Top 40 of the Past 40 – No. 11

Previously posted:

As always, I look forward to your comments and suggestions as we count down my favorite 40 games and favorite 40 players of my 40 years as a Buff …

Top 40 Favorite Games … No. 11

November 19, 1994 – No. 7 Colorado 41, Iowa State 20 – Salaam’s run; McCartney’s announcement 

From the Game Story in the CU at the Game Archives …

A game between a 9-1 team and an 0-9-1 to finish off the regular season would normally not bear much attention.  The 41-20 final score, after the Buffs nursed a 20-13 lead into the fourth quarter, would not have merited much notice nationally.

For local writers, though, the game could presented a year’s worth of headlines:

“Christian Fauria snares six catches; becomes Big Eight all-time tight end reception leader” would have been apropos;

“CU posts 576 yards of offense, sets team record for season average – 495.3″ would have been good; or

“Kordell Stewart becomes Big Eight all-time leader for total offense”.

All worthy events, but they were all  overshadowed.  First by Rashaan Salaam, then by the team’s thirteen-year head coach.

Salaam was effective against Iowa State, rushing for almost 200 yards and a touchdown in the game’s first three quarters.  The Buffs, though, could not put away the winless Cyclones, leading only 20-13 at the start of the fourth quarter.

Salaam was still 13 yards shy of the 2000-yard mark as the Buffs, leading 27-13 after a 23-yard run by Kordell Stewart to open the quarter, faced a first-and-ten at the CU 33-yard line.  Salaam took the handoff from Stewart, cut to his right, and raced down the sideline in front of his teammates for a 67-yard touchdown and front-runner status for the Heisman.  Salaam’s run gave him 2,055 yards on the season, and also gave him the titles of the nation’s leading rusher, scorer, and all-purpose runner.

Salaam’s final run of the day also gave Colorado its first real comfortable lead of the day, at 34-13.

The remainder of the game was a celebration.  The 10-1 Buffs were heading for the Fiesta Bowl and a yet-to-be-named opponent.  Salaam was given a ride off of the field by his teammates, as 46,113 frigid fans (37 degrees at kickoff) kept themselves warm by cheering the third 10-win team in school history.  All in all, a successful game and season.  Fans piled out of the stadium and into the late-afternoon sunshine, cold but content with the day.

But it wasn’t over yet.

Highlight of Salaam’s run which put him over 2000 yards for the season:

Back from the store

In Bozeman, I received updates from ABC and ESPN throughout the afternoon on the win over Iowa State. Frustration with the Buffs inability to put away ISU was quickly forgotten when the highlight of Salaam’s touchdown run flashed across the screen. The play made for perfect theater. Salaam reached the 2,000 mark in just the right fashion – at home, running right in front of the CU bench, on a long touchdown run to clinch the win. If Salaam had not already clinched the Heisman, that highlight alone may have sealed the deal. It would be replayed numerous times in subsequent weeks as college football analysts debated the issue.

Content with the afternoon’s events, I went to the store with my wife, Lee. Some time later, we returned to find the answering machine blinking. It was Charlie B. in Tennessee. “What is McCartney thinking?”, Charlie asked me by way of tape. “What is going on?”

Not understanding the message, and assuming Charlie was merely upset about McCartney’s play-calling on the day, I returned the call. It was then that I learned the reason for Charlie’s consternation. I quickly clicked on the television, turned to ESPN, and quickly had confirmed for me what Charlie was telling me.

Colorado head football coach Bill McCartney was resigning. (more under “McCartney’s Announcement”) …

Top 40 Favorite Players … No. 11

Defensive back Deon Figures (1988 – 92)

From Figures’ bio … A consensus first-team All-American as a senior in 1992 (Associated Press, United Press International, FWAA, Walter Camp, NEA, Football News and The Sporting News)… First-team All-Big Eight (1992)…Winner of the 1992 Jim Thorpe Award, presented to the nation’s top defensive back… His 27 pass deflections were the second most in CU history when he completed his career, and his 12 interceptions were fourth; not included in the count was an interception he made at the end of the ’91 Orange Bowl against Notre Dame, which helped seal the Buffs’ first national championship… Won the Lee Willard Award
as CU’s outstanding freshman player (1988)…

Figures returned punts for the first time as a senior, ranking 20th in the NCAA (11.4 per return); had 10 returns for 167 yards against Kansas State that year, both marks setting CU single game records…Played in the Hula Bowl (1993)… First-round draft choice of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1993 NFL draft (23rd overall)… Played in 93 career NFL games with Pittsburgh (1993-96) and Jacksonville (1997-98), making nine career interceptions… He was inducted into CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in the class of 2014.


One Reply to “Top 40 of the Past 40 – No. 11”

  1. Deon is probably the best Freshman ever to suit it up for the Buffs. He was game-ready upon signing. The one-handed interception against Washington was one of the best CB plays in CU history. I enjoyed going to school with Deon, and except for games, I don’t think that he ever took off his LA Dodgers hat.

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