CU Games of the Day – September 21st

September 21stCU has a 3-1 record on this date over the past 40 years, including two wins which are very rare … a road win over a ranked team (including the 34-31 win over Arizona State last season) …

  • 1985: No. 7 Ohio State 36, Colorado 13 … Despite the fact that CU was coming off of a 1-10 season, Bill McCartney had this defiant quote after this loss: “We’re not going to stand for that kind of mediocrity around here any longer. We’re going to grow out of that syndrome” … He then went out and made it a true statement … 
  • 1991: No. 19 Colorado 58, Minnesota 0 … Led by quarterback Darian Hagan, the Buffs scored on six of seven first half possessions on their way to a 38-0 halftime lead and the 8th 600+ yard offensive effort in CU history … 
  • 2002: Colorado 31, No. 20 UCLA 20 … CU’s first-ever win over UCLA is a win in the Rose Bowl over a ranked Bruin team.  … Essay: “Not so solid Ochs” (as quarterback Craig Ochs quit the team after the game) … The win was the last CU win over a ranked team on the road, until … 
  • 2019: Colorado 34, No. 24 Arizona State 31 … Buffs first win over a ranked team on the road in exactly 17 years (and 29 games). Steven Montez and Tony Brown were the heroes, connecting for three touchdowns … Essay: “Everyone Chipped In; Everyone Did Their Job” … 

Check out the stories for all four games below …

September 21, 1985 – Boulder           No. 7 Ohio State 36, Colorado 13

Colorado in 1984: one win in eleven tries.

Colorado in 1985: two for two.

Bring on Ohio State?

In 1983, Colorado had been in a fairly similar situation. The Buffs had a 2-1 record, and were riding high heading into the Notre Dame game. The Buffs, however, were summarily put in their place by the Fighting Irish, 27-3. Sporting a 2-0 record in 1985, the Buffs were again optimistic, only to again be spanked by a national power, falling to Ohio State, 36-13.

The Ohio State Buckeyes, ranked 7th in the nation, came to Boulder and re-established order in the college football world. Ohio State, picked to win the Big Ten in most pre-season publications, had future NFL stars Keith Byars at running back, Cris Carter at wide receiver, and Chris Spielman at linebacker.

All-American Keith Byars didn’t play against Colorado due to injury. But then again, he didn’t have to.

Colorado fullback Anthony Weatherspoon sent the home crowd into a frenzy early in the game with a 35-yard touchdown run on Colorado’s first possession. Oranges, representative of the fans’ desire to revisite the Orange Bowl for the first time in a decade, were hurled onto the field. Colorado 7; Ohio State 0, read the scoreboard.

Colorado was in a time warp.

Then reality set in.

The remainder of the contest was all Buckeyes. Back-up tailback John Wooldridge ran for 119 yards and scored twice for Ohio State, which took advantage of Colorado’s four turnovers, three of which occurred in the closing minutes of the first half. The score quickly ballooned to 22-7 Ohio State, and the Buffs never seriously contended thereafter.

Any delusions of the Buffs replacing a 1-10 record with an undefeated season had been erased.

Now what? Would Colorado step up, or step back down? The head coach had no reservations. “We’re going to recover, I can tell you that” said Bill McCartney after the game, “We’re not going to stand for that kind of mediocrity around here any longer. We’re going to grow out of that syndrome.”

September 21, 1991 – Boulder           No. 19 Colorado 58, Minnesota 0

The Minnesota Golden Gophers came to Boulder 1-0 on the young season, hoping to build on their 6-5 effort from 1990. Instead, it was the Buffs who left Folsom Field with an improved state of mind, as Colorado mauled Minnesota, 58-0. In all, Colorado amassed 612 yards of total offense, surpassing the 600-yard mark for only the eighth time in school history.

Leading the onslaught was quarterback Darian Hagan, who passed for two touchdowns, connecting on 7-of-8 passes for 162 yards. The tone was set early, as Minnesota turned the ball on the first possession of the contest. On the Buffs’ first play, Hagan connected with tight end Rico Smith on a 40-yard touchdown.

In all, the Buffs scored on six of seven first half possessions on their way to a 38-0 halftime lead.

The second half allowed the Buffs to give younger players a chance to give the Folsom Field faithful a glimpse of the future. In all, 72 players saw action. Sophomore quarterback Vance Joseph led the Buffs to three touchdowns, while freshman quarterback Kordell Stewart also played. Stewart led the Buffs in rushing, picking up 73 yards on eight carries, including a four-yard fourth quarter touchdown run.

Another true freshman who Buff fans would come to know well, running back Lamont Warren, scored the first two touchdowns of his career, including a 30-yard run midway through the second quarter.

The rout of Minnesota allowed Colorado to rise up two spots in the next poll, up to No. 17.

The Buffs were now 2-1 on the young season, just one spot below Nebraska, which had fallen, 36-21, at home to No. 4 Washington. A road game against 0-2 Stanford and a home game against a mediocre Missouri squad were all that stood between the Buffs and a shot, albeit on the road, against undefeated and 6th-ranked Oklahoma.

A rout of Minnesota in the books, a third consecutive run for the national title once again seemed plausible.

September 21, 2002 – at UCLA           Colorado 31, No. 20 UCLA 17

Chris Brown went for 188 yards on 26 carries, scoring three touchdowns as Colorado defeated UCLA in Pasadena, 31-17.

Bouncing back after a humiliating defeat at the hands of USC, the Buffs took out their frustrations on the Trojans’ cross-town rivals, posting 471 yards of total offense.

“This is us,” said Chris Brown, who scored on runs of 19, 7, and eight yards. Indeed, a team that had been held to just four first downs a week earlier put up 27 first downs against UCLA, compiling 325 yards on the ground. Quarterback Robert Hodge, making his second start in place of Craig Ochs, was not spectacular but did not hurt the Buffs, connecting on 11-of-22 passes for 117 yards and no turnovers.

It took some time to wear down the Bruins, though. In the first quarter, the Buffs had only 27 yards of total offense. On the first play of the second quarter, UCLA scored on a trick play to take a 7-0 lead. Rather than succumb, the Buffs bounced right back, taking only four plays to score, with Brown doing the honors from 19 yards out. A Pat Brougham 29-yard field just before halftime gave the Buffs a 10-7 edge at the break.

In the second half, the Buffs’ offensive line dominated, and the Buffs slowly built a lead. Another Brougham field goal and another Brown touchdown run (capped by a Hodge-to-McCoy two-point conversion) gave Colorado a 21-7 lead. Brougham and Brown would put up two more scores in the fourth quarter to give Colorado an insurmountable 31-10 edge with nine minutes to go in the game.

“We got insulted last week,” said Gary Barnett, “both on and off the field. Our guys challenged each other. That was the Colorado Buffalo team I’m used to seeing and being around.” For Barnett, it was his first win over a Pac-10 opponent in six tries, and the first Buff win over UCLA ever.

Chris Brown now had 510 yards rushing on the season, including two games over 185 yards. “The difference this week was our line,” said Brown, who had six touchdowns in the Buffs’ first four games. “We could tell they were wearing down by the end of the third quarter.”

The Buffs now had a bye week before commencing the Big 12 schedule. In August, basking in the glow of a conference championship and a pre-season top ten ranking, Colorado did not envisioned finishing their non-conference slate at 2-2 and unranked. But after the USC debacle, 2-2 had to feel a great deal better than 1-2. Now the Buffs would face another crossroads. The first conference opponent was Kansas State, 4-0 after handing a 27-20 loss to the same USC team which had manhandled the Buffs. The Wildcats came into Boulder at 4-0, ranked 13th in the nation.

A win, with unranked Kansas and Baylor to follow, and the Buffs would have momentum heading into late October and November showdowns with Texas Tech, Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Nebraska. A loss, and the Buffs would start looking at the schedule for ways to win enough games to become bowl-eligible.

At least the Buffs had an off-week to heal and prepare for Kansas State. A week to recuperate and focus on nothing but the Wildcats.

Then Craig Ochs dropped a bomb.

Not So Solid Ochs

On the Monday after the UCLA game, quarterback Craig Ochs announced that he would not play football again in 2002. Sidelined since suffering a concussion in the second quarter of the San Diego State game, the announcement was not a complete surprise. Ochs had suffered three prior concussions, and even though he announced that all of the tests he had recently taken had come back normal, concussions were not to be taken lightly.

The remainder of the prepared statement issued by Ochs, though, was a shock. Not only was Ochs not coming back for 2002, he insinuated that was not coming back to Colorado at all. Ochs stated that he would apply for a medical redshirt, withdraw as a student at Colorado, and “re-evaluate my options for returning to play football next season.”

Gary Barnett attempted to put the right spin on Ochs’ announcement. “We totally respect Craig and his family’s decision, it was a family decision all the way. We just want the best for Craig no matter what,” said Barnett, conceding, “I was very surprised.”

Ochs was not done. Just two days after announcing his decision to sit out the remainder of the 2002 season, Ochs declared his intention to transfer to the University of Montana. The Grizzlies were defending Division 1-AA national champions and the No. 1-ranked team in early 2002. By transferring, so the speculating went, Ochs would have the opportunity to play for a more pass-oriented team, and would not have to sit out a year before playing since Montana was a 1-AA school.

How would this bombshell effect the remaining Buffs? Ochs was one of four team captains (and the only junior so elected). Speculation immediately centered on the quarterback’s relationship with Barnett and his offensive coordinator, Shawn Watson. If one of the co-captains was so disgruntled about the team (play-calling, emphasis of the offense, not being allowed to start vs. Texas and Oregon in 2001 after returning from injury, etc.) that he would rather leave the program than stay as the starting quarterback, then how deep was the problem? Was Barnett so out of touch with his team that he couldn’t see this coming? Or was this just one bad apple whose leaving would actually improve team unity?

There was no time to dwell on what had happened. Kansas State was coming to town for Homecoming. It was a must win game if Colorado was to participate in the race for the Big 12 title.

And the Buffs’ fans were still left to wonder which Buff squad would run out onto Folsom Field – the one who had laid an egg there against USC, or the one which had rallied for a dominating win over UCLA.

September 21, 2019 – at Arizona State          Colorado 34, No. 24 Arizona State 31

Colorado snapped a 29-game road losing streak against ranked teams, taking down No. 24 Arizona State in Tempe, 34-31. Steven Montez went 23-for-30 for 337 yards and three touchdowns, with all three scoring passes going to Tony Brown. The senior wide receiver collected nine passes in all, going for a career-high for 150 yards, with Alex Fontenot gaining 89 yards on 25 carries to lead the rushing attack.

The Buffs posted 447 yards of total offense, surrendering 453 to the Sun Devils. The CU defense remained consistent, giving up 31 points for the third time in four games (giving up, oddly enough, 30 points in the lone loss of the season). The victory not only gave CU its first win over a ranked team since defeating UCLA 31-20 in the Rose Bowl in 2002, it also gave the Buffs their first win in six attempts against the Sun Devils in Tempe, and a 2-0 record against ranked teams in the fourth game of the Mel Tucker era.

“I’m really proud of our guys,” Tucker said. “It was a hard-fought win for us. We had some injuries but guys stepped up. It was that next man mentality. It was a team win, offense, defense, special teams, everyone pitched in. I’m proud of our coaches getting these guys to play coming off a very tough loss to Air Force and it’s just a credit to the competitive character of this football team.”

Game Story … For the second week in a row, CU won the coin toss to open the game. For the second week in a row, the Buffs opted to take the opening kickoff.

And, for the second week in a row, the decision paid off.

It appeared as if the Buffs might be facing a three-and-out to open the game, but quarterback Steven Montez hit wide receiver Dimitri Stanley for a 17-yard gain on third-and-three to move the chains. A ten-yard completion to Tony Brown and a 23-yard completion to Laviska Shenault gave CU a first-and-goal at the ASU eight, with Alex Fontenot taking it in from a yard out two plays later to give the Buffs a 7-0 lead five minutes into the game.

The Arizona State offense quickly responded, with a 33-yard completion from quarterback Jayden Daniels to Jordan Kerley taking the ball into CU territory. A 24-yard run by Eno Benjamin looked to have the Sun Devils set up at the Buff one-yard line, but a clipping penalty moved the ball back to the CU 40-yard line. Two plays later, kicker Christian Zendejas missed a 48-yard field goal attempt. The Buff defense had held, but at a price, as star defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson, the victim of the clipping penalty, was lost for the remainder of the game.

Taking over at their 30, the Buff offense again avoided a three-and-out when Steven Montez connected with Alex Fontenot for a 15-yard gain on third-and-14. A few plays later, Fontenot again kept the drive alive with a five-yard run on third-at-two at the ASU 40. On the third third down of the drive, this time a third-and-four at the ASU 29, Montez scrambled away from pressure, then lofted a short pass to Tony Brown, who did the rest himself. The 29-yard touchdown pass gave Colorado a 14-0 lead with 1:18 remaining in the first quarter.

Continue reading game story here

“Everyone Chipped In, Everyone Did Their Job”

What does September 21st mean to you?

  • For many, it represents the traditional first day of fall (although in 2019, the autumnal equinox – when there are 12 hours of sunlight and darkness at the equator – actually falls on Monday, September 23rd);
  • For the history Buff, September 21st can represent the day Benedict Arnold betrayed his new country by giving plans to West Point to the British (1780); the day J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit was published (1937), or the day when Sandra Day O’Conner became the first woman to be approved by the U.S. Senate to sit on the U.S. Supreme Court (1981);
  • Still others can use September 21st to celebrate the birthdays of the likes of H.G. Wells (1866); Bill Murray (1950); or Faith Hill (1967).

For the Buff Nation, however, September 21st has had other connotations.

For it was back on September 21, 2002, when the Buffs took on the UCLA Bruins in the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, that a marker for the CU football program was set in place. On that date, the Buffs, behind running back Chris Brown (who had 26 carries for 188 yards and three touchdowns), defeated the Bruins, 31-17.

At the time, the UCLA game merely represented a good bounce back effort for the Buffs, who had been trounced at home by USC the week before, 40-3. It was a good win, on the road over a ranked team, propelling the Buffs toward a 9-5 final record, and a No. 20 spot in the final polls.

What we didn’t realize at the time was that the game against UCLA also marked a milestone. For it was on that day, September 21, 2002 … that the Buffs last defeated a ranked team on the road.

Coming off of a Big 12 championship year in 2001, and going on to win the Big 12 North in 2002, the win over UCLA hardly seemed like a memorable event. In 2001, the Buffs defeated a ranked Kansas State team on the road and a neutral site win over a ranked Colorado State team in Denver.

And yet …

From a 27-11 loss to No. 2 Oklahoma a few weeks after the UCLA game in 2002, to a 27-13 loss in Seattle to No. 15 Washington last October, the Buffs played 29 games on the road against ranked teams … and lost every one.

That ignoble stretch put the Buffs in sorry company. The stretch of losses was longer than any other Power Five conference team in the country, longer than programs noted for futility in football like that of Kansas, Indiana, and Vanderbilt.

But now the CU football program can turn the page from that sorry statistic, and can point to September 21, 2019, as a marker of a different kind:

  • Mel Tucker became just the second coach in CU history to defeat ranked teams in his first two opportunities (In 1995, Rick Neuheisel won his first three games against ranked opponents … but did so with a team which had finished 11-1 the previous year;)
  • The Buffs won in Tempe against ASU for the first time in six tries. CU has had its opportunities (in 2007, the Buffs opened – as they did in 2019 – with a 14-0 lead, but wilted in the heat on their way to a 33-14 defeat; in 2017, the Buffs led 27-17 at the end of three quarters, but surrendered 24 fourth quarter points to the Sun Devils in a 41-30 defeat);
  • Mel Tucker not only won in his first true road game, he posted his second win over a ranked team in as many attempts. His predecessor, Mike MacIntyre also had two wins over ranked teams … in 22 attempts. MacIntyre not only never won on the road against a ranked team, he lost his first 12 games against ranked foes before defeating Washington State and Utah in consecutive weeks in November, 2016 … and then finishing out his tenure with eight more consecutive losses to ranked opponents.

In order to accomplish what had eluded the program for exactly 17 years, the Buffs needed a full team effort. Colorado came into the contest with two players who were considered to be first-round NFL Draft picks – wide receiver Laviska Shenault and defensive lineman Mustafa Johnson – and lost both to injury in the first quarter of the game against Arizona State.

Continue reading story here


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