CU Games of the Day – September 26th

September 26th … CU has an 3-1 record on this date over the past 40 years. The loss, in 1981 to No. 11 BYU featured two famous Cougar quarterbacks, Jim McMahon and Steve Young … In 1987, Sal Aunese subbed for Mark Hatcher, and led the Buffs to a win over Washington State … In 1998, No. 15 CU needs a long completion to none other than Darrin Chiaverini to beat Baylor … In 2015, the Buffs break out the record books in a 48-0 rout of Nicholls … 

  • 1981: No. 11 BYU 41, Colorado 20 … Buffs take out Jim McMahon and his big mouth (wanting to post 800 yards passing against CU) early in the second half. McMahon’s replacement? Steve Young … 
  • 1987: Colorado 26, Washington State 17 … Sal Aunese, subbing for the injured Mark Hatcher, carried the ball 22 times for 185 yards and one touchdown in leading the Buffs to victory … 
  • 1998: No. 15 Colorado 18, Baylor 16 … A 44-yard pass on third-and-ten from Adam Bledsoe, subbing for the injured Mike Moschetti, to Darrin Chiaverini put the Buffs in field goal position with just over two minutes to play, setting up a game-winning Jeremy Aldrich field goal … Essay: “We’re not a very good football team” … 
  • 2015: Colorado 48, Nicholls 0CU’s first shutout in six seasons, with the defense holding Nicholls to 166 total yards in a 48-0 rout, while the Buff offense went for 636 yards … Essay: “Crooked Numbers” … 

Check out the stories for all four games below …

September 26, 1981 – Boulder          No. 11 BYU 41, Colorado 20

Brigham Young University came to Boulder 3-0 and ranked 11th in the nation. BYU was led by senior quarterback Jim McMahon, a walking record book. McMahon was just coming off a four touchdown performance against UTEP, leading the Cougars to a 65-8 laugher.

It was safe to say that the brash quarterback did not fear the Buffs. McMahon was quoted as saying: “Oklahoma rushed for 800 yards (against Colorado). We won’t rush for 800, but I’d like to throw for 800. And I think I could.”

Against Colorado, McMahon did not have a spectacular performance. His numbers: 15-30, 263 yards, three touchdowns. Solid, but not spectacular.

Was this because the vaunted Colorado defense kept McMahon from finding his receivers? No, it was but because McMahon went down on a sideline hit early in the second half.

Hope for the Buffs?

Not hardly. In trotted McMahon’s sophomore sub, a fellow by the name of Steve Young. Young gave Buff fans an indication of his future success by continuing the dismantling the Colorado defense McMahon had started.

The Buffs defense, to be fair, did its job.

After surrendering two touchdown passes in the first eight minutes of the game, the Buffs held tough. At the half, it was 17-0. Walter Stanley fumbled the second half kickoff at the Colorado 11. Three plays later it was 24-0, and the Buffs hopes for an upset were dashed.

Game Notes …

– Prior to the 1981 loss, Colorado had faced off against BYU ten times, accumulating a record of 8-1-1;

– Jim McMahon would go on to pass for 3,555 yards and 30 touchdowns in the 1981 regular season, again leading BYU to a WAC championship. For his efforts, he was named WAC Player of the Year and unanimous First Team All-WAC. On a national level, he was named first-team All-American by five different organizations and finished third in Heisman Trophy balloting. He received the Davey O’Brien Trophy and the Sammy Baugh Award, and he shared the Pigskin Club NCAA Offensive Player of the Year award with USC’s Marcus Allen.

September 26, 1987 – Boulder           Colorado 26, Washington State 17

Another day, another game, another new Buff making an impression.

This time it was sophomore quarterback Sal Aunese, subbing for injured starter Mark Hatcher, who made a splash. Aunese did not start, but played a significant role in leading Colorado to a 26-17 win over Washington State. Aunese carried the ball 22 times for 185 yards and one touchdown. Aunese also completed one of his three passes, a 30-yarder to Eric Bieniemy.

Washington State, led by first-year coach Dennis Erickson, were 2-1 coming into the game, having beaten Fresno State and Wyoming before falling to Michigan. Erickson brought in a Cougar squad which had finished 3-7-1 in 1986.

In all, the Buffs accumulated a season high 425 yards on the ground against the Cougars.

The game was frustrating early on for the 42,527 on hand at Folsom Field. The Buffs were playing well, but were still down, 7-6, in the second quarter. Two promising drives ended in short Ken Culbertson field goals (of 25 and 27 yards), as the Buffs failed to convert in the red zone.

The Buffs took the lead for good when safety Mickey Pruitt intercepted a Timm Rosenbach pass, returning it 18 yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 lead. A J.J. Flannigan three yard scoring run later in the second gave CU a 19-7 lead at halftime (the extra point was missed).

The lead was cut to 19-17 when Washington State quarterback Timm Rosenbach connected on a 16-yard scoring pass to tight end Chris Leighton with 11:17 to play. After J.J. Flannigan bobbled a Sal Aunese pitch, fumbling at the Colorado 25, the Buffs were in a position to lose. The Colorado defense rose to the occasion, though, forcing a field goal attempt. The kicked sailed wide, and the Buffs retained the lead.

The game was not over, however.

The Buffs were still up by only two points, 19-17, and plenty of time remained.

Aunese drove the Buffs to the Cougars’ 15-yard line. Halted on downs, McCartney sent in freshman kicker Eric Hannah. Sophomore kicker Ken Culbertson, who had come into the game one-for-six on field goal attempts on the season, had made two kicks earlier in the game, but had missed a 48-yard attempt as well as an extra point.

Hannah, though, fared no better than Culbertson, missing a 32-yard field goal attempt.

The Cougars had new life with 1:52 remaining in the game, and visions of the 1981 10-14 “come-from-ahead” loss to this same Washington State squad began to surface. Instead, the Buffs’ defense forced Rosenbach into four straight incompletions. A 22-yard touchdown run by Sal Aunese two plays later sealed the Buffs second win of the year.

The defense was led by senior safety Mickey Pruitt, who intercepted two passes, including the one in the second quarter which he returned 18 yards for a touchdown to give the Buffs the lead for good, 13-7. For his efforts, which also included 17 tackles (12 solo), three pass deflections, two tackles for loss, and a sack, Pruitt was named by Sports Illustrated as its Defensive Player of the Week.

Game Notes –

– Senior Rick Wheeler received his final start at quarterback for the Buffs against the Cougars, but was ineffective, missing both of his pass attempts, while rushing for 27 yards on five carries before being replaced by Sal Aunese.

– The 185 yards rushing would be a career high for Aunese, who would post only one other 100-yard game (127 yards against Iowa State later in 1987) in his career. Aunese would go on to lead the Buffs in rushing in 1987, posting 612 yards on 122 carries (and six touchdowns).

– The Buffs would use three kickers over the course of the 1987 season, starting with sophomore Ken Culbertson, moving on in the Washington State game to red-shirt freshman Eric Hannah, then to senior Dave DeLine later in the season.

– The win gave Colorado a 2-1 all-time lead in the series with Washington State, with the other victory coming in 1982 – the first victory ever for CU head coach Bill McCartney.

– 1987 was the first season for Washington State under Dennis Erickson. The Cougars went 3-7-1 in the final season under Jim Walden, and in 1987, the Cougars under Dennis Erickson went … 3-7-1. Erickson turned things around in 1988, though, leading Washington State to a 9-3 record before moving on to coach the Miami Hurricanes in 1989.

September 26, 1998 – Boulder          No. 15 Colorado 18, Baylor 16

The Baylor Bears, fresh off of a 33-30 win over North Carolina State (which in turn had just shocked the nation with a 24-7 win over previously 2nd-ranked Florida State) came to Boulder with aspirations of putting to rest the memories of a 2-9 1997 campaign.

Baylor almost came away with the win, scoring late to pull ahead of Colorado, 16-15, with 6:31 remaining. But a 44-yard pass on third-and-ten from Adam Bledsoe, subbing for the injured Mike Moschetti, to Darrin Chiaverini put the Buffs in field goal position with just over two minutes to play. A few plays later, Jeremy Aldrich connected from 31 yards out, and the Buffs had pulled out another “ugly” win, 18-16.

For much of the game, the contest appeared to be one which neither team wanted to win. The first quarter stats were enough to make even the most dedicated east coast football fan turn off the television and go to bed (the kickoff was 8:20 p.m., Mountain Time). The Buffs and the Bears combined effort for the first quarter – one yard of total offense.


Colorado was the “dominant” team, netting 11 yards of total offense, while Baylor was held to minus ten yards. In all, there were 31 offensive plays in the quarter, with 21 of those plays going for zero or negative yardage. The Buffs took a 5-0 lead after the first stanza, thanks to yet another snap over a punter’s head into the endzone (for the second weekend in a row), and a 43-yard field goal by Jeremy Aldrich (the Buffs’ “drive” leading up to the field goal: four plays, -1 yard).

Colorado’s offensive woes continued throughout the first half, with little spark seen until the third quarter. Senior tailback Marlon Barnes, seeing his first action of the season after sitting out for five weeks with a foot sprain, showing some signs of leading the Buffs’ rushing game (89th in the nation heading into the Baylor contest) out of its doldrums. But it was two runs by quarterback Mike Moschetti out of the option which finally gave the homecoming crowd of 46,603 something to cheer about. The first came with 8:21 remaining in the third on a 28-yard touchdown run after it appeared that yet another drive would be stalled by penalties. Moschetti’s effort put the Buffs on top 15-3.

The second run, just a few minutes later, went for 39 yards down to the Baylor 13. But the run proved costly. Moschetti turned an ankle trying to make a cut, and was lost for the game. The Buffs fumbled the ball away two plays later, and the rout was suddenly a ball game again.

Despite the turnover, the Buffs’ defense, putting in a second consecutive stellar effort, was holding the Baylor offense at bay.

Unfortunately, it was a lapse on special teams which gave the Bears the opportunity to get back into the contest. Punting the ball away with 13:35 to go in the game, Nick Pietsch had his second kick in three games blocked. Unlike the Fresno State game, when the ball was recovered in the field of play, this kick was recovered in the endzone by defensive back Nikia Codie, and suddenly it was 15-10, Colorado.

The blocked kick breathed new life into Baylor, and on its next possession the Bears marched down the field, covering 66 yards in 13 plays to take the lead, 16-15, with 6:51 left to play. Baylor, looking to go up by three points, attempted a two-point conversion, but quarterback Jermaine Alfred’s pass was hurried and overthrown, and the lead was but one point, 16-15, setting up the heroics of Bledsoe, Chiaverini, and Aldrich.

“It wasn’t pretty but it showed a lot of character and desire”, opined a tired Rick Neuheisel after the game. “The big picture of me is saying we’ve got a lot of problems and lots of holes and other things that need to be fixed. But emotionally, we showed a lot of courage. I was very proud of the way we dealt with adversity.”

True enough. The Buffs had fallen behind for the 17th consecutive game, but now had a 10-7 record in those contests.

Courage was admirable, but how long would the victories continue?

“We’re not a very good football team”

As much as I hate to admit it, these were the words which I heard coming out of my mouth as the victory against Baylor, seemingly well in hand in the third quarter, began to drift away in the fourth.

After sitting through three-and-a-half quarters of poor execution, untimely penalties, and a seeming lack of focus, I was sad to see these Buffs. They were not the team I had seen just three weeks earlier against Colorado State. When I had penciled in Baylor for one of my trips to Boulder for 1998, it was more a matter of putting some space in time between the CSU and the Kansas State trips than it was in anticipation of a last-minute, come-from-behind win. I came to have some fun at Homecoming, not to agonize over miscues and missed opportunities.

Two plays from the Baylor game stand out in my memory.

The first was Moschetti’s second long run of the night. CU was up 15-3, and Moschetti had broken into the clear going around right end. It appeared from our venue that Moschetti had a wide open field to the endzone. The only player with a chance to stop him was a cornerback, deep downfield. Unfortunately, Moschetti zigged when he should have zagged, with the result being a sprained ankle and a lost opportunity to put the game out of reach. Two plays later, Bledsoe fumbled, and Baylor was back in the game.

The second play I have etched in my mind came with 2:04 to play. Adam Bledsoe, who had just connected with Darrin Chiaverini to put the Buffs in field goal range, threw a post pattern to Javon Green in the endzone on third down. The pass was right in front of us, and appeared perfect. Green could not pull it down, however, and the Buffs and their fans had to sweat out Aldrich’s game-winning field goal attempt.

Two plays. Each could have made Colorado’s victory easier. Neither had the desired result.

The Buffs were winning ugly, but they were winning. Who could possibly complain about being 4-0 with a 5-6 season just months removed?

I could.

I wasn’t proud of my lack of enthusiasm. But I still had this sick feeling in the pit of my stomach that we were just pretenders, waiting for the right team to come along and expose us. Hopefully, the defense would continue to carry the team until the offense jelled. Hopefully, the team’s youth and inexperience would result in fewer and fewer mistakes as the season wore on.

Hopefully, the winning would continue while the Buffs found themselves.


September 26, 2015 – Boulder          Colorado 48, Nicholls 0

Colorado posted its first shutout in six seasons, with the defense holding Nicholls to 166 total yards in a 48-0 rout in Boulder. The Buffs went for 636 yards themselves in posting a third consecutive victory for the first time since 2008.

Two Buffs went for over 100 yards rushing on the sunny afternoon, with Phillip Lindsay going for 113 yards (almost all in the first half) and two touchdowns, with Donovan Lee posting 103 yards on ten carries, including a great 59-yard touchdown run in late in the third quarter. Sefo Liufau did throw for 227 yards and a score, but overthrew several receivers which could have given the Buffs an even larger first half cushion.

The Buffs won the opening coin toss and chose to take the ball … and that pretty much ended the Colonels participation in the game.

After a 27-yard kickoff return by Donovan Lee to set the Buffs up at their 30-yard line, it took the Colorado offense only six plays – and 85 seconds – to cover the remaining 70 yards and take the lead for good. The Buffs only faced one second down on the drive (and that was a second-and-three), with a pair of passes from Sefo Liufau to Nelson Spruce totaling 39 yards covering the most yardage. At the four yard line, Phillip Lindsay got the call, and, with 13:25 still left to play in the first quarter, the Buffs had all the points they would need.

The Nicholls offense managed a first down on its first possession, but the Buffs quickly got the ball back. A poor punt set the Colorado offense up at midfield, with the Buffs needing eight plays to pretty much end any issue as to the final outcome. A Phillip Lindsay run of 20 yards got the ball inside the red zone, with a 13-yard run by Christian Powell taking the ball down to the one. On the next play, Powell went in untouched, making it a 14-0 game with less than six minutes elapsed in the first quarter.

A quick three-and-out forced by the CU defense gave the Buff offense good field position again, with the Buffs setting up shop at their own 45 yard line. The offense sputtered – a little bit – with the Colonels’ defense actually forcing three third downs. On third-and-16 at the Nicholls 38, Liufau hit wide receiver Jay MacIntyre near the Nicholls 15 yard line. The coach’s son then did the rest, juking his way into the end zone to make it 21-0 … with five minutes still to be played in the opening quarter.

When the first quarter came to a close, the Buffs had the ball back again, and were already at the Nicholls 31 yard line. Colorado had 242 yards of total offense in the first quarter (to 56 for Nicholls), with 13 first downs (to three for the Colonels).

The second quarter gave the Buffs to post scoring totals of record proportions … but the Colorado offense became its own worst enemy.

Continue reading game story here

“Crooked Numbers” … 

“Crooked Numbers” refers baseball term for a number higher than one that has been placed on the line score as a result of a run being scored during a half inning. Even in a game which ends 5-3, there are going to be more “0’s” and “1’s” (mostly “0’s”) posted on the scoreboard tally of inning by inning results.

The relevance to your Colorado Buffaloes?

In the past decade, in both reality and perception, the CU football program has been posting way too many “0’s”.

Now, for at least the non-conference portion of the 2015 season, the Buffs have been posting some “crooked numbers”.

This is not to say that the Buffs have not been posting records during their decade long drought. Last season, for instance, Colorado broke, established or tied 136 school records, both team and individual. Most were on offense, with quarterback Sefo Liufau breaking or tying 54, and wide receiver Nelson Spruce tacking on 34 of his own.

Many of the records set last season were very impressive, and deserve our praise and adulation.

For example, Sefo Liufau’s seven touchdown passes against Cal (breaking the school record of five held by John Hessler and Koy Detmer) was quite the achievement, as was his 28 touchdown passes for the season, crushing the old record of 22, set by Koy Detmer back in 1996. Similarly, Nelson Spruce’s 106 receptions is amazing, especially when put up against the old school record of 83, set just the year before by Paul Richardson.

When the team goes 2-10, 0-9, however, the value of those records is diluted.

Yes, Sefo threw for seven touchdowns against Cal … but the Buffs still lost the game.

Yes, Nelson obliterated the record for catches … but he had only one 100-yard game and only two touchdowns in the second half of the season, went the Buffs were in the process of finishing the year on an eight game losing streak.

Now, on the heels of a 48-0 flogging of Nicholls, the Buffs have the luxury of enjoying some “crooked numbers”:

– The 48-point margin was the greatest since the Buffs took out Northeast Louisiana 55-14 in 1995;

– The shutout was the first for the Colorado defense since the Buffs handled Wyoming, 24-0, in 2009;

– The Colorado offense put up 636 yards of total offense, with only two plays going for negative yardage all afternoon … and those were the two kneel downs to end the game (with the Buffs inside the Colonels’ ten yard line);

– The Buffs had the luxury of having its average starting field position be their own 47-yard line (Nicholls’ average – it’s own 15).

– One stat which in particular shows the domination. Every one of CU’s 14 offensive drives had at least play on Nicholls’ side of the ball … except one. That drive? It ended with a Donovan Lee 59-yard touchdown run.

Continue ready game essay here


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