Dave Plati’s Top Three Game Fours

From Dave Plati at CU Buffs.com … Plati-‘Tudes Short No. 4 … The fourth installment of CU’s best or most exciting football games in its history as to when they occurred in week four of any season.  We’re running these over the next three months on our “Throwback Thursdays” — many are obvious, a few obscure, and no doubt some up for debate.  The best game fours in our history in my humble opinion:

GAME 4’s

#1—1990: Colorado 29, Texas 22 at Austin.
One of the key points in CU’s national championship run, things hadn’t gone CU’s way after its stellar ’89 run.  A tie with Tennessee in the Disneyland Pigskin Classic, a last-minute win over Stanford and a 1-point loss at Illinois had the Buffs at 1-1-1 a quarter of the way through the season, not to mention dropping from a preseason ranking of fifth down to No. 20.  Texas, ranked 22nd, jumped to a 7 -0 lead, but the Buffs rallied to lead 14-13 at halftime.  The Longhorns dominated the third quarter (119-11 in yardage) and scored a TD, though missed the two-point conversion and took a 19-14 lead into the final stanza.

… From the CU at the Game Archives … “Alfred Williams recalls Bieniemy rallying the troops”

Runner-Up—1989: Colorado 45, Washington 28 at Seattle
Following an emotional week after quarterback Sal Aunese passed away on Saturday, Sept. 23 due to complications from stomach cancer (when CU had a bye; over 2,000 people including the full team attended a memorial service for him the following Monday on campus at Macky Auditorium), the Buffs roll into Washington and blowout the No. 21 Huskies, 45-28.  Colorado used the win to rise to No. 3 in the nation, leading 38-6 entering the fourth quarter (after spotting UW a 3-0 lead, CU scored 38 points in the next 30 minutes).

… From the CU at the Game Archives … “Singing the CU Alma Mater at Husky Stadium” …

Honorable Mention—2002: Colorado 31, No. 20 UCLA 17 at Pasadena
A week after losing at home to No. 17 Southern Cal, 40-3, on national television (ABC), the Buffs had another national affair on ABC, but on the road at No. 20 UCLA.  The USC loss dropped CU out of the polls, and the network wasn’t overly excited that it had the Buffaloes two weeks in a row.  After a scoreless first quarter, UCLA jumped out in front 7-0 on the first play of the second, but that’s when Colorado got its wakeup call; Chris Brown would rush for 188 yards and three touchdowns, his first from 19 yards out to tie the game a little over a minute later.  That ignited a 31-3 run over the next 35 minutes and would be the first of eight wins in nine games for the Buffaloes.

… From the CU at the Game Archives … “Not So Solid Ochs” …

To Which I Would Add The Following … 

September 23, 1994 – Boulder          No. 7 Colorado 29, No. 3 Texas A&M 21

A Folsom Field record crowd of 53,849 and a national ABC television audience looked on as the Colorado Buffaloes lost their leader in the first quarter, only to have a local boy turn out to be the hero in a huge 29-21 win over Texas A&M.

Back-up quarterback John Hessler, from nearby Brighton, Colorado, was called on to play against the vaunted Aggie defense after starter Koy Detmer went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in the first quarter … and Hessler came through.

Hessler, backed by a staunch effort from the defense and some crafty play calling by Neuheisel, finished the day with adequate numbers (10-of-20 passing for 177 yards, one touchdown and no interceptions).  But the real story was how well Hessler, a red-shirt sophomore, stood up to the pressure.  Hessler came into the contest having thrown only 15 passes in his career, none with the first offensive unit.  “It was real nerve-racking when I first went in,” understated Hessler.  “I missed a lot of passes early, but I think Neuheisel had a lot of confidence in me to run the offense.”

How much confidence?

When asked how much of the offensive game plan was used with Hessler, Neuheisel responded:  “Maybe twenty percent.  Twenty percent of the offense that we practiced for the game we kept.”

That twenty percent proved to be enough.

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October 1, 1994 – at Texas                          No. 5 Colorado 34, No. 16 Texas 31

Texas was more than anxious to take a crack at the No.5 Buffs.  Undefeated on the young season, the 16th-ranked Longhorns were 3-0 for the first time since 1985.  Playing at home in front of a sell-out crowd of 77,809 (the first non-conference sell-out for the Longhorns in ten years) Texas players looked to avenge the 36-14 pasting laid on them by the Buffs in 1993 season-opener.

Eight returning starters on offense and nine on defense gave Longhorn fans plenty of confidence that the media-drunk Buffs would leave Austin in a different mood than they had Ann Arbor.

But it was Texas and their fans that left the stadium displeased, as, for the second week in a row, Colorado scratched out a last-second win against a ranked opponent on the opponent’s home field.  Junior place-kicker Neil Voskeritchian booted through a 24-yard field goal with one second remaining on the game clock to give the Buffs a 34-31 win.

Sharing the spotlight with Voskeritchian was junior tailback Rashaan Salaam, who made a splash in the national media with a record-setting performance.  Salaam rushed for 317 yards on 35 carries, marking only the second time in school history that a CU player had eclipsed the 300-yard barrier (Charlie Davis ran all over Oklahoma State for 342 yards on 34 carries in 1971).  With his 45 yards receiving, Salaam also set a school mark for all-purpose yards at 362.

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September 28, 1985 – at Arizona           Colorado 14, Arizona 13

A major test for the rejuvenated Buffs would come against Arizona. The game against the Wildcats would be the first road game of the year, and the first night game for Colorado since 1980 (v. LSU).

After starting the season 2-1 in 1983, the Buffs succumbed to Notre Dame, and then slid into a five game losing streak. If the 1985 Colorado squad, also possessing a 2-1 record, was to make a statement that black was in fact back, what better way to do so than to post a road victory?

As it was, the Buffs were a paltry 2-11-1 on the road in their first three-plus seasons under Bill McCartney.

To almost everyone’s amazement, Colorado stepped up, pulling out a 14-13 win under the lights in Tucson. As in the Oregon game, the defense ultimately carried the day. Colorado held the Wildcats to just 228 yards of total offense, the best Buff effort in two years. Through the first month of the season, the Buffs’ defense was now ranked 18th in the nation in both rushing and total defense. This rated as quite an improvement for a team which had allowed, on average, over 400 yards and 30 points per game to the opposition over McCartney’s first three years.

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And One Game Four For the Ages … 

October 4, 1980 – Boulder           No. 12 Oklahoma 82, Colorado 42

The score says it all.


If you have never seen these numbers before, consider yourself fortunate.  The headline in the October 5, 1980, Rocky Mountain News was:  “Buffs humiliated by Sooners 82-42”.  The statistics border on the unbelievable.  The total number of points scored by two teams, 124, set a modern day NCAA record, as did the total number of touchdowns by both teams (18).  In all, at least 51 NCAA, Big Eight Conference, Colorado/Oklahoma team, or Folsom Field records were broken – and five more tied (though many have since been passed).

No one was disillusioned with the belief that 0-3 Colorado was going to upset 12th-ranked Oklahoma.  Still, for an ever so brief moment, it looked as if the Buffs, though reeling, might stay with the Sooners.  After Oklahoma had gone up 14-0, Buff freshman Walter Stanley ran the ensuing kickoff back 100 yards for a touchdown to make the score 14-7 with 3:07 left in the first quarter.

The Sooners quickly responded with a 20-yard touchdown run by Buster Ryhmes to run the score to 21-7, but, with the aid of a pass interference penalty taking the ball to the Sooner three-yard line, Colorado pushed the ball over on a Willie Beebe run, and the second quarter scoreboard read 21-14.  CU hadn’t stopped the Sooners, but had shown an ability to score as well.  Maybe there was hope.  At the half, the score was a respectable 34-21.

Good news, bad news.  First the good news:  at least Colorado had scored some points in the first half of a game.  Now the bad news:  Oklahoma had not scored in the first half of its first two games, but had scored five touchdowns in the first thirty minutes against CU.

Unfortunately, matters only deteriorated from there.

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