Top Three Game Threes

From Dave Plati at CUBuffs.comPlati-‘Tudes Short No. 3 … The third installment of CU’s best or most exciting football games in its history as to when they occurred in week three of any season.  We’ll be 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 threes in our history in my humble opinion:

#1—1994: Colorado 27, Michigan 26 at Ann Arbor.
The No. 7 Buffaloes defeated the No. 4 Michigan Wolverines at the Big House in Ann Arbor in what simply is now referred to as, “The Miracle in Michigan.” CU built a 14-3 lead on a touchdown run by Rashaan Salaam and a 27-yard TD pass from quarterback Kordell Stewart to Michael Westbrook.  But Michigan would win the middle quarters and held a 26-14 lead entering the fourth quarter.  The Wolverines had chance to possibly make the lead insurmountable with 11 minutes to play, but Ted Johnson forced a fumble at the CU 12 with Donnell Leomiti recovering to end the threat.  Two series later, the Buffs were on the march and drove to the UM4, where Stewart ran a keeper toward the goal line but fumbled at the stripe, the ball going back to Michigan.  Still down by 12 when it gained possession with 3:52 to play, Colorado mounted a furious rally.

Runner-Up—1971: Colorado 20, Ohio State 14 at Columbus.
Two games into the season, CU went from unranked to No. 10, and hit the road for the second time in three games to face a top 10 opponent, this time No. 6 Ohio State.  CU scored first at the 6:51 mark of the first quarter on a 6-yard run by quarterback Ken Johnson, and built in to 13-0 in the second quarter with a 68-yard punt return by Cliff Branch.  OSU ran 89 plays for 400 yards in the game, but was held scoreless until there was 4:28 remaining in the game, cutting the lead to 13-7.

Honorable Mention—1989: Colorado 38, Illinois 7 in Boulder.
The first national network broadcast from Boulder in 17 years, and the first-ever on CBS, pitting the No. 8 Buffaloes against No. 10 Illinois.  The side story was just as big, as it would be the last game Sal Aunese would see his teammates play as he would pass away from complications due to stomach cancer the following Saturday.  The Buffs were fired up from the get-go, and on the third play of the game, Darian Hagan completed a 74-yard pass to Jeff Campbell to the Illinois 5; Campbell rose up and pointed to his ill teammate who was watching from a landing outside of the press box.

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To which I would add the following

1987 … Colorado 26, Washington State 17 … Sal Aunese makes an impression

From the Game Story … Another day, another game, another new Buff making an impression.

This time it was sophomore quarterback Sal Aunese, subbing for injured starter Mark Hatcher, who made a splash. Aunese did not start, but played a significant role in leading Colorado to a 26-17 win over Washington State. Aunese carried the ball 22 times for 185 yards and one touchdown. Aunese also completed one of his three passes, a 30-yarder to Eric Bieniemy.

Washington State, led by first-year coach Dennis Erickson, were 2-1 coming into the game, having beaten Fresno State and Wyoming before falling to Michigan. Erickson brought in a Cougar squad which had finished 3-7-1 in 1986.

In all, the Buffs accumulated a season high 425 yards on the ground against the Cougars.

The game was frustrating early on for the 42,527 on hand at Folsom Field. The Buffs were playing well, but were still down, 7-6, in the second quarter. Two promising drives ended in short Ken Culbertson field goals (of 25 and 27 yards), as the Buffs failed to convert in the red zone.

The Buffs took the lead for good when safety Mickey Pruitt intercepted a Timm Rosenbach pass, returning it 18 yards for a touchdown and a 13-7 lead. A J.J. Flannigan three yard scoring run later in the second gave CU a 19-7 lead at halftime (the extra point was missed).

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1992 … No. 11 Colorado 21, Minnesota 20 … Detmer’s First Game leads to CU’s third-best comeback ever

From the Game Story … The third game of Colorado’s 1992 season was played at night (6:00 p.m local time kickoff), and was played indoors (at the Metrodome in Minneapolis).  Whether the Buffs were confused by the surroundings or the time of day is unclear, but the 17-0 deficit Colorado found itself in midway through the third quarter was no mistake.

The Golden Gophers of Minnesota had dug a very large hole for the visitors from Boulder.

Enter true freshman Koy Detmer.

Posting the third greatest comeback (in terms of point deficit) in Colorado history, the Buffs rallied behind the little brother of BYU Heisman Trophy winner Ty Detmer to defeat Minnesota, 21-20.  Junior quarterback Duke Tobin was given the start for the injured Kordell Stewart, but Tobin, like the rest of the Colorado offense, was ineffective.  At the half, Tobin had completed only two of his 10 pass attempts.  The running game, when the five sacks of Tobin were factored in, had amassed a total of minus-eight yards rushing.

With offensive statistics like those, the Buffs were lucky that their defense had come to play.  The only first half score came when Gopher Derek Fisher recovered a blocked Mitch Berger punt in the Colorado endzone to put Minnesota ahead, 7-0.

Before the Buffs could put the offense in gear, though, the score was up to 17-0, Minnesota.  Then Koy Detmer began showing leadership qualities which belied his youth.  On Colorado’s second possession of the second half, Detmer hit Michael Westbrook on a 49-yard touchdown pass to cut the margin to 17-7.  On the Gophers’ next possession, junior strong safety Dwayne Davis cut in front of a Marquel Fleetwood pass, returning it 31 yards for a Colorado touchdown.  17-14.

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2008 … Colorado 17, No. 21 West Virginia 14 … Rocky Mountain High

From the Game Story … Aric Goodman connected on a 25-yard field goal in overtime, lifting Colorado to a 17-14 win over No. 21 West Virginia. Just moments after Mountaineer kicker Pat McAfee’s 23-yard attempt clanked off the left upright to end West Virginia’s overtime possession, Goodman snuck his 25-yarder just inside the same upright. Goodman’s kick not only gave Colorado it’s first 3-0 start since the 2004 season, but also earned the former walk-on a scholarship.

The low-scoring affair did not start out that way, as three touchdowns were scored in the first four possessions of the game. The Buffs opened the scoring with a nine-play, 83-yard drive to take a lead they would never fully relinquish. Converting two third down opportunities, including a 23-yard completion from Cody Hawkins to Josh Smith on a third-and-11 from the CU 16 yard line, the Buffs cashed in when Hawkins connected with Smith again, this time for a 38-yard score just 2:46 into the contest.

On the third play of the Mountaineers’ opening possession, West Virginia quarterback Pat White completed a pass to Bradley Starks, who fumbled at the WVU 28-yard line. The fumble, caused by defensive tackle Brandon Nicholas and recovered by defensive end Maurice Lucas, sent all but 4,000 of the 51,883 in attendance for the Thursday night “Blackout” game into a frenzy.

It took only five plays for the Buffs to score again, with Hawkins hitting tight end Patrick Devenny for a 13-yard touchdown. Devenny’s catch, a fine over-the-shoulder grab with a defender right on him, gave the Buffs a 14-0 lead with 10:10 still remaining in the first quarter.

West Virginia, which averaged almost 40 points per game in 2007, would not go quietly. It took the Mountaineers only five plays to answer, with Pat White scoring from six yards out to pull WVU to within a touchdown at 14-7. Less than half of the first quarter had been played, and the game had all the markings of an old WAC shootout.

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