“It’s Fresno State’s Fault!”

It was announced this past week that the Pac-12 conference, following the lead of the Big Ten, was cancelling it’s non-conference schedule for the 2020 season.

“The health and safety of our student-athletes and all those connected to Pac-12 sports continues to be our number one priority,” said Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott in a statement. “Our decisions have and will be guided by science and data, and based upon the trends and indicators over the past days, it has become clear that we need to provide ourselves with maximum flexibility to schedule, and to delay any movement to the next phase of return-to-play activities.”

The games cancelled by the University of Colorado include the final game of the Rocky Mountain Showdown series, which was supposed to be played in Ft. Collins, along with a home game against Fresno State and a road game against Texas A&M.

Wait a second … did you say “Fresno State”?

Ah … now we know the source of the problem … It’s Fresno State’s Fault!!

In the 20th century, when CU scheduled games against Fresno State, everything went according to plan.

The 20th century …

The Buffs beat the Bulldogs in Boulder in 1965, 10-7 (sorry, the Archives don’t go back that far!), and then again in Boulder to open the 1988 season, 45-3.

From the game story for the 1988 gameColorado opened the 1988 season with an impressive domination of Fresno State, running up a final score of 45-3 before a sparse crowd of 32,417. The Buffs amassed a decade-high 446 yards rushing, led by Eric Bieniemy, who posted 118 yards and a touchdown. In all, Colorado had four players rush for over 70 yards, with the outcome never seriously in doubt.

The teams didn’t meet again until Christmas Day, 1993, when CU squared off against Fresno State in a shootout in the Aloha Bowl. The Buffs took care of business against the Bulldogs’ high-octane offense, led by quarterback Trent Dilfer, coming away with a 41-30 victory.

From the game story for the 1993 Aloha BowlWhile the Buffs found no snow on the ground on Christmas Day, 1993, they did find presents under the tree.

Colorado’s defense forced four Fresno State fumbles, converting all four turnovers into points as the Buffs ran away from the Bulldogs, 41-30, to win the 12th-annual Aloha Bowl.

Sophomore tailback Rashaan Salaam rushed for 135 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Buffs’ offense, while the depleted Colorado secondary withstood 523 yards passing by Fresno State’s Trent Dilfer. “It’s sweet,” said head coach Bill McCartney. “It’s what we wanted to accomplish when we redesigned our goals after losing to Nebraska. We wanted to close the season with three straight wins, go to a bowl, and bring back a trophy.”

The last time CU played Fresno State in the 20th century, in Boulder in 1998, the Bulldogs put up a good fight before falling, 29-21.

From the game story for the 1998 gameColorado quarterback Mike Moschetti, playing before the home fans for the first time, connected with sophomore wide receiver Javon Green for a 25-yard touchdown early in the fourth quarter on what would prove to be the winning score as the No. 16 Buffs held off the Fresno State State Bulldogs, 29-21.

So, to recap … four games against Fresno State in the 20th century, with four victories for the Buffs.

Then, the millennium ended, and all Hell broke loose …

2001 … Bulldogs deprive CU of a chance at the national championship … 

Back in the day, there were several short-lived “Classic” games, early season kickoff games which gave schools a 12th game and some extra national publicity. In 1990, the Buffs played Tennessee in the “Pigskin Classic”, with the 31-31 tie almost costing CU a chance at a national title.

In 2001, CU was invited to participate in the “Jim Thorpe Classic”. In the inaugural Jim Thorpe Classic (there would be only two), the Buffs were given a home game against Fresno State. Considering that the Buffs were coming off of a 3-8 season, and would be facing 24th-ranked Colorado State in Denver the following week, a warm-up home game against Fresno State seemed like a good idea.

Except … Fresno State had other ideas, coming away with a 24-22 victory.

From the game story from the 2001 gameThe CU Buffs kicked off the 2001 season in inauspicious fashion, turning the ball over five times in falling to Fresno State, 24-22.  The most costly turnover came with 3:32 remaining in the game and CU down by two points.  On third-and-goal on the Bulldogs’ two-yard line, quarterback Craig Ochs threw an ill-advised pass in the direction of fullback Brandon Drumm.  The pass was intercepted by cornerback Devon Banks, and the Buffs fell in their season opener for the third consecutive year under Gary Barnett.

Barnett called the play “a good, safe, run-pass option … Craig tried to force it.  Just throw it away; we line up, kick a field goal and go up 25-24.”  Instead, the Buffs fell for the ninth time in 12 games.  “I committed the cardinal sin,” said Ochs.  You never throw an interception in the red zone.”

While the Buffs rebounded that season to win the Big 12 championship, the loss to Fresno State cost the Buffs a chance at a national championship game against Miami.

From the Archives … When the Associated Press poll came out the weekend after the Colorado win over Texas game, in the Big 12 championship game, the Buffs had moved up from No. 9 in the polls to No. 4.  Ahead of the Buffs were unanimous No. 1 Miami, No. 2 Tennessee (up from No. 5 after defeating then No. 2 Florida), and No. 3 Oregon.  Just behind the Buffs at No. 5 was Nebraska.  In the Bowl Championship Series standings, Miami and Tennessee were No. 1 and No. 2, followed by Nebraska and Colorado.

The only game of consequence left to be played – or so it seemed – was the Southeastern Conference championship game.

No. 2 Tennessee was set to play No. 21 LSU, the surprise winner of the SEC West.  All Tennessee had to do was take care of business, handle the Tigers, and the Rose Bowl would match No. 1 Miami v. No. 2 Tennessee.  The BCS would have fulfilled its role of placing the best two teams in a championship game.

In a season where nothing seemed to go according to form, the two-touchdown underdog Tigers handled Tennessee, 31-20, to win the SEC title and a berth in the Sugar Bowl.  Miami was a lock for the Rose Bowl. What was left for the BCS was to pick an opponent for the Hurricanes from among three less than perfect candidates … 

When the final BCS standings were announced December 10th, the answer came – Nebraska.

The Cornhuskers out-pointed the Buffs by the minuscule margin of .005.  The final score, once the polls, computers, strength of schedule, and quality wins were tallied, stood at: Nebraska, 7.23; Colorado, 7.28.  Nebraska would play Miami in the Rose Bowl for the national championship.

Had Colorado defeated Fresno State in the opener, there wouldn’t have been any question: CU would have played Miami in the Rose Bowl, with the national championship on the line.

2012 … Bulldogs tag Colorado as the worst Power-Five team in the nation … 

The Jon Embree era had gotten off to a rocky start in 2011, with the Buffs posting a 3-10 record. Colorado did finish off the season, though, with two wins in its final three games, giving the Buff Nation some hope for the future. Those hopes were dashed, however, as CU opened the 2012 season with losses to Colorado State … and Sacramento State. The home loss to the Hornets seemed to push the Buffs as low as they could go …

… until they went to Fresno the following weekend. In the only game CU has ever played at Fresno, the Buffs came away with a devastating 69-14 defeat. The Buffs would finish the 2012 season 1-11, with Jon Embree returning to the NFL assistant ranks shortly thereafter.

From the game story of the 2012 game Colorado sent their fans scurrying for their remotes, and the media relations office for the record books, as the Buffs were humiliated by Fresno State, 69-14. Colorado fell behind 35-0 in the first quarter, and 55-7 at halftime, as records fell throughout the game … records which Buff fans would have just as soon left in the past.

At the outset, the only record which was known to be at risk was for the hottest game in which Colorado was a participant. The temperature at kickoff was 102-degrees, tying the record for the warmest Buff game on record with a game against Arizona State in Tempe in 2007. The crowd was only 27,513, but the number of Bulldog faithful who will have claimed to be on hand for the massacre will certainly climb as the years go by.

2013 … Fresno State game cancelled … no … postponed (until 2020) … 

Game Three of the 2013 season was supposed to be a home game against Fresno State. Instead, flooding hit the Boulder area, and the game was cancelled.

From the “Colorado Daily” stories of that week Saturday’s football game between the University of Colorado and Fresno State has been postponed, university officials decided Friday morning.

After careful consideration, CU-Boulder Chancellor Philip P. DiStefano has decided that the University will not hold a football game tomorrow, and that school officials will discuss a possible make-up date for the game.

“Even though the weather is improving, Boulder is still designated as a national emergency site,” the chancellor said. “Our community is hurting. Many of our students are displaced from their homes, including many of our student-athletes. This is not an appropriate time for us to hold a game that would put pressure on the community, both in terms of security/emergency personnel, but also in diverting attention from people in need.”

The 2013 game was ultimately re-scheduled to be played on September 12, 2020.

And now the game has been cancelled … again.

So, to recap …

Colorado v. Fresno State … 20th century … Four games, with CU going 4-0 in those games.

Colorado v. Fresno State … 21st century … Two games played; two games cancelled. The first game played, in 2001, cost the Buffs a shot at a national championship. The second game played, in 2012, marked Colorado as the worst Power-Five program in the nation.

The Buffs have been waiting eight years for redemption for that 69-14 humiliation, but the 2013 game was cancelled due to Boulder flooding, with the 2020 makeup game now cancelled as well.

If we had bothered to learn from history, we should have guessed that, with Fresno State on the 2020 schedule, something bad was bound to happen.

Since the 21st century has been a bust for the Buffs when scheduling the Bulldogs, my advice to Rick George would be to reschedule this September’s game for September … 2101.

It’s Fresno State’s Fault!




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