CU Games of the Day – September 17th

September 17thThe Buffs have a 4-1 record on this date over the past 40 years (and even the loss was a “good” one) … 1983: CU’s first game against CSU in 25 years is a Buff rout … 1988: CU’s first road win over a ranked team in nine years – a 24-21 win over No. 19 Iowa … 1995: No. 7 CU routs No. 10 Wisconsin, 55-17, before a Folsom Field crowd crammed with Cheeseheads … 2011: If you are going to have a terrible season (3-10 in Year One under Jon Embree), make damn sure you beat Colorado State (28-14) … 2016: A 45-28 loss to No. 4 Michigan, but a game which the Buffs might have won had Sefo Liufau not been injured (also a game which set the stage for CU’s run to a Pac-12 North title) …

Check out the stories for all five games below …

September 17, 1983 – Boulder           Colorado 31, Colorado State 3

A crowd of 49,783 came to Folsom for a beautiful 84-degree fall afternoon to watch the Colorado dominate the Rams, 31-3.

Split end Loy Alexander caught two short touchdown passes from Steve Vogel to lead Colorado to a 14-0 lead early in the second quarter, and the Buffs never looked back. The Colorado running game finally got on track with 233 yards on 43 carries. Halfback Chris McLemore led the way by racing for 100 yards on only 13 carries.

The easy win over the Rams gave Colorado a 44-15-2 series edge over their cross-state “rivals” from Ft. Collins.

“Obviously, this was a key game,” said Bill McCartney. “I’m in my second year now, and I was really disappointed with the way we played at Michigan State. Today, the squad was hungry and determined. There was no doubt in my mind we were going to play that well. We were flying around and punishing those kids as they caught the ball. Our defense was playing like a defense ought to play.”

Despite the lop-sided score, the game itself was lauded in the local media. Dick Conner’s column in the Rocky Mountain News the next day was entitled: “This Mismatch was Worth It”.

Interest in Colorado football had been rekindled, if only for one weekend.

Rivalry? What Rivalry?

As much as Nebraska looks with disdain at Colorado (or anyone else, for that matter) who dares to call the Cornhuskers their “rival”, the Colorado Buffaloes in the early 1980’s were just as pompous when it came to their “rivals” just 40 miles to the north, the Colorado State Rams.

While the game was a natural for generating interest and a full house at Folsom Field, the Buffs resisted scheduling the game due to the perception that playing Colorado State in football represented a “no-win” situation for Colorado.

Colorado State played in the Western Athletic Conference. The perception had long been that the WAC played an inferior style of football. “All offense, no defense” was the stigma attached to every team wearing the WAC logo. If a Colorado/Colorado State game was played and Colorado won, there would be no positive reaction as such a result would be expected. Lose, and the struggling program would suffer a loss of status within the state it could not afford to lose.

In part due to this fear, Colorado had not played Colorado State in football since 1958. Negotiations between the schools, which also involved state legislators, led to an agreement for the teams to play six times over the next seven seasons, with four games to be in Boulder and two in Fort Collins.

While not officially stated, the interest which would be generated from the renewal of the series could not be understated. Nebraska and Oklahoma games at home always generated large crowds, but they only came to town every other year. In 1981, the most recent season without the “Big Two” at home, the average attendance at Folsom Field was 34,871, the lowest average since 1965. A home game against Colorado State would put bodies in the stands, win or lose.

But the Buffs HAD to win …

September 17, 1988 – at Iowa           Colorado 24, No. 19 Iowa 21

In pulling off Colorado=s first road win over a ranked team in CU’s seven seasons under Bill McCartney, the Buffs gave notice of their potential, upsetting Iowa, 24-21.

Quarterback Sal Aunese plunged in from a yard out with 1:55 remaining to cap an 85-yard drive to give the Buffs the win. The final drive began with less than six minutes remaining after safety Dave McCloughan forced a Chuck Hartlieb fumble at the Colorado 15-yard line.

On third-and-nine early in the drive, Aunese hooked up with senior Jeff Campbell on a 23-yard completion. Eric Bieniemy contributed runs of 22 and 10 yards leading up to the winning score.

Early on, Colorado looked like world-beaters, racing to a 14-0 first quarter lead. Running back J.J. Flannigan opened the scoring with a five-yard touchdown run, followed a few minutes later by a 17-yard scoring run by quarterback Sal Aunese.

By halftime, though, Iowa had tied the game, thanks in part to a blocked punt recovered for a touchdown. By the end of the third quarter, Iowa had a 21-17 lead, and was poised for victory with the fourth quarter clock ticking away before McCloughan=s heroics gave the Buffs one last chance.

Behind Bieniemy and Aunese, the Buffs were now 2-0, with games against struggling Oregon State and Colorado State left on the non-conference schedule.

A national ranking was now there for the Buffs to achieve. The win over Iowa pushed the Buffs up to 30th in the Associated Press poll. The news was even better in the USA Today/CNN coaches= poll, where the Buffs debuted with a ranking of 23rd (the coaches= poll recognized the top 25 teams, while the AP poll would not expand to 25 teams until 1990). A pair of impressive wins would likely put the Buffs back in the (more prestigious AP) top 20 for the first time since 1978.

It was heady stuff. The goal of a national ranking was on the near horizon. One of the first goals for the 1988 season was about to be accomplished. Unfortunately, Colorado was about to begin playing as if their win over Iowa would be enough to frighten future opponents into submission.

They should have known better.

September 17, 1995 – Boulder                 No. 7 Colorado 55, No. 10 Wisconsin 17

“Swiss Cheese”, “Grated Cheese”, and “Grilled Cheese” were just some of the headlines after the Buffs ran over, around, and through the Wisconsin Badgers, 55-17.

Quarterback Kordell Stewart, who had endured almost a full year of second-guessing after his 8-for-28, three interception debacle against Nebraska in 1993, finally came through big in a big game.  “I heard all those questions about me in big games”, said Stewart, who accounted for 301 yards of total offense.  “I just wanted to put the past behind me and get on with this season.”

Making it easier for Stewart was the continuing domination of the Buffs’ offensive lineman and the ever-improving efforts of Rashaan Salaam.  Salaam tied a school record by scoring four touchdowns, the second of which put the Buffs up 17-3 early in the second quarter.

Later in the quarter, after Wisconsin pulled to within 20-10, Stewart led the Buffs on a six-play, 80-yard drive in the final two minutes of the half, culminated in a 32-yard touchdown pass to wide receiver Michael Westbrook with 57 seconds to play before the break.

The 10th-ranked Badgers still had some game left in them after halftime, scoring first in the third quarter to pull to within ten points at 27-17. Thereafter, though, it was all Colorado, as the Buffs scored the final 28 points of the game. A pair of Rashaan Salaam toluchdown runs – of two and four yards – upped the lead to 41-17. Then, in the final minute of the third quarter, the Colorado offense put the icing on the cake with a 67-yard touchdown pass from Stewart to Rae Carruth. A five-yard touchdown pass from Koy Detmer to tight end Christian Fauria midway through the fourth quarter gave the Buffs a 55-17 rout, the most points the Buffs had ever posted against a ranked opponent (until 62 were hung on Nebraska in 2001).

“Our offense is out there with a lot of confidence,” Salaam said in reference to a unit that averaged 548 yards per game after two games. “Just winning makes me happy.”

“We are a front running team,” quarterback Kordell Stewart said. “This was the best we have ever performed and Rashaan was a huge part of that. It feels great. If we execute like we should, we’ll get the points on the board.”

While the offense basked in much-deserved glory, it was the much-maligned CU defensive secondary which really stole the show.  With the game still at issue in the first half, the Buffs intercepted Wisconsin quarterback Darrell Bevell four times, setting up the Buffs’ offense for 13 first half points.  Midway through the second quarter, Bevell had thrown five passes which had not fallen to the Folsom Field turf – two passes had been completed to Badger teammates, but three others had gone to Colorado defensive backs.

“I don’t think anyone expected our secondary to play that well”, said secondary coach Chuck Heater.  “I think they realized they really had a challenge to live up to.  And they did a heck of a job.”

Colorado was now 2-0 on the young 1994 season, ranked 7th in the nation.  There was no time to enjoy the lofty status, however, as a matchup against 4th-ranked Michigan at Ann Arbor loomed next.  The Wolverines, who had knocked off then 3rd-rated Notre Dame earlier, were also 2-0 for the year.

For the nation, it was a big game to be sure, as two top ten non-conference foes would square off in one of the most famous college football venues in the country.  But it did not seemingly possess the makings of a classic game.  The teams had met only once before (a 31-0 Michigan win in 1974), and the three Florida schools, Florida, Florida State, and Miami (ranked 1st, 3rd, and 6th, respectively, the week of the Colorado/Michigan game) were still receiving most of the nation’s attention.

Little did the nation know that the regionally telecast ABC game would culminate with one of the most spectacular finishes in the history of the game.

Badger Mania

The Wisconsin Badgers came to Boulder September 17th for a night game to be nationally televised by ESPN.

Like the Buffs, the Badgers were 1-0 on the 1994 season, having dispatched Eastern Michigan, 56-0.  Wisconsin, ranked 10th  in the nation, had been the feel-good story of 1993, having come from nowhere to post a 10-1-1 record.  Claiming a share of the Big 10 title for the first time in over three decades, the Badgers made their first trip to Pasadena for the Rose Bowl since 1962.  A 21-16 win over UCLA capped a magical year.

Out to prove that 1993 had been no fluke, the 1994 Wisconsin team was loaded.  Fifteen starters returned for head coach Barry Alvarez, who had turned around a program which had finished 1-10 only four years earlier.  Five All-Big Ten offensive players, including Big Ten MVP running back Brent Moss, returned to lead a potent attack.  Colorado would certainly have its hands full.

And that was just on the field.

Off the field, another battle was to take place, as the “Cheeseheads” from Wisconsin descended on Boulder.

Amongst the most legendary of all tailgaters, the Wisconsin faithful took to Boulder like, well, foam to beer.  “We’ve got seven cases of Wisconsin beer, a half barrel, and one Coors Light to give tribute to the state we’re partying in,” reported Donna Larsen to Rocky Mountain News reporter John Meyer.  Larsen’s group of around a dozen Badger fans arrived at a parking lot near Baseline Road some six hours before kickoff.

The most bizarre pre-game scene unfolded in the Norlin quad, in front of the CU library in the heart of the Colorado campus.  The University of Wisconsin Alumni Association procured a satellite dish and a big screen television for the thousands of Badger fans who could not find tickets for the sold-out game.  The Association also obtained a liquor license and 45 barrels of beer, about half of which were gone a full 90 minutes before kickoff.  “We love the Badgers”, understated Cheryl Dimmer, a Wisconsin graduate living in Denver.  “We, like, sing their songs in our sleep.”

For the Buff faithful, it was yet another reminder of how fanatical other team’s fans were.  Our little band filed into Folsom on a lovely mid-September evening, surrounded by red-clad opposition.  For this battle, though, it was not Oklahoma or Nebraska red, it was the red of Wisconsin.  Though there was no rivalry between the schools (the teams had not met since 1974), the I felt resentment/envy all the same.  The vast majority of the 53,457 in attendance, the largest-ever crowd to witness a non-conference game in Folsom Field, were there for the Buffs.  Yet it seemed to me as we settled into our seats that we had already lost the battle off the field.

Fortunately, the match on the field was the one which counted.

September 17, 2011 – at Denver          Colorado 28, Colorado State 14

Senior quarterback Tyler Hansen was in on all four Colorado touchdowns, as the Buffs doubled up the Colorado State Rams in Denver, 28-14. In leading the Buffs to the first win of the Jon Embree era, Hansen threw for two touchdowns and ran for two others, including a two-yard run to cap an epic 16-play, 85-yard drive in the fourth quarter to put the game out of reach.

On the day, Hansen threw for 215 yards and two touchdowns, also scoring on a pair of two-yard runs on the afternoon. Hansen’s second run, with 1:15 to play in the game, finished off a drive which took 10:03 off the fourth quarter clock. Backing up Hansen was senior running back Rodney Stewart, who had 98 yards on 19 carries, to go with 93 yards on seven catches.

First Half

Colorado State came into the Cinch Jeans Rocky Mountain Showdown at Sports Authority Field with a 2-0 record, but the Rams were a seven-point underdog to the 0-2 Buffs. In the first quarter, though, the Rams seemed determined to remind fans and pundits that they were, in fact, the undefeated team.

The Colorado defense had held its first two opponents of the season, Hawai’i and Cal, to a three-and-out on the first drive of the game. Not so with Colorado State. Sophomore CSU quarterback Pete Thomas, who would pass for 157 yards on the afternoon, led the Rams on a nine-play, 80-yard drive down the field, converting two third downs along the way. Thomas did the honors himself from four yards out with just over ten minutes remaining in the first quarter. Colorado State 7, Colorado 0.

After the Buffs failed to do anything on their first drive, the Rams looked to take control of the game. Colorado helped out on a third-and-four by jumping offsides to give the Rams a first down (the second of four first downs by penalty the Rams would enjoy on the day), but Colorado State could not take advantage. With a personal foul on captain Ryan Miller and a delay of game penalty, the Buffs went backwards on their next possession. In fact, the ugly first stanza ended with Colorado posting ten yards of total offense, but 40 yards in penalties.

The Buffs and Rams traded punts to open the second quarter before Colorado put together its first first half touchdown drive of the season. Taking over at their own 20-yard line, the Buffs went 80 yards in nine plays to tie the score. After Hansen hit senior wide receiver Toney Clemons for a 13-yard gain, Rodney Stewart took over. A screen pass to Speedy netted ten yards, then Stewart, who would pass Charlie Davis for fourth place on the Colorado all-time rushing list on the afternoon, had runs of 12 and 17 yards to put the ball at the CSU 11-yard line. After another Stewart run and pass reception put the ball at the CSU two yard line, Hansen scored on a keeper with 2:37 remaining before halftime. Colorado 7, Colorado State 7.

The Buff defense then forced a three-and-out, but the Colorado offense only gained four yards before lining up in punt formation with 1:40 to play before the break.

Then, the play of the game … Freshman punter Darragh O’Neill’s punt was partially blocked. Instead of running away from the ball as it bounced harmlessly around the Colorado 40-yard line, freshman linebacker Eric Niederberger’s leg got in the way. Colorado tight end Ryan Deehan fell on the ball at the 40 after the Niederberger touch, and the Colorado offense was back in business.

Hansen hit his favorite receiver, Rodney Stewart, for 20 yards to put the ball into Ram territory. Then, on third-and-18 at the CSU 48, Hansen scrambled for a 19-yard gain and a first down. A five yard sideline penalty put the ball at the CSU 24-yard line, but the Buffs appeared to be prepared to settle for a field goal attempt after two incompletions. Then, on third-and-ten, Hansen scrambled to his right, finding senior wide receiver Kyle Cefalo in the back corner of the endzone for a 24-yard touchdown with 12 seconds to play before the half.

Continue reading story here

E Pluribus Unum

Out of many, one.

One drive. One score. One victory.

Will the Colorado State game, more precisely, the fourth quarter of the Colorado State game, be a turning point for the Colorado football program and its long-suffering Buff Nation?

Since December 6, 2010, when Jon Embree was named the 24th permanent head coach in Colorado football history, Embree has been preaching that it was time for the Colorado program to return to its successful roots. In order to do that, the Buffs had to re-establish a power running game. “When this program has been at its best,” Embree said at his introductory press conference, “it’s had its [players] come out on this field or go somewhere else and just line up and run you over.”

The Buffs appeared primed to do just that. Colorado returned the majority of its offensive line, a senior returning starter at quarterback, and one Rodney Stewart. The senior running back posted 1,318 rushing yards in 2010, and opened the 2011 season within shouting distance (1,196 yards) of becoming the all-time leading rusher in Colorado history.

The pieces in place, Colorado traveled to Hawai’i to take on a Warrior team which had surrendered 106 yards rushing to Rodney Stewart in the 2010 game in Boulder – and another 109 yards rushing to Brian Lockridge.

Thud.

In a 34-17 setback, Colorado as a team had 17 total yards rushing. Rodney Stewart, the only Buff to carry the ball, had 52 yards rushing on 18 carries.

Hardly the stuff of legend.

Up next was California. The Bears were decent against the rush in 2010 (132 yards per game), but returned only four starters on defense. The game in Berkeley in 2010 was an embarrassment, and the Buffs were ready to defend their home turf, showing Cal, the Pac-12, and the nation that the Buffs were back.

Not so much.

Continue reading essay for the game here

September 17, 2016 – at Michigan          No. 4 Michigan 45, Colorado 28

Colorado jumped out a to a 14-0 lead on Michigan in the first five minutes, but special teams mistakes and an injured quarterback prevented the Buffs from coming up with an upset, falling on the road to the 4th-ranked Wolverines, 45-28.

Sefo Liufau went 16-for-25 for 246 yards and three touchdowns, but left the game in the third quarter with a right leg injury. After Liufau left the game, the Buff offense faltered, allowing the Wolverines to turn an close game into a 17-point victory.

Shay Fields had seven catches for 99 yards and a score, with Devin Ross collecting seven receptions for 77 yards and two scores. The Buffs, though, were held to just 64 total yards rushing on 33 carries, a 1.9 yard average. Overall, Colorado had 325 yards, holding Michigan to 397. The Buffs, who were 4th in the nation in third down conversion offense coming into the game (66.2%), were held to 1-of-13 in third down conversions by the Wolverine defense.

“The message to our team was that we got a good football team”, said Mike MacIntyre, who fell to 0-19 against ranked teams (0-12 at Colorado). “We have to correct a few things. When you are playing another good football team, you have to do some of those things better so we will go back and correct them and move forward to the next game.”

In the first half of its first two games of the 2016 season, Colorado out-scored its opponents 80-0.

In the first half of its first two games of the 2016 season, No. 4 Michigan out-scored its opponents 69-7.

Clearly, something had to give in the first half of the game pitting the Buffs against the Wolverines.

Much to the surprise of the 110,042 on hand in Ann Arbor, it was Colorado which jumped out to the early lead.

After former Michigan assistant coach Bill McCartney was honored at the opening kickoff, the Buff defense held the Michigan offense to one first down before forcing a punt. Jay MacIntyre returned the punt 32 yards to set the Buffs up at the Michigan 49-yard line.

On the Buffs’ first play from scrimmage, CU used a trick play. A direct snap to Donovan Lee, a pitch to Jay MacIntyre, and a toss to Sefo Liufau netted 14 yards. After a three-yard loss on a run by Phillip Lindsay, Sefo Liufau’s first pass of the day was a 37-yard touchdown pass to Devin Ross. Colorado 7, Michigan 0, just 2:23 into the game.

Three plays later, the Buffs were on the board again. On third-and-seven at the Michigan 28, senior cornerback Chidobe Awuzie blitzed, sacking Wolverine quarterback Wilton Speight and forcing a fumble. Defensive end Derek McCartney scooped up the ball at the Michigan 18, taking the ball in for a Colorado touchdown and a 14-0 Buff lead with 11:48 still remaining in the first quarter.

Continue reading game story here

“We have good guys who want to win.  We must work harder – smarter”

The bar has definitely been raised.

Colorado hasn’t beaten a ranked team on the road since 2002.

Colorado hasn’t beaten a ranked team of any kind since 2009.

The only two times that the Buffs have taken out a top five team, on the road, in school history (Nebraska, 1990; Michigan, 1994), Colorado was also ranked in the top ten.

And yet, after the Buffs succumbed to No. 4 Michigan, on the road, 45-28, the Buff Nation was up in arms. “Special teams were an embarrassment”. “CU’s play calling was a joke”. “Mike MacIntyre failed his players”.

Love the passion … can’t completely agree with the arguments.

It was tough to watch the second half, no question about it. After generating 28 points in 31 minutes against the No. 9 scoring defense in the nation, the Colorado offense lost starting quarterback Sefo Liufau. Over the next 29 minutes, the Buff offense was held to 18 total yards on 24 plays. A 28-24 lead quickly turned into a 45-28 loss.

What to take from the Buffs’ first loss of the 2016 season, in order of priority:

— What is the extent of Sefo Liufau’s injury?

— Far from “special” teams

— So, Where do we go from here?

Continue reading essay for the game here

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