CU Games of the Day – September 27th

September 27th … CU has an 1-4 record on this date over the past 40 years, with some memorable personal stories.. 1980: The Buffs are routed by Lee Corso’s Indiana Hoosiers, followed by Sports Illustrated’s scathing story (“Chuck Fairbanks’ desk”) … 1986: The Buffs fall to 0-4 with a close loss to No. 10 Arizona, but wouldn’t make the same mistake again v. No. 3 Nebraska three games later … 1997: Buffs need a last second field goal to take out Wyoming, 20-19, while I’m stuck in Syracuse, New York, desperate for updates … 2008: Buffs dominated by Florida State, 39-21 … 2014: California 59, Colorado 56 (2OT) … Records aplenty are broken in a game the Buffs should have won …

  • 1980: Indiana 49, Colorado 7 … Buffs find a way to get thumped by a team coached by Lee Corso, and then get thumped by Sports Illustrated … Essay No. 1: “First home game”Essay No. 2: “Sports Illustrated – Making the Wrong Headlines” …
  • 1986: No. 10 Arizona 24, Colorado 21 … With the loss to the Wildcats, the Buffs fell to 0-4 – but the season was not over … Essay: “0-4. No Wins. No Hope” … 
  • 1997: No. 16 Colorado 20, Wyoming 19 …  The Buffs were huge favorites, but needed a Jeremy Aldrich field goal with three seconds left to beat the Cowboys. My story: I had to get updates on the game … from Syracuse … Essay: “If you will excuse me”
  • 2008: Florida State 39, Colorado 21 … According to Dan Hawkins, the Buffs “struggled” … Essay: “Patience Remains a Virtue” … 
  • 2014: California 59, Colorado 56 (2OT) … The longest game in CU history (4:01) included numerous single game records for both Sefo Liufau and Nelson Spruce … Essay: “Learning What It Takes” … 

Check out the stories for all five games below …

September 27, 1980 – Boulder           Indiana 49, Colorado 7

Fresh off the near comeback at Baton Rouge, there was at least some cause for hope against visiting Indiana.  After all, the Buffs had beaten the Hoosiers the previous year in Bloomington, 17-16.  In the 1979 game, Colorado had given Chuck Fairbanks his first win as the Buffs’ head coach.  On that day, an 0-3 CU squad had beaten a 3-0 Indiana team, and had done so on the road.  With that backdrop of cautious optimism, a crowd of 40,219 came to Folsom Field to see if the Buffs could again achieve its first win of the season against the visiting Hoosiers.

Can statistics be misleading?

How’s this:  against the visiting Hoosiers, the Buffs set a school record for time of possession.  For the game, Colorado held the ball for 42:17 of the game clock to 17:43 for Indiana.  That sounds good, at least until the remaining game statistics are considered.  In the most important statistic, the final score, Indiana rolled, 49-7.  At halftime, the score was 35-0.

Unlike the LSU game the week before, however, there would be no comeback by the Buffs.

Indiana quarterback Tim Clifford, who was voted the Most Valuable Player in the Big Ten Conference in 1979, threw for five touchdowns, a new record for a Colorado opponent.  The irony was not lost on some in the Boulder crowd that the record which was broken, that of four touchdown passes, set on October 27, 1951, was held by an Oklahoma quarterback by the name of Eddie Crowder.

The same Eddie Crowder who was now the Athletic Director for Colorado.

The same Eddie Crowder who had hired Chuck Fairbanks.

Five turnovers gave the Buffs 15 miscues in three games, but it was the Buffs’ porous defense which lost the day.  For a team to score 49 points in less than 18 minutes of possession, scoring drives had to be short, and Indiana was just that efficient.  Quarterback Tim Clifford’s stat sheet for the day:  11-14, 345 yards, five touchdowns.

Just how remarkable are Clifford’s numbers?

Clifford’s passing efficiency rating points for the day:  403.4.  Since “passing efficiency rating points” is a statistic which can only be calculated by math majors from MIT, this means little.  Compare, however, that a normal rating for a quarterback is around 100, with an exceptional quarterback rating being around 150.  Throw in the fact that Clifford’s game rating against Colorado has lasted as an NCAA single game record since 1980, and the number 403.4 speaks volumes as to the futility of the Colorado defense against the Hoosiers on the day.

First home game … 

Knowing that CU had played to a 3-8 record the year before was the first clue that there was little to expect from my first season with the Buffs.  Still, Chuck Fairbanks was “the man”, and 1980 was to be his first full season as the Colorado head coach.

When the Buffs started off by losing the first two games of 1980, talk of a quick rebound under Fairbanks was quelled, although losing to LSU in Death Valley 23-20 gave some hope.  Whatever Buff “fever” I was able to generate was enhanced by my Boulder geography – my dorm was virtually in the shadow of Folsom Field.

Libby Hall was my home for 1980-83.  Libby Hall, one of some 23 dormitories on the Colorado campus, is the dorm closest to the stadium. At the time, there was only a open field – used for frisbee and pick-up football games during the week and as a tailgate parking lot during game days – which lay between Libby Hall and Folsom Field.

The football fan in me would like to report that I chose Libby Hall when selecting a dorm due to its proximity to the stadium, when in reality Libby was my choice because:  a) it was centrally located on campus; b) there was a city in Montana named Libby; and c) I knew a Libby in Bozeman.  As I had never set foot on the CU-Boulder campus prior to applying for admission, these reasons seemed to me to be as logical as any.  (I had had the opportunity to drive through beautiful Boulder the summer before my senior year in high school.  That, when coupled with Colorado’s academic reputation, was all it took for me to decide where I wanted to go to school.)

Living in Libby Hall allowed me to watch game-day in Boulder unfold.  Late morning saw the first tailgaters arrive for the 1:00 p.m. kickoff.  The day was bright and clear.  Looking down upon the alumni (literally – living on the second floor provided an excellent view of the arriving crowd) could only bring a smirk.  “Who are these people?” we thought.  “Don’t they have lives?” “What is it with their costumes?”  Little did I know that in the not too distant future I would become one of those oddly-costumed alumni, clothed from head-to-toe in school colors, rating smiles and smirks from the most recent generation of Colorado students.

Coming from Bozeman, Montana, I felt I had seen the intensity of college football.  After all, Montana/Montana State games are bitterly contested, and eagerly anticipated.  Still, a sellout at Reno H. Sales Stadium in Bozeman means a total of around 15,000 screaming partisans.  Coming to Boulder, I had never been a part of a crowd larger than those for Bobcat/Grizzly games.  My first game as a Buff fan in Folsom Field would serve as my introduction to my first Division I-A sized crowd.

Folsom Field in Boulder is named in honor of legendary CU Coach Fred Folsom, who amassed a record of 77-23-2 over 15 seasons in Boulder.  His record for wins would stand for decades, not passed until 1993 by Bill McCartney. Folsom’s winning percentage of .765 remains tops among CU coaches with more than two years on the job.

Capacity in Folsom in 1980 was 51,748, so a crowd of 40,219 for the Indiana game was not impressive to many, but it was to this native Montanan.  Problematical that day, even for me, was the large number of fans who were clad in Indiana red for the game.  I was unaware at the time that having a disproportionate number of fans clad in red was an all too common malady in Boulder in the early 1980’s, what with the traveling fans for both Nebraska and Oklahoma all too happy to show their colors in “enemy” territory.

Despite the anticipation, the game was less than exciting.  Losing 49-7 at home is not a great way to be introduced to a football program.  Still, the atmosphere in the student section was, well, interesting.  Bare-chested in the 80-degree sunshine, the beer-swilling and beer-spilling frat boys were a constant source of amusement and entertainment as the IU rout unfolded before our eyes.  Mike Madigan of the Rocky Mountain News captured the scene in the lead story the next morning:

“With less than a quarter remaining in the Colorado-Indiana football game Saturday, CU’s student section broke out into a major beer fight.  Whether they were bored stiff or got that way on their own, they nevertheless threw everything in the air they could get their hands on.

“Indiana quarterback Tim Clifford had long before set the example.”

CU was now 0-3, and had been out-scored in the first half of its games 56-0, 20-0, and 35-0.  With 12th-ranked Oklahoma coming to town, it seemed there was little reason for anyone outside of Boulder to take an interest in the Buffs, and it seemed little could happen to make the 1980 season any worse.

I was wrong on both counts.

Sports Illustrated – Making the wrong headlines … 

The Sports Illustrated article entitled “There Ain’t No More Gold in Them Thar Hills” came out with the October 6th edition, but the story which was to come in that edition hit Boulder the week between the Indiana debacle and the Oklahoma invasion of October 4th.  It couldn’t have come at a worse time.  The program was already reeling, and this type of publicity did nothing to foster hope of future improvement.

The article was penned by longtime Boulder resident and SI writer Douglas S. Looney  (Looney also has written many other reports on college football, and incurred the wrath of Notre Dame Coach Lou Holtz and Irish fans in the late 90’s with his best seller “Under the Tarnished Dome”, written with Don Yaeger, reviewing the less than holy way Lou Holtz handled the Notre Dame program).  The secondary headline read:  “The Colorado football team is winless, the sports programs are going bust, but Chuck Fairbanks has his $50,000 office”.


Looney opened his article by setting the scene for the Indiana game:

“Here was the University of Colorado, a beautiful campus in a splendid setting, bathed in clear, dry, 80 degree weather.  Sunlight glistened off the Front Range of the Rockies, the changing aspen were at their peak of glory in the high country, and the students were everywhere, doing everything.  A collegiate Camelot.

“Whoops.  Not quite…”

Looney then proceeded to give the Sports Illustrated readers a laundry list of that which was wrong in Boulder’s paradise.  First, of course, there was the 49-7 mauling by Indiana, indicative of how bad matters had become on the field.  Then, there were the reported accusations that Athletic Director Eddie Crowder was guilty of “fiscal and administrative incompetence”, resulting in President Arnold Weber placing Crowder on “probation”.  Finally, there were the indictments of the head coach, Chuck Fairbanks.

To illustrate the financial difficulties the Colorado athletic program was facing, Looney recited how, on June 11, 1980, seven “minor” sports, including baseball, wrestling, and gymnastics, were dropped in order to help balance the athletic department’s budget.  Crowder blamed the cuts on Title IX (passed by Congress, requiring equal spending on women’s athletics) and the debt associated with the new Events/Conference Center (to be used primarily for basketball).  The image left by a picture attached to the article, though, was powerful.  The photo was of a former CU baseball player, Mike Wing, pushing a roller across an infield with the assistance of his wife in order to prepare the field for a club game.  The impression:  the little guy was being ignored in order to feed the big dog – football – at the University of Colorado.

The most chilling aspects of the article were left for the indictment of head coach Fairbanks.  There was the office, which was pictured along with the article.  It cost $50,000 to redecorate, which, as Looney pointed out, would have been more than enough to keep the gymnastics team going for a year. Fairbanks bristled at the criticism of his apparent free-spending in times of fiscal difficulties, being quoted as saying:  “I don’t even understand this line of questioning.  It chaps my ass.” Fairbanks was cited as being nicknamed “Stone” for his lack of personality, with the joke being that Fairbanks was the world’s only successful recipient of a charisma bypass operation.

“Wait a second!”  I thought as I read the article. Wasn’t this supposed to be the man who would take Colorado to the promised land of a National Championship?  CU supporters had forked over big bucks to bring Fairbanks to the Buffs, and, in return, Fairbanks was supposed to take a team on the verge of greatness and mold it into a champion.  Now the program was 0-3, hadn’t scored yet in the first half of a game, and was clinging to a ledge. All with the highly ranked Oklahoma Sooners rolling into town.

Perhaps what happened next was inevitable.

September 27, 1986 – Boulder          No. 10 Arizona 24, Colorado 21

A year earlier, the Arizona Wildcats entered the game against Colorado 3-0, only to be stunned by the Buffs, 14-13, in Tucson.  In 1986, Arizona, 3-0 once again, came to Boulder determined to record the Wildcats’ first victory over the Buffs in 13 attempts.  The tenth-ranked Wildcats would not be denied, though the hard-fought 24-21 win over the Buffs was anything but easy.  The Buffs led throughout the game, but Arizona took the lead from the Buffs when it mattered, scoring on a 67-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Alfred Jenkins to flanker Jeff Fairholm late in the fourth quarter.

For most of the day, it appeared that the Buffs would pull out their first win of the season.  Freshman halfback O. C. Oliver, who had made a name for himself in the Ohio State game in leading the team with 83 rushing yards, scored the first two touchdowns of his Colorado career, putting the Buffs up 21-12 in the third quarter on a two yard run.  Later, after freshman Jeff Campbell electrified the home crowd with a 41-yard run to the Wildcat 39, yard line, all looked good for the Buffs’ upset.

Too bad there were still 20 minutes left to play.

On the very next play, the Buffs’ offensive line, which was forced at times to play three freshmen due to injuries, broke down, enabling Arizona to force quarterback Mark Hatcher into a fumble.  The fumble led to a field goal which cut the Buffs’ lead to 21-15.

From then on, the Buffs could do little right, including two penalties near their goal line which forced punter Barry Helton on fourth down to step out of the end zone, taking a safety which cut the Buffs’ lead to 21-17.

Still, the Buffs had a four point lead, and the Buffs’ defense took the field late in the game with a great deal of confidence.  Only 6:34 remained on the game clock.  Arizona was backed up to its own nine yard line.  The Wildcats had struggled against the Buffs’ defense all day.  Four plays later, though, the Wildcats were in the lead.  The 67-yard scoring pass with 4:45 left closed out the scoring.

24-21, Arizona.

“It’s ironic,” said Arizona coach Larry Smith after the game, “that was the exactly the same pass we threw last year that they intercepted to shut us down.  It was exactly the same call.”

In 1985, the Buffs were able to make the plays they needed to at the right time, including the timely interception in Tucson.  In 1986, the Colorado Buffaloes, for the third week in a row, had failed in the fourth quarter to make the big play.

0-4. No wins. No hope?

The motto for 1986 for Colorado was, “The Buffs are Back.”

Back to what? To 1980, when the Buffs had started 0-7? Or to 1984, when the Buffs kicked off the season 0-5?  Both seasons, the Buffs finished 1-10.

The Buffs’ 7-5 record in 1985 was looking more and more like an aberration.

Bad times had returned to Colorado football.  Quarterback Mark Hatcher tried to remain upbeat.  “We know we’re a good team.  We know we’re going to win some games.  We can still repeat our season of last year.”  Hatcher was then reminded that to match the victory total of 1985, the 0-4 Buffs would likely have to defeat either top-ranked Oklahoma or third-ranked Nebraska.  “Yeah. Exactly.” was Hatcher’s response.

Beat Oklahoma or Nebraska?  The 0-4 Buffs?

Little did we know …

September 27, 1991 – Boulder            No. 16 Colorado 20, Wyoming 19

Colorado won its Homecoming game for the 14th year in a row, defeating a very game Wyoming Cowboy squad, 20-19.

It was one of the most unlikely wins in Colorado history, as the Buffs came from nine points down in the final 4:29 to escape with a much needed win.

After Wyoming had scored on an 18-yard run to take a 19-10 lead late, the Buffs needed a big play.  The big play came, courtesy of diminutive cornerback and return man Ben Kelly.  The 5’10” redshirt freshman took the Cowboy kickoff 99 yards for the score to cut the Wyoming lead to 19-17.  Kelly’s run was the first Colorado kickoff return for a touchdown since Lance Olander rumbled 86 yards for a score against Drake on October 11, 1980.

Even with Kelly’s run, Wyoming still had the ball and a 19-17 lead with less than four minutes to play.  The Cowboys were in a position to run out the clock and escape with a two point win, but running back Marques Brigham fumbled the ball while trying to run up the middle.  Linebacker Ron Merkerson scooped up the ball and thundered 33 yards to the Wyoming 25 yard line.  A nice pass from quarterback John Hessler to wide receiver Darrin Chiaverini set up kicker Jeremy Aldrich for an 18-yard field goal with three seconds left.

The final score of 20-19 left the Buffs with a 2-1 record, but many questions remained.  Wyoming was a quality opponent, having come into the game with a 3-1 record on the heels of a 10-2 campaign in 1996, but the Cowboys did not possess the talent of the Buffs.  Doing his best to be upbeat after the come-from-behind win, head coach Rick Neuheisel tried to invoke memories of the 1990 national championship team, which had stumbled to a 1-1-1 start before finishing 11-1-1:  “I know the questions are going to be, ‘What’s wrong with the Buffs?’ And we, as coaches, have to certainly evaluate from that standpoint.  But, we won a game we probably weren’t supposed to, and, as we all know – having followed sports a great deal of time -that can sometimes be as magic as anything else.  Witness a fifth-down victory against Missouri, a lot of improbable finishes that sometimes are springboards to great seasons.”

If CU was to have a “great season” in 1997, improved play would be a necessity.

“If you’ll excuse me …”

While Colorado was struggling at Folsom Field on a beautiful 81-degree day, I was in Syracuse, New York, where the weather was as dreary as the Orangemen’s 1-3 record.  I was in Syracuse for a Lions Club USA/Canada Forum.  As the incoming President of our local Lions Club, I was afforded the opportunity to attend this annual leadership conference.

All well and good, but being sent to a conference had its obligations, not the least of which was attending the Saturday night banquet.  With the Buff game kicking off at 3:30 p.m. Eastern time, I was not able to follow the game to its conclusion.  The last update I received, around 6:00 p.m. eastern time, was Wyoming 12, Colorado 10, start of the fourth quarter.

Sitting in the large banquet hall with some 3,000 other Lions Club members, I was antsy but somehow not overly worried.  Down only two with a quarter to play. Surely the Buffs would kick it into gear for the win.  After dinner was served, though, I did begin to worry – and I didn’t want to wait for another two hours to find out how the Buffs’ game turned out.

Then, fate shined upon me.  By happenstance, our table was one of the first served dinner.  After finishing off the standard roast beef fare, I looked around the room.  Some tables were still being served their meals.  It would be a good half hour at least before the program for the evening would begin.

I saw my chance.  Excusing myself from the table (I told the gathering I was going to find the restroom), I dashed out of the hall, ran down the street, and hurried into a sports bar attached to the Syracuse Hotel (a bar, for the record, named by or for former Syracuse head football coach Dick MacPherson).

Spotting a television tuned to ESPN and highlights, I focused my attention.  There was no sound from the TV, but the highlights spoke for themselves.  A few minutes passed, and the next highlight came on the screen.  It was a picture of Wyoming head coach Dana Dimel pacing on the sideline.

This is it, I thought to myself, taking a deep breath.

The first highlight was of a Wyoming running back bursting up the middle of the Colorado defense for a touchdown.  Being acutely aware that Wyoming had only scored on field goals by the time I had left my hotel room, I knew this could not be a good sign.  Doing the math, I knew that this score had put CU down at least nine points in the fourth quarter.  Fortunately, before I had the chance to curse or storm out, the next highlight, that of Ben Kelly’s kickoff return, crossed the screen.  I resumed breathing.  Hope returned.

The next highlight began similar to the first.  It was a field level shot of a Wyoming runner bursting through the center of the Colorado line.  This time, however, the runner fumbled, with CU recovering (the fumble return by Merkerson was not shown).

Final highlight.  It was an endzone shot, with the Buffs lined up for a short field goal attempt.  This, as every ESPN aficionado knows, could mean only one of two things.  Short field goal attempts are only shown to either capture a game-winning kick, or to witness a last second failure.  With Colorado’s troubles in the kicking game earlier in 1997, the shortness of the kick was of little comfort.

This time, though, the kick was true, and the screen faded to the studio scoreboard:  Colorado 20, Wyoming 19.  A fist was silently raised into the air.

I raced back to the banquet without a word to anyone – a broad grin of relief across my face.

September 27, 2008 – at Jacksonville         Florida State 39, Colorado 21

Florida State running back Antone Smith ran for 154 yards and three touchdowns in leading the Seminoles to a 39-21 win over Colorado in Jacksonville. Smith carried the ball a career high 25 times, scoring on a pair of two yard runs early and late, with a game-changing 60-yard scoring run in the second quarter as Florida State rushed for 259 yards on the day. Colorado was held to 278 yards of total offense by the Seminoles, but it was special teams play which doomed the Buffs to a third consecutive loss to Florida State.

As well as the West Virginia game opened for the Buffs (long touchdown drive, turnover by the defense, another score), the Florida State game opened just as poorly. On the game’s third play from scrimmage, CU quarterback Cody Hawkins was hit and lost the ball as he was attempting to pass. The play was ruled a fumble, setting up the Seminoles on the Colorado 27-yard line. It took Florida State only four plays to score, with Antone Smith taking the ball on each occasion, the last from two yards out. Just three minutes into the game, the Buffs were down, 7-0.

The rout would have to wait, however, as the Buffs responded with an 11-play, 82-yard drive to tie the score. Aided by a personal foul call on third-and-16, CU was able to crack the scoreboard with a 30-yard connection from Hawkins to Josh Smith. Smith, who failed to reach the endzone in 2007, scored the Buffs’ first points for the third straight game in tying the score midway through the first quarter.

For the next quarter of play, Colorado slowly took control of the game. After forcing a three-and-out from the Seminoles, the Buffs drove to the Florida State 37-yard line, where Jake Behrens was stopped a yard short on a fourth-and-three. The Colorado defense forced a fumble on the Seminoles’ next possession, and had a sure touchdown go awry when Cody Hawkins overthrew a wide open Patrick Devenny at the FSU thirty yard line.

The teams traded interceptions early in the second quarter, with a deflected pass by FSU quarterback Christian Ponder scooped up by freshman defensive lineman Curtis Cunningham. Set up at the Florida State 12-yard line, Colorado was poised to take its first lead of the contest. Three plays, though, netted only two yards, and the score remain tied at 7-7 when Aric Goodman’s 27-yard field goal attempt sailed left of the uprights.

It appeared that the two offensively challenged teams would go to the locker rooms at halftime knotted at sevens. With 2:29 to go before halftime, though, Antone Smith swept around left end for 60 yards and a go ahead score. Smith’s efforts doubled the Seminoles’ offensive output to that time, and shifted the momentum for the remainder of the game.

A comedy of errors led to five more points for Florida State before the Buffs were allowed to head off to halftime to re-group. Josh Smith misplayed the kickoff after the Antone Smith score, precariously setting up the Buffs at their own four yard line. Unable to secure a first down, Matt DiLallo was backed up against his own end line to punt. The kick was blocked out of the endzone, and the Seminoles’ lead was raised to 16-7 with the safety.

The two point play was the first against the Buffs since Nebraska tackled Mell Holliday in the endzone in 2006, and gave the ball right back to the Seminoles. Again, special teams hurt the Buffs, as the free kick was returned 41 yards to the Colorado 23 yard line. Five plays and five yards later, a 36-yard field goal gave Florida State a 19-7 halftime edge.

The game had all the appearances of turning into a rout after the Seminoles put together an opening drive which resulted in another field goal, raising the lead to 22-7, and the Buffs went three-and-out in their first possession of the second half. By the time Colorado secured its first first down of the second half, late in the third quarter, the score was up to 25-7.

The Buffs were not out of the contest, though, after an eight-play, 80-yard drive made the score 25-14 less than two minutes into the fourth quarter. Hawkins hit tight end Riar Geer from two yards out to give some hope to the 3,000 or so Colorado fans who made the trip to the River City Showdown.

Those hopes were dashed just a few seconds later. Florida State’s Michael Ray Garvin, a world class sprinter who was a qualifier for the 2008 Olympic Trials, took the ensuing kickoff back 94 yards for a touchdown, making the score 32-14. The kick return for a touchdown was the second against the Buffs in 2008 (CSU pulled off the trick in the opener), making this the first season ever that two CU opponents have returned kickoffs for a touchdown in the same year. [Note – the CU media release for the FSU game indicates that this the first time since 1980 that this has occurred, but the record book indicates it has never before happened more than once in a season. I’ll have to look back at the records from that awful 1-10 season and get back to you].

With the score 32-14, the two teams traded meaningless touchdowns in the last ten minutes of play. The Buffs’ score came courtesy of a Hawkins to Patrick Devenny pass from 14 yards out; the Seminoles’ score a two yard run by Antone Smith to cap his record setting day.

Of the game-changing 12-point swing in the last 2:30 of the first half, CU head coach Dan Hawkins was philosophical. “That little exchange there at the end of the first half caused us some problems,” said Hawkins. “Clearly, you’ve got the long run, you’ve got a little cycle there where you drop the ball, a blocked punt, a field goal – that whole exchange right in there. That being said I don’t think our guys were daunted by it; it obviously knocks you back a bit.”

As to Colorado’s special teams play, where the Buffs allowed 199 yards in kickoff returns, a botched a kickoff return, and a blocked punt for a safety, Hawkins’ was more succinct: “They struggled.”

On the day, Colorado had 278 yards of total offense, but only 160 yards after the first quarter. Cody Hawkins connected on only 17 of 36 passes for 154 yards. His three touchdown scores were more than offset by his interception, fumble, missed passes, and a season-high four sacks. “It all comes back to me,” said the sophomore quarterback. “I have to take care of the football, and I have to communicate and make plays when they are there to be made. I apologize to my teammates, the coaches and the fans because I did not play the way that I can.”

One bright spot was the effort of freshman running back Rodney Stewart. Stewart had his second consecutive 100-yard effort, carrying the ball 21 times for 107 yards. Stewart’s efforts were even more impressive in view of the speed of the Florida State defense, and the makeshift offensive line with which the Buffs were saddled for most of the afternoon. Starting guard Maxwell Tuioti-Mariner went down earlier in the week with a season-ending ACL injury, and starting tackle Ryan Miller left the Florida State game with an ankle injury which will keep him out of action from four to six weeks.

With the loss to Florida State, Colorado has completed its non-conference schedule with a 3-1 mark. Up next is a date with Texas, undefeated and in the top five in the national rankings. Sound familiar? It was the same scenario with Oklahoma last season: conference opener; homecoming; against an undefeated, top five team.

The Buffs can only hope that the results will be similar.

Patience Remains a Virtue

Okay. Let’s see a quick show of hands.

A month ago, how many of us, if offered a 3-1 record for the Buffs in the non-conference portion of the schedule, would have jumped at the opportunity.

Yeah. Me, too.

If you look back at my Preseason predictions – just click on the right side of the website under “Preseason – 2008?, and click on the “A look at the Schedule – Reasons for Optimism (and Fear)” – and scroll down to the overall predictions, you will see that the 2008 CU schedule can be broken down into four segments.

The first segment involved Colorado State and Eastern Washington. Both were considered must wins if the Buffs were to have a successful season. Mission accomplished, though certainly not with the style points CU fans would have hoped for or expected.

Segment two involves four games. It appeared in preseason that the Buffs would be facing three ranked teams over the span of four games, and that will hold true. I saw the need for only one win in this segment, and the Buffs have already secured that win, upsetting West Virginia. In a sense, then, the Buffs are playing with house money against Texas and Kansas. Snare an upset, and the Colorado Buffaloes are looking like a bowl-eligible team with a bright future. Lose both, and the season still has much to offer in the second half of the schedule.

The third segment involves the Kansas State, at Missouri, at Texas A&M loop (one to two wins), with the final segment being Iowa State, Oklahoma State, and at Nebraska (one to two wins, depending on how well the Buffs play in segment three).

Continue reading Essay here

September 27, 2014 – at California          California 59, Colorado 56, 2OT

Sefo Liufau crushed his previous career bests with 455 yards passing and seven touchdowns, but it was not enough, as Colorado fell in two overtimes to California, 59-56. Liufau hit Nelson Spruce 19 times – a week after Spruce set the all-time record for catches in a game with 13 – for 176 yards and three touchdowns, while also rushing for a team-best 79 yards.

The offensive fireworks, which led to leads of 14-0, 21-7, and 28-14, though, were not enough to stop the offensive onslaught from the Bears. The Colorado secondary surrendered touchdown passes of 92, 26, 10, five, 40, and 25 yards as Jared Goff duplicated Liufau’s seven touchdowns while passing for 458 yards. Three missed field goals by Will Oliver figured into a game in which Colorado ran a school-record 110 offensive plays.

The loss left the 2-3 Buffs (0-2 in Pac-12 play) wondering what might have been … and what was still to come in the 2014 season.

Note … Sefo Liufau went 46-for-67 for 449 yards and seven touchdowns. Liufau set single game records for passing attempts, completions, touchdown passes, and total offense. Nelson Spruce also set several new records. Details can be found below under Game Notes.

Colorado opened the game with a drive that went 22 yards – 15 by penalty. The pass interference penalty against Cal did not hurt the Bears, though, as the Buffs were forced to punt soon thereafter. On Cal’s first play from scrimmage, though, the Buffs got the ball right back. Tedric Thompson picked up his third interception of the season, returning the Jared Goff offering back deep into Cal territory – only to have the return nullified by a block in the back penalty.

Taking over at their own 44-yard line after the turnover, the Buffs pieced together the first sustained drive of the game. An 11-yard pass from Sefo Liufau to Tyler McCulloch got the ball into Cal territory, but the next three plays netted only seven yards. Facing a fourth-and-three at the Cal 38-yard line, Sefo Liufau hit Nelson Spruce for three yards and a first down. A 13-yard completion was immediately followed by a 22-yard touchdown pass from Liufau to tight end Sean Irwin. The celebration was muted as the officials huddled to decide if the Buffs’ odd-formation was legal, but the play was ruled good, and Colorado had a 7-0 lead less than five minutes into the game.

The Buff defense then forced a three-and-out from the Bear offense, and the CU offense was back in business at their 44-yard line. Again, the drive opened with a Liufau-to-McCulloch connection, this time for 16 yards. After a loss of a yard on the next play, a designed run up the middle by Sefo Liufau went for 39 yards and a first-and-goal at the Cal two yard line. A Phillip Lindsay run went for no gain before Liufau hit fullback George Frazier for a two-yard touchdown. Colorado 14, California 0, midway through the first quarter.

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Learning What it Takes … 

It won’t be long before the missed opportunities from the 59-56 double-overtime loss to Cal will begin to fade from memory. A made field goal here, a made tackle there … they are fresh wounds today, but those frustrations will soon give way to the anticipation for the next game and the game after that.

In 2017, when the Buffs and Bears meet up again after a two year hiatus (Colorado takes on Stanford in 2015 and 2016), there will be a regurgitation of all of the records set in the 2014 contest. Stories will be written and numbers laid out in neat columns as writers look to fill space in their pregame write-ups.

But, more than anything, the 59-56 outcome will be remembered as a California victory … and a Colorado loss.

The Buff Nation has become numb to losses over the past few years, but some losses hurt more than others.

And this one hurt, because it was a game Colorado should have won.

The loss to Cal was a loss to a team which went 1-11 last season, a team which came into the contest carrying with it a 15-game Pac-12 conference losing streak, a team which had only one win over an FBS opponent in 16 games under second-year coach Sonny Dykes.

The win for the Bears moved them out of the basement of the Pac-12, leaving the cellar for the Buffs alone to occupy.

However, before we condemn the Buffs to their first winless conference campaign since 1915, let’s take a second look at what took place in Memorial Stadium on Saturday.

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... Sefo Liufau …

– Most passing attempts in a game – 67 (old record: 64 by Cody Hawkins vs. Toledo in 2009);

– Most passing completions in a game – 46 (old record: 38 by Joel Klatt vs. Kansas in 2003);

– Most touchdown passes in a game – 7 (old record: 5, on three occasions – twice by John Hessler; once by Koy Detmer);

– Most total offensive yards in a game – 521 (old record: 500, on two occasions – by Mike Moschetti and Tyler Hansen);

– Most games with two or more touchdown passes – 8 (adding to his own record);

– His 39-yard run in the first quarter was the longest by a quarterback since Tyler Hansen had a 39-yard run against Georgia in 2010;

… Nelson Spruce …

–  Most receptions in a game – 19 (old record: 13, set against Hawai’i the week before. His 32 catches in two games is, of course, also a record);

– Most touchdown receptions in a game – 3 (tying record held by Richard Johnson (v. Kansas, 1982) and Rae Carruth (v. Missouri, 1996));

– Most consecutive games with at least seven receptions – 5 (extending his own record);

– Most consecutive games with at least six receptions – 6 (extending his own record);

… Liufau to Spruce …

– Most touchdown passes in a season – 10 (old record: 8, on two occasions);

– Most touchdown passes in a career – the pair has 13, within two of the 15 connections between Cody Hawkins and Scotty McKnight


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