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Top 40 of the Past 40 – No. 30

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. 30

October 6, 1990 – No. 12 Colorado 33, Missouri 31 – The Fifth Down game

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

The controversial ending no one could see coming – and few got to watch

On October 6, 1990, the 12th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes traveled to Faurot Field in Columbia, Missouri, to face the Missouri Tigers.

A top five team in the 1990 preseason poll, the Buffs had completed the non-conference portion of their schedule 3-1-1. Colorado tied No. 5 Tennessee to open the season, beat Stanford at home, and fell on the road to No. 21 Illinois before rebounding to defeat No. 22 Texas in Austin and No. 12 Washington in Boulder (yes, that’s right. Four ranked teams in five non-conference games – and the lone un-ranked non-conference opponent, Stanford, went on to upset No. 1 Notre Dame in South Bend a few weeks after falling to Colorado – see below).

Missouri, under third year head coach Bob Stull, entered the contest with a 2-2 record. The Tigers had defeated Utah State and Arizona State, but had fallen to TCU and Indiana. The Tigers and 46,856 faithful fans were anxious to play the 12th-ranked Buffs. Missouri had owned the Buffs for many years, building a 33-13-1 series edge through 1984. Colorado, however, had run off five straight wins in the series heading into the 1990 game.

The big games of the day pitted No. 9 Miami against No. 2 Florida State (a 31-22 Miami victory) and No. 13 Illinois against No. 20 Ohio State (a 31-20 win for the Illini). Two undefeated top ten teams lost that Saturday, with No. 1 Notre Dame falling to Stanford, 36-31, and No. 7 Oklahoma falling to Texas, 14-13.

With such a big day in college football nationwide, there was no national or even regional television coverage of the Colorado/Missouri game. The game was televised locally in Denver on KCNC, though, preserving for posterity one of the most controversial endings in college football history.

October 6th – at Missouri           No. 12 Colorado 33, Missouri 31

Eric Bieniemy rushed for 217 yards against Missouri to become Colorado’s all-time leading ground gainer, but his accomplishment went completely unnoticed as Colorado scored on the last play of the game to pull out a controversial 33-31 win. Soon after the game ended it was confirmed that Charles Johnson’s score from a yard out to give Colorado the victory had actually come on a fifth down play.

The five play sequence went as follows:

1st-down-and-goal – Missouri three-yard line (:31 remaining in the game): quarterback Charles Johnson spikes the ball to stop the clock;

2nd-and-goal – Missouri three-yard line (:28 remaining): running back Eric Bieniemy up the middle for a gain of two yards (final time out, Colorado);

3rd-and-goal – Missouri one-yard line (:18 remaining): Bieniemy up the middle for no gain – referee stops the clock as players unpile;

4th-and-goal – Missouri one-yard line (:08 remaining): Johnson spikes the ball to stop the clock; and

5th-and-goal – Missouri one-yard line (:02 remaining): Johnson sneaks in around right end for the game-winning touchdown.

The game’s final play overshadowed not only Bieniemy’s record performance, but also the efforts of wideout Mike Pritchard, who scored on a 68-yard reverse and a 70-yard pass from Johnson, as well as those of Charles Johnson himself. Johnson, a junior, starting for the first time in his career, completed 10-of-18 passes for 151 yards, and led the Buffs to the fateful touchdown to cap a 15-play, 88-yard drive after Missouri had retaken the lead, 31-27, with only 2:32 to play in the game.

The game should have been remembered as a tight game with multiple momentum swings. The game was tied three times (7-7; 14-14; and 24-24), with the lead changing hands five times. The Buffs’ final drive (shown in its entirety in the video, above) had an 18-yard scramble by Johnson, a 22-yard completion from Johnson to tight end Rico Smith on a third-and-ten, and a 15-yard run by Bieniemy. The drive also shows a number of slips by Colorado players when they were in the open field, including the completion down to the three yard line to set up the final five-play sequence.

After the game, no one was interested in Colorado’s 4-1-1 record.

All that was up for discussion was the fifth down play. Colorado head coach Bill McCartney did not help matters when he deflected questions as to forfeiting the game, instead focusing on the condition of Faurot Field. “The biggest story is that the field is not playable,” said McCartney. “No one should have to play on that field. You can’t even make a cut on that dang field … We slipped and slid all day, or we would have put more points on the board; I’ll tell you that.”

In response, Missouri head coach Bob Stull ranted, “They get five downs and he’s crying? We should have stopped them on fifth down.”

Asked about a reversal of the outcome, McCartney stated: “My reaction to that would be that it would be unfair because the field was treacherous; it was not a playable field.”

Continue reading story here

Tempest in a Teapot

While the NCAA made it clear that it had no authority to reverse the outcome of the Colorado/Missouri game, and while Bill McCartney made it clear he had no intention of forfeiting the game, there was precedent for a forfeit. In 1940, Cornell trailed Dartmouth, 3-0, late in the game. A mixup similar to the one in Columbia, Missouri, allowed the Big Red to score late and extend its unbeaten streak to 19 games with a 7-3 win. Later, when films confirmed that Cornell had scored on a fifth down play, Cornell yielded its claim to victory, proclaiming Dartmouth a 3-0 victor.

Would McCartney and Colorado do the same?

“It’s a once in a lifetime situation and I wish it hadn’t ended this way,” said McCartney. “It (the playing field) was not a fair test for our team. For us to forfeit under all these circumstances is absurd. If I felt like Missouri had outplayed us under fair conditions and we were inadvertently given an extra play at the end, I’d have met with my coaches and really search my heart to consider if we shouldn’t forfeit the game. But I don’t feel like that.”

Neither the Big Eight nor the NCAA had any authority to tell Colorado otherwise, and the final score stood.

In Bozeman, I took my share of grief from those who knew I was a Buff supporter. Most of the comments were along the lines of: “Didn’t they teach you how to count when you were in Boulder?” My redemption came in an editorial in the Billings Gazette later that week. Rich Underwood, in his “Sports Commentary” column, penned: “As scandals go, it’s a tempest in a teapot.” Underwood went on to note that, while he was a Missouri graduate himself, there was no need to belabor the outcome. “Send flowers and condolences to Missouri,” he wrote, “and move on to next week.”

I could not have said it better myself.

Continue reading recap here

Here is the YouTube video of the final drive (note how many times CU players slip on the turf on this drive alone) …

Top 40 Favorite Players … No. 30

Offensive Linemen … One of CU’s offensive lineman from the past 40 years, Nate Solder, stood out to me, and made the list of Top 40 players (in at No. 32). Thing is, there have been a number of offensive linemen for the Buffs who deserve consideration for the Top 40, but my list kept getting longer and longer. As a result, I cheated a little bit, and have placed the remaining meritorious offensive lineman under one heading, in at No. 30. It’s a pretty accomplished list (with bios from CUBuffs.com) …

  • Jay Leeuwenburg... 1989-91 … (one of six CU unanimous All-Americans) … A unanimous first-team All-American as a senior in 1991 (Associated Press, United Press International, AFCA/Kodak, FWAA, Walter Camp, Football News and The Sporting News (only the fourth Buff to earn unanimous honors)… A Playboy Preseason All-American prior to his senior year… He was an honorable mention All-American as a junior in 1990… A two-time first-team All-Big Eight selection as a junior and senior, the first Buff center to ever be honored twice with all-league honors… One of six finalists for the 1991 Outland Trophy Award…
  • Joe Garten … 1987-90 … (one of six CU unanimous All-Americans) … One of the first three unanimous All-Americans in CU history, when the seven NCAA recognized selectors all tabbed him on their first-team his senior year in 1990 (along with TB Eric Bieniemy and OLB Alfred Williams that same year)… A consensus first-team All-American as a junior, recognized by the Associated Press, United Press International, AFCA/Kodak and the Football Writers Association of America… A two-time, unanimous first-team All-Big Eight performer as a junior and senior… He finished as the runner-up in the voting for the Outland Trophy, presented to the nation’s outstanding offensive lineman as a senior…
  • Andre Gurode … 1998-2001 (consensus first-team All-American) … As a senior in 2001, he earned first-team All-America honors from the Associated Press, ABC Sports Online, CNN-SI.com, NEA and The Sporting News (the Football News tabbed him an honorable mention selection)… He was also on the watch lists for both the Outland and Lombardi awards, but did not advance to semifinalist status, which was done only eight games into the season; that was a shame as two of his most dominant performances, against Nebraska and Texas, were nationally televised games after the awards were pared down… He was a
    unanimous first-team All-Big 12 selection and one of the reasons Colorado averaged over 200 yards both rushing and passing for the season for only the third time in school history…
  • Bryan Stoltenberg … 1992-95 … (consensus first-team All-American) … A consensus first-team All-American as a senior in 1995 (United Press International, Walter Camp, Football News); The Sporting News tabbed him second-team while Associated Press named him third-team… A Playboy Preseason All-American prior to his senior year… A two-time first-team All-Big Eight performer (1994, 1995), he became only the second center in school history to be name all-conference twice (joining Jay Leeuwenburg)… He did not allow a quarterback sack after his freshman season (he went over 2,260 plays and 35 games without one) …
  • Heath Irwin … 1993-95 … (first-team All-American) … A first-team All American by the Associated Press as a senior in 1995 (he was an honorable mention selection by UPI)… A firstteam All-Big Eight performer that season as well, when he played the most snaps from scrimmage (742) by any player on the team… It was about as perfect a senior year a lineman could have, as he did not allow a quarterback sack or a pressure, and wasn’t called for a single penalty …
  • Chris Naeole … 1993-96 … (consensus first-team All-American) … A consensus first-team All-American as a senior in 1996 (Associated Press, AFCA, Walter Camp and Football News… He became the first native Hawaiian player to earn consensus All-America honors in 51 years (Herman Wedemeyer did it in 1945 for St. Mary’s)… A Playboy Preseason All-American prior to his senior year… A first-team All-Big Eight performer in 1995 as a junior, and a unanimous first-team All-Big 12 team member as a senior, when he was co-winner of the John Mack Award as CU’s outstanding offensive player… Set a school record as a senior with 58 pancake blocks …
  • Brad Bedell … 1998-99 … (first-team All-American) … A Football Writers Association of America first-team All-America as a senior in 1999, when he was a second-team choice by the Associated Press and third-team by The Football News… A first-team All-Big 12 performer as a senior as well, when he played the second most plays (834) on the team… Selected by the coaches as the John Mack Award winner as CU’s most outstanding offensive player his senior season…
  • Jim Hansen … 1989-92 … One of the most celebrated student-athletes ever at Colorado, as a senior in 1992 he earned the ultimate of academic honors in sports, being awarded the prestigious Rhodes Scholarship (the first at CU since Joe Romig in 1961 to do so)… He also earned the ultimate one in football the same year, named the recipient of the Vincent Draddy Award (now the William Campbell Award), which is considered the “Academic Heisman” (since renamed the William Campbell Award)… He was a three-time, first-team Academic All-American, a two-time College Football Association Scholar-Athlete team member and a four-timer on the Academic All-Big Eight team…
  • Ryan Miller … 2007-11 … He set the school record for the most career games started with 47 (48 including the 2007  Independence Bowl), breaking the old marks of 45 overall (ILB Jordon Dizon) and 44 by an offensive player (held by two players); he started the last 37 games of his career…
  • David Bakhtiari … 2010-12 …
  • Wayne Lucier … 2001-02 … (first-team All-American) …
  • Eric Coyle … 1982-86 …
  • Mark Vander Poel …. 1998-90 …

Others? Can you think of any other CU offensive linemen in the past 40 years who deserve to be on the list? …

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5 Replies to “Top 40 of the Past 40 – No. 30”

    1. My list is only for the past 40 years, so no credits for the likes of Joe Romig … or Bobby Anderson … or Cliff Branch … or Byron “Whizzer” White for that matter.
      I confined my list to those players I have actually seen in person since my freshman year …

  1. Still get frustrated by the whining from Missouri fans. Their defense lined up on fifth down so they were just as confused as CU was.

    We also need the team to wear the Ralphie “V” helmet whenever we play Missouri, just to remind them.

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