense for the fourth time in five 1993 contests.

Fred Folsom and Bill McCartney

The win put the Buffs back on the good side of .500 at 3-2, 1-0 in the Big Eight. The victory also marked a milestone for head coach Bill McCartney.

In his 12th season at Colorado, McCartney now had 77 wins, tying him with legendary Fred Folsom as the winningest coach in Colorado football history. Folsom’s record over 15 seasons was 77-23-2. McCartney’s record now stood at 77-53-4. In terms of winning percentage, Coach Mac still lagged behind many of Colorado’s coaches.

When it is remembered, though, that McCartney began his coaching career at Colorado with a 7-25-1 record in his first three years, the 70-28-3 record in the 8+years after the start of the 1985 campaign matched favorably not only with Colorado history, but also with McCartney’s peers nationally.

For McCartney to break the tie with Fred Folsom, and post victory No. 78, and do it in a fashion which would keep the Buffs on track for Big Eight title hopes, McCartney would have to win in one of the most hostile environments Colorado football has ever had to endure – Norman, Oklahoma.

Before the 1989 and 1991 wins in Norman, the Buffs had not won on the road against the Sooners since 1965. What was worse was that Oklahoma in 1989 and 1991 had been under the stranglehold of NCAA sanctions. Breaking free of the NCAA restrictions, fifth-year head coach Gary Gibbs in 1993 had Oklahoma 5-0 and ranked 9th in the nation.

For the 3-2 Buffs, now ranked 20th in the nation, the hopes for a Big Eight title rested upon an upset of the resurgent Sooners.

Game Notes –

– With the running game clicking against Missouri, the Buffs did not have to rely on wide receiver Charles E. Johnson against the Tigers. After three straight games with over 100 yards receiving, Johnson was held to four catches for 28 yards against Missouri. The receiving corps was led by senior tight end Sean Embree, who had a season-high three catches for 48 yards on the afternoon.

– Red-shirt freshman linebacker Matt Russell earned his first career start against Missouri, and seldom left the lineup thereafter in his Colorado career. In just 434 snaps on the season, Russell would finish the 1993 season with 85 tackles, good for third on the team (and the best tackle-to-play ratio). Russell would earn second-team freshman All-American honors from The Football News, and was second in the balloting for the Big Eight’s Defensive Newcomer-of-the-Year.

– The defensive switches for the Missouri game included: Sophomore Shannon Clavelle moving over from nose tackle to defensive tackle, where he would remain the remainder of the season; junior Jeff Brunner, formerly an offensive guard, taking over at nose tackle; senior Dwayne Davis moving from free safety to cornerback (Davis would move to strong safety the following week against Oklahoma); and Chris Hudson moving from cornerback to free safety.

– The victory in the Big Eight opener was the fifth straight for Colorado. The only other time in school history in which the Buffs opened Big Eight play 1-0 in five consecutive seasons came between 1965 and 1969.

– The win over Missouri was the 46th conference victory for Bill McCartney. He would continue to trail the all-time conference victory leader (Myron Witham, who had 50 conference wins between 1920-31) until the last confernce game of the 1993 season.

– Missouri would rebound to win two of its next three games, but that would prove insufficient to keep Bob Stull as the head coach. The Tigers finished 1993 with a 3-7-1 record (2-5 in Big Eight play), and Stull was fired after accumulating an overall record of 15-38-2 in five seasons at Columbia. In 1994, Missouri would start over with former USC head coach Larry Smith at the helm.

October 9, 1999 – Boulder           Colorado 46, Missouri 39 (OT)

It took four long hours, but Ben Kelly finally put an end to what he had started.

Colorado’s all-everything cornerback/kick returner opened the Missouri game with a 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown. In overtime, after a game which was a roller coaster of emotion, Kelly intercepted a pass by Missouri quarterback Kirk Farmer to preserve a 46-39 overtime win for the Buffs.

Sandwiched between Kelly’s heroic plays, the Folsom Field crowd of 48,674 saw a little bit of everything. Both teams suffered safeties. Both teams had a punt blocked. Both teams had the opportunity to put the other away, each failing to rise to the occasion. In the end, a 24-yard touchdown pass from Mike Moschetti to Marcus Stiggers in overtime gave Colorado the win.

Twice the Buffs went up by two touchdowns, only to see the lead evaporate.

Colorado took a 13-0 lead in the first quarter, with Ben Kelly opening the scoring with a 100-yard kickoff return to start the game. Later in the quarter, the Buffs put together a 10-play, 89-yard drive, culminated by a Mike Moschetti scramble of seven yards for a touchdown (Jeremy Aldrich missed the extra point).

Seemingly on cruise control, the Buffs went into a funk, with the Tigers scoring the next 17 points of the game. In the final minute of the first quarter, Missouri posted a safety when Cortlen Johnson was tackled in the endzone. Two touchdown runs early in the second quarter gave the Tigers the lead at 14-13 (two attempts at two-point conversions failed), with Missouri taking a 17-13 lead with a field goal. Jeremy Aldrich then made it a 17-16 game at halftime with a 25-yard field goal right before the break.

Colorado resumed the lead, at 18-17, with an intentional grounding call on a pass attempt out of the endzone, but a 16-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Farmer to Joe Chirumbolo (plus a two-point conversion) giving Missouri a 25-18 lead heading into the fourth quarter.

Then it was the Buffs’ turn to rally. Putting together a 14-play, 80-yard drive, assisted by a roughing the passer penalty and a fake field goal, the Buffs tied the score at 25-all with 7:01 to play on a one-yard sneak by quarterback Mike Moschetti.

Less than three minutes later, the score went from 25-25 to 39-25, Colorado. Interceptions by junior defensive end Brady McDonnell and senior cornerback Damen Wheeler led to CU taking a two-touchdown lead. McDonnell returned his pick to the Tiger one-yard line, followed on the next play by another Moschetti sneak. Wheeler did the honors himself, returning his interception 37 yards for a score and a seemingly insurmountable lead with just over four minutes left to play.

“I’ll be the first to admit it,” said Ben Kelly after the game, “I thought we had it.”

But the celebration was short-lived. Missouri proceeded to put together a six-play, 88-yard drive for a score in only 55 seconds of game clock. An onsides kick was then recovered by the Tigers, who tied the score at 39-all with a 27-yard touchdown pass from Kirk Farmer to Eric Spencer. Missouri rallied so quickly that the Buffs even had a chance to mount a final drive, but a 52-yard field goal attempt by Jeremy Aldrich went wide right.

Overtime. The first overtime in school history for Colorado.

Missouri won the coin toss, and elected to go on defense first. After a one-yard gain, Moschetti hit Stiggers for what proved to be the game winner. “It was a great call,” said Stiggers of the 24-yard touchdown pass play. “We saved that play and we practiced it all week. We pretty much knew it would be there.”

Now it was up to the Buffs’ defense, victims of two quick scores just moments earlier. After forcing Missouri into a fourth-and-13, Farmer tried to connect with Spencer one more time, only to be picked off by Ben Kelly to seal the Buffs’ third win of 1999.

Colorado head coach Barnett summed up the game: “What an emotional roller coaster that game was for me …. I know it had to be for our players to lead the way we did and then give it away and then go for a lead and give it away. That game had about everything you have seen in a football game.”

The Buffs were now 3-2, 2-0 in Big 12 play. Four of the next five games, though, would be on the road. Texas Tech was up next. A preseason pick to challenge in the Southern Division, the Red Raiders had lost their star running back Ricky Williams in the season opener, and were 2-3 on the season.

For Colorado to be taken seriously in the Big 12 conference race, the game against the Red Raiders was a must.

“A Tough Team to Love”

Sitting in the stands, basking in the glow of a 68-degree October afternoon in Boulder, I was shaking my head.

The Buffs, after seizing a 13-0 lead early (which could have been 21-0 or greater – CU had already missed an extra point and a field goal), were now behind, 25-18, late in the third quarter. The offense had produced nothing for two quarters but punts and turnovers. The Tigers, while not playing exceptionally well themselves, had slowly assumed control of the game.

I was shaking my head, knowing that the Buffs should have been comfortably ahead of this team. Next to me, my guest for the game, Tony Truschel, shared my frustration. “A tough team to love”, he offered.

Tony’s words precisely expressed my feelings. Colorado had talented players, but did not have a team. Now the Buffs were on the verge of falling to 2-3 with four of their remaining six games on the road.

CU was on the brink of a disastrous season.

But then Mike Moschetti made the play of the game. On third-and-13 from their own 17, the Buffs, already down a touchdown, were on the verge of their fourth straight punt. Moschetti was forced from the pocket, but got managed to get away. Keeping the play alive, Moschetti turned the busted play into a scramble for 18 yards and a first down. Seemingly innocuous at the time, that one play sparked an 80-yard drive which tied the score midway through the fourth quarter. A few minutes later, the Buffs had two interceptions and the momentum.

In a game with safeties, blocked kicks, special team and defensive scores, and an overtime, Moschetti’s effort could easily be overlooked. But it was symbolic of the Buffs’ season. Every time I felt the Buffs were on the verge of collapse (after the CSU debacle, after the emotional loss to Washington, falling behind Missouri), the Buffs rallied.

Unfortunately, every time I started to gain confidence in the future (before the CSU game, after dominating wins over San Jose State and Kansas) the Buffs disappointed.

Now with the Buffs riding high after an emotional overtime win, I started to believe that the 1999 team had finally turned a corner.


A tough team to love, indeed.

Game Notes –

– With the Missouri game, Colorado became the 11th of 12th teams in the Big 12 to play an overtime game. Instituted in 1996, the CU/Missouri game left Texas Tech as the only Big 12 member yet to play an overtime game.

– Ben Kelly’s 100-yard kickoff return and Damen Wheeler’s 37-yard interception return gave Colorado six non-offensive scores in the first five games of the 1999 season. Colorado would not score any more non-offensive scores the remainder of the season, but the five scores easily bested the two non-offensive scores posted by the opposition during the 1999 season.

– Linebacker Jashon Sykes had 20 tackles (ten unassisted) against Missouri, the highest tackle total for any Buff during the season.

– In a game of statistical oddities – two safeties; made two-point conversions; missed two-point conversions; a recovered onside kick; a kickoff return for a touchdown; an interception returned for a touchdown – Colorado added another. Three Buffs completed passes against the Tigers. Mike Moschetti went 20-for-41 for 259 yards, while wide receiver Roman Hollowell had a 40-yard completion and punter Nick Pietsch had a seven-yard completion.

– Mike Moschetti did not have a touchdown pass against Missouri, but did rush for three touchdowns (of five all season).

– With star offensive tackle Victor Rogers out with a dislocated patella, red-shirt freshman Justin Bates earned his first career start.

– After coming to Boulder with a 3-1 record, Missouri would win only one game the remainder of the season, finishing 4-7 (1-7 in Big 12 play).

October 9, 2004 – Boulder           No. 22 Oklahoma State 42, Colorado 14

 The 46,521 on hand for Colorado’s 2004 Homecoming game against No. 22 Oklahoma State were just settling into their seats when the Cowboys took control of the game.  On OSU’s third play from scrimmage, running back Vernand Morency broke away for a 58-yard touchdown run and a quick 7-0 Cowboy lead.  The Buffs would keep in close throughout the first half, but a quick score just before halftime gave Oklahoma State a 21-0 halftime lead on their way to a 42-14 win.

The game-breaker, if there can be one in a 28-point game, came with no time left on the second quarter clock.  Seemingly content with a 14-0 lead with 1:20 left before the break, Oklahoma State ran three consecutive running plays.  With nine seconds left, though, and the Buffs inexplicably in man-to-man coverage, Cowboy quarterback Donovan Woods faked a handoff before launching a 58-yard scoring strike to Prentiss Elliott as time expired.

The Buffs were down 28-0 before scoring two consolation touchdowns in the fourth quarter.  V-back Lawrence Vickers, who had a 29-yard touchdown called back in the third quarter, scored from six yards out.  Later, James Cox, subbing for an injured Joel Klatt, connected on a 21-yard touchdown pass to Dusty Sprague.

On the day, the Buffs out-gained the Cowboys, 447-429.  Oklahoma State, however, made their yards count, posting three scores of over 50 yards, returning an interception for another touchdown with 2:07 remaining to complete the rout.

“It was an embarrassing performance by the team, players and the coaches,” said Gary Barnett.  “We just fell victim to some mistakes and some bad calls by the coach and questionable calls by the coach.”  Still, Barnett was not willing to throw in the towel on the 2004 season, though the Buffs were now 0-2 in conference play.  “I’m not objective on this.  It feels to me like we’re right on the edge.  We played five teams and with all due respect, I feel we’re as talented as the teams we’ve played.”

Still, it didn’t look good for the Buffs.  Colorado had squandered an opportunity to defeat Missouri, and had looked anything but like a contender in succumbing to Oklahoma State.   The Missouri Tigers, 2-0 in conference play after a 30-10 win over Baylor, would now have to lose three times for the Buffs to overtake them in the Big 12 North race.  The Buffs were tied for last in the Big 12 North with swooning Kansas State and with the next opponent, Iowa State.  The Buffs had three wins overall, and were left looking for three more in the last six games to secure a winning season and a bowl bid.  The Iowa State Cyclones appeared to be the nearest thing to a sure bet on the remaining schedule.

There were more attractive games on the Big 12 slate for October 16th, as Missouri (4-1,2-0) was playing at No. 9 Texas, No. 2 Oklahoma was on the road against a desperate Kansas State squad, and No. 16 Oklahoma State hosted No. 23 Texas A&M.

Iowa State (2-3, 0-2) at Colorado (3-2, 0-2) drew little national attention.

Who knew the game would be for the Big 12 North title?

 100th game – much like the first … 

Coinciding with my 25 years of being a Buff fan was the 100th game I had witnessed in person.  While that may not sound like a large number, even to me (after all, that is only an average of four games a year), it is worth noting that for over half of those games, I was making 1,500-mile round trips.

Included in my first 100 games were contests in Lincoln, Seattle, and bowl venues in four time zones – 14 games outside of Boulder altogether.

My first Colorado game ever was a 49-7 home loss to Indiana in 1980, my freshman year.  Coming as it did on the heels of a scathing Sports Illustrated article about the excesses of the Chuck Fairbanks regime, it was a fairly inauspicious start.  There was only one win in 1980, complete with a record-shattering 82-42 loss to Oklahoma and an embarrassing home loss to Drake (by a 41-22 count, no less).

Did that seasoning make losses like the 42-14 drubbing by Oklahoma State in 2004 easier to take?  No.  No loss is an easy loss.  Some are more expected than others, but they are never easy.

Rather than focus on the negative the week after the OSU game, then, I decided to take the time to relive past glories.  In 2004, Senior Associate Athletic Director Jon Burianek would work his 400th consecutive Colorado game.  For the weekly press release, Burianek listed his top 11 Colorado games.  Having been a fan for 289 of those games (through the OSU game), though only in spirit if not in body for 189, I decided to come up with my own list.

My top five Colorado games – 1980-2004 … 

1) October 25,1986 – Colorado 20, Nebraska 10.  No question.  The 2-4 Buffs defeated the undefeated and third-ranked Cornhuskers in a game which made all that has been good in Colorado football in subsequent years possible;

2) November 23, 2001 – Colorado 62, Nebraska 36.  Complete domination.  Complete ecstasy.  Never have I reveled in a lopsided win as much as I did that day;

3) January 1, 1991 – Colorado 10, Notre Dame 9.  Why would the National Championship game be ranked 3rd?  Perhaps because the win did not represent a complete victory.  The fifth down game at Missouri hung over the Buffs like a dark cloud.  The punt to Rocket Ismail in the final minutes.  Then came the controversy over losing out to Georgia Tech in the coaches’ poll.  A similar win over Notre Dame after an undefeated 1989 campaign would have been much more satisfying;

4) September 24, 1994 – Colorado 27, Michigan 26.  The “Miracle at Michigan”.  Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook.  64 yards.  Take your pick between the television call of Keith Jackson and the radio call of Larry Zimmer.  It’s all good.

5) November 3, 1990 – Colorado 27, Nebraska 12.  No. 9 Colorado over No. 3 Nebraska in Lincoln.  Eric Bieniemy scoring four fourth quarter touchdowns after fumbling the ball several times earlier in the game.  The first Colorado win in Lincoln since 1967.  How sweet it was!

Back to reality.  Colorado was 3-2 overall, but 0-2 in conference play.  Trips to College Station and Lincoln still loomed, and there were home games against Texas and Kansas State still to be played.  Iowa State came into Boulder at 2-3, having scored only 10 points in conference opening losses to Oklahoma State and Texas A&M. If Colorado were to harbor any hopes of six wins and a bowl invitation, a win over Iowa State seemed to be mandatory.

Game Notes … 

– Lawrence Vickers set a team record for running backs against Missouri in hauling in nine passes. The previous record of eight was held by John Farler, who collected eight catches against Missouri (a 20-7 loss, 11/6/65).

– The 42-14 win for Oklahoma State was the most decisive in the series for the Cowboys since a 42-7 win in 1980.

– Oklahoma State became the third team in succession to score a touchdown in their first drive against the Buffs. North Texas took two plays to score; Missouri 12; Oklahoma State three.

– The Cowboys were up 21-0 at halftime against the Buffs. What made the deficit all the more aggravating: Oklahoma State had run all of one play in Colorado territory the entire thirty minutes.

– The Buffs were shut out in the first half for the first time since failing to score in the first half of the 2002 Big 12 championship game (a 29-7 loss to Oklahoma).

October 9, 2010 – at Missouri          No. 24 Missouri 26, Colorado 0

Colorado went almost twenty full seasons without being shut out, scoring in every game played between November 12, 1988, and October 25, 2008.

The Buffs under Dan Hawkins lost the record streak, one of the top ten in NCAA history, with a 58-0 humiliation at Columbia, Missouri. Two years later, Colorado was shut out again, again in Columbia, Missouri, this time by the score of 26-0. The fact that the score was 32 points closer was of little consolation, as Colorado fell to 3-2, 0-1 in its final season in Big 12 play.

The game began almost as ominously as had the first 2010 road game, a 52-7 thrashing at the hands of the Cal Bears.

Missouri returned the opening kickoff to its own 41-yard line, but the Colorado defense was up to the first challenge posed by the Buffs’ poor special teams play, holding the Tigers to a three-and-out and a punt. Unfortunately for Colorado fans, the Trey Barrow punt went out-of-bounds at the Colorado two yard line. Just had been the case againt Cal, the Buffs’ first drive of the game started inside their own five yard line.

The Buffs did manage one first down before punting, but the Zach Grossnickle punt was partially blocked (special teams’ gaffe No. 2 of the first quarter) rolling out to the Colorado 40. Again, though the Colorado defense forced a three-and-out, as Missouri gained only one yard in three plays. This time, Tiger punter Trey Barrow was even better, pinning the Buffs’ down at the one yard line.

Trying to cross up the Missouri defense,  Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen faked a handoff up the middle and dropped back to pass. Hurried, Hansen threw the ball away, in the general vicinity of where a Colorado receiver should have been. That receiver, however, was stopped at the line of scrimmage, and Hansen threw the ball to an empty space on the field.

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Missouri Five-0 … 

It wasn’t enough that the Buff Nation had to be bombarded with stories about the 20th anniversary of the 5th down game. It wasn’t enough that Colorado was looking to avoid a five game losing streak to Missouri. It wasn’t enough that the Buffs had to lose to the Tigers.

No, Dan Hawkins had to do it in style.

A 0-26 loss to Missouri was bad enough, but the number of mental mistakes on offense and special teams were enough to place Dan Hawkins right back on the front burner of the coaches’  “hot seat” discussion. For those of you that missed the game, Colorado had five special teams’ gaffes – a long kickoff return, a blocked punt, a missed field goal, a blocked field goal, and a fake punt which Missouri used to turn a contested game into a rout – which directly contributed to the loss.

Not to be outdone, the Colorado offense had five drives in the second half. Each and every one of the five drives went into Missouri territory … and the Buffs netted no points.

Few in the Buff Nation realistically expected Colorado to defeat Missouri. That was too much to ask. Still, based upon how much better the Buffs had played over the past six quarters leading up to the game against the Tigers, it was reasonable to expect that Colorado would not suffer the meltdown inflicted by Cal.

Apparently, even that was too much to ask.

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