CU Games of the Day – September 24th

September 24thCU has a 4-2 record on this date over the past 40 years, including two of the most significant games in Colorado history. In 1994, the No. 7 Buffs traveled to Ann Arbor to play No. 4 Michigan. The result: “The Miracle at Michigan”. Some 22 years later, on September 24, 2016, the Buffs traveled to Eugene, and came away with an unexpected 41-38 win over the Ducks (with video highlights from both games) …

  • 1983: Colorado 38, Oregon State 14 … Buffs build a 28-0 first half lead and coast to a big win over the Beavers … Essay: “Here we go CU, Here we go!” … 
  • 1988: Colorado 28, Oregon State 21 … Eric Bieniemy rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns as the Buffs held off the Beavers for the second win over OSU on 9/24 in five years … Essay: “The Quiet Ride Back to Atlanta” … 
  • 1994: No. 7 Colorado 27, No. 4 Michigan 26 …  The “Miracle at Michigan” is one of the most famous – if not the most famous, wins in Colorado history. I, for one, could listen to Keith Jackson’s call of the final play all day long … Essay: CU/Michigan Post-game … 
  • 2005: No. 12 Miami 23, Colorado 3Mason Crosby’s 58-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter avoided the shutout, allowing Colorado to become only the 12th team in NCAA history to score in 200 consecutive games … Essay: Statement Game … 
  • 2011: Ohio State 37, Colorado 13The best part of this game was that I got to visit the “Horseshoe” … Essay No. 1: “Skull Sessions” – learning about Buckeye traditions … Essay No. 2: “Band of Brothers” – What it’s like being out-numbered in the stands by a factor of 25-1 … 
  • 2016: Colorado 41, Oregon 38 … The most important game in CU’s unlikely run to its first Pac-12 South title, with Ahkello Witherspoon’s interception in the final minute sealing the victory … Essay: “Halfway there” …

Check out the stories for all six games below …

September 24, 1983 – Boulder           Colorado 38, Oregon State 14

Colorado was able to look towards another struggling opponent for the third week in a row as the Oregon State Beavers came to Boulder. Oregon State had posted a record of 1-9-1 in 1982, and had won only one of three starts in 1983.

If the Buffs were to put together back-to-back wins for the first time since 1979, this would be their best chance. The woeful Oregon State football program had not put together more than three wins in a season in its last eleven campaigns, and the team presented to the 33,504 Folsom Field faithful was not a likely candidate to break the streak.

The rout was on early.

Linebacker Jeff Donaldson returned an interception 44 yards for one score to open the game, and Steve Vogel had hooked up with Ron Brown on a 62-yard bomb for another. The score was Colorado 21, Oregon State 0, before the first quarter had even come to a close.

In just over one half of play, Colorado had a lead of 28-0, with offensive plays of 50, 62, 44, 36, and 29 yards – plus Donaldson’s interception return.

Oregon State did push through two consolation scores in the fourth quarter (the second coming on the last play of the game) to make the score 38-14, but it was the Buffs’ day from start to finish.

“Well, we made some big plays early, and changed the complexion of the game,” said Bill McCartney. “I think we deflated them, though they played hard all the time.”

Colorado was again led by a stellar defense and a tough ground game. Generating 252 yards rushing, it was Lee Rouson’s turn to break the century mark, racking up 106 yards on the ground with just nine attempts. Wide receiver Ron Brown had the best game of his career, with five receptions for 143 yards.

The Buffs were now 2-1, with a winning mark in the standings for the first time since 1978.

Here we go CU, here we go …

It was party time again in Boulder.

Forget for the moment that Colorado’s two wins were against two of the weakest programs in the nation. Forget for the moment that Colorado had won two games in a row for the first time in four years. The Buffs were 2-1, and had won both games in comfortable fashion.

As the Boulder Daily Camera headline pronounced: “CU on ‘roll’ – Two in a row”.

It was time for greater things in Folsom.

Quick check of the schedule ….. who’s next? …. WHAT? NOTRE DAME? THE NOTRE DAME?!? Bring ’em on!

The arguments in favor of the Buffs were logical, or were at least logical after a few beers had been consumed up at Tulagi’s, or down on the mall at Potter’s or Old Chicago. Colorado was only a decent fourth quarter away from being 3-0, the argument went. If the Buffs hadn’t given up 17 fourth quarter points to Michigan State in the first game, the Buffs would be undefeated. Plus, and this was a BIG plus, Michigan State had gone on to beat Notre Dame the following week – at South Bend – 28-23. Ergo, if Colorado could hang tough with a team that went on to beat the Irish, on the Irish’s home field, then the Buffs should be able to stick it to one of the most storied schools in college football history.

Even the media got caught up in the hype. In Buddy Martin’s column in the Rocky Mountain News the week of the game, the headline read: “Upset Special: CU Over Irish”.

Bring on Notre Dame!!!

September 24, 1988           Colorado 28, Oregon State 21

Colorado took the lead against Oregon State just over three minutes into the game, and trailed for only 2:46 of the entire contest. Still, the Buffs struggled to contain and repel a competitive Oregon State squad, hanging on to defeat the Beavers, 28-21.

Eric Bieniemy rushed for 211 yards and three touchdowns on the afternoon. His first score came on a 45-yard run on a fourth-and-one, putting the Buffs up 7-0 with 11:54 to play in the first quarter. Bieniemy scored again later in the first quarter from four yards out to give Colorado a 13-7 advantage (the snap on the extra point was high, preventing a kick attempt). Still, it took a Bieniemy 66-yard run in the final stanza to rally the Buffs to a 22-21 lead just minutes after Oregon State had gone up 21-16 on a one yard plunge by Beaver running back Brian Swanson.

Overall, Colorado moved the ball effectively, posting a total of 498 yards of total offense. The Colroado defense, meanwhile, was not in sync, as Oregon State went for 472 total yards, including 353 passing yards.

Bieniemy=s 211 yards was the fifth-best effort ever for a Colorado running back, and the normally anemic Colorado passing game put up 190 yards on a 6-for-9 passing effort by Sal Aunese. Still, the final score, which was enhanced by a ten-yard Aunese scoring run as the final gun sounded, was not the effort the Buffs had been anticipating.

Colorado was now 3-0 for the first time since 1978. The victories were sweet, but after the Fresno State blowout, the Buffs had been forced to come from behind in the fourth quarter to secure the next two wins. The win over Iowa had been unexpected and was on the road, but the win over Oregon State, which had come into the game with a 2-1 record but would win only twice more in 1988, seemed to signal that the Buffs were sliding back.

Hopefully, a rout of hapless in-state rival Colorado State would cure the team=s and prepare the Buffs for a tilt with ranked Oklahoma State in week five.

But this was Colorado. Wins never came easily.

September 24, 1994 – at Michigan                      No. 7 Colorado 27, No. 4 Michigan 26

While there is much to be said about the final six seconds of the 1994 Colorado/Michigan game, the set-up is equally important.

Both teams had the opportunity to dominate the game, but both fell short. Momentum swayed back and forth before 106,427 fans, the largest crowd to witness a Colorado football game in school history. Midway through the second quarter, the Buffs were putting on a show for the Wolverine faithful. Up 14-3, Colorado threatened to make the game a rout after Kordell Stewart hit Michael Westbrook on a 27-yard touchdown with 7:54 remaining in the half.

For the next two full quarters, however, the game was all Michigan.

Wolverine running back Tim Biakabutuka scored on a four yard run to pull Michigan to within 14-9 with 1:14 before halftime. Going for a two point conversion to pull the Wolverines to within a field goal of the Buffs, quarterback Todd Collins was intercepted by CU linebacker Matt Russell, preserving a five point lead for the Buffs.

The third quarter was a nightmare for the Buffs, as Michigan posted 17 unanswered points to take a 26-14 lead.

Less than five minutes into the quarter, Tyrone Wheatley capped a 62-yard drive with a six yard scoring run. A short field goal after the Buffs’ fumbled the kickoff return and a 65-yard bomb from Collins to receiver Amani Toomer gave the Wolverines their biggest advantage, 26-14, with just under three minutes remaining in the third. The Buffs were sluggish on offense, and the game appeared to be well in hand for the home team.

Now it was time for the Buffs to mount a comeback, but not before giving CU fans more reason to test their faith. After punting the ball away on its first four second half possessions (not including the James Kidd fumble after a Michigan kickoff), Colorado finally mounted a drive. Commencing with about eight minutes remaining in the game, Stewart methodically passed the Buffs down the field. After Stewart hit Michael Westbrook for nine yards down to the Michigan four yard line, the Buffs had a first-and-goal. Yes, CU was down 12 points, but now they were at point blank range, and still over five minutes remained on the game clock. Plenty of time for two scores and a victory.

Then, the unthinkable happened.

Stewart took off over the right end. Lunging for the goal line, Stewart lost possession of the ball. Stewart’s fumble was recovered by Michigan, with the Wolverines given a touchback and the ball at their 20-yard line. To add insult to injury, an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against CU gave the Wolverines the ball at their 35.

“What a crusher that is”, said ABC play-by-play legend Keith Jackson. 5:08 remained, but the considered opinion of virtually everyone watching the game was that the Buffs’ chances for a comeback had just been fumbled away.

But someone forgot to tell the Buffs, especially their defense. Three runs netted Michigan four yards, but cost CU two precious time outs in an effort to stop the clock. After a short punt return by Chris Hudson, CU had the ball at their own 28-yard line.

Now the fun would begin.

3:52 remaining – Michigan 26, Colorado 14 – Colorado ball at its own 28-yard line

After two scrambles and a fumbled pitch out of bounds by Stewart, Salaam cut up the left side for 12 yards and a first down to the Buffs’ 48-yard line. “Make no mistake,” said ABC commentator Bob Greise after Salaam’s run. “There is plenty of time for the Buffaloes to score two touchdowns.” A swing pass to Salaam gave the Buffs’ another first down at the Michigan 40. Two passes to tight end Christian Fauria gave CU another first at the UM 24. 2:37 now remained in the contest. After an incomplete pass, Stewart kept the ball on an option to the left for 21 yards to the Michigan three. First and goal, Colorado. “The only way to stop this team is if they stop themselves,” noted Greise about the Buffs.

On the next play, a Kordell Stewart pass to the corner of the endzone intended for Michael Westbrook was too high, but Michigan had too many players on the field. The penalty moved the ball to the Michigan one yard line. A pitch to Salaam took care of the final yard. Neil Voskeritchian’s kick was true, and the Buffs were back to within five points, 26-21.

The Buffs’ subsequent onsides kick attempt was easily recovered by receiver Mercury Hayes, and it appeared that Colorado and its fans would spend much of the evening grousing about what could have been, and wondering how far the Buffs would fall in the polls the next morning.

2:16 remaining – Michigan 26, Colorado 21 – Michigan ball at the CU 45-yard line

All that remained for the Wolverines to do was to pick up one first down and end the game. On third and seven, the Buffs jumped offsides, giving Michigan an easier attempt at a game-ending first down. The Wolverines, however, responded in kind with a false start, moving the ball back. After some discussion, five precious seconds were returned to the stadium clock. A three-yard run by Biakabutuka into the line gave Michigan a fourth-and-four at the CU 39-yard line. Twenty one seconds remained. Chris Hudson called for a fair catch of the short punt at the CU 15-yard line.

:14 remaining – Michigan 26, Colorado 21 – CU ball at its own 15-yard line.

No real question about what had to happen now. Stewart dropped back, hitting Michael Westbrook for 21 yards to the CU 36-yard line. The game clock stopped automatically with the first down. The Buffs hurried up to the line of scrimmage, where Stewart immediately spiked the ball to stop the clock.

:06 remaining – Michigan 26, Colorado 21 – CU ball at its own 36-yard line

The 1994 College Football Play of the Year. One of the greatest single plays in college football history. After spiking the ball to stop the clock, Stewart jogged over towards the CU bench for the play call. He made it only half way before being waved back. “Jets, Rocket, Victory” was the play call. In CU football parlance, “Jets” refers to the receivers, “Rocket” means “go long”. (”Victory” apparently means “I hope someone from our team catches the ball”).Three receivers lined up on the left side, Westbrook, Rae Carruth, and Blake Anderson, while James Kidd lined up on the right. “If I were the defense, I’d have a few more guys over there”, said Bob Greise at the snap, referring to the lack of Michigan defensive backs at the line of scrimmage. Most of the Michigan secondary was already thirty yards downfield, awaiting the Stewart bomb.

Dancing behind the line of scrimmage long enough for his receivers to get downfield, Stewart launched the ball from his own 27-yard line. The moment was played out before over 100,000 in attendance, and millions on television. ABC’s Keith Jackson, everyone’s favorite play-by-play man, captured the moment:

“Stewart, with time,” called Jackson.

“Let’s it go …“

“He’s got three people down there …“

“The ball’s up in the air …“

“CAUGHT! TOUCHDOWN!! CAUGHT BY WESTBROOK FOR A TOUCHDOWN!!!“

“INCREDIBLE!!!!”

A few moments passed. Shock was quickly replaced by the reality of the play, as Jackson regained control. “There is no time remaining,” noted Jackson as the television screen alternated between CU players’ jubilation and Michigan players’ disbelief. “There are no flags on the field. Only despair for the maize and blue.”

Colorado 27, Michigan 26.

Keith Jackson makes his call on YouTube

CU/Michigan Post Game

“I don’t care what anyone says”, said Christian Fauria in the post-game celebration. “That was divine intervention.” There were six Michigan defenders back when CU receiver Blake Anderson jumped up for the ball with Michigan free safety Chuck Winters. The ball was tipped back up into the air before falling into the waiting arms of Michael Westbrook. “The ball hit my hand,” said Winters. “I definitely hit it”, said Anderson, the son of former CU and NFL great Dick Anderson. “Westbrook was behind me. That’s a designated play. I just went up and tipped it.”

Colorado head coach Bill McCartney didn’t believe that Stewart’s pass would even travel as far as the end zone. “I was watching our receivers”, said McCartney. “hoping for a penalty. I thought we needed some more yards.”

As for Stewart, who rated the play’s chances at “Fifty-fifty”, was seventy yards away when the ball returned to earth. “All I saw was this big muscular arm hit the ball, and then I saw somebody fall down, and then I heard the crowd get quiet, and it looked like a big old truck just swept our whole sideline onto the field.” Stewart, who on the play became Colorado’s all-time career touchdown pass leader, “tried to yell” as he ran down the field, “but my Adam’s apple kept coming up in my throat.”

“IN-CREDIBLE!!!!”

Yelling was not a problem in Bozeman, Montana.

I did not hear Keith Jackson’s words after the tipped ball fell into Westbrook’s arms as I was too busy yelling myself. At the time, my yells were heard as far away as Grand Junction, Colorado. Not because my screams could be heard 500 miles away, but because I was on the phone with Brad G. at the time. I do not remember who called who, but I do remember Brad and I commiserating on the phone as the final moments unfolded.

The call was made after the Stewart fumble, when it appeared the game had been lost. It continued as the Buffs slowly crawled back into contention, and was silent as we waited for the final gun “Last play”, we noted, fully expecting to get back to our dissection of the loss a few seconds later. Four turnovers and 102 yards in penalties had doomed the Buffs. Or so we had thought.

When Westbrook came down with the ball, I screamed at Brad, I screamed at the television. Even my wife, Lee, who was watching the game with me (albeit impatiently – the game was running long, and we were late for a party), started screaming. It was unbelievable. CU was back in the National Championship hunt!

I watched the video from the game over and over again, relishing the final play. I guess you could say that I may have watched it too many times, as several months later, during halftime of our Super Bowl party, I brought out the tape to show our guests. The worn tape broke. (Fortunately, the tear came during the portion of the tape showing Michigan’s punt with 21 seconds remaining. The important portion of the tape was preserved!).

Buff fans celebrate the "Miracle at Michigan"
Buff fans celebrate the “Miracle at Michigan”

No rest for the weary. CU was 3-0, up to #5 in the polls, and the talk of the nation. But the Texas Longhorns, 3-0 and ranked 16th, wanted their own share of the nation’s attention. The Buffs only had seven days to celebrate, recuperate, and prepare for the showdown in Austin.

– Game Notes –

– The 106,427 on hand for the “Miracle at Michigan” represented the first crowd of over 100,000 to witness a Colorado football game. The previous high for a Colorado road game was also against Michigan, when 91,203 were on hand for a game against the Wolverines in 1974.

– Kordell Stewart had 379 yards of total offense against Michigan (294 passing; 85 rushing), the third-highest total in CU history.

– Kordell Stewart’s pass attempts (32), completions (21), and passing yards (294) were all season highs, as was Michael Westbrook’s 157 yards receiving.

– Rashaan Salaam’s 141 yards rushing (on 22 carries) and Michael Westbrook’s 157 yards receiving (on seven catches) marked just the 12th-time in Colorado history in which the Buffs had a 100-yard rusher and a 100-yard receiver in the same game.

– On defense against the Wolverines, the Buffs were led by junior safety Donnell Leomiti, who had 12 tackles. Linebacker Ted Johnson and safety Steve Rosga both posted ten tackles on the afternoon. Johnson would go on to be awarded first-team All-Big Eight honors in 1994, to go with second-team All-American accolades from the Associated Press. Rosga and Leomiti both earned second-team All-Big Eight recognition.

– The loss to No. 7 Colorado only dropped No. 4 Michigan to seventh place, while the Buffs moved up to No. 5 in the AP poll. Losses to No. 3 Penn State and unranked Wisconsin would drop the Wolverines as low as No. 20 in the polls, with a loss to No. 22 Ohio State in the regular season finale sending 7-4 Michigan State to the Holiday Bowl. There, the Wolverines met and defeated No. 10 Colorado State, 24-14, to end 1994 with an 8-4 record and a No. 12 position in the final poll.

Here is a YouTube video of the game, with an hour’s worth of highlights …

BuffsTV – KOA’s Mark Johnson interviews Kordell Stewart:

–-

September 24, 2005 – at Miami           No. 12 Miami 23, Colorado 3

Miami quarterback Kyle Wright passed for 264 yards and a touchdown, and ran for another score, leading No. 12 Miami to a methodical 23-3 dismantling of Colorado.

The Buffs turned the ball over three times against the Hurricanes, and committed seventeen penalties, wilting in the 86-degree Florida heat (with 70 percent humidity). Mason Crosby’s 58-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter avoided the shutout, allowing Colorado to become only the 12th team in NCAA history to score in 200 consecutive games.

The result of the contest was not always a foregone conclusion. The Buffs took their opening possession inside the Miami 10-yard line. From a first-and-goal at the seven, however, the Buffs sputtered, eventually missing a field goal attempt from 28 yards out. It was the first miss from inside of 40 yards in Mason Crosby’s career.

The Colorado defense kept the Buffs in the game throughout most of the first half, forcing Miami into field goal attempts. The score was 6-0 midway through the second quarter when Kyle Wright hit receiver Sinorice Moss on a 53-yard score to make the Hurricane advantage 13-0 at halftime.

Joel Klatt, who was not sacked on the afternoon, but was rushed, harried, and hit throughout the game, was intercepted for a second time midway through the third quarter. The CU defense, which held Miami to 394 total yards, forced another field goal, limiting the Hurricane lead to 16-0.

The Buffs’ final opportunity to make a game of it came early in the fourth quarter. Trailing by two scores, Colorado took over on the Hurricane 45-yard line. After gaining only four yards in three plays, the Buffs settled for a Mason Crosby 58-yarder. Miami then took the ensuing kickoff and put together an 80-yard drive, culminated by a Wright two-yard run, to end the scoring and the Buffs’ hopes for a comeback.

“I thought our defense played valiantly,” said Gary Barnett, trying to find a silver lining in a 23-3 defeat. “Overall,” said defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz, “I think we were better against the run against a quality team than we’ve been in a while.” Still, the Buffs were now 2-1 on the season. “It is kind of tough, but it is a team loss,” said linebacker Jordon Dizon. “We inspire the offense, the offense inspires us.”

The stats sheet didn’t look all that bad. The Buffs had 331 yards of total offense, held onto the ball for 33:41, and held the opposition under 400 total yards of offense for the third consecutive game (CU surrendered an average of 452 yards/game in the three 2004 non-conference games).

That was the consoling news.

At the same time, the Buffs committed 17 penalties, second highest total in school history, for 99 yards. Colorado turned the ball over three times to none for Miami, and the Buffs failed to sack Wright, who had been sacked 14 times in the previous two games. On third down, CU was successful on only five-of-18 attempts.

“We don’t have any reasons for it,” said Barnett, “We just made a million mistakes and you can’t do that and beat this team.”

Up next for Colorado was Oklahoma State, 3-0 on the season.

The Cowboys were undefeated under new head coach Mike Gundy, but had been unimpressive in getting there. After opening with a 15-10 win over Division 1-AA Montana State, Oklahoma State had lackluster wins over Division 1-A newcomer Florida Atlantic and over Arkansas State.

If the Buffs were to rebound and open Big 12 Conference play on the road against a Southern Division team not named Baylor, Oklahoma State would be the choice.

Having lost nine games in a row to Southern Division teams (including a loss to Baylor), the Buffs had to regroup and look forward. With difficult games against Texas A&M and Texas up next, Colorado needed a win if winning the Big 12 North was to be a realistic expectation.

Statement Game

This was supposed to be it.

The breakthrough game which would put Colorado back on the national college football map. The Buffs had been on the outside looking in at the Top 25 rankings, hovering around No. 32, since the beginning of the season. After a come-from-behind win over Colorado State, matched with an impressive overall win over New Mexico State, the Buffs were a statement win away from regaining national prominence.

The Miami game gave Colorado just such an opportunity. The Hurricanes were ranked No. 12, but seemed vulnerable. After an opening loss to rival Florida State, Miami had escaped with a three overtime win over Clemson. A play away from being 0-2, the Miami offense was led by a new quarterback, and the swagger long associated with the Hurricanes had been diminished. Despite a beautiful Saturday afternoon (albeit warm and humid by Boulder standards), only 51,228 bothered to show up in the 72,319-seat Orange Bowl to watch the home team. A Colorado victory would vault the Buffs into the Top 25 for the first time in over two years.

The players and coaches knew it, too. Before the game, senior linebacker Akarika Dawn said, “It’s a statement game for this university and this program if you beat a Top-15 team. Beating a name like Miami means a whole lot.” Echoed senior quarterback Joel Klatt, “I think it’s important to most of us because of exactly what it provides the whole program. Hopefully, we go down there and put together a solid effort and get recognized on a national stage where we feel we belong.”

Splat.

Just like every other year under Gary Barnett, the Buffs faltered against a name program. Falling to 1-7 against Top 15 teams over the past three seasons, Colorado again became an after-thought in national conversations. Even if the Buffs were to win against Oklahoma State on the road and against a dangerous Texas A&M team at home the following week, (and they were big “ifs”, looking at the mistakes made at Miami) the Buffs would likely only be back on the cusp of respect – only to face another Top-15 (and perhaps Top-5) team in Texas at Austin.

And another likely double-digit loss for the program.

Glass half full, or half empty?

On the one hand, the Buffs had won three of the past four Big 12 North titles. Despite being 4-4 in conference play in 2004, the Buffs won when they had to, something that Nebraska, Iowa State, and Missouri couldn’t claim. The defense was improving, and had a good supply of young talent. The kicking game was second to none in the nation (though hearing commentators dismiss Torp’s and Crosby’s success as being altitude related was getting tiresome). Hugh Charles showed signs of becoming a great back. The rest of the Big 12 North was stagnant as well, giving the Buffs the opportunity to claim a fourth title in five years.

On the other hand, the Buffs were not a national program any longer. The talent just wasn’t there, and that got back to recruiting. One need look no further than Barnett’s first full class, the recruiting class of 2000. Both of the name recruits from that season had turned into disasters. Hearing the names Marcus Houston and Craig Ochs caused most Colorado fans to blanche. Long before the recruiting scandals, the Buffs were mired in the 30’s and 40’s when it came to national recruiting rankings. The overall talent was not there to compete with Texas and Oklahoma in conference, or Florida State or Miami out of conference.

And that’s where the Buffs were in September, 2005. A better team on paper than the 8-5 over-achieving squad of 2004, there was still much work to be done. The offense lacked a big play receiver, allowing the opposition to key on the Buff tight ends and running game. The defense was improved, though still susceptible to the long completion. And the schedule worked against the Buffs, giving Colorado three Southern Division opponents to start conference play. A 2-4, 0-3 start was a distinct possibility. That would likely be too great a hole to climb out of to win any titles, even with all five North Division teams still to play.

The Miami game was a statement game. The statement made was that Colorado was not a national player.

The Oklahoma State game was also to be a statement game.

The issue was whether the Buffs were to be a player in the North Division race.

September 24, 2011 – at Ohio State          Ohio State 37, Colorado 17

On a beautiful fall day in Columbus, Ohio, the Buckeye fans found their quarterback of the future … while Colorado fans continued to be haunted by their past.

True freshman quarterback Braxton Miller made his first career start for Ohio State, and did just enough to lead the Buckeyes to a 37-17 victory before a crowd of 105,096. Miller completed only five of 13 passes for 83 yards, but had two touchdowns passes on the day. Miller also contributed 83 yards rushing, making life difficult for a Colorado defense forced into pressure situations all afternoon.

“We have a long way to go as a program,” first-year coach Jon Embree said. “We have a long way to go from the standpoint of getting to where we are competing and not hoping to upset an Ohio State.”

For Colorado, senior quarterback Tyler Hansen went 22-of-39 for 238 yards and two touchdowns, and the Buffs were close to the Buckeyes in total yards, 336-314, but the numbers belie the fact that the Buffs were never in the game.

The afternoon started off poorly for the Buffs … and then went downhill. A 45-yard kickoff return by Jordan Hall on the opening kickoff was offset by a penalty, but the starting position of the 40-yard line was indicative of how the day would go for the Ohio State offense. On the day, the Buckeyes average starting field position for their drives was the Colorado 47-yard line.

The Colorado defense held on the Buckeyes’ first possession, but the Colorado offense needed only 21 seconds to throw three incompletions and return the ball to Ohio State.

Then, the play of the game (or at least as close to a play of the game as you can get in a rout) … Colorado freshman punter Darragh O’Neill punted rugby style, with the punt going only a short distance before hitting an Ohio State player. While the play of the game in the Colorado State game had resulted in a Buff fumble recovery, in Columbus the ball was recovered by Ohio State.

Taking over at the Colorado 43-yard line, Ohio State needed only seven plays to take the lead for good. The Buckeyes, who completed only four passes the previous week in a 24-6 loss to Miami, didn’t need to throw the ball even once on the drive, pushing the Colorado defense backward, culminated in a one-yard touchdown run by Jordan Hall midway through the first quarter. Ohio State 7, Colorado 0.

On the Buffs’ next possession, the Colorado offense did something it hadn’t done in nine quarters of play … turn the ball over. A mixup between quarterback Tyler Hansen and running back Rodney Stewart resulted in a fumble at the Colorado 22-yard line.

The Colorado defense, aided by a sack by linebacker Josh Hartigan, held, forcing Ohio State to settle for a 28-yard field goal. Still, a two score advantage was gained by the Buckeyes with 4:49 still to play in the first quarter. Ohio State 10, Colorado 0.

Another three-and-out for the Colorado offense punctuated another frustrating first quarter for the Colorado offense. At the end of the stanza, the Ohio State offense had the ball and ten points, while the Colorado offense had yet to earn a first down.

Before Colorado earned its first first down, the score was up to 17-0. The Buckeyes’ third scoring drive covered only 46 yards, with quarterback Braxton Miller picking up his first touchdown pass of the day, this one covering 32 yards to Devin Smith. Ohio State 17, Colorado 0.

Down three scores, the Colorado offense finally came to life. The Buffs put together a ten-play, 83-yard drive, highlighted by 19-yard pass from Hansen to Paul Richardson and a 24-yard pass from Hansen to senior tight end Ryan Deehan. On fourth-and-one at the Ohio State 11-yard line, Colorado head coach Jon Embree eschewed a field goal attempt, deciding to go for a first down. Rather than try and cover a yard on the ground, the Buffs opted to try a pass. A scrambling Tyler Hansen lofted the ball into the Ohio State endzone, finding senior wide receiver Toney Clemons for an 11-yard score and some new life for the Buffs. Ohio State 17, Colorado 7.

Continue reading game story here

Skull Sessions … 

Part One:

In 1932, Ohio State music director Eugene J. Weigel decided he wanted to enhance the Buckeye band’s performance. By having members completely memorize music before each week’s game, Weigel felt that the bandsmen could concentrate more on the marching maneuvers without sacrificing the music.

Weigel then scheduled a final rehearsal of the music before game time so the band could play and think through the show one last time – one last “Skull Session.”

In the old Rehearsal Hall there was room for a few hundred parents and fans to sit in on the skull session and listen. Eventually, watching this rehearsal became so popular that tickets were issued to bandsmen to make sure their parents had seats.

After a new basketball arena was built in 1957, director Jack Evans requested its use for the last rehearsal before game time. OSU Athletic Director Richard Larkins was happy to oblige, as he was eager to show off the new facility. The Skull Session was later changed to a concert/pep rally atmosphere, and that tradition continues today.

While in Columbus for the weekend, we were told on several occasions by local fans that we needed to check out the “Skull Session”. So, about two hours before kickoff, we walked into the now old basketball arena (a new one opened a few years ago). Hanging from the rafters were banners from old basketball titles, including the 1960 national championship (a team which included John Havlicek, Jerry Lucas, and a sub by the name of Bobby Knight). A crowd of around 10,000 was on hand, just to watch the band practice.

But it was more than a practice. The football team, all dressed in suits, paraded through the gym. A local high school band performed. A young conductor of around age eight or nine led the “Best Damned Band in the Country”. The band, while running through its playlist for the game, even played the CU fight song (nice touch).

Continue reading Essay No. 1 here

Band of Brothers … 

I never served in the military.

In fact, my exposure to the armed forces has largely been limited to my childhood facination with General George S. Patton (the movie, Patton, was my first R-rated movie), and dozens of movies like The Dirty Dozen, Midway, and the Longest Day.

While I cannot profess to understand what it is like to be under fire, or have my fate rest in the hands of others, going to an away game, at least at some level, has a similar feel.

You are surrounded.

In Columbus, we will be out-numbered in Ohio Stadium by a ratio of about 25-1. The stadium holds over 100,000 fans, and while the Buffs did sell out their allotment of 4,000 seats, we will definitely be in enemy territory.

I’ve felt this feeling before, from Lincoln to Seattle, in Austin and in College Station. In Columbus, though, the numbers seem to be even more over-whelming. Enrollment at the campus of The Ohio State University (and don’t you dare leave out the “The”), is over 56,000. Graduation last spring included 9,500 caps and gowns (which is a large number of new ticket buying alumni each spring).

Other campuses (“campi” for those who have taken Latin) I have been too have a feel similar to Boulder’s quad and Varsity pond. I don’t get that feeling at Ohio State. It’s more like a midwest industrial assembly line, with the school cranking out graduates at an alarming rate.

Which was why the gathering at the Varsity Club on Friday night was so much fun. There, Colorado fans dominated the room. Black-and-gold was the order of the day, and there was safety in numbers. Chip was there, along with the CU dance team and/or cheerleaders (I’m too old to be able to tell the difference). Colorado athletic director Mike Bohn and Chancellor Phil DiStefano worked the room. I was able to chat with the AD, and introduce the Chancellor, who is a West Viriginia and Ohio State graduate, to my wife, an Ohio State alumna, and my mother, who attended West Virginia (Note: I’m not name-dropping. Though I have met Mike Bohn and Phil DiStefano at a number of these road game occassions, I would be very surprised if either man could pick me out of a lineup).

Continue reading Essay No. 2 here

September 24, 2016 – at Oregon          Colorado 41, Oregon 38

Red-shirt freshman quarterback Steven Montez threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns in his starting debut, leading Colorado to a 41-38 victory over Oregon. Montez also ran for 135 yards and a score as the Buffs raced out to leads of 23-7 and 33-17 before needing an Ahkello Witherspoon interception in the end zone with 48 seconds remaining to preserve the victory.

Devin Ross had 153 yards and a touchdown receiving, with the Buffs rolling to 593 total yards overall. The victory was the first for the Buffs over the Ducks since joining the Pac-12, and the first overall since defeating Oregon in the 1998 Aloha Bowl.

“I would say this is a signature win,” said MacIntyre, whose team was 0-5 against the Ducks since joining the league. “These kids believe they can beat anybody.”

With senior kicker Diego Gonzalez out for the season, even the kickoff against Oregon brought drama, but true freshman walk-on kicker Davis Price sent the opening kickoff into the end zone, keeping the explosive Duck return team from making a play.

The Colorado defense forced a quick three-and-out from the Oregon offense, with the Buffs setting up at their own 20-yard line. On first down, red-shirt freshman quarterback Steven Montez, making his first career start, hit Bryce Bobo for a 16-yard gain. A pair of short completions to Devin Ross set up a 33-yard run by Phillip Lindsay down to the Oregon 20 yard line. After Montez kept the ball for a pair of runs down to the one yard line, Lindsay took it in for a 7-0 CU lead four minutes into the game.

The Buffs held the Duck offense to another three-and-out, including a sack by Samson Kafovalu, with the CU offense taking over on the Oregon 47. A Montez connection with running back Kyle Evans netted 21 yards on a third-and-13 to keep the drive alive, with Evans getting four straight carries thereafter (for 22 yards), before the Buff drive stalled at the Oregon six yard line. The Buff Nation held its breath when Chris Graham came on to attempt a 24-yard field goal, but the kick was good, giving Colorado a 10-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

The Oregon offense, known for striking quickly, did just that on their third opportunity. A 50-yard run by Tony Brooks-James got the ball to the red zone, with Taj Griffin scoring from a yard out two plays later. Just like that – in 1:19 of game clock – it was a 10-7 game.

The Buff offense was not intimidated, however, piecing together a 13-play, 87-yard drive to retake the momentum. A pair of 16-yard passes from Montez, one to Phillip Lindsay and the other to Jay MacIntyre, pushed the ball deep into Oregon territory. A seven-yard connection from Montez to Shay Fields made it a 16-7 game in the final minute of the first quarter (with the Chris Graham extra point being blocked to keep it a nine-point lead.

Oregon could not respond on its next possession, with the Buff offense continuing to make plays on its end. A 61-yard pass from Montez to Devin Ross set the Buffs up at the Duck five yard line, with Montez doing the honors from three yards out. Suddenly, just three minutes into the second quarter, it was a 23-7 game.

Continue reading story here

Here is the YouTube video of the play of the game …

And here are some other YouTube highlights of the game, courtesy of BuffsTV:

Halfway There … 

Colorado went 1-0 this week.

That’s it. Nothing more. Nothing less.

It’s been the mantra of the Colorado football coaching staff all year. “Go 1-0 this week”. “Colorado is the most important team on the schedule”. “Play your own game; ignore the logos on the helmets of the opposition”.

The players have been very consistent in re-stating this lesson through the first month of the season. Sure, the Colorado State game was a big win, but it was just one victory. Idaho State and Michigan? Identical opponents in the eyes of the Buffs.

The 41-38 victory over Oregon was just one victory … Colorado went 1-0 in Eugene on Saturday.

The Buffs are now 3-1. Halfway to the bowl eligibility which has eluded them since 2007.

Just another game.

Yet they … and we … know better.

This was a statement game, and even the CU coaches and players couldn’t help but take note.

Continue reading game Essay here

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