Dave Plati’s Top Three Game Seven’s

From CUBuffs.comPlati-‘Tudes Short No. 7 … The seventh installment of CU’s best or most exciting football games in its history as to when they occurred in week seven of any season.  We’re running these over the second half of the spring on our “Throwback Thursdays” — many are obvious, a few obscure, and no doubt some up for debate.  So here are the best game seven games in our history in my humble opinion:

GAME 7’s

#1—1972: Colorado 20, Oklahoma 14 in Boulder.
Colorado was ranked by some as the No. 1 team in the nation in the preseason, officially No. 2 by the wire services after a spectacular ’71 season; but Oklahoma State derailed the Buffaloes in Stillwater in week four (31-6); CU won its next two and entered the game ranked No. 9 with a 5-1 mark.  OU, on the other hand, came in at No. 2, undefeated (4-0), fresh off a 27-0 whitewashing of No. 10 Texas in Dallas and had allowed just two field goals in outscoring its opponents, 196-6.  And with Keith Jackson (calling his first game at Folsom) and Bud Wilkinson on hand for a national ABC broadcast, it provided one of the greatest atmospheres in school history at the time – and the game lived up to its billing in front of a state record crowd of 52,022 (Mile High Stadium at the time was 50,657).  Points and yards were tough to come by in the first half, as Oklahoma took a 7-0 lead into halftime and with a slight 137-109 edge in yards.  But the Buffaloes came alive in the third quarter: after driving to the OU 11 on their first possession, it ended with a fumble; the second possession ended much better, with Gary Campbell taking the pitch from Ken Johnson and rumbling 43 yards for a score to cut the lead to 7-6 (the extra point was wide).  OU was then stuffed in three plays and muffed the punt snap; Cullen Bryant made an interception and set CU up at the Sooner 18, where six plays later, Johnson connected with Jon Keyworth on a 3-yard TD pass.  Bo Matthews ran over right guard for the 2-point conversion and CU turned a seven-point deficit into a lead by the same margin, 14-7, with 4:02 left in the quarter.

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Runner-Up—1986: Colorado 20, Nebraska 10 in Boulder.
Referred to as “The Turning Point” inside the program, the Buffs ended six straight losing seasons in 1985 by going 7-5, but had opened ’86 with an 0-4 start (three of the losses by eight combined points).  After eking out a 17-12 win at Missouri and then a 31-3 slaughter of Iowa State, things had reversed a bit – but CU, in Bill McCartney’s fifth season as head coach, was still looking for that signature win, and his first over a ranked team. On October 25, third-ranked Nebraska rolled into Boulder, a prohibitive favorite with a 6-0 record and owning an average 25-point margin of victory.  But the Buffaloes weren’t intimidated from the start: after each team came up empty on their first two drives, CU took over at the NU 46.  Two offside penalties on the Cornhuskers placed the ball on the N36, but O.C. Oliver was thrown for a 3-yard loss.  The play call was a reverse, and it worked to perfection, with Jeff “Soupy” Campbell racing down the west sideline 39 yards for a touchdown.  With 4:30 left in the half, Dave DeLine drilled a career-long 57-yard field goal to put the Buffs up 10-0, of which that score remained at halftime.  Late in the third, Nebraska turned a CU fumble deep in its own territory into a quick score, and the sellout crowd of 52,440 was getting anxious.

… Here is the CU at the Game story on the game (which I would have placed at No. 1, but then agaain, I wasn’t around for the 1972 Oklahoma game) …

Honorable Mention—1966: Colorado 13, Oklahoma 0 at Norman.
CU’s first win over Oklahoma with Eddie Crowder as head coach, as the former Sooner quarterback takes his third CU team into Norman and shuts out his alma mater—only OU’s second shutout loss at home to a conference opponent over 20 seasons.  The Buffs got on the board on their third possession, a 12-play, 48-yard drive capped by fullback Estes Banks going over left tackle on a 1-yard plunge; Frank Rogers’ PAT put CU up 7-0 with 2:59 left in quarter number one.  Two drives later, Rogers connects on a 34-yard field goal which gave CU a 10-0 lead which held up at halftime.  With under five minutes left in the third, Rogers capped a 10-play drive with a 42-yard field goal to extend the lead to 13-0.  On the first play in the final stanza, OU had a 4th-and-1 at the CU 13, but Dick Anderson stuffed Ron Shotts at the line of scrimmage and CU took over on downs.  The Sooners threatened again on their next drive, and on a 4th-and-3 at the CU 31, Hale Irwin picked off the ball and returned it 45 yards.  Irwin made another interception at the CU 23 to end the Sooners next threat, and Charlie Greer polished things off with a pick on OU’s final attempt to get on the board at CU’s 3-yard line.  A stifling Buff defense held the Sooners to just 3.8 yards per play and forced six turnovers, and engineered the second (and to this date, last) shutout against OU in the 59-game history of the series.

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To Which I Would Add the Following … 

October 15, 2016 – Boulder           CU 40, No. 24 Arizona State 16

Phillip Lindsay rushed for 219 yards and three touchdowns, leading the Colorado Buffaloes to their first win over Arizona State in their history, 40-16.

Lindsay averaged 8.4 yards on 26 carries and his big day included a 75-yard rumble on the first snap of the second half. He also scored from 13 yards out, capping off a memorable evening with a 4-yard scoring run in the final minute.

The Buffs ran for 315 yards overall.

“We didn’t play very well and my hat goes off to them because they ran the ball on us unlike anyone has ever run it the whole time I’ve been at Arizona State,” said Sun Devils fifth-year coach Todd Graham.

Sefo Liufau threw for 265 yards on 23 of 31 passing against the nation’s worst pass defense in his return to the Buffs starting lineup for the first time since spraining his left ankle at Michigan on Sept. 17.

His biggest play came when he slipped a sack, rolled left and found Bryce Bobo all alone for a 66-yard gain to the Sun Devils 9. Three plays later, Liufau took it in himself from the 3 to snap a 10-10 tie.

“We can enjoy the win tonight, but we have to go back to work on Monday and prove ourselves all over again,” Liufau said.

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From my essay from the game, “Making a Statement” …

Just so we are clear, the 40-16 win over Arizona State was, in my opinion, not a “statement game”. It was not a “signature win”. It did not merit a Gatorade bath for coach MacIntyre, nor should the fans have stormed the field after the game.

“I thought tonight was a break-through win”, said Mike MacIntyre. “Sefo [Liufau] getting to come back and get his start tonight, and this team he played four years ago was the first time he ever played and it didn’t go great. I kept telling them they built the water up in the dam and the dam had cracks in it. I said you got to go punch it one more time, and now the water’s going to flow”.

A break-through game? Okay. I’ll give you that.

But it wasn’t a “statement game”.

What the Buffs did, however, in taking down Arizona State in dominating fashion, was to make a “statement”.

They made a statement to their fans, to the national media, and, most importantly, to the rest of the Pac-12.

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Here are YouTube highlights from the game … 

October 17, 1998 – Boulder           No. 19 CU 19, No. 22 Texas Tech 17

Another day, another ranked, undefeated team coming to Boulder.

While Kansas State was predicted to face Colorado as an undefeated team, the same could not have been said for Texas Tech before the start of the 1998 season.

Yet the Red Raiders were 6-0, 3-0 in Big 12 play, and were one of the pleasant surprises of the 1998 season. 6-5 in 1997, Texas Tech had been tarnished by allegations of “academic irregularities”, and had lost scholarships after an NCAA investigation. The “other” Ricky Williams, not the Ricky Williams who was garnering all of the media attention for Texas, had led Tech to an unblemished mark, including wins over Fresno State, 34-28, and Baylor, 31-29, scores which were eerily similar in nature to the CU wins over the same teams.

Entering Folsom Field, the Red Raiders, at No. 22 in the polls, were ranked for the first time in 1998.

Building, if a team can build on a loss, from the strong defensive effort posted against Kansas State, Colorado parlayed tough defense and four Jeremy Aldrich field goals into a satisfying 19-17 win over Texas Tech. In posting its third conference win (all by a margin of two points), the Buffs took advantage of three Red Raider turnovers in putting together the best overall effort of the season since the CSU win.

The Colorado defense forced three first quarter turnovers, setting the tone for the game.

The first came on an interception by freshman safety Michael Lewis in the end zone, ending a Texas Tech scoring threat. The second came on a fumble recovery by senior defensive lineman Nick Ziegler. That recovery set in motion a five-play, 59-yard drive culminated in a 27-yard Jeremy Aldrich field goal to give CU a 3-0 lead late in the first quarter.

On Texas Tech’s next possession, senior Marcus Washington intercepted another Red Raider offering, returning the pick 20 yards to the Texas Tech 36-yard line. On the first play from scrimmage, quarterback Mike Moschetti scrambled for 22 yards to the 14. From there, though, it became tough sledding, taking the Buffs six more plays to score. On third-and-goal at the Texas Tech four yard line, Damion Barton took a Moschetti pitch and went in untouched, giving CU a 10-0 lead just over a minute into the second quarter.

The joy for the 48,969 who braved the 44-degree weather (and 10 mph winds, making it all the more difficult on the Buff faithful) was short-lived, however. Texas Tech took only two minutes to drive 77 yards, capped by a 25-yard pass from Rob Peters to Darrel Jones to cut the lead to 10-7. The teams then swapped short field goals before the half, with Jeremy Aldrich hitting from 19 yards out after the Buffs’ drive stalled at the Texas Tech two-yard line.

The 13-10 halftime score held up throughout the third quarter, as both teams failed to dent the scoreboard.

Yet another short field goal by Aldrich, this time from 29 yards out, gave the Buffs a precarious 16-10 lead one minute into the fourth quarter.

After the CU defense forced a punt from the Red Raiders, the Buff offense took off on an impressive drive. Starting at their own eight yard line, the Colorado offense marched 91-yards in 18 plays, taking up almost nine minutes of fourth quarter game clock. The drive did not result in a touchdown, but Aldrich’s fourth field goal of the game, a 17-yard chip shot with 2:50 to play, all but sealed the victory.

Still, the Red Raiders refused to go quietly. Texas Tech mounted an 80-yard drive of its own, resulting in a one-yard touchdown run by the quarterback Rob Peters. Only 26 seconds of game clock remained, however, and after Darrin Chiaverini recovered the onside kick, the Buffs had their sixth win of the season.

The final score belies how well the Buffs played.

CU’s lone touchdown came on a Damion Barton four-yard run early in the second quarter, but the Buffs had other opportunities. Aldrich’s field goals, coming from 28, 19, 29, and 17 yards, respectively, are an indication of how close the game was to being a blowout. Only the Buffs inability to produce in the redzone (inside the twenty yard line) and a consolation touchdown scored by the Red Raiders with 26 seconds to play in the game served to make the final score close.

“I know there are people who are disappointed, that say we’re underachievers and so forth” said Neuheisel after the game. “Well, that’s one man’s opinion. This man’s opinion is that our kids are playing with everything they’ve got.”

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October 22, 1994 – Boulder               No. 2 CU 35,  No. 19 Kansas State 21

The Kansas State Wildcats were the real deal in 1994.

Coming off of a 9-2-1 season in 1993, Kansas State had re-established itself as the No. 3 team in the Big Eight in 1994.  The Wildcats only blemish coming into Boulder was a 17-6 loss to Nebraska, and Kansas State wanted nothing more than to knock off the 2nd-rated Buffs to make its own national statement.

They almost did.

The 5:30 p.m. kickoff represented the Buffs’ third nationally televised night home game of the season.  The 52,955 in attendance were unsettled at the outset, as Kansas State became the first team in 1994 to score on its opening drive against the Colorado defense. The Buffs quickly responded, with Rashaan Salaam scoring on a 53-yard run less than two minutes later.

Salaam’s run came on a pitch out play and after he broke an arm-tackle near the line of scrimmage, he flashed his all-world speed and he beat all other Wildcat defenders on a mad-jaunt to the end zone.

“I didn’t realize that I broke it,” Salaam said afterwards. “In fact, I was kind of nervous they would catch me. I didn’t want to look back so I just lifted up my knees and took off. I was actually shocked to be in the end zone.”

Then after a Kansas State punt, the Buffs took control of the game for the first time with an impressive 90-yard, ten-play scoring drive that had an inauspicious beginning. The drive opened with the Buffs gaining just two yards on the first two plays. Then, staring at a third-and-eight st the CU 12, Stewart found Westbrook for a first down, and the drive had new life.

Two plays later, Salaam gained eight on an option run on a second-and-seven play that took the team near midfield. After three more plays, CU faced a third-and-one at the Wildcats’ 16 yard line. Stewart handed the ball to Salaam who scampered for another eight, giving the Buffs a first-and-goal at the eight. The drive culminated with Stewart and Salaam ran the option yet again. This time Stewart kept cut back middle for the Buffs’ second touchdown of the day.

The 14-7 advantage held up until halftime, with neither team able to score in the second quarter.

Twice in the third quarter, KSU rallied to tie the Buffs. Early in the third quarter, the Wildcats were thwarted with a goal-line stand by the Buff defense. Later in the third, though, J.J. Smith scored his second touchdown of the game on a 30-yard run to make it a 14-14 game.

Again, however, the Buffs quickly responded. It took only 1:38 of game clock for the Buffs to drive 78 yards in five plays. On the first play of the next possession, Stewart faked the option pitch to Salaam and ran past an over pursuing defense for 44 yards. The next option ended up in the hands of Salaam who gained 16. Two plays later, Salaam again did the honors, scoring on a 16-yard run.

Colorado 21, Kansas State 14, with 1:58 to play in the third quarter.

Less than two minutes later, the game was tied again. J.J. Smith scored his second touchdown in four minutes, and third of the game, with a three yard run. As a result, the teams entered the fourth quarter tied at 21-21.

The Colorado offense, which would account for 339 yards rushing on the evening (202 from Salaam) was up to the challenge.  After converting a risky fourth-and-one from the Buffs’ own 38-yard line, quarterback Kordell Stewart bolted around end on the option for 60 yards and a 28-21 Colorado lead.

“They just overloaded,” said Stewart of the KSU defense on the fateful play.  “They had a linebacker guarding the pitch to Rashaan, a linebacker tried to play me and Rashaan and I took advantage and ducked under.”  A second fourth quarter run by Stewart, giving him three on the evening, sealed the win with only eight seconds remaining.

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