CU Games of the Day – September 18th

September 18thThe Buffs have a 5-1 record on this date over the past 40 years, with some significant games in CU history on this date …

  • 1982: Colorado 12, Washington State 0 … Bill McCartney picks up his first victory as CU head coach with a road win over Washington State … Essay: “Did you Hear?”
  • 1993: No. 20 Stanford 41, No. 7 Colorado 37 … Cardinal scores 10 points in the final four minutes, with a controversial ending … Essay: “Saturday Night Live”
  • 1999: Colorado 51, Kansas 17 … Buffs score over 50 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1923 … Essay: “A Sense of Optimism Returns” 
  • 2004: Colorado 52, North Texas 21 … Buffs puts up 586 yards in total offense in putting away the Mean Green … Essay: “Time Spent in the Lead”
  • 2008: Colorado 17, No. 21 West Virginia 14Buffs take out Mountaineers on a Thursday night … Essay: “Rocky Mountain High”
  • 2010: Colorado 31, Hawai’i 13Buffs spot Rainbow Warriors a 10-0 halftime lead before turning the game into a rout … Essay: “Eight minute of emulation”

Check out the stories for all six games below …

September 18, 1982 – at Spokane           Colorado 12, Washington State 0

Colorado shut out an opponent for the first time since 1977, and won on the road for the first time in two years, defeating Washington State 12-0 in Spokane.

It did not make up for the 14-10 “loss snatched from the jaws of victory” that the Buffs had endured the year before against Washington State, but it did give head coach Bill McCartney his first victory as a collegiate head coach, and squared his record as the Buffs’ coach at 1-1 (McCartney was not to reach the .500 mark again as a head coach for seven more years, until midway through the 1989 season).

The defense played inspired for their defensive-minded coach. Trailing 9-0 at half, the Cougars mounted a 16-play, 56-yard drive to the Buffs’ one yard line. There, Cougar fullback James Matthews was stuffed on a 4th-and-goal attempt at the one yard line by outside linebacker Dave Alderson and defensive tackle Mark Shoop. It proved to be the only Cougar scoring threat of the day.

Kicker Tom Field supplied all of the points in the game with his four field goals. For his efforts, Field was named the Big Eight Offensive Player of the Week. Field had been a freshman sensation in 1979, had a lapse as a sophomore in 1980, and then was beaten out of his job in 1981. For Field, the four field goal day was a bit of redemption. “When I didn’t kick last year, and I didn’t kick well the year before, I was kinda skeptical,” Field said after the game. “I didn’t have to prove anything this year, I guess. But I got a chance to kick again this year, and that was really nice. I’m a team man, so I wanted to do the best I can. I thought I worked pretty hard over the summer. My attitude was to come back and be as good as I could be.”

Colorado’s rushing game proved adequate, with Lee Rouson contributing 97 yards on 22 carries, with senior halfback Richard Johnson chipping in 72 yards on 20 carries. “I am used to straight-ahead stuff,” said Rouson. “We won this game and we played together. The line blocked and the backs ran. Our plan before the game was to run the ball.”

The rushing yards were necessary, though, as the passing game resumed pathetic status. With Cal starter Randy Essington nursing a sore are, sophomore Steve Vogel got the start. Vogel got the win, but did not contribute, passing for only 20 yards, completing just two of fifteen attempts. “I was more than ready to play,” said Vogel. “I felt last night we were going to win.” Was Vogel concerned about the lack of a passing attack? “No,” said Vogel. “That was the game plan – we talked about it all week. We wanted to give our line a chance to prove their worth. They made a great showing.”

While the offense was still a question mark, the Buffs, through their defense, had shown some life as a football team. On the day, the Colorado defense did not allow a Washington State drive of over 30 yards, forced two fumbles, and had an interception. “I feel really great, and really humble,” said Bill McCartney after his first victory. “Our defense was great. But I don’t want to take any of the credit.”

Colorado was now 1-1 on the 1982 season, collecting an improbable shutout win – on the road. Better yet, the Buffs were coming home to play five of their next six games at Folsom Field.

Once again, there appeared to be some hope on the horizon for the Colorado football program.

Did you hear?

Okay, I’ll admit it. I was not watching the Colorado/Washington State game on TV. Of course, very few actually were, as the Buffs were not exactly a hot ticket in the early 1980’s for even local TV stations (it was odd that the Washington State game was, in fact, being televised – by KWGN in Denver. It was the first live television coverage for the Buffs since 1978).

Nor was I listening to the game on the radio.

I found out about the results of the game from Kimbirly Orr, our floor’s Resident Advisor.

Resident Advisors, or RA’s, were the big brothers and sisters of the dorms, with one living on each floor. RA’s were responsible for coordinating activities, keeping the peace (and the stereos down), and for spotting and assisting those who needed help, be it someone who was homesick or in need of more serious counseling.

Kimbirly was more than an RA for 2nd East of Libby Hall. She was (and remains) a friend. She also can fairly be called a greater supporter of Colorado athletics than I. She has attended more games, including bowl games, than I have (commuting from California for many years), and has been more active in all that which is CU. It was Kimbirly Orr that talked me into – and was my sponsor for – the Colorado Alumni Association Board of Directors. Attend any Buff game, especially a bowl game, and look for a large gathering of Colorado fans. There you will find Kimbirly Orr.

In 1982, Kimbirly had more than a passing interest in the Colorado football program. She was dating one of the players. Through Kimbirly, we learned of the team’s opinions of Coach McCartney, none of whom had been recruited by Coach Mac. For the most part, other than the griping about the hard work, we heard favorable reports. The team had responded to the enthusiasm and inspiration of their new coach. The consensus was that anything was better than the lost ship that was the Colorado program under Chuck Fairbanks.

On this day, Kimbirly was watching the game. It was Kimbirly who tracked down fellow Buff sufferers throughout Saturday night with the news: “Did you hear? The Buffs won!!”

My initial reaction was one of “yeah, right”. We then heard the details of the shutout from Kimbirly. Our next act was to huddle around the rabbit-eared television that night, so that we could hear the details of the game on the local news. “How’s about that?” we thought. “A .500 team!”

We looked at the schedule. Colorado was 1-1, with Wyoming coming to town the following week. 2-1 would not be bad for a team with a total of four wins in the last two years. Even with ranked UCLA, Nebraska, and Oklahoma looming in the near future, there were some winnable games on the schedule. We began discussing a winning season and a new confidence in our new head coach.

None of us, even with our history of constant disappointment, anticipated at the time that we would have to wait until November for another win.

September 18, 1993 – at Stanford           No. 20 Stanford 41, No. 7 Colorado 37

Led by senior quarterback Steve Stenstrom, No. 20 Stanford rallied for 10 points in the last four minutes of the game to snatch a 41-37 win over a shocked No. 7 Colorado Buffalo squad.

With eight seconds remaining, and Stanford facing a third-and-goal from the Buffs’ five yard line, the game came down to one play.

Stenstrom, who would post 382 yards and five touchdowns passing on the evening, hit Tony Cline in the back of the endzone. As Cline came down with the ball, he was clocked by Colorado senior safety Dwayne Davis. The football came loose, but Cline was credited with a touchdown nonetheless.

After the game, outside linebacker Ron Woolfork was adamant: “(Cline) clearly didn’t have possession of it.” For his part, Davis was too pre-occupied with the hit to notice: “I just ran, gritted my teeth, closed my eyes and tried to make everything on his body come out.”

Colorado head coach Bill McCartney was diplomatic in defeat. “I couldn’t see it,” said McCartney of the game’s final play. “One official told me he questioned it, but that’s all I know.” (See the video highlights, below, and decide for yourself).

The reality was, however, that the game should not have come down to the final play.

The offensive statistics from the Stanford game looked as dominant as those of the previous two blow-outs: 551 yards of total offense for the Buffs, including 274 on the ground. For an offense which had only generated one 100-yard rusher in all of 1992, against Stanford the Buffs had two 100-yard efforts (Lamont Warren, 114 yards; Rashaan Salaam, 109 yards).

The downfall for the Buffs was the defensive effort. Colorado simply could not defend the pass to the tight end, as Colorado native Justin Armour hauled in 10 passes for 155 yards and three touchdowns for Stanford.

Stanford appeared to be in control early in the game. a seven-yard touchdown run by Ellery Roberts, coupled with a 48-yard touchdown pass from Stenstrom to Armour, gave the Cardinal a 14-3 lead early in the second quarter. The Colorado offense responded with a 13-play, 86-yard drive, culminated by a 21-yard touchdown run by sophomore running back Rashaan Salaam.

A few minutes later, Stenstrom again hooked up with Armour, this time from seven yards out, to re-take an 11-point lead at 21-10. Just before half, though, Lamont Warren scored on an eight-yard run to cap a frenetic seven-play, 82-yard drive in just 1:53 of playing time.

Colorado took its first lead of the game on the first drive of the second half, with Kordell Stewart scoring on a two-yard run to give Colorado a 24-21 lead.

The Buffs’ defense couldn’t hold the lead, though, as Stanford bounced right back with a 37-yard touchdown pass from Stenstrom to Brian Manning. After the extra point was botched, the Cardinal lead stood at 27-24.

From the midway point in the third quarter to early in the fourth, Colorado took control. Two touchdown runs, a one-yarder by Salaam followed by a four yarder by Stewart, gave Colorado a 37-27 lead with 12:41 to play (the second extra point attempt was missed, leaving the Buffs with a ten-point advantage).

After surrendering a 48-yard touchdown pass from Stenstrom to tight end Justin Armour, followed by a seven-yard touchdown pass from Stenstrom to Armour, one would have suspected Colorado would have been looking for that combination late. Instead, Stenstrom and Armour connected for a third time, this time from 38 yards out with 3:33 to play, to pull the Cardinal to within three at 37-34, setting up the last minute fireworks which left Colorado with its first loss of the 1993 season.

The loss for the Buffs represented only the third in school history in which the Buffs had posted 35 points or more in a loss (the other two: a 58-35 loss to Air Force in 1968 and the 82-42 humiliation at the hands of Oklahoma Sooners in 1980). A team averaging over 500 yards in total offense and almost 40 points a contest figured to be 3-0, but had to settle for a 2-1 record.

Colorado, though, had little time to lick their wounds.

Third-ranked Miami was up next.

Saturday Night Live

Kickoff for the Stanford contest was 8:45 p.m. MST. For the second time in three weeks, Colorado was featured on ESPN. The good news was the continued national exposure, but the bad news was that much of the nation would not see the game. The late start, combined with the 78 total points scored, meant that the anxious moments at the end of the game were aired after 2:00 a.m. on the east coast.

All things considered, perhaps that was for the best.

With the loss, the Buffs fell to 13th in the polls, but may have fallen further had any of the pollsters actually watched the game.

For me, the game was a silent vigil in front of the television.

No calls to Brad were necessary, as I was able to watch the drama unfold before my eyes. Lee watched some of the game with me, but went downstairs to bed before halftime. With the game going on into the wee hours, I couldn’t make much noise for fear of waking Lee. So there I sat, in silence, as the ten-point lead became a four-point defeat.

At the end of the game, after a Hail Mary pass by the Buffs fell harmlessly to the turf, there was little to do. There was no point in watching the ESPN post-game report. Every other game of any significance had long since ended; the results already duly noted: Earlier in the day, No. 5 Tennessee had fallen to No. 9 Florida, while No. 6 Syracuse had been tied by Texas. By kickoff, I knew that a win by the Buffs would result in a No. 5 national ranking heading into the showdown against No. 3 Miami.

Dreams of a National Championship, so realistic only hours before, were now fading. Replacing the confidence of the first two games was a fear that the Buffs now faced the very real possibility of a two game losing streak for the first time since 1986.

September 18, 1999 – Boulder           Colorado 51, Kansas 17

Colorado continued to distance itself from the opening game debacle against Colorado State, raising its record to 2-1 (1-0 in Big 12 play) by dismantling Kansas, 51-17.

Scoring over 50 points in consecutive games for the first time since 1923, the Buffs scored on their opening drive and never looked back. By halftime, CU was up 30-3, cruising to the Buffs’ 16th straight Homecoming victory.

Mike Moschetti continued his exceptional play, completing 17 of 22 passes for 216 yards and two scores before leaving the game just before halftime with a sprained ligament in his left knee. “I’m not really sure what happened,” said Moschetti of the hit which sent him to the hospital for an MRI. “I just felt my knee give a little bit. Right now, it’s tough putting any weight on that leg.” Despite the injury, Moschetti was listed as “probable” for the upcoming Washington game.

A Cortlen Johnson one-yard touchdown run and a 49-yard field goal by Jeremy Aldrich staked the Buffs to a 10-0 first quarter lead. Moschetti’s two touchdown passes, a 21-yarder to Javon Green and a 16-yarder to Marcus Stiggers, staked Colorado to a 24-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Two more long Aldrich field goals, of 42 and 48 yards, gave the Buffs a 30-3 halftime advantage.

In the second half, the Jayhawks tried to make a game of it with two third quarter touchdowns, cutting the Buffs’ advantage to 33-17. With momentum turning after the second Kansas score (the result of a blocked punt recovered in the endzone), Zac Colvin led the Buffs on a four-play, 69-yard drive, capped by a seven yard touchdown run by Cortlen Johnson.

Buff fans knew it was their day just a few minutes later. The Colorado defense recovered a Kansas fumble right after Johnson’s touchdown, quickly turning that into another Jeremy Aldrich field goal. The ensuing kickoff was returned 97 yards … but not for a touchdown, as defensive back Terrence Wood tracked down the Kansas kick returner. Two plays later, Ben Kelly returned a fumble 96 yards for a touchdown.

Ten plays from scrimmage after the blocked punt for a touchdown, Colorado had posted 18 points (Zac Colvin hit Javon Green for a two-point conversion after the Cortlen Johnson touchdown).

Joining Moschetti in the offensive spotlight in the 51-17 rout was senior kicker Jeremy Aldrich. Aldrich hit on all five of his field goal attempts, setting a school record for field goals in a game. With the five field goals, all of which were over 40 yards in length, Aldrich surpassed Tom Field as Colorado’s all-time field goal kicker. Aldrich now had 37 career field goals, besting the record of 36 set by Field (1979-83).

For the first time in the young season, the Colorado defense also came to play. Kansas was held to only 172 yards of total offense, with both touchdowns coming as a result of CU special teams miscues (fumbled punt by Ben Kelly leading to a short eight-yard touchdown drive, and a blocked punt recovered in the Colorado end zone).

“That was much more of a complete game than we have played so far,” said Gary Barnett. “I never really thought they could move the ball on our defense. It’s a very comfortable feeling, not the feeling I had the first two weeks.”

Colorado’s first payback game of 1999 was now in the books as impressive win. In 1998, Kansas had embarrassed the Buffs, 33-17. David Winbush had raced for 268 yards as the Jayhawks pushed Colorado out of the national rankings. In the rematch, Winbush was held to 12 yards on 11 carries, as the Buff defense held the Jayhawks to 26 total rushing yards.

The Kansas game not only gave the Buffs their first complete game of the season, it gave Colorado a leg up on the rest of the Northern Division of the Big 12.

Between the Buffs and the rest of the conference season, though, was a small matter of playing Washington on the road.

Against the Buffs’ former coach, Rick Neuheisel.

As if anyone could have forgotten.

A Sense of Optimism Returns

Only two weeks removed from the 41-14 humiliation at the hands of the Colorado State Rams, Colorado was again looking like a contender.

Against Kansas, the Buffs raced out to an early lead, just as they had against San Jose State. What was an improvement from the victory over the Spartans, though, was that the defense played the entire game. Two third quarter touchdowns allowed by the Colorado special teams gave Kansas faint hope of a comeback at 33-17, but the Buffs scored the last 18 points of the game, with the defense keeping Kansas out of Colorado territory for the rest of the contest.

Two players gave the Buffs and their fans reason to be optimistic about the future.

Redshirt freshman Zac Colvin replaced the injured Mike Moschetti at quarterback in the second half. After the Jayhawks pulled to within two scores, Colvin led the Buffs on a 69-yard drive for a game-clinching touchdown. Included in the drive was a 48-yard pass from Colvin to Marcus Stiggers. As a result, though Moschetti was expected to return to the starting role for the Washington game, Buff fans could breathe a little easier knowing that Colorado had a backup quarterback the team could depend on.

The second player of note came onto the field just after Colvin had led the Buffs to a 41-17 lead early in the fourth quarter. Kansas receiver Carl Nesmith took the ensuing Colorado kickoff at his goalline. 97 yards later, Nesmith was pulled down from behind by reserve sophomore defensive back Terrence Wood. Wood’s effort not only saved a touchdown, but allowed the Buffs to put the game away moments later. Instead a 41-24 game, Wood allowed the Buffs’ defense to take the field. Two plays later, Ben Kelly returned a fumble 96 yards for a touchdown.

48-17, Buffs. Game over.

Against the Jayhawks, a number of good things happened (as is usually the case with a 51-17 win). The Buffs played a complete game, the first of the season. The defense asserted itself. The Buffs were back to playing dominant football, as promised by their new head coach. Younger players were stepping up, providing confidence about the future.

Up next was Washington.

The Huskies were 0-2 on the young season under new head coach Rick Neuheisel. Washington had been defeated by BYU, 35-28, and by Air Force, 31-21. The Huskies had opportunities to win both games, but had faltered down the stretch. Not that Washington or Neuheisel would receive any sympathy from Colorado fans over their worst start since 1985. The Buffs had something to prove to their old coach, and to the nation. The game received a great deal of national attention, giving the Buffs a forum to re-claim a national ranking.

Would the Buffs take advantage?

Or would the same over confidence which had led to the CSU rout return?

September 18, 2004 – Boulder          Colorado 52, North Texas 21

After going almost two complete games without an offensive touchdown, Colorado put up 586 yards in total offense in putting away North Texas, 52-21.  Joel Klatt completed 26-of-33 passes for 371 yards and three touchdowns in guiding what had been an anemic Colorado offense since the first half of the Colorado State opener.  Bobby Purify amassed 112 yards and three scores on only 15 carries as the Buffs let their fans enjoy a victory prior to the last five seconds of the game for the first time in 2004.

In posting a 3-0 record for the first time since 1998, the Buffs’ offense finally clicked.  After spotting North Texas early 7-0 and 14-7 leads, the Buffs dominated.  Colorado scored on five consecutive possessions in the first half to take a 35-14 halftime lead.  Punter John Torp, pressed into service ten times against Washington State, had only two punts against the Mean Green.  “We felt like we could do just about whatever we wanted to out there”, said Gary Barnett.

Joel Klatt, held to 195 passing yards after two games (zero touchdowns, two interceptions), had the 11th-best passing day in school history against North Texas. At one point, Klatt completed 13 passes in a row.  “With Joel, we just need to do what we do,” said offensive coordinator Shawn Watson.  “We don’t need to get cute.”  Overall, Klatt connected with 11 different receivers, including two touchdown passes to tight end Joe Klopfenstein and a 21-yard scoring pass to Evan Judge.

The glass was also half empty, however.  The Colorado defense continued to struggle, this time against the run.  The Buffs were torched just 43 seconds into the game by a 57-yard scoring run by Mean Green freshman Jamario Thomas, who also scored on a 25-yard run later in the first quarter.  Overall, Thomas had 247 yards rushing, the third-most against the Buffs in Colorado history.  “We weren’t as sharp as we should have been,” said Barnett of the defense, “or as sharp as we’re going to need to be, and that’s all I’m going to say about it.”

The Mean Green amassed 507 total yards, including 258 yards on the ground against a Colorado defense which had surrendered only 59 rushing yards to Colorado State and Washington State combined.  The Mean Green went 9-for-17 on third down attempts, but did manage only one score after the midway point of the first quarter, a fourth quarter touchdown after the Buffs had cruised to a 45-14 lead.  The Buffs’ defense was applying the “bend but don’t break” philosophy to the extreme.  Said Colorado defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, “We certainly learned a lesson, and it’s easier to learn when you win rather than when you’ve gotten beat.  This is a young team and we can learn tremendous lessons.”

Hopefully for the Buff faithful, those lessons would sink in during the upcoming bye week.  Colorado was heading into conference play 3-0, but that would not impress the Buffs’ next opponent, Missouri.  The Tigers were 2-1 after a 48-0 thumping of Ball State.  A fashionable pick to win the Big 12 North in the preseason, Missouri had opened the season ranked 18th, but had fallen from the rankings after a second week loss to unheralded Troy, 24-14.

Preseason All-American quarterback Brad Smith could run and pass, and with the Buffs giving up an average of 450 yards/game on defense, the Colorado defense had much to prepare for, and only two weeks to get better.

Time Spent in the Lead

Existing in the world of obscure football statistics is one which receives less attention than most: “Time spent in the Lead”.  Representing just what you think it would, Time Spent in the Lead catalogues how long each team spends in the lead during the game.  Normally, it is noted less often than “Pass Efficiency Defense” or “Passing Offense – Average per Attempt”.

Early in the 2004 season, though, “Time Spent in the Lead” attracted my attention.

The Buffs scored on the first drive of the game – the first drive of the season – against Colorado State.  The Buffs were caught by the Rams, briefly, at 17-all, but overall the Buffs spent 50:27 of game time in the lead, never trailing.  The results were not so dramatic against Washington State, with the Buffs taking the first lead in the second quarter, 3-0, never trailing in the contest.  Overall, Colorado spent 76:44 of game time in the lead to open the season, and, despite being on the brink of an 0-2 start, had yet to trail in a game.

With North Texas as the next opponent, I was intrigued as to the possibility of the Buffs starting 3-0 without ever facing a deficit.  Certainly, the Buffs were not good enough to take any opponent for granted, but the Mean Green from Denton had succumbed 65-0 to Texas, and had lost at home to Florida Atlantic.  A quick start by the Buffs, and the Buffs would have their first three game stretch of games without a deficit since 1996.  In fact, I was poised to send an email to Assistant Athletic Director / Media Relations Dave Plati, asking him if he knew of any season in the past when Colorado had opened the season with three games without trailing at any time during those contests (1995 being the only other candidate, at least as far back as 1978).

A quick score did occur in the North Texas game.  It came less than a minute into the contest, in fact.  Unfortunately, with 14:17 still to play in the first quarter, the scoreboard read:

“North Texas 7, Colorado 0″.

So much for that great search into the anomalies of Colorado statistics.

Still, for the game, the Buffs did hold a significant “Time Spent in the Lead” advantage, holding the lead for 41:02, compared to 8:22 of game time for the Mean Green.  Overall for 2004, Colorado had now held the lead for 117:46 of game time.  For comparisons sake, after the non-conference slate was completed in 2003 (with the Buffs at 2-2 on their way to a 5-7 campaign), the numbers were: Time Spent in the Lead, Colorado: 55:34; Time Spent Behind: 132.56.

Overall, I would rather have a more relevant statistic in the Buffs’ favor three games into 2004 (say, for example, a defense which was not giving up 452 yards/game). Still, the only statistic that mattered was the record, and Colorado was 3-0 for the first time in the Gary Barnett era as head coach.  No other team in the Big 12 North had come through the non-conference schedule without a defeat. (Kansas, the only other North undefeated team after week two of the season, lost 20-17 to Northwestern the week of the CU/North Texas game).

Lies, damned lies, and statistics.

Colorado had faltered on one statistic I was tracking going into the North Texas game.  Yet the Buffs had managed to pull out yet another win.

As it turned out, the only time that “Time Spent in the Lead” mattered was the second between 0:01 and 0:00 in the fourth quarter.

September 18, 2008 – Boulder          Colorado 17, No. 21 West Virginia 14 OT

Aric Goodman connected on a 25-yard field goal in overtime, lifting Colorado to a 17-14 win over No. 21 West Virginia.

Just moments after Mountaineer kicker Pat McAfee’s 23-yard attempt clanked off the left upright to end West Virginia’s overtime possession, Goodman snuck his 25-yarder just inside the same upright. Goodman’s kick not only gave Colorado it’s first 3-0 start since the 2004 season, but also earned the former walk-on a scholarship.

The low-scoring affair did not start out that way, as three touchdowns were scored in the first four possessions of the game. The Buffs opened the scoring with a nine-play, 83-yard drive to take a lead they would never fully relinquish. Converting two third down opportunities, including a 23-yard completion from Cody Hawkins to Josh Smith on a third-and-11 from the Colorado 16-yard line, the Buffs cashed in when Hawkins connected with Smith again, this time for a 38-yard score just 2:46 into the contest.

On the third play of the Mountaineers’ opening possession, West Virginia quarterback Pat White completed a pass to Bradley Starks, who fumbled at the West Virginia 28-yard line. The fumble, caused by defensive tackle Brandon Nicholas and recovered by defensive end Maurice Lucas, sent all but 4,000 of the 51,883 in attendance for the Thursday night “Blackout” game into a frenzy.

It took only five plays for the Buffs to score again, with Hawkins hitting tight end Patrick Devenny for a 13-yard touchdown. Devenny’s catch, a fine over-the-shoulder grab with a defender right on him, gave the Buffs a 14-0 lead with 10:10 still remaining in the first quarter.

West Virginia, which averaged almost 40 points per game in 2007, would not go quietly. It took the Mountaineers only five plays to answer, with Pat White scoring from six yards out to pull West Virginia to within a touchdown at 14-7. Less than half of the first quarter had been played, and the game had all the markings of an old WAC shootout.

Then it got quiet.

At least on the scoreboard.

Colorado had opportunities throughout the first half to put up additional points, but none were scored. In their next four possessions, the Buffs pushed the ball to midfield, the Colorado 47-yard line, the Mountaineers’ 30-yard line, and the Mountaineers’ 16-yard line, but came away with no points. The two most promising drives ended with turnovers by Colorado quarterback Cody Hawkins.

Midway through the second quarter, Hawkins was intercepted by West Virginia linebacker Reed Williams, and on the next Colorado possession, Hawkins was sacked at the Mountaineer 24-yard line, fumbling the ball back to West Virginia. [Odd trivia here: Colorado has turned the ball over six times so far in 2008; all six turnovers have come in the second quarter]. The Buffs had one last chance to score before halftime, but a sure interception for a touchdown was dropped by cornerback Cha’pelle Brown with just over a minute to play.

Fortunately for Colorado and its fans, the Mountaineers were also unable to score, and the game stood at 14-7 at halftime.

In the third quarter, an air of inevitability hung over Folsom Field like a dark cloud, as the Colorado offense went three-and-out in its first three possessions, while the West Virginia offense slowly took control. The game was tied late in the third quarter on a 39-yard gallop by Pat White, who would finish with 148 yards rushing on the evening.

Twice in the fourth quarter, Colorado pushed the ball into West Virginia territory. Twice in the fourth quarter, West Virginia pushed the ball into Colorado territory. Neither team, though, was able to get close enough for a field goal attempt, and regulation ended with Pat White heaving a pass towards the Colorado endzone after the Mountaineers had driven as far as the Colorado 48-yard line.

In overtime, the Buffs won the toss of the coin, opting to go on defense. West Virginia, which posted 311 yards rushing for the game, but only 43 yards passing, kept the ball on the ground. Aided by a four-yard run by White on third-and-two at the Colorado 17-yard line to keep the drive alive, the Mountaineers faced a third-and-one at the Colorado four. Jock Sanders got the call, but linebackers Jeff Smart and Brad Jones stopped Sanders for a two yard loss, setting up Pat McAfee for a 23-yard field goal attempt. McAfee, set up on the left hashmark, hit the ball straight into the left upright, giving Colorado new life.

Needing only a field goal to win, the Buffs’ overtime possession was conservative, but effective. Four rushes, two by Rodney Stewart and two by Darrell Scott, set up the Buffs with a third-and-two at the Mountaineer seven yard line. Lined up near the middle of the field, Aric Goodman was true, giving the Buffs their second win over a ranked team in the Dan Hawkins’ era (both coming with 0:00 showing on the game clock).

“That was unbelievable and a great thing to be a part of right there,” said Dan Hawkins after the game. “The longer the game went on, the better I felt our chances were. It was a good game against a good team. Give our guys credit for hanging in there and showing character.”

In defeating a ranked team, there are always good stories. Freshman running back Rodney Stewart was one of the feel good stories of the night. Stewart’s 166 yards rushing on 28 carries netted Stewart the third highest total for a freshman in Colorado history [Billy Waddy had 202 yards against Wisconsin in 1973; Lamont Warren had 168 yards against Iowa State in 1991]. “I just figured out the defensive game plan and I was figuring out where the holes were,” said Stewart, “and luckily I was getting the yards.”

The other uplifting story was that of Aric Goodman. Goodman, as a freshman kicker for Wyoming in 2006, missed an extra point in overtime which cost the Cowboys in a loss to Virginia. This time, however, the overtime kick was true. “Mentally, knowing that I have a chance to go out there and have fun was important,” said Goodman. “I just went out there and went through my check list and hit it. Fortunately, it went through.”

Still, there remained question marks for the Buffs. True, Colorado was 3-0, and was sniffing the Top 25 for the first time since November, 2005. It was also true that the Colorado offense was shut out for the last 55 minutes of regulation. It was also true that the Buff rush defense, ranked 11th in the nation coming into the game, gave up 311 yards rushing to West Virginia (at a 6.0 yards/carry average). It was also true that the West Virginia game was just the first game in a six game gauntlet which had Colorado facing five ranked teams.

“We’re definitely going in the right direction, and I think we’re getting really, really, really close” said Dan Hawkins of his 3-0 Buffs. “No one wants to be close, but if this group keeps hanging together and doing things right, we’ll have some things to say by the end of the season.”

The Buffs would now have the luxury of sitting back and watching as their next opponent, 24th-ranked Florida State, played its first real game of the season, against 18th-ranked Wake Forest. Then it would be on to Jacksonville for a “neutral site” game which would be anything but neutral.

The undefeated Buffs didn’t care. Their job for the week was done.

Bring on the next mountain to climb.

Rocky Mountain High

It’s time I make an admission.

Some of you have been with me from the beginning; some of you have signed on more recently.

It’s only fair that I come out of the closet.

Wow – this is hard ……

Okay – here goes ……

I am a Mountaineer.

There. I said it. I am a Mountaineer.

Yes. I am a native Montanan. I have only lived in Montana and Colorado, but my family’s roots are in West Virginia. Both of my parents are from West Virginia, and both attended West Virginia. My grandfather (Mom’s side) taught at West Virginia for over 30 years.

I have been to Morgantown a number of times. I have set foot in the old stadium on campus and taken the monorail out to the new stadium outside of town (”new” being a relative term – the stadium opened in 1979).

John Denver’s “Take Me Home, Country Roads” was played so often in our household in the early 70’s it may have well have been our family’s theme song.

So, was I conflicted Thursday night?

Not a chance.

I have been known to cheer for West Virginia (and will again, after we play the re-match in Morgantown next September), but there was no way I could pull for the old gold and blue on “Blackout” night at Folsom. I lived and died along with the other Colorado faithful in the stands as the Buffs showed in the first five minutes how close to greatness this team really is, then proceeding to taunt us with their youth and inexperience for the next fifty five minutes.

Still, the feeling was electric all night. A quick start gave Folsom a buzz the entire evening. Unlike the Oklahoma game, when the Buffs never led until the clock struck 0:00, against West Virginia the Buffs never trailed. There was almost an air of expectation in the crowd: This is our time. This is our moment. Greetings, college football world – we’re back!

Dan Hawkins spoke for most of us when, at the post-game press conference, he said: “I took several times during the game to look around at the pageantry. I kept thinking how blessed I was to be out there; everyone was in black, everyone was fired up, we’re under the lights. I said, ‘This is awesome!’ It’s great to be a part of and enjoy it.”

I did take it in. I did enjoy it. Two images are seared into my brain. The first is watching with disbelief as the West Virginia kicker’s field goal attempt “boinked” off the left upright in the north endzone. The second is from just a moment later, as I scanned the sea of black which was the student section, writhing and flowing like a single organism, completely absorbed in the joy of the moment as the opportunity for victory presented itself to the underdog Buffs.

I could go on, but you have your own day to get to, and your own memories to savor. For me, with the long weekend afforded by the Thursday night game, I am off to South Park and the small town of Jefferson to visit my Dad.

A 35-year resident of Colorado, he has long since moved on from his days in Morgantown, but he remains a Mountaineer.

So, if you’ll excuse me. I have some gloating to do …

September 18, 2010 – Boulder          Colorado 31, Hawai’i 13

Alfred Williams couldn’t have done it any better himself.

Perhaps inspired by the halftime ceremonies honoring the Colorado All-American’s induction into the College Football Hall of Fame, the Buffs turned a 10-0 halftime deficit into a 31-13 rout of Hawai’i.

Quarterback Tyler Hansen passed for 200 yards and two touchdowns,while Brian Lockridge and Rodney Stewart both rushed for over 100 yards as Colorado erased a poor first half showing with a dominant second half performance in the Buffs’ 2010 home opener.

Before many of the 47,840 in attendance had settled into their seats, the Hawai’i Warriors set about making sure Buff fans did not forget the 52-7 rout handed to the Buffs by Cal seven days earlier. On the second play of the game, Hawai’i quarterback Bryant Moniz hit Kealoha Pilares on a crossing route which turned into an 80 yard gain. Jimmy Smith caught Pilares at the Colorado three yard line, but a Warrior score, and another Colorado debacle, seemed imminent.

Then Hawai’i did Colorado a huge favor.

The Warriors ran the ball.

A week after rushing for only ten yards against Army, the Warriors decided to run the ball against the Buffs. Three straight running plays netted only two yards, however, leaving Hawai’i with a fourth-and-goal at the Colorado one yard line. Eschewing the field goal attempt, Hawai’i head coach Greg McMackin opted to go for the touchdown. The snap between center and quarterback was muffed, though, with Colorado safety Anthony Perkins recovering the fumble at the Buff three yard line.

Colorado did manage to get one first down on its first drive, but, saddled with yet two more false start penalties, was forced to punt. The Buff defense stiffened on the Warriors’ second possession, forcing a three-and-out. The Hawai’i punt, though, was mishandled by Travon Patterson, with the fumble bouncing eighteen yards back to the Colorado three yard line, where it was recovered by Hawai’i.

Same song; different verse.

Hawai’i was once again at the Colorado three yard line with a first-and-goal.

And once again, the Warriors came away with no points.

Going back to their strength, Hawai’i went back to the passing game. The Colorado defense, though, forced three incompletions. When a 20-yard chip shot field goal was missed by Hawai’i kicker Scott Enos, Buff fans began to harbor thoughts that this was going to be the Buffs’ day, after all.

Or not.

On the Buffs’ next possession, Rodney Stewart fumbled, setting up the Warriors at the Colorado 42 yard line. This time, Moniz and the Warriors were not to be denied. It took only three plays for the Warriors to score, with Moniz hitting Pilares for a seven yard touchdown with 50 seconds remaining in the first quarter.

7-0, Hawai’i.

The second quarter moved along quickly, with the two teams posting only two possessions apiece. The Buffs posted three first downs on each of their drives, moving the ball fairly well, but each drive resulted in a punt. The second drive ended, when, on third-and-one at the Hawai’i 39-yard line, the shotgun snap to Tyler Hansen went between the junior quarterback’s legs, resulting in an 18-yard loss.

Hawai’i took the subsequent punt and marched smartly down the field, covering 56 yards in only 1:42 of game clock, with Enos connecting on a 31-yard field goal on the last play of the half.

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Buffs show imitation is the most sincere form of flattery

The 2010 Buff players had to wait.

The halftime ceremony honoring Alfred Williams’ selection as a member of the College Football Hall of Fame Class of 2010 was running long. The 2010 Buff players were lined up behind Ralphie, ready to make their second half entrance onto Folsom Field, but Ralphie’s path around the stadium had yet to be cleared. Hundreds of young children, all wearing No. 94 jerseys in honor of Williams, along with a number of dignitaries on hand for the presentation – including fellow CU Hall of Famers Joe Romig and Dick Anderson – were still in Ralphie’s way.

As the Buffs waited, they heard the cheers for Williams.

As the Buffs waited, the sun, which had been as hidden from view in the first half as the Colorado offense, decided to make an appearance.

As the Buffs waited, a trio of F-18’s thundered their way over the stadium, bringing about yet another raucous cheer from a Buff home crowd anxious to have something for which to cheer.

“Do you get it now?”, I thought to myself as I saw the Buff players bunched up behind Ralphie, their gold helmets reflecting the first patch of sunlight of the afternoon. “Do you understand that wearing those 1990 Buffs’ jerseys means something??”.

Apparently, the Buffs got it.

Maybe it was halftime speeches (Buff players related after the game that offensive coordinator Eric Kiesau was quite animated about the shutout being pitched against his offense by a Warrior defense giving up 38 points per game). Maybe it was the flyover, or the sunlight, or the presence of Alfred Williams on their field.

Something got to the 2010 Buff players, down 10-0 to Hawai’i at halftime.

Whatever it was, it sparked a rally. For the first eight minutes of the second half against Hawai’i, Colorado played about as well as any Buff team has during any such stretch in the Dan Hawkins’ era.

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