CU Games of the Day – September 25th

September 25th … CU has an 0-3 record on this date over the past 40 years, but each game was meaningful in its own way … 1982: CU’s second-only loss to Wyoming (first since 1935) … 1993: The “brawl” game against Miami brings the Buffs national attention of a different kind … 1999: The Buffs get a shot at their former coach in Seattle, but can’t hand Rick Neuheisel what would have been an embarrassing loss … 

  • 1982: Wyoming 24, Colorado 10 … Buffs came into the game against the Cowboys with 21-1-1 record in the series, so the loss was not only an indication of how poor the team was playing in the early 1980’s, but a real embarrassment … 
  • 1993: No. 3 Miami 35, Colorado 29 … The game is remembered most for the brawl between the teams late in the second quarter, but, if the CU comeback from a 28-6 deficit had been completed, it would have been remembered more fondly … Essay: “Taking Lee to Boulder”, the story of taking my future wife to Boulder for the first time … 
  • 1999: Washington 31, Colorado 24 …  The Buffs chance to take it to their former coach Rick Neuheisel falls short in Seattle … Essay: “Hounded” – The loss to CU’s former coach, nine months after he left Boulder, hurt more than just the players … 

Check out the stories for all three games below …

September 25, 1982 – Boulder           Wyoming 24, Colorado 10

While Colorado and its neighbor 100 miles to the north hadn’t played since 1975, there seemed little reason for the Buff faithful to be concerned about continuing the domination Colorado had over the Wyoming Cowboys from the Western Athletic Conference. After all, a Colorado football team hadn’t lost to Wyoming since 1935, with an overall record of 21-1-1 against the Cowboys.

But this was 1982, and there were no certain wins.

Colorado had its chances, as Wyoming turned the ball over on fumbles each of its first three possessions. The Buffs could not take advantage, however, posting only one Tom Field goal. In fact, the Buffs’ offense came within 56 seconds of completing its second consecutive game without a touchdown, only obtaining a consolation score in the last minute of the Wyoming game to make the final score a more respectable 24-10.

Steve Vogel was ineffective – at best – completing only 11-of-34 passes with three interceptions (one of which was returned for a touchdown in the second quarter). The defense, again, had played well enough to register a win, but it was tough to win a game when the offense was surrendering points and failing to register any of its own.

Coach McCartney did not point fingers at his offense, instead taking the blame. “What you saw out there was a case of being out-coached, not out-played”, said McCartney. “I think everyone has a right to expect us to be able to execute by now, and we didn’t. You’ve got to be productive, and we were not.”

Colorado was now 1-2 in McCartney’s inaugural season. With two top ten teams coming to Boulder in the next two weeks, the future – which had appeared bright just seven days earlier, after the shutout of Washington State – did not appear bright for the young Buff squad.

– Game Notes … 

– Linebacker Ray Cone registered the same tackle total for the second week in succession. Against both Washington State and Wyoming, Cone posted 19 tackles. In each game, he had eight solo tackles and 11 assisted tackles.

– The Colorado offense was held under 300 yards for the third consecutive game, going for only 261 total yards against Wyoming.

– Red-shirt freshman quarteback Craig Keenan scored the Buffs’ only touchdown – a one-yard keeper late in the game. Keenan had only two rushing attempts, and one unsuccessful passing attempt, in his freshman season.

– The only previous loss to Wyoming came in 1935, a 6-0 shutout (the teams played to a 13-13 tie in 1926). Colorado’s record against Wyoming (24-2-1 after a 24-0 victory in 2009) is the best for Colorado against any opponent the Buffs have faced more than five times.

– Wyoming, which came to Boulder with a 1-2 record, did not receive much of a boost from the win over the Buffs. The Cowboys went on to finish the 1982 season with a 5-7 overall record, 2-6 in Western Athletic Conference play.

September 25, 1993 – Boulder           No. 3 Miami 35, No. 13 Colorado 29

The Miami Hurricanes came into the 1993 game against Colorado in Boulder with a 2-0 record, having only surrendered nine points in their first two contests.

Miami’s record and dominant defense were not surprises. Over the previous ten seasons, the Hurricanes had posted four national championships, three near-misses, a 107-14 (89%) record, and a Top Ten ranking for 122 consecutive polls. Still, the Hurricanes, like the Buffs, were replacing a number of defensive starters. If the 2-1 Buffs were have any hope for a national title for themselves, it had to start with an upset win at home against Miami.

It was not meant to be.

The Buffs stormed back from a 28-6 deficit to pull within six points late in the game, 35-29, but could not score from inside the Hurricane 20-yard line with under one minute remaining.

The hotly-contested game, played before 52,391 Colorado faithful and a national ABC television audience, was all Miami in the first half. The Hurricanes rolled to a 21-6 halftime lead behind the running of Miami fullback Donnell Bennett and the passing of quarterback Frank Costa.

Still, despite what the scoreboard may have indicated, the Buffs did put up a fight in the first half of the contest.

It just wasn’t while the clock was running.

After a 25-yard touchdown pass from Frank Costa to C.T. Jones put Miami up 21-6 late in the second quarter, a bench-clearing brawl ensued on the Miami kickoff. Both teams were assessed personal fouls, and several players (including Buffs’ wide receiver Michael Westbrook and cornerback Dennis Collier) were ejected.

No one accepted responsibility for starting the fight, but everyone had something to say. Buffs’ coach Bill McCartney: “I couldn’t tell in all the melee who was right and who was wrong …. I hate to see it”. Miami head coach Dennis Erickson: “I’m not proud of it, our football team is not proud of it …. It’s just unfortunate that it ever happened.”

The fight, which took place with only 20 seconds remaining in the first half, did not serve to immediately inspire the Buffs. With 10:07 remaining in the third quarter, the score stood at 28-6, Miami, after Costa hit receiver A.C. Tellison for a 37-yard score.

With 8:50 remaining in the game, the score was 35-15, and there was no reason to believe that the Buffs could do anything but try to make the score respectable.

Then the Buffs caught fire.

Kordell Stewart teamed up with Charles E. Johnson on a seven-yard pass to cut the lead to 35-22 with 6:34 left. Everyone knew it was time for an on-sides kick. Although Miami was prepared, Mitch Berger’s pooch was recovered by Deren Tadlock and the Buffs had new life.

Taking just five plays and only 1:29 off of the game clock, the Buffs marched 36 yards, culminating in a five-yard touchdown run by James Hill.

The new score: 35-29, with just over five minutes still left to play.

Needing the ball back as the Hurricanes chewed up the remaining clock, junior cornerback Chris Hudson came up with a huge play, stripping Miami running back James Stewart of the ball with 2:07 remaining.

Folsom Field was in a frenzy … There was still plenty of time remaining to complete a miracle fourth quarter rally from a 20-point deficit.

Stewart immediately hit Johnson for 22 yards, then connected with Lamont Warren for 25 more.

First-and-ten at the Miami 17-yard line.

After Rashaan Salaam gained six yards to the 11, the officials made the call of the game. Sophomore guard Heath Irwin was called for a very rare offensive face mask penalty, negating Salaam’s gain. The call resulted in an 18-yard loss in yardage to the Buffs. Three plays later, Stewart’s pass to Johnson inside the ten yard line was broken up, and the Buffs were 2-2.

After the game, talk centered on the brawl and the officiating.

“I thought I hit his mask,” said Irwin of his crucial penalty. “I pulled away. I’ve been taught to pull (the opponent’s) hand back, and that’s what I did.” Colorado athletic director Bill Marolt was outraged. Reflecting on the nine penalties (for 106 yards) assessed against the Buffs, Marolt called the officiating crew, who were all from the Big East Conference, an “embarrassment to college football. It was an embarrassment to the integrity of the game.”

Bill McCartney, when asked whether he expected to “get some of those calls (from the officials) on your home field”, diplomatically responded: “You said it all. You answered your own question.”

Whether the loss was to be blamed on the officials or the defense, which was showing the signs of its lack of experience, the fact was that the Buffs were now 2-2 and out of the national championship hunt. Colorado’s schedule now allotted the Buffs a bye week to contemplate its future.

The 1993 season was now reduced to “only” playing for the Big Eight Conference title.

A little extra incentive could be found in the possibility that a conference title might very well result in a re-match with Miami in the Orange Bowl.

Taking Lee to Boulder

I met Lee Stadtlander on March 5, 1993 … on a blind date.

By July, Lee and I were talking about living together. When the football season kicked off, discussion of marriage had crept into our conversations. I had told Lee, though, (and only slightly tongue-in-cheek), that I would not/could not ask her to marry me until she had lived with me through a football season.

My rationale was clear: I did not want there to be any misunderstandings as to my passion for Colorado football after we were engaged. If Lee could put up with me through a football campaign and still want to be around, I reasoned, then there would be no question as to our compatibility.

One of the major hurdles was for Lee to go with me to a game in Boulder. Lee had been around me for brief periods while I watched the Texas and Stanford games on television, but there was no substitute for the real thing. Since Lee did not travel with me for the Baylor game, her first real test would be the war against Miami.

To say that Lee was (and is) not a football fan is an understatement. For evidence, I submit that Lee, when she was a graduate student at The Ohio State University, had an office inside the Ohio State football stadium. Despite this obvious opportunity, Lee never attended a football game. (All in all, it was probably for the best that Lee and I had met in March, not September.)

Driving down from Bozeman, I was concerned about how Lee would react to my “participation” in a game in Boulder. Would she see an aspect to my persona which she would not find appealing?

Heading into Folsom, though, I knew that I had a secret weapon … Brad.

It was well known to all that had ever gone to a game with Brad and I that between the two of us, Brad was the true “fanatic”. While I fashioned myself as more stoic during games, Brad was not so restrained. My logic for the Miami game was that if Lee was concerned about my behavior at a game, at least I would look tame in comparison to Brad.

And Brad did not disappoint.

Long before kickoff, Brad was in fine form. Having seats down in the north end zone, we were placed in close proximity to the Miami fans who had made the trip to Boulder. During warm-ups, Brad laid into every Miami player warming up down on the field who came within earshot. Some of the players may have been academic All-Americans, but to Brad all Miami players were “criminals” (playing off of the Hurricanes’ well-established “bad boy” image). A small group of Miami fans, a few rows away from where we were seated, got up and left, presumably leaving to take refuge in the more visitor-friendly northwest corner of the stadium.

And this was all before the opening kickoff.

The game itself was exciting (at least in the second half), and Lee was treated to a good show. She didn’t show any signs of any second thoughts during or after the game, so it appeared that she had come to terms with my love of Colorado football. Two weeks later, well before the end of the 1993 season and the end of my self-imposed moratorium on engagement, I proposed.

We were married the following July.

September 25, 1999 – at Washington           Washington 31, Colorado 24

In every 1999 preseason magazine, whenever the University of Colorado was mentioned, the game against Washington on September 25th was highlighted.

“Don’t forget that grudge match against Neuheisel and Washington in Seattle on September 25th”, reminded Street & Smith’s College Football preview.

“Most Colorado fans are focused on one opponent”, declared Preview Sports.

“Colorado State is a red-hot rivalry, but even that will be overshadowed when the Buffaloes travel to Washington three weeks later,” predicted The Sporting News.

The game was as hyped as a game between teams with 2-1 and 0-2 records could be. All that was left was for the players – those Neuheisel now coached vs. the players he once recruited – to play the game.

As college football games go, this was a good one. Neither team ever held a lead of over seven points. The game remained in doubt until the last minute, when Mike Moschetti’s fourth-and-game pass from the Husky 21-yard line was intercepted in the end zone by Anthony Vontoure, preserving a 31-24 Washington win. For most of the 72,068 on hand in Seattle, it was an exciting first victory of the Rick Neuheisel era at Washington.

For Buff fans everywhere, however, it was a bitter pill to swallow.

After a scoreless first quarter, the Huskies seized the momentum with a 14-play, 44-yard drive taking 7:17 off of the second quarter clock. While the Buffs’ defense forced Washington to earn every yard, the Huskies did finally punch it in on a one-yard run by Willie Hurst to take a 7-0 lead.

The Washington celebration was short lived, however, as Ben Kelly returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for a Colorado touchdown. Avoiding at least six tackles, Kelly quieted all but about 4,000 of the 72,068 fans in attendance at Husky Stadium.

Tied 7-7 at the half, Washington scored quickly to open the third, but the Buffs again had an answer. A 24-yard scoring run by Cortlen Johnson, who had 77 yards on 13 carries on the day, tied the score at 14-all. Moments later, linebacker Jashon Sykes forced a fumble by Washington quarterback Marques Tuiasosopo. The ball was picked up by the ever present Ben Kelly, who raced 38 yards to the endzone. With 6:09 left in the third quarter, Colorado had its first lead of the day, at 21-14.

Now it was Washington’s turn to respond. First, the Huskies connected on a 40-yard field goal to cut the lead to 21-17 late in the third quater. On their next possession, Washington took the lead, 24-21, on a 36-yard pass from Tuiasosopo to Gerald Harris.

The Buffs countered with a 29-yard field goal by Jeremy Aldrich with 8:54 remaining to again tie the score, but a 70-yard drive by Washington resulted in a touchdown with 3:17 left to play. Down 31-24, the Buffs drove as far as the Washington 21-yard line before Moschetti’s last pass fell into the wrong hands to drop the Buffs to a 2-2 record.

“The bottom line is that we had very little offense and didn’t make a lot of plays on offense,” said a disheartened Gary Barnett after the game. “The difference in the game is that they were able to run the ball.”

On the day, Washington ran for over 200 yards and held the ball for 36:27 to Colorado’s 122 yards rushing and only 23:33 of possession time.

Before the game, numerous cameras were positioned at midfield to see if Barnett and Neuheisel, who had traded barbs in the press but had not spoken privately, would engage in the pre-game banter normal for head coaches during warmups. There was a handshake, but few words. It would be left for the players to speak for their coaches on the field.

After the game, Neuheisel was congratulated by a line of Colorado players. “Rick told me he respected who I was”, said Buff junior linebacker Ty Gregorak, one of a number of Buffs to hug their former coach. “He told me to have a great season. I told him the same. And he told me not to let the media come between us.” For Gregorak, whose oft-quoted, “We’ll see you on the 25th!” comment to Neuheisel as the former Buff head coach left the players after making brief comments back in January had become the rallying cry for the Buffs’ fans, the post-game talk was cathartic. “It was important to me to have that talk,” said the junior Neuheisel had recruited from Spokane. “And the fact of the matter is, I personally had a lot of respect for Rick and his staff when he was here.”

For all of the hype about the Washington game, the fact was that Colorado was now 2-2 for the season, and not playing very well. Cornerback Ben Kelly scored two of the Buffs’ three touchdowns, so there was much concern about the offense. The defense, while keeping Colorado in the game, had failed to come up with the big play when the game was on the line in the fourth quarter. “We have to get ready for the next game,” said Barnett. “I’m disappointed for our kids, but I’m not disappointed in them.”

The season, if not the program, was at a crossroads. After a bye week, the Buffs had Missouri on the schedule. The Tigers were 3-1, but had not looked impressive in wins over minor competition and a 40-10 loss to Nebraska. After the Tigers, the Buffs had road trips to Texas Tech and Iowa State before returning home to face Oklahoma. The Red Raiders, Cyclones, and Sooners were enigmas. Texas Tech had followed up an embarrassing loss to North Texas with an upset of 5th-ranked Texas A&M. Iowa State was also 3-1, and had led Kansas State 28-7 at halftime before succumbing, 35-28. Oklahoma had raced out to a 3-0 record behind new head coach Bob Stoops, and had led Notre Dame 30-13 at South Bend before falling 34-30 to lose its first game of the year.

All four October games were winnable. All four games, if the Buffs did not wake up from the disappointing loss to Washington, could also be lost.

With November games against Kansas State and Nebraska on the horizon, the jury was still out on the 1999 Buffs.


This one hurt.

Not since walking out of the Orange Bowl in the early morning hours of January 2, 1990, just after the Buffs had let a perfect season slip away with a 20-6 Orange Bowl loss to Notre Dame, had I felt this bad.

Sure, there had been close losses to Nebraska, the CSU debacle, and a number of other defeats in the 1990’s when I felt disappointed, shocked, annoyed, and angered.

But this one actually hurt.

Perhaps a victim of all of the preseason hype, I really wanted this game against Washington. I wanted the Buffs to beat the Huskies. More to the point, I wanted our Buffs to beat Neuheisel’s Huskies.

Rick Neuheisel had dumped on the program which had given a young coach an amazing opportunity. Rather than being grateful, Neuheisel took the money and ran, leaving in his wake a decimated recruiting class and ungracious (even if warranted) comments about the inferior Colorado facilities and a lack of institutional commitment.

The trip to Seattle for the Washington game was in the works long before Neuheisel’s departure. Brad and I had planned an anniversary trip of sorts, returning 10 years after the emotional 1989 contest against the Huskies, which had been the first game for the Buffs after the death of Sal Aunese. For this trip, my friend Randy and wife Lee were coming from Bozeman, with Brad coming from Denver and our daughter Heidi coming up for the weekend from Portland.

We arrived on Thursday, and had a wonderful two days touring Seattle. I wore my CU gear proudly, and everywhere we went, there were fellow Buff fans. We were honked at as we strolled along Pike Street Market, high-fived in restaurants, and heard “Go Buffs” cheers on the ferry to Bainbridge Island. There were few Washington fans evident, and there was no verbal jousting. And why would there be? After all, Washington was 0-2 under Neuheisel, so there was little to brag about in Husky circles.

The CU Alumni Association had a great weekend planned, including a Friday night dinner at the Space Needle and a cruise and a pregame party the morning of the game.

It was all good fun … but I was there for the game.

While I am never over-confident before any Buff game (some would say I usually border on the pessimistic side), I had a good feeling about this game. The stars were seemingly aligned. Colorado had rebounded from the CSU embarrassment with two 50-point games. Washington, meanwhile, was coming off of a 6-6 campaign, was 0-2 under Neuheisel, and had more questions than answers as to its future.

The weather even cooperated for the game.

Forecasts during the week had predicted that rain showers were not only possible, but likely. Instead, we were treated to a perfect day for football. In his article about the Colorado/Washington game, entitled No Hard Feelings, Sports Illustrated’s Richard Hoffer described the scene:

“… the kind of gorgeous autumn day that frames your best memories of the sport. Soft clouds billowed in the distance, considerate not to shadow the field, and boats bobbed in Lake Union, just outside the stadium. More than 72,000 people, not all on hand to see a comeuppance, stayed on their feet as the game went back and forth – big plays breaking this way and that, the result in doubt right up to the final seconds.”

– Sports Illustrated, October 4, 1999

For college football as a whole, the game was a showcase. There were mistakes made, but there were also spectacular plays. The game was close, the setting beautiful. If there hadn’t been so much riding on the outcome, it would have been a joy to say that I had played a part.

But it hurt.

During Colorado’s bye week, Washington followed up on the victory over the Buffs with an upset of 25th-ranked Oregon, 34-20. Both Neuheisel’s Washington and Barnett’s Colorado were now 2-2 on the year, but whereas Husky fans were optimistic about the upcoming conference season (1999 was a down year for the Pac-10. Four teams had been in the preseason top 25, but by the October 4th poll, only USC, with a 3-1 record and a 22nd ranking, was left), Buff fans were worried about upcoming Big 12 battles.

Was the program, as Barnett described it after the Washington game, “one play different and we all go home hooting and hollering and it’s a good ride home”, or was it on the verge of falling into a pit of mediocrity?

The next four weeks would tell.

A 4-0 mark in October, and the bitter taste of September’s losses would be forgotten. A 3-1 record for the month, and a bowl would still be in the offing. A 2-2 record, though, and the ghosts of 1997 would be revisited, with the Buffs needing a win over Kansas State or Nebraska just be make the postseason.

Waiting through the purgatory which was the Buffs’ bye week, I had faith that the Buffs could rebound and match the 8-4 record of the previous season.

But I still hurt.


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