CU Games of the Day – September 30th

September 30th … CU has an 2-3 record on this date over the past 40 years, with both victories of historical significance … 1989: In the emotional first game after the death of Sal Aunese, the Buffs take out No. 21 Washington in Seattle … 1995: Backup QB John Hessler gets his first start – on the road, against No. 10 Oklahoma – going on to set a school record with five touchdown pass …

  • 1989: No. 5 Colorado 45, No. 21 Washington 28 … A week after burying their captain, the Buffs dominate a good Washington team in Seattle … Essay No. 1: “Seattle Bound” – Brad and I head off to the Evergreen State to watch our Buffs in action … Essay No. 2:Alma Mater – Parking Lot Fun” – The only thing better than following the Buffs to Husky Stadium was watching them dominate the home team in the rain …
  • 1995: No. 4 Colorado 38, No. 10 Oklahoma 17 … Koy Detmer had been injured the week before, giving John Hessler the opportunity to set a school record for touchdown passes in his first start … Essay: “Yo, Howard.  Sit Down and Shut Up” – Howard Schnellenberger was brought in to bring the Sooners back to glory, but his mouth was bigger than his success on the field … 
  • 2000: No. 5 Kansas State 44, Colorado 21 … A dominating loss at the hands of the Wildcats made it clear that the Buffs in 2000 were not the Buffs of the 1990’s … Essay: End of an Era” – While not an official demarcation, this loss could be looked upon as the end of the Golden Age of Colorado football …
  • 2006: No. 25 Missouri, 28, Colorado 13 … The Buffs were not humiliated by the 25th-ranked Tigers, but the loss did represent CU’s ninth-straight loss … Essay: “Chasing Infamy” … Nine losses in a row, a run of defeats second only to ten straight losses in 1963-64 (the Buffs would go on to tie the school record with an overtime loss to Baylor the following weekend) …
  • 2017: UCLA 27, Colorado 23 … The Buffs had pulled to within a point, at 24-23, with 6:49 remaining, but the Bruins pieced together a 15-play, 79-yard drive, icing the game with a 31-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining … Essay: “It’s Real Frustrating, Actually” … The Buffs had every chance at an upset, but made mistakes at crucial times …

Check out the stories for all five games below …

September 30, 1989 – at Washington          No. 5 Colorado 45, No. 21 Washington 28

The Colorado Buffaloes, inspired by the words of their fallen quarterback (see previous game recap), raised their season record to 4-0 with a dominant performance against Washington, handing the Huskies a 45-28 thrashing.

In posting the highest point total by a Washington opponent at Husky Stadium in 15 years, Colorado ran over, through, and around Washington.  The Buffs had six players run for over 40 yards apiece in accumulating 420 yards on the ground.

The game was competitive for much of the first half. Washington struck first, connecting on a 21-yard field goal for a 3-0 lead midway through the first period.  Colorado responded on its next drive, with George Hemingway slamming through the middle of the Husky line for large chunks of real estate. With the Washington defensive line focused on Hemingway, Eric Bieniemy burst through on a 35-yard scoring run to put the Buffs on top to stay.

Much of the rest of the first half was a slugfest, with both teams successful in gaining yardage, but not successful in putting up more points. The Buffs nursed a 7-6 lead for much of the second quarter, escaping a deficit when the Huskies missed a field goal attempt midway through the second quarter.

With less than two minutes before halftime, the Buffs finally took command.

Bieniemy scored on a one yard plunge to cap a drive of over 90 yards to give CU a 14-6 lead with 1:41 to play. The Huskies got a long return on the kickoff, but on the second play of the drive, senior safety Bruce Young picked off Washington quarterback Cary Conklin to set the Buffs up near midfield. On the next play, Hagan connected with Mike Pritchard for a 40-yard gain. Three plays later, J.J. Flannigan did the honors from three yards out, and the rout was on.

The third quarter was all Colorado, as the Buffs put the Huskies away with a 17-0 stampede.

After a Ken Culbertson field goal, quarterback Darian Hagan scored from three yards out, followed by 56-yard run on a reverse by Jeff Campbell.  Campbell’s score was the sixth of his career on the ground (the senior wide receiver only had one touchdown reception in his career).  By the end of the third quarter, the score was 38-6, Colorado.

Washington did post 22 fourth quarter points against Colorado reserves, but the final score of 45-28 could not mask the dominant performance of the Buffs.

There could be no ignoring Colorado now.

The undefeated Buffs rose to No. 3 in the polls, passing Auburn (a 21-14 loser to Tennessee) and Nebraska, despite the Cornhuskers 35-7 win over Oregon State.  Only unbeaten Notre Dame and Miami stood between the Buffs and the No. 1 ranking.

The Big Eight Conference season was now set to begin, and Colorado was ready to challenge for the title.

Seattle Bound

Denver and Seattle are both about 700 miles from Bozeman, Montana. While I had lived for seven years just a short commute from Denver, and had spent a great deal of time in the Mile High City, I had only been to Seattle once before my road trip for the Washington game.

What better time to visit Seattle, I reasoned, than for a Colorado football game?

All I had to do was convince someone to go with me.  Fortunately, it did not take much to talk Brad, my best friend of (then) seven years (now over a quarter of a century) into going to see the 5th-ranked Buffs.

Brad flew in from Denver the day before the game, and I met him at the airport.  We stayed at the home of a friend from high school, who showed us the town.  We did the “touristy” stops, including the Space Needle and the Pike Street Market, and generally had a good time.

But we were there with a purpose.

Like the Buffs, our attention was all focused on the game against Washington.

The Huskies were led by senior quarterback Cary Conklin, fresh from a 354 yard passing effort against Arizona.  The Huskies were also pumped for the game against the Buffs, and the fans were definitely ready to go, especially after the Huskies took the field for the kickoff.  After going through warmups in their traditional gold football pants, Washington players came out in their new purple pants, and the crowd erupted.

Brad and I were placed amongst a smallish but vocal band of Colorado fans.

The seats allocated to Colorado fans provided a great view … of Lake Washington.

Husky Stadium is one of the most picturesque it the country.  The horseshoe shaped stadium opens up facing Lake Washington.  Many fans take a boat ride to the game.  From our viewpoint in the other end of the horseshoe, we had a great panoramic view of the entire stadium, with the lake shimmering off in the distance.  Despite the low-hanging clouds and the drizzle which fell off and on for most of the afternoon, it was a beautiful place to watch a college football game.

The problem with Husky Stadium in 1989 (and until the stadium was renovated in 2013) was that the University of Washington continued to use the stadium for track and field events.  This translated into a six lane track which circled the field, distancing the fans from the action.

At the top end of the horseshoe, Brad and I figured that we were at least 50 yards from the endzone … that being the endzone on our end of the field. For any action near the goalline on the other end of the field, we had to wait for crowd reaction to find out what had happened on the play (for those of you to young to remember, this was long before stadia had big screen instant replays).

If it was loud cheer; it was bad for the Buffs. If the Husky faithful were silent, it was our cue to cheer.

As the day wore on, though, the volume of the majority continued to diminish.

In our little section of the stadium, however, the partying was just beginning.

Alma Mater

As the Washington defense deteriorated over the course of the afternoon, so to did the weather.  By the fourth quarter, there was a steady drizzle, and many of those clad in purple and gold had left.

The black-and-gold contingent, however, remained until the final gun.  Why would we leave one of the best games in recent Colorado history?  And besides, where did we have to go?

With 10:21 left in the game, backup Colorado quarterback Charles Johnson scored on a 16-yard run.  The touchdown gave the Buffs a 45-14 lead, removing any doubt as to a late Washington comeback.  Out in the hinterlands known as Section 6, a rousing version of the Colorado fight song was sung after the extra point.

Buoyed by the team’s efforts, and perhaps feeling safe in our little group, Brad and I next began singing, without rhyme or reason, the Colorado alma mater.  (Author’s Note:  The alma mater is played by the CU band twice at each home game – once in pregame and once as the final song the band plays after the end of the game. The words to the alma mater are flashed on the scoreboard as the song is played before the game, so every Buff fan should know the words.  Despite this assistance, very few fans know any of the words except for “dear … old … C … U” at the end.)

Brad and I, though, had always taken a measure of pride in our not only knowing the words to the alma mater, but in singing along with due respect each and every home game.

Now we were on the road, with no band accompaniment.  Undaunted, we launched into the song with as much gusto as we could muster.  At first we drew stares, then smiles.  Finally, with the entire section shouting out the final line, our efforts were greeted with cheers.

After the celebration which accompanied the final gun at the 1986 Colorado/Nebraska, this moment represented the best for me as a (then) ten year fan of Colorado football.

Parking Lot Fun

Finally, after allowing Washington to score two touchdowns in the final six minutes to make the score respectable, we filed out of Husky Stadium.  We were wet, and the late afternoon temperature was dropping, but we didn’t care.  Colorado was now 4-0, and would be ranked no lower than 4th in the nation when the new polls came out Sunday.

In the parking lot outside the stadium, Brad and I encountered a van load full of freshman from Boulder.  The frat pledges had traveled through the night to make it to the game, and were preparing to drive straight back to Colorado after they were done partying.  They were all celebrating with beverages they were not legally licensed to possess, and they were having a good time.

Spotting our CU attire, Brad and I were waved over.

We spent a short time with the faithful, recounting each score and each defensive stand.  It was not until later that it dawned on Brad and I that we had just intermingled with students who had never seen Colorado lose a football game.  Granted, 4-0 was not unique – the 1988 Colorado team had started 4-0 just a year earlier.  Still, it struck as funny how different our experience had been compared to these students (two 1-10 seasons for me; one winning season in seven years as a student in Boulder).

Brad and I decided that we were better for having endured the lousy seasons.  Being hardened to losses made the victories sweeter.

If nothing else, we reasoned, we at least knew enough to get out of the rain after the game was over.

When the polls came out on Sunday, Colorado moved up to No. 3 team in the nation.  The new rankings came out the same day as the Sal Aunese funeral in California.

The talented Buffs were on a roll.  Could they stay focused?  Up next was 1-3 Missouri, with the game to be played in Boulder.  There was no reason for Colorado to stumble against the Tigers, but the 1985-88 Buffs had always found a way to lose at least one game they should have won.

The 1989 team, though, was different.

September 30, 1995 – at Oklahoma          No. 4 Colorado 38, No. 10 Oklahoma 17

How did John Hessler do in the pressure-packed game before 75,004 crazed Sooner fans?

Try a new school record for touchdown passes in a game.

In an atmosphere where most Colorado fans were hoping that Hessler would produce an effort sufficient to keep the Buffs in the game, the sophomore delivered five touchdown passes to lead the Buffs to a 38-17 romp over Oklahoma.

Hessler struggled early in the game, but came on to complete 24-of-34 passes for 348 yards.  Oklahoma jumped out to a 10-0 advantage before Hessler caught fire.  Hessler’s first touchdown pass covered 19 yards to Phil Savoy, making it a 10-7 game six minutes into the second quarter.

After another Sooners score, Hessler connected with Rae Carruth from 11 yards out to finish off a 13-play, 71-yard drive to pull the Buffs to within 17-14 at the break. The key play in the drive came on a fourth-and-one at the Oklahoma 13 yard line with 31 seconds left before half. Rather than kick a 30-yard field goal, the Buffs went for the first down, with Hessler picking up the necessary yardage on a quarterback sneak. The very next play was the touchdown toss to Carruth, getting the Buffs back into the game.

In the third quarter, Colorado raced ahead and then pulled away.

The go-ahead score came on a 71-yard catch and run by Carruth to give CU its first lead of the game, at 21-17, midway through the third quarter.  On Colorado’s next possession, Hessler connected with running back Lendon Henry on a swing pass. A total of 28 yards later, the Buffs had a 28-17 cushion.

Hessler broke the Colorado school record, and tied the Big Eight record, with his fifth touchdown pass, a 42-yarder to Phil Savoy, midway through the fourth quarter. A 28-yard field goal by Neil Voskeritchian after a Sooner turnover a few minutes later provided the final points in a 38-17 victory.

While John Hessler was leading the offense, the defense, which had surrendered 17 points in the first 25 minutes of play, stiffened considerably.  In shutting out the Sooners in the second half, the Buff defense held Oklahoma to just two net rushing yards, 56 yards overall.  For the game, the 10th-ranked Sooners mustered only 218 total yards, compared to 419 for Colorado.

Only one stat was on everyone’s mind after the game, though, and that belonged to the surprise star of the game, Hessler.  “In the back of my mind, I wanted to go out and prove to everybody what I could do”, said Hessler after the game.  “I thought about it all week and I didn’t want this opportunity to slip by me.”  Rick Neuheisel, notorious for being Hessler’s worst critic, was willing to praise his backup on this night:  “It’s an unknown deal how he’s going to do when he gets out there.  Fortunately for us, Hessler came up aces.”

Hessler was still the backup, however.

“I don’t mean to be callous,” said Neuheisel.  “But the truth of the matter is that we’ve got a starting quarterback.”  Detmer’s status had been upgraded, but season-ending surgery was still being considered.

The 24th-ranked Kansas Jayhawks were up next.  While the Buff Nation was celebrating the big victory, there was still precious little time to read newspaper clippings, as yet another big game was up next.

Here is a YouTube video with highlights from the game (put together by a Sooner fan, featuring mostly Oklahoma highlights, but does show CU’s scores), courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:

Yo, Howard.  Sit Down and Shut Up

Howard Schnellenberger was the coach of the Oklahoma Sooners in 1995.

He came in to Norman with plans to rebuild the Sooners as he had the Miami Hurricanes in the early 1980’s.  Schnellenberger had taken over a Miami program in 1979 which had only two winning seasons in their previous 11 campaigns.  Within four years, the Hurricanes were National Champions.

Storming into Norman, Schnellenberger predicted a quick return to national prominence for the Sooners, and on a pace even faster than that of Miami.  “I am not used to coming into a program that has already achieved national championship status, not just once but six times”, said Schnellenberger before the season.  “I’m also not used to …. all those things necessary to take this great program back to its natural level, competing for the national championship.”

Even though the 1994 edition of the Sooners had finished 6-6, Schnellenberger had his converts.  The media had bought into the hype, and had the 3-0 Sooners ranked 10th in the nation before the Colorado game.  Schnellenberger had even gone so far as to say that his team would rather face Detmer than Hessler in the showdown, for, as he put it, he didn’t want an asterisk next to the Sooners win “when we beat their ass.”

Inspired and “fired up” by Schnellenberger’s comments, Hessler played a game which put him in the Colorado record books.

It also sent Schnellenberger on the road to a quick demise.

The Sooners loss to the Buffs dropped Oklahoma to 3-1, 14th in the polls.  The remainder of the year, the Sooners would win only two more games, finishing the year 5-5-1.  Schnellenberger, just as quickly as he had blown into town, was gone.  The Colorado game, on national television on ESPN (complete with the ESPN GameDay crew), was the high water mark of Sooners’ season.

The talk of an immediate restoration of the “Sooner Nation” left town with Schnellenberger.

On to Tempe?

The impressive win over Oklahoma, despite the loss of starting quarterback Koy Detmer, only served to make the Buffs look more impressive to the nation.

Colorado’s defeats of three ranked opponents, two in the top ten, kept the Buffs at No. 4 in the polls.   More significantly, Colorado now rated six first place votes among the pollsters.  With a 5-0 overall record, 1-0 in Big Eight play, Colorado controlled its own destiny if it wanted to play for the National Championship.

The Buffs still had a match-up with No. 2 Nebraska, while No. 1 Florida State still had a game against No. 3 Florida.  Though the calendar had only just turned from September to October, the nation’s prognosticators were already predicting a Fiesta Bowl match-up of the winners of Colorado/Nebraska and Florida/Florida State games.

Editorials in the Buffalo Sports News the week after the impressive win over Oklahoma were entitled “Yes Buff fans, you can (finally) say it (National Championship)” and “Bits and Pieces on the road to Tempe”.

Heady stuff for a team predicted to be 8-3 or 9-2.

The remainder of the schedule contained only three ranked teams, including Nebraska at home.  The least dangerous of the three appeared to be Kansas.  The Jayhawks were 4-0 on the season and ranked 24th.  But the Jayhawks’ non-conference victims, Cincinnati, North Texas, TCU, and Houston, were a combined 4-13 on the season.  Colorado owned a ten-game winning streak against the Jayhawks, dating back to 1985.

If the Buffs could handle the likes of Wisconsin and Oklahoma on the road, and stifle Texas A&M and Colorado State at home, the likes of the Jayhawks were not going to derail Colorado’s run to the national title.

Could they?

September 30, 2000 – Boulder           No. 5 Kansas State 44, Colorado 21

Kansas State quarterback Jonathan Beasley combined for 361 yards of total offense as the 5th-ranked Wildcats humbled the winless Colorado Buffaloes, 44-21. Beasley hit on 15-of-25 passes for 293 yards and three scores as Kansas State raced to a 13-0 lead five minutes into the contest and never looked back.

Kansas State took control of the game from the outset.

Colorado failed to produce a first down until its third drive. Meanwhile, the Wildcats posted two touchdowns on only six offensive plays. The touchdowns covered only ten and three yards, but were set up by long plays by Aaron Lockett. The first touchdown was set up by a 49-yard punt return; the second by a 50-yard pass down to the Buff three yard line.

The Buffs did show some life as the first half progressed. A pair of Jeremy Flores field goals – covering 41 and 48 yards – made it a 13-6 game midway through the first quarter (the Wildcats’ second extra point attempt was blocked). That score held until the ten minute mark of the second quarter, when Beasley hit Quincy Morgan for a ten-yard touchdown and a 20-6 lead.

 Colorado pulled to within a touchdown at 20-13 late in the second quarter after true freshman Craig Ochs, in his first drive at the helm of the Colorado offense, directed a scoring drive with Ochs running it in himself from 17 yards out. Any hopes of a comeback, though, were quickly extinguished as the Wildcats put up another score less than one minute later, with a 74-yard completion setting up a three yard touchdown run. All hope for a comeback was extinguished when Kansas State scored right before the half to take a 34-13 lead into the break.

Before Colorado would score again, the deficit was 41-13. After giving up a 71-yard interception return for a touchdown, Ochs and the Colorado offense mustered together a nine-play, 80-yard drive, culminated with a two yard pass from Ochs to John Minardi.

“It’s pretty simple – we played bad, they played good”, oversimplified Gary Barnett. “We gave up so many big plays in the secondary. We didn’t get a great deal of a pass rush. We didn’t tackle very well.”

Senior defensive end Anwawn Jones did not mince his words, either: “We performed like a junior-college team … I mean we as a whole”.

If there was anything positive to be taken from the worst loss to Kansas State in the 56-game history of the rivalry, it was the efforts of freshman Craig Ochs. Ochs had been told that he would be given at least one series early against the Wildcats. “They told me if I played well, I’d stay in”. Ochs stayed in the game after directing Colorado on an 80-drive for its first touchdown in his first opportunity. “I guess they thought I played well enough.” On the day, Ochs completed 15-of-24 passes for 208 yards and one touchdown. Barnett immediately named Ochs the starter for the Texas A&M game.

While one freshman was getting his opportunity, though, another received a crushing blow. Marcus Houston, seen as the future of the Colorado ground game, did not play against Kansas State. A hip flexor injury sustained against Washington had turned out worse than thought, and it was announced after the Kansas State game that Houston would be out for three-to-eight weeks. Head coach Barnett indicated that if Houston did not recover quickly, he would apply to the NCAA on Houston’s behalf for a medical redshirt, preserving four years of eligibility for Barnett’s prize recruit.

Could it get any worse for CU?

Up next was Texas A&M, 3-1 after a 33-15 win over Texas Tech. The Aggies were also riding a 22-game home winning streak. After that came a matchup with 13th-ranked Texas.

An 0-6 start, the fear first mentioned by the Daily Camera’s Neill Woelk before the opener, now seemed like a distinct possibility.

End of an Era

One could argue that it came to an end in Ann Arbor in 1997, when Michigan thumped then 8th-ranked Colorado 27-3.

Or maybe it came to an end on a fourth-and-25 play against Nebraska on November 28, 1997. After leading a desperate comeback, quarterback John Hessler completed a pass to Phil Savoy, but the completion came up three yards short of a first down and Colorado fell, 27-24. The loss gave Colorado its first losing season in 13 years, and left the 5-6 Buffs out of the bowl picture.

For me, though, it came to an end officially on September 30, 2000.

“It” was the golden era of CU football.

A part of the national landscape of college football for over a decade, Colorado ceased to be relevant after the Kansas State blowout. One could explain away all of 1997 as an anomaly, and could even point to the three previous losses in 2000 as being only 10 points from an undefeated season.

But there was no explaining away the loss to Kansas State. The Buffs were beaten soundly by a better team. Colorado would now, and for the foreseeable future, merit national mention only when taking on a ranked foe. The link to the glorious run of the late 1980’s and into the 1990’s was over.

And sadly – oh, so sadly – the look of Folsom Field had become all too familiar. As in early 1980’s familiar. There were over 10,000 fans wearing opposing colors. It was odd to see the color being purple of Kansas State instead of the red of Nebraska or Oklahoma, but the Wildcat fans came to Boulder in droves. There were paper fights in the student sections, with spit wads being created out of the newspaper from the free game programs. The paper fights were diversions from what was going on down on the field, much the way beer fights and passing up girls through the stands had occupied us when we were students during blowout losses during the Fairbanks and early McCartney years.

I was confident that the 2001 Colorado football Media Guide would continue to connect the 2001 Buffs with the Colorado teams of the past (e.g., the 2000 Media Guide listed Colorado as having the 8th-best overall record in the NCAA, 1989-99; the 10th-best record in the previous 75 games; the 7th-best record in Conference games, 1989-99; and the 6th-best road record, 1988-99), but this was getting to be old news.

What put Colorado in the top ten in these categories were the efforts of teams long past. The reality was that since the beginning of the 1997 season, Colorado’s record was now 20-19. The Buffs had spent much more time out of the top 25 than in it. A coach had left for greener pastures, and expansion of facilities, promised since McCartney was head coach, were still on the drawing board.

As the Buffs prepared for their game against Texas A&M, a September to forget was behind them.

Unfortunately, there was little reason to expect much from October or beyond.

September 30, 2006 – at Missouri              No. 25 Missouri 28, Colorado 13

Missouri quarterback Chase Daniel threw for four touchdowns, leading No. 25 Missouri to a 28-13 win over Colorado.  On the afternoon, Daniel connected on 23 of 35 passes for 253 yards.  The win put the Tigers at 5-0 for the first time since 1981, with the loss dropping the Buffs to 0-5 for the first time since 1980.

At the outset, it appeared that the newly ranked Tigers wanted to make a statement that they belonged in the national spotlight.  Daniel led Missouri on a 71-yard drive to open the game, hitting Chase Coffman on a two-yard score to give Missouri a lead it would never relinquish.  The Buffs did try to counter, putting together a 68-yard drive of their own.  As had been the case all season, though, the Colorado offense could not finish, settling for a 32-yard Mason Crosby field goal.

The Tigers responded with another long drive, this one covering 77 yards.  Again it was Daniel to Coffman, this time from nine yards out.  With 2:48 still to play in the first quarter, the Tigers were up 14-3, and it appeared to the 57,824 on hand that a rout was in the offing.

The Buffs did not go down without a fight, however.

Colorado did put together several drives in the second quarter, with the first ending on a failed fourth-and-goal pass from Bernard Jackson to Dusty Sprague from the Missouri four yard line.  A second drive ended with a 36 yard field goal by Mason Crosby, pulling the Buffs to within 14-6.  A third drive stalled at midfield when yet another fourth down attempt failed (the Buffs would go 0-for-5 on fourth down attempts on the day).

The fate of CU was seemingly sealed just before half, when Buff punter Matt DiLailo fumbled a snap, giving the ball to Missouri at the Buff 14 yard line.  Six plays later, the Tigers were up 21-6.  As the Buffs had not posted more than 13 points in any one game all season, and had put up only three points in the second halves of four games, the lead seemed insurmountable.

Yet, as had become the characteristic of the Hawkins’ Buffs, Colorado fought on.

A 63-yard Jackson-to-Sprague pass to open the second half led to a one-yard quarterback sneak by Jackson and Colorado’s first second half touchdown of the season.  The lead was now 21-13, with 29 minutes of football still to play.

Unfortunately for Buff fans, the other consistent characteristic of the Hawkins’ Buffs also shone through in the second half – the inability to finish.  The Colorado offense continued to crank out yards, but no points.  On the day, the Buffs would gain a season-high 373 yards (to 353 for Missouri), but would generate no more points.  Chase Daniel’s fourth touchdown pass of the day, this one to Jared Perry for a nine-yard score midway through the third quarter, gave Missouri a 28-13 lead, and proved to be the final points of the game.

The last hopes for a Colorado comeback were dashed when a Bernard Jackson pass fell incomplete on fourth down after Colorado had driven to the Missouri 18-yard line with four minutes remaining.

Despite the 0-5 start, Colorado head coach Dan Hawkins remained upbeat.

“Guys are starting to feel we can throw the football, we can make some plays,” said Hawkins.  “I’ve been down before.  We’re good.  We’re solid.  We’re tight.”  While the part about being “down before” was  somewhat hard to fathom – part of selling point in hiring Dan Hawkins at Colorado was that he had been a winner everywhere he had coached (including a stellar 53-11 record at Boise State) – there did seem to be cause for hope.  Colorado had been in every game it had played in 2006 – something that could not have been said about four of the Buffs’ six losses in 2005 – and had played toe-to-toe with three nationally ranked teams in successive weekends.

Still, another loss was another loss.

“Pretty well is just pretty not good enough,” said Colorado offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich.  “There were about seven plays today that were just sickeningly easy to make and we didn’t make them,” Helfrich said.  “That’s my fault.  We’ve got to execute that or ratchet up practice or whatever it takes to get it done.”

The “whatever it takes” attitude would be at the forefront for the Buffs and their fans as Homecoming weekend approached.

Up next was Baylor, which was 2-3 on the season after defeating Kansas State, 17-3, to open up their Big 12 season.  Baylor represented a game – like Montana State, Colorado State, and Kansas State – which the Buff faithful had penciled in as sure wins before the season started.  Colorado had already lost to MSU and CSU.  With games against two more teams which could be ranked – Texas Tech and Oklahoma – to follow Baylor, the Buffs desperately needed a win to put an end to what was now a nine game losing streak.

And to make some sense of what was going on.

Here are the YouTube highlights from the game:

Chasing Infamy

The Colorado losing streak, after the Missouri loss, stood at nine games.  In the 117 years that the University of Colorado had fielded a football team, on only one occasion had the Buffs failed in ten straight outings.  The 1963 Buffs, under first year head coach Eddie Crowder, went 2-8, losing the last six games of the year after opening the season 2-2.  The 1964 edition of the Buffs also finished 2-8, starting 0-4 before beating Iowa State, 14-7, the fifth game of the season.  A Homecoming loss to Baylor in 2006 would match the ten game losing streak of the ‘63/’64 teams for the worst stretch in Colorado history.

True enough, the Buffs had endured more losses in a season than the eight suffered by both the ‘63 and ‘64 teams.  Colorado finished 1-10 in both 1980 and 1984.  The 1980 team opened the season with seven consecutive losses (but the Buffs did win the final game of 1979, so that streak ended at seven), while the 1984 team won the middle game of that season, bookended by two five game losing streaks (the Buffs won both the last game of 1983, and the first game of 1985, so both streaks ended at five games).

You could certainly try and sugarcoat the current nine game skid:

– During the nine game losing streak, the Buffs had lost to five ranked teams (six if you count Nebraska’s ranking after defeating Colorado);

– The Buffs had been in a position to win seven of the nine games; and

– The Buffs had continued to show improvement throughout September under a new coaching staff.

Still, nine losses in a row were nine losses in a row.

Until the Buffs won again, the 30-3 humbling by Nebraska, the 70-3 humiliation by Texas, and the unbelievable 19-10 loss to Montana State would still be referenced.  Colorado was one of only nine teams (out of 119 in Division 1-A) which remained winless in 2006.  Of those, only two teams, Duke and Stanford, were in BCS conferences.

Overall, only Temple, which was on a 17-game losing streak overall, and Duke (12 games), had longer current losing streaks than the Buffs’ nine.

Not exactly programs with which the Buffs wanted to be compared.

If Colorado wanted to avoid setting records which over a century of play had not generated, the Baylor game represented perhaps the Buffs’ last best chance.  After Baylor were games against two more ranked teams, so a loss to Baylor meant that the streak would likely continue until November, when the Buffs had potentially winnable home games against Kansas State and Iowa State.

When the 2006 media guide came out, much was made of Dan Hawkins placing Eddic Crowder and Bill McCartney beside him on the cover. “They are THE guys,” said Dan Hawkins.  “I haven’t done anything yet.  It’s a privilege to be in the same photo with Coach Ed and Coach Mac.”

Of course, Hawkins was referring to the successes each man had.

Under Eddie Crowder, the Buffs went 67-49-2, and, after the two 2-8 campaigns to open his tenure, went on to be ranked at the end of the season five times (Colorado had only finished nationally ranked three times in its history before Crowder).  Coach McCartney, of course, led the Buffs to the national championship in 1990, posting the most wins of any Colorado coach ever (93-55-5).

The desire of Coach Hawkins to place two Colorado legends on the cover of the 2006 media guide was admirable.  Crowder and McCartney epitomized the past successes of the program.  At the same time, those two legends had endured setting two of the most ignoble records in Buff history – Crowder at the helm for the Buffs’ only ten-game losing streak; McCartney in charge during a 1-10 campaign.

Hawkins was on the verge of making his own mark on the Buff program.

Unfortunately, it was a negative one.

One could only hope that there would be positive ones made down the road as well.

September 30, 2017 – at Los Angeles    UCLA 27, Colorado 23

The Colorado defense “held” UCLA quarterback Josh Rosen to 372 yards and one touchdown passing, but the Buffs could not make a play late, with UCLA holding on to defeat Colorado, 27-23.

CU quarterback Steven Montez went 17-for-36 for 243 yards and a touchdown, and also led the Buffs in rushing, going for 108 yards on 15 carries. Running back Phillip Lindsay posted 83 yards on 19 carries, including a two-yard touchdown run. Lindsay also had a 21-yard touchdown reception.

UCLA out-gained Colorado, 467 yards to 434, with the most important 79 yards coming on the Bruins’ final drive. The Buffs had pulled to within a point, at 24-23, with 6:49 remaining, but the Bruins pieced together a 15-play, 79-yard drive, icing the game with a 31-yard field goal with 26 seconds remaining.

“Our kids will bounce back but I was really proud of the way they fought and really proud of the way they played,” sai Mike MacIntyre. “Had a couple plays here or there that could have gone either way, that was the difference in the game, that’s just the way it goes sometimes.”

“It’s real frustrating, actually,” said Steven Montez of the loss. “I thought there were a lot of plays out there that could have gone our way. Obviously they didn’t. We need to get back to practice on Monday and just use this as motivation.”

Continue reading game story here

“It’s Real Frustrating, Actually” … 

It’s tempting, when a game is decided by less than a touchdown, to play the “What If?” game.

What if … the Buffs weren’t called for holding on a Steven Montez touchdown run with seven minutes remaining? The Buffs would have take a 27-24 lead instead of settling for a field goal and a 24-23 deficit.

What if … the Buffs hadn’t gone for the fake field goal late in the second quarter? Instead of trailing 14-10 at the break, it would have been a 14-13 game, and the strategies of play the second half would been altered.

What if … Buff receivers hadn’t dropped two touchdown passes in the end zone?

“We had a couple plays here or there that could have gone either way”, said Mike MacIntyre. “That was the difference in the game”.

The “What If?” game can drive you crazy, and is not advised. (If you still aren’t convinced, ask a Colorado State fan to lunch, and start the conversation with: “How do you think the Rocky Mountain Showdown would have turned out if the Rams hadn’t been called for three offensive pass interference penalties?”. An hour later, you’ll agree that the “What If?” game is to be avoided).

There is a case to be made, however, for taking a look at the UCLA game for its defining moments. Not only game-defining moments, mind you, but potentially season-defining moments.

Continue reading Game Essay here


One Reply to “CU Games of the Day – September 30th”

  1. The Hessler game against OU is one of my favorites of all time and Hessler one of my favorites players. I remember Lee Corso stating that Hessler was going to get hurt in the game. What a jackass predicting injury. Well John proved Corso and everyone else wrong!

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