Top 40 of the Past 40 – No. 36

Previously posted:

As always, I look forward to your comments and suggestions …

Top 40 Favorite Games … No. 36

January 1, 1996 – No. 7 Colorado 38, No. 12 Oregon 6 – Cotton Bowl rout of Oregon inadvertently creates NikeU

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

Colorado v. Oregon – Cotton Bowl – January 1, 1996

The “Forgotten Bowl”

Colorado had its wish come true.  After losing two conference games early, the best Colorado could hope for was nine wins and a New Year’s Day game.  The win over Kansas State in the regular season finale allowed the Buffs to achieve both goals.

The only problem was, no one seemed to notice.

Dubbed the “Forgotten Bowl”, the Colorado/Oregon match-up represented the first time in 55 years that the Cotton Bowl would be played without a Southwest Conference team.  A lack of interest on the local level was reflected nationwide.  While the two 9-2 teams had much to play for (Colorado needed a win to cement its status as a national power; Oregon was playing for its first 10 win season and top 10 ranking in school history), there was little to spur national attention.

A dreary weather forecast doomed any hope of a decent walkup crowd.  The official attendance for the game turned out to be 58,214 (69,000 capacity), but the crowd shots from the CBS cameras proved that only about half of the sold tickets were utilized.  Oregon at least held up its end, bringing 14,000 fans.  Colorado, however, could muster only 6,000 faithful.

Fortunately for Rick Neuheisel and the Buffs, the extra fans in the stands did not permit Oregon to place additional players on the field.

 January 1st – Cotton Bowl, Dallas, Texas          No. 7 Colorado 38, No. 12 Oregon 6

Head coach Rick Neuheisel concluded a successful first campaign at Colorado, leading the Buffs to a convincing 38-6 win over 12th-ranked Oregon.  The Buffs notched their 10th win of the season behind a sluggish offense and a turnover-producing defense.  John Hessler threw for two touchdowns and ran for another, but it was the Buff defense which stole the show.

And steal the show it did.

The Colorado defense turned the ball over five times, with none more important than a record-setting 95-yard interception return for a touchdown by freshman cornerback Marcus Washington.  With the Buffs up 7-6 in the second quarter and the Ducks driving, Washington picked off an errant pass from Oregon quarterback Tony Graziani and raced down the sideline in front of his Colorado teammates to put the Buffs up 13-6 (the extra point attempt was missed).

Washington’s heroics turned the momentum over to the Buffs for good.  On the day, Oregon found its way into Colorado territory nine times, but could only post two early field goals.  Players credited defensive coordinator/secondary coach A.J. Christoff with the win.  “Coach Christoff just made the right calls at the right times today,” said Washington, named the game’s defensive MVP.  “All year our defense has been underrated even though we’ve stopped a lot of teams.”

Buoyed by the defensive effort, the offense responded in the third quarter to put the game away.  Colorado scored 19 points in the quarter on a two-yard pass from Hessler to tight end Matt Lepsis, a six yard run by Herchell Troutman (who gained 100 yards on 13 carries on the day) and a 12-yard hookup from Hessler to Phil Savoy.

The fourth quarter was played in a cold rain before few fans, but the 1996 edition of the Cotton Bowl would not be concluded without controversy.  Up 32-6 with five minutes to play, Colorado faced a fourth-and-14 from its 43-yard line.  After seven consecutive running plays, a punt was certainly in order.  Instead, Neuheisel called for a fake punt, with punter Andy Mitchell hitting Ryan Sutter for a 28-yard gain and a first down.  The trick play led to the Buffs’ final score, and some hurt feelings on the Oregon sideline.

First-year Oregon head coach Mike Bellotti gave a stern “no comment” about the play, but Neuheisel was quick to explain.  “We faked the punt …. strictly because they were lined up to block the punt,” said the Buffs’ coach after the game.  “And if you have been following Colorado football, we’ve had five of ‘em blocked.”  Neuheisel concluded with an apology: “I apologize if there are any hard feelings.”

Unintended consequences

From USA TodayPhil Knight remembers drinking adult beverages with Mike Bellotti, then head coach of the University of Oregon football team, at a scheduled victory party that felt more like a wake.

Colorado had just buried the Ducks 38-6 in the 1996 Cotton Bowl, and Knight, the founder and chairman of Nike who ran track for Oregon in the late 1950s, had a question for Bellotti.

“What do you need to get the program to the next level?” he asked.

An indoor practice facility, Bellotti replied.

So Knight kicked in almost $10 million to build a facility that protected the Ducks from the elements in rainy Eugene.

“It’s kind of grown from there,” Knight told USA TODAY Sports, adding that he grew intrigued with the notion of helping the program in 1995 after Oregon reached the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1958. “I wasn’t really looking at a national championship. I thought we had a chance and could return to the Rose Bowl over a reasonable period of time instead of taking a while.”

Top 40 Favorite Players … No. 36

Running Back Bobby Purify – 2000-04

Bobby Purify ran for 130 yards and a touchdown in CU’s 26-20 win over Nebraska in 2004, but my most-lasting memory is Purify’s his 39-yard touchdown run against the Cornhuskers to open the scoring in the 62-36 win in 2001. Chris Brown will always be the hero of the game for his six-touchdown performance, but I’ll never forget Purify’s run early in the first quarter. Not often thought of as being in the pantheon of CU running backs, Purify nonetheless is No. 3 on the all-time rushing list at Colorado, with 3,598 yards, coming in behind only Eric Bieniemy (3,940) and Phillip Lindsay (3,707).

From Purify’s bio … He battled through separations to both shoulders, along with other assorted maladies, to post the 13th 1,000-yard season in school history in 2004 as he finished the year as the conference’s sixth-leading running back with 1,017 yards (43rd in the NCAA) in earning honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.

He finally led the team in rushing (he entered his senior year tied for the second most career yards without doing so), and his 3,016 career total placed him third on CU’s all-time list. He had 10 career 100-yard games, tying him for seventh most, and his 3,524 all-purpose yards were the fourth most ever at Colorado.

With 508 receiving yards, he became the first player in school history to record 2,500 and 3,000 yards rushing and 500 yards receiving, and was only the 11th to do the 3,000/500 double at a Big 12 school … All-time at Colorado, he tied for 30th in receptions (50), was 52nd in receiving yards (508) and tied for 26th in scoring (126 points) and 16th in rushing touchdowns (20).

He had five 100-yard games as a senior, including 189 in the opener against Colorado State; he had his career high of 191 against the
Rams as a sophomore in 2001 … Due to injuries, one of the few in school history to earn letters in five different seasons.

CU/Nebraska 2001 – Bobby Purify’s 39-yard touchdown is at the 1:13 mark ...

Bobby Purify takes it to the Cornhuskers again in 2004 … 


2 Replies to “No. 36 – 1996: No. 7 CU 38, No. 12 Oregon 6 / Player No. 36: Bobby Purify”

  1. Stuart, the 62-36 highlights were just what the doctor ordered! Along with the other highlights you post and the top 40 countdown, I’m crediting you for keeping me sane in these insane times. Thanks again for all you do. Stay safe Buff Fans! GO BUFFS!

  2. I got to watch Bobby a couple times hen he was in high school in Colo. Spgs. Who ever designed the offense at Palmer High did his best to prove football wasn’t even 2nd grade math. Seems like every play he would start Bobby out way off the to the left, put him in motion to the right and either use him for a fake sweep or hand it off for a real sweep….almost the same play, same direction every time. All the right side of the D had to do was shadow Bobby…but it didnt make any difference. He would make at least 2 miss, out run a couple more before anyone else caught up with him, which, of course, several times they never did. I was extremely pleased when he committed.

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