Top 40 of the Past 40 – No. 6

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. 6

November 4, 1989 – No. 2 CU 27, No. 3 Nebraska 21 – “The Greatest Win I’ve Ever Been a Part of”

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

Jim Nantz, the play-by-play announcer for CBS, introduced the Colorado/Nebraska game to the nation as follows: “Quite simply, there has never been a bigger game in Colorado’s 100-year history than this game today.”

After falling behind early, the Colorado Buffaloes played like champions, prevailing over Nebraska, 27-21, taking control of the Big Eight race to the Orange Bowl, and taking dead aim at a national championship.

The game began ominously for the Buffs.  In each of Colorado’s five previous games at Folsom Field in 1989, the Buffs had scored on the first drive of the game.  In the opening series against the Cornhuskers, though, quarterback Darian Hagan threw an interception, only his fourth of the season.  Nebraska took over at the its own 49-yard line, and quickly took the lead.  On the Cornhuskers’ first play from scrimmage, quarterback Gerry Gdowski, taking advantage of the over pursuit of a pumped-up Colorado defense, threw a screen pass to Bryan Carpenter, who raced 51 yards for a score.

7-0, Nebraska, just 1:30 into the contest.

Folsom Tomb

A few minutes earlier, 52,877 fans were making as much noise as twice their number.  Now, with the exception of the northwest corner of the stadium where the red-clad Husker fans were dancing with glee, Folsom Field went silent.  The home crowd, which had waited for decades for this moment, was stunned.  All the hype, all the promise.  Yet there was the score:   7-0, Nebraska, less than two minutes into the game.  This couldn’t be happening!

Not again.

While fear crept through the stands, confidence reigned on the Colorado bench.  “After they scored on the first play,” said wide receiver Jeff Campbell after the game, “everybody kind of looked at each other like, ‘All right, Here we go.’  And from there it just snowballed.”

One series later, all was right with the world again.

Continue reading story here

From the essay for the game … “A New Set of Goals”

Colorado was now 9-0, 5-0 in Big Eight play.  A win over either Oklahoma State (4-5) or Kansas State (1-8) would send Colorado to the Orange Bowl for the first time since 1977.  Two wins would give the Colorado its first undisputed Big Eight title since 1961.  Two wins would also guarantee a chance at the national championship.

“Our dream is right in front of us now,” said quarterback Darian Hagan, whose exploits were now creating talk of a Heisman trophy.  The nation was beginning to notice that this was more than a team fed by emotion; the talent was there.  When the post-season honors were announced, three Buffs were named consensus All-Americans – guard Joe Garten, punter Tom Rouen, and linebacker Alfred Williams.  No fewer than ten Buffs were placed on the All-Big Eight team, the most ever by any Colorado squad.

Colorado, despite its emotional two week run against Oklahoma and Nebraska, was not done yet. No. 2 in the polls, the Buffs were one of only four undefeated teams in the nation (No. 1 Notre Dame, No. 4 Alabama, and No. 24 Fresno State being the other three).  Four AP writers gave Colorado the nod as the best team in the nation (the remaining 56 writers staying with Notre Dame).  Holding serve against Oklahoma State and Kansas State would set up an Orange Bowl clash for the national title.  Bill McCartney knew the Buffs could not afford to look ahead.  “Oklahoma State has killed us the last couple of years (42-17 and 41-21),” McCartney noted, “and they’re coming on, it seems like.  We’re going to have to regroup.”

Continue reading essay here

The video of the famous Hagan-to-Flannigan pitch … 

The nail-biting last few minutes of the game … 

Top 40 Favorite Players … No. 6

Tight end Daniel Graham – (1998-2001) 

From his bio … The sixth unanimous All-America in Colorado history, as he was afforded first-team honors by the six organizations recognized by the NCAA as a senior in 2001: Associated Press, AFCA, FWAA, Walter Camp, The Sporting News and the Football News… He won the eighth postseason trophy ever by a Buffalo when he received the John Mackey Award, which cited him as the nation’s best tight end… He was a unanimous first-team all-Big 12 team member (AP, Coaches) in starting all 12 games en route to catching 51 passes for 753 yards and six touchdowns and 37 first downs; he was second in the nation in receptions by a tight end, and was first in both yards and touchdowns…

Graham tied the single-season team mark for receptions by a tight end, but set the record for the most TE receiving yards for a solo year… He had 106 career receptions for 1,543 yards, numbers that ranked him first in both categories among all tight ends ever at Colorado… He took great pride in his blocking; he had 101 dominant blocks and 138 downfield blocks as a senior… He became just the sixth player to lead CU in tight end receiving for three straight seasons… He received the John Mack Award from the staff as the most outstanding offensive performer, and the players elected him the Zack Jordan Award winner as the overall MVP… His 10 receptions against Oregon in the ’02 Fiesta Bowl tied the school record for most in a game by a tight end… A first round pick in the 2002 NFL Draft by New England (21st overall), he won two Super Bowl rings with the Patriots in 2003 and 2004, and went on to play with the Denver Broncos, Tennessee and New Orleans in an 11-year professional career… Inducted into  CU’s Athletic Hall of Fame in 2018.


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