Dave Plati’s Top Three Game Twelve’s

Plati-‘Tudes Short No. 12 … The 12th installment of CU’s best or most exciting football games in its history as to when they occurred in week 12 of any season.  Many are obvious, a few obscure, and no doubt some up for debate.  So here are the best “game twelve” games in our history in my humble opinion:

GAME 12’s

No. 1—2001: Colorado 39, Texas 37 at Irving

A hostile environment was awaiting the Buffaloes at Texas Stadium, not exactly a neutral site for CU’s first appearance in the Big 12 Championship game, but it was the 7,000 or so Colorado fans who left happy as the No. 9 Buffs claimed their first Big 12 crown with a 39-37 win over the No. 3 Texas Longhorns.  Things were even ratcheted up a notch when it was announced that No. 2 Florida had lost to Tennessee, paving the way to the national championship game in the Rose Bowl for the 10-1 Longhorns if they could beat the Buffs.  And Texas, which had defeated CU, 41-17 in the regular season, came out inspired, stifling the CU offense on the game’s first possession and then scoring on its first drive, marching 85 yards in just six plays to take a 7-0 lead with 9:56 left in the first quarter.  Two series later, Texas was again driving and had reached the CU 22, but linebacker Aaron Killion picked off a Chris Simms pass and raced 73 yards to the Texas 12.

Chris Brown scored on a 10-yard run three plays later, and it ignited a 29-3 scoring spree for the Buffaloes over the next 15 minutes as the Buffs used four Longhorn turnovers to take control of the game.  On CU’s next possession, Brown got things going with a 24-yard run to get the Buffs into field goal range, enabling Jeremy Flores to make good on a 39-yard kick on the second play of the second quarter. That made the score 10-7, a lead CU would not relinquish.  Following a Joey Johnson interception, CU was back in business at its own 36. Bobby Purify’s 51-yard run to the Texas 3-yard line set up Brown’s second touchdown and a 16-7 edge (the PAT kick sailed wide).  After UT cut the margin to 16-10 and a CU punt, DeAndre Fluellen sacked Simms and forced a fumble that Matt McChesney recovered at the Texas 22.  Bobby Pesavento hit tight end Daniel Graham on the very next play to pad the lead to 22-10 (the two-point try failed), and CU finished the scoring blitz when Medford Moorer picked off his first career pass three plays later and returned it 64 yards for a touchdown and a 29-10 Colorado advantage.

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From the CU at the Game Essay for the game … “Conference Call”

Brad couldn’t wait.

As Texas took time out to stop the clock and ice CU kicker Jeremy Flores, the phone rang.  I was watching the Colorado/Texas game at home in Bozeman with Randy, and hadn’t expected to talk with Brad until after the contest.  I had spoken with Brad at halftime, and all I remember from that conversation was saying that I was as nervous as anyone could rightfully be with their team up 19 points at the break.  The pessimist in me feared Major Applewhite and the spark he had provided the Longhorns just before the half, and what that might mean for second half momentum.

Now the Buffs were lining up for what would be a game-clinching field goal.  Three points which would give CU a two-score lead with less than two minutes to play, and Brad couldn’t wait.  He wanted to be on the phone with Scott and I as the Buffs clinched their first Big 12 championship.  He got Scott connected on a conference call, and we watched together as Jeremy Flores kicked his way into CU football lore.

The feeling of euphoria was tempered as Applewhite quickly drove Texas down the field.  The Buffs’ defense held off the Longhorns long enough that everyone in the stadium knew that a Texas comeback would hinge on a successful onsides kick.  There was silence on the phone line after Texas scored with 31 seconds left and took the field for the onsides effort.

It was only fitting that Daniel Graham, one of the most heralded Buffs (he would go on to be honored as the nation’s best tight end with the John Mackey award two weeks later) would recover the onsides kick.  Game over.  One very satisfying kneel down by quarterback Bobby Pesavento later, the Buffs were not only winners, but champions.

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Here are the YouTube video highlights of the game …

Runner-Up— 2016: Colorado 27, Utah 22 in Boulder

A win would earn the Buffaloes their first Pac-12 South Division title – after five straight last place finishes – and a berth in the league title game; a loss would give the title to USC.  After spotting Utah a 7-0 lead on a punt return touchdown, CU rallied to tie the game on a Sefo Liufau 2-yard run as time expired in the first quarter.  Chris Graham made a pair of short field goals (from 25 and 19 yards) as the only other scores before halftime to put CU ahead, 13-7.  The Buffs never trailed again but couldn’t shake the Utes, who tied the game at 13 on two field goals of their own.  On the final play of the third quarter, Liufau connected with Shay Fields on a 6-yard TD pass and the PAT by Davis Price made it 20-13.

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From the CU at the Game Essay for the game, “No Conflict, No Story”

Worst. To. First.

Last season, Colorado finished 1-8 in Pac-12 play. This year, the Buffs went 8-1 in Pac-12 play.

This past August, in the Pac-12 preseason media poll, the Buffs were pegged as the 11th-best team in the Pac-12 conference. This past week, the Buffs were ranked as the ninth-best team … in the entire nation.

With a 27-22 victory over No. 21 Utah, the Buffs completed a regular season journey absolutely no one saw coming. The statistical “best since” accolades are cascading through the record books like an avalanche:

— First ten-win season since 2001, and first eight-win conference season in school history (the Buffs only played seven conference games in the Big Eight, and went 7-1 three times in Big 12 conference play);

— First six-game winning streak since 1996, and first back-to-back wins over ranked teams since 2002;

— First undefeated home slate since 1994, going 6-0 at home for just the sixth time in school history.

Et cetera … et cetera … et cetera.

But the Buffs’ tenth victory of the 2016 season did not come easily. Colorado trailed Utah for nine minutes in the first quarter, and did not take a two-score lead over the Utes until the fourth.

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Here are the YouTube highlights from the game … 

Honorable Mention—1990: Colorado 64, Kansas State 3 in Boulder

The first 12th game in CU’s regular season history; a Buff win would secure a second straight outright Big 8 title and subsequent berth in the Orange Bowl as well as a likely shot at the national championship for the second year in a row; Colorado had vaulted from No. 14 in the polls four weeks earlier into the No. 2 spot.  Darian Hagan was the first of eight Buffs to score on the day, capping an 80-yard opening game drive with a 23-yard TD run.  It was 40-3 at halftime, CU had 456 yards of total offense by intermission, and the first-team was through for the day four minutes into the second half.  The Buffs had some fun on offense, as outside linebackers Alfred Williams and Kanavis McGhee begged coach McCartney to play a snap or two at tight end.  Vance Joseph connected with Williams for a 17-yard gain; his pass to McGhee was broken up as CU closed the regular season with its ninth straight win.

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From the CU at the Game Essay for the Game, “Passing the Torch” … 

A near sell-out crowd of 51,136 came to see the Buffs make history against Kansas State. After Colorado put up a 40-3 lead at halftime, the win had been secured, and a number of Buff faithful headed for warmer climes in Boulder to celebrate. But those who left early missed out on some additional history.

By the midway point of the fourth quarter, the score was 50-3, Colorado. Junior wide receiver Mark Henry had just scored the first touchdown of his career on a 39-yard pass from backup quarterback Vance Joseph. There was little reason to notice who scored the last two touchdowns of the game, but they were significant nonetheless.

The first score came on a 26-yard run by true freshman Charles E. Johnson (not to be confused with quarterback Charles S. Johnson). Johnson would go on to set numerous school records for receiving, including most receiving yards for a season and career, and most touchdown passes caught for a season and career (since passed).

The last score of the afternoon was scored on an eight-yard run by senior wingback O.C. Oliver. Oliver, who had fought injuries his entire career, had not seen any action since going down with an anterior cruciate tear in his left knee five games into the 1989 season.

As a freshman in 1986, Oliver had set a freshman rushing record, running for 668 yards and six touchdowns. Oliver will be most remembered by Colorado fans for being the halfback who tossed a 52-yard halfback option pass to Lance Carl to give Colorado a 17-7 lead on the first play of the fourth quarter in the 20-10 upset of Nebraska in 1986. Oliver will also be remembered for being touted by the Folsom Field public address announcer after each carry as “O …. C …. OLIVER!!”

Being in the lineup as the Kansas State game came to an end was not a punishment for Oliver, but a reward. McCartney had a way of rewarding his players, and Oliver was no exception.

The final home game of the 1990 season was a rout for the home team. Most of the fans turned their thoughts toward the Orange Bowl long before the final gun. Down on the field, though, a torch was being passed. O. C. Oliver, part of the Colorado legacy which had paved the way for future Colorado success, was on his way out. Charles E. Johnson, who would play such a role in Colorado’s continued success, was on his way in.

Somehow, it was fitting that these two men scored the final two touchdowns of the 1990 regular season.

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