Top 40 of the Past 40 – No. 39

Editor’s note … With the conclusion of the 2019 season, I have now put in 40 years as a Buff fan. Hard to believe, but it was September, 1980, when I first set foot on the Boulder campus as a freshman. To help celebrate my 40th season with the black-and-gold, I have compiled a list of my Top 40 games, as well as my Top 40 players. Each week from now until the start of Fall Camp, I will post two new games and two new players, leading up to my top games and top players as the Buffs begin their final preparations for the 2020 season.

Previously posted:

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

Top 40 Favorite Games … No. 39

November 26, 2004 … Colorado 26, Nebraska 20 – Nebraska records fall as CU wins the North … “Payback”

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

Senior running back Bobby Purify ran for 130 yards and a touchdown as Colorado stayed alive in the Big 12 title hunt with a 26-20 win over Nebraska in Lincoln.  As much the story of the day, though, as Colorado’s third straight win, was the loss which sent the 5-6 Cornhuskers to its first losing season in 43 years.

The Buffs, who have a long history of having the Cornhuskers jump out on top, set the tone early.  Nebraska recovered an onsides kick to start the game (try and remember the last time the Cornhuskers felt the need to do that!), but could not move the ball, punting after three plays.  Taking over at their own ten-yard line, the Buffs moved 90 yards in 14 plays, with Joel Klatt hitting sophomore wide receiver Blake Mackey for a six-yard touchdown.   A Mason Crosby 37-yard field goal and a nine-yard Bobby Purify scoring run pushed the Colorado advantage to 17-0 early in the second quarter.

Nebraska responded with a two-yard touchdown run by quarterback Joe Dailey, but a Mason Crosby 39-yard field goal put the Buffs up 20-7 as time expired in the second quarter.  Two Crosby field goals in the third quarter upped the lead to 26-7, and the 77,661 on hand, the 268th consecutive sell-out for Nebraska, could only sit and watch the carnage.

Continue reading story here

From the essay for the game … “Payback” … 

There is always something special about beating Nebraska.  The 1986 20-10 game lives on so vividly in my memory that it may as well have been played yesterday.  Only six times (plus one tie) in my 25 years as a Colorado fan had the black and gold emerged victorious over the Husker Nation.  Now Colorado had wins in three of the past four years over the Cornhuskers.  Had the joy faded?  Had the enjoyment been diminished?

Not a chance.

What made the 26-20 win over Nebraska special in 2004 was what it meant in historical terms.  Always the stats junkie, I can’t watch a Colorado game without there being some reference to other games; other players; other seasons.  But this win also represented payback.  The 5-5 Cornhuskers needed a win to become bowl-eligible.  The same scenario had faced the Buffs in 1997 and 2003.  Both seasons came down to the Nebraska game. A win, and Colorado would play on.  A loss, and the season was over.

The results?

1997: Nebraska 27; Colorado 24.  The Buffs finish at 5-6, CU’s first losing season since 1984; first bowl-less season since 1987.

2003: Nebraska 31, Colorado 22.  Colorado stayed home for the holidays with a 5-7 record.

After the Kansas State win, two weeks before the Nebraska game, I was on the phone with Randy.  “Bowl-freakin’-eligible!!” I kept repeating about the now 6-4 Buffs.  Colorado would not have to go to Lincoln in need of a win to play in the post-season.  No possible repeats of the disappointments of 1997 and 2003.  How great was that?

But the joy of beating Nebraska had even greater rewards …

… First and foremost, with the Colorado win, two major milestones halted in Lincoln:  the first losing season for Nebraska since 1961; and the first season without a bowl game since 1968.  They were huge records, and Colorado had played its part in sending the now 5-6 Cornhuskers home for the holidays for the first time since the Johnson administration.

“I feel like it hasn’t really set in all the way yet”, Nebraska junior defensive tackle Titus Adams was quoted as saying after the game.  “I know that it is a shock.  There’s just a lot that’s been going on, and it don’t really feel right.”

There was a great deal of “it don’t really feel right” going on in Husker-land.  Starting in 2002, the walls of the Evil Empire had begun to crack:

  • 40 consecutive winning seasons: ended in 2002 with a 7-7 record;
  • 33 consecutive nine-win seasons: ended in 2002;
  • 33 consecutive years ranked in final Top 25: ended in 2002;
  • 348 consecutive weeks ranked in Top 25: ended in 2002;
  • 36 consecutive games unbeaten against Oklahoma State: ended in ‘02;
  • 24 consecutive wins over Missouri: ended in ‘03;

And after the loss to CU to end the 2004 season 5-6:

  • 35 consecutive bowl bids: (an NCAA record): ended in 2004; and
  • 42 consecutive non-losing seasons: ended in 2004.

For Colorado, there were also impressive milestones:

  • The first back-to-back wins in Lincoln since 1951-53; and
  • The first stretch of winning three-of-four over Nebraska since winning five out of six between 1956 and 1961.

Continue reading story here

… Video highlights and some comments from the Nebraska locker room after the game …

Top 40 Favorite Players … No. 39

Punter Barry Helton – 1984-87

A punter?

Yes, a punter.

For those of us who endured the depths of Colorado football in the early 1980’s, there were few highlights. From 1979 to 1984, Colorado had exactly zero All-American candidates. Then Barry Helton came along, and Buff fans had at least one player receiving national recognition.

CU punted less and less during Helton’s tenure, but Helton continued to be a weapon, and became a fan favorite along the way …

From Helton’s bio at … A consensus two-time first-team AllAmerican as a sophomore and junior (1985, 1986), honored by three organizations each year, including the Associated Press and UPI… He was an honorable mention choice by UPI his senior year in 1987… A three-time first-team All-Big Eight (1985-86-87), one of six three-time, first-team all-conference performers in school history… A member of the Big Eight All-Decade team (1980-89)… Selected as an honorable mention member on CU’s All-Century team in 1989… His career average yards per punt (44.92) ranked as the best in school history from the time of his graduation until 2002… … His 44 career kicks over 50 yards set a record that lasted for six years… A fourth round pick by San Francisco in the 1988 NFL Draft (think about that for a second – a punter being taken in the fourth round of the NFL draft)… Helton played in 50 career NFL games with San Francisco (1988-90) and the Los Angeles Rams (1991) … He won two Super Bowl rings with San Francisco (1988, 1989)… In 2012, he was inducted into the Colorado Springs Sports Hall of Fame, and into CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2019.

On his way to an All-America season, punter Barry Helton might have become the first and only ambidextrous punter in Colorado, if not NCAA, history. Late in the first quarter and buried deep in their own territory, Helton came in to punt CU out of a hole at its own 18 in a scoreless tie with No. 12 Oklahoma State. A heavy Cowboy rush forced Helton, a “rightie,” to his left. Instead of trying to punt the ball with his natural foot or take a loss and give OSU prime field position, to the surprise of all, he got the punt off with his left foot. It was a low line drive, but it carried and rolled for a combined 51 yards. OSU failed to move the ball and CU eventually took a 3-0 lead midway in the second quarter, but the ‘Pokes rallied for a 14-11 victory. Though CU didn’t win this game, Helton’s “feat” won’t soon be forgotten as a special record was created in the CU record books: “Longest Punt (with non-kicking foot).”


2 Replies to “No. 39 – 2004: CU 26, Nebraska 20 / Player No. 39: Barry Helton”

  1. Thanks for helping Buff fans jog their memories of all these great games. I dont have any super sentimental memories to report like Adam. In fact my wife wanted me to leave Boulder, which I did, to avoid any skeletons popping out of the closet.
    My buddies and I quickly learned how to work the system. As soon as we found out you had to show your class schedule to get a student ticket we found seniors who weren’t interested in football and borrowed theirs so we could sit in the senior section. Even in freshman year none of the real seniors seem to mind that their were 6 to 10 us “snotnoses” sitting together every game.
    Since I did leave I haven’t been back in person for a whole lot of the games . Whenever I do make it back most of our original buddy pack get together again…and a hoist a few…after the game these days. One thing I did make a regular trip for was the Bolder Boulder (until my joints gave out). Finishing in the stadium was awesome.
    I have a lot of favorite games too. My first one was before any of yours. It was the Liberty bowl where Bobby Anderson made the “bear (sheesh)” Bryant look like an arrogant jerk and stuck his “Italian Stallion (Musso) in the popcorn machine.
    memories wont let Tulagis, Tom’s Tavern and the Gondola die.

    1. Great story about sneaking into the senior section. Thank you. I loved going to Tulagi’s. Stuart not that the world seems to shut down thanks for keeping CUATG up and running!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *