A Pleasant Stroll Down Memory Lane – 1986; 1991; 1996; 2001 and, for fun, 2016

The 2021 season is now within our sights, and, with any luck, it will feel like a normal season.

As we slip inside of 100 days before the opener against Northern Colorado, let’s spend some quality time this summer with some great Buff teams of the past. The 2021 season will be the 35th anniversary the 1986 season (with the greatest CU game in the past 50 years), the 30th anniversary of the 1991 season (Big Eight three-peat); the 25th anniversary of the 1996 season (the first season of the Big 12); and the 20th anniversary of the 2001 season (62-36, anyone?). Oh, and it’s already the fifth anniversary of the Buffs unexpected run to the Pac-12 South title in 2016.

Over the next few months, we’ll take a look back at the 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2016 seasons, posting the week-by-week results (if you want to read ahead, the CU at the Game Archives are always there for you). I look forward to your reading your comments, and hearing your stories …

Previously posted: Preseason

Game Ones …

1986 Season – “A Game For the Ages” 


Game One … Colorado State 23, Colorado 7 … All signs pointed toward a victory for Colorado in their opener against Colorado State.

Colorado had gone 4-0 at home in 1985 against unranked opponents.  Colorado State was predicted to be a good team in 1986, having gone 5-7 in 1985, but the Rams were not considered a threat to BYU’s dominance in the Western Athletic Conference, and was certainly was not a Top 20 team.  What was more, the Buffs came into the game against the Rams with a 45-15-2 advantage in the series, including a 31-3 win in 1983.

The stars were aligned for a great start to the 1986 season.

Unfortunately for Buff fans, the game would not be played on paper.

Frustrating is the only word to describe the 23-7 loss to Colorado State in the 1986 season opener.  The Buffs moved the ball, racking up 304 yards of total offense and an average of five yards per play.  The defense held up its end, surrendering only one touchdown drive all afternoon (and that coming on an eight yard drive).

Then what went wrong?

Six turnovers.

Continue reading game story here

1991 Season – “Kissing Your Sister”


Game One … No. 12 Colorado 30, Wyoming 13 … The Colorado Buffaloes opened the defense of their national championship at home with a satisfying 30-13 win over Wyoming.

Darian Hagan, showing no ill effects from his off-season surgery, demonstrated his talents before a national ESPN audience in rushing for 42 yards, passing for 151, and returning punts for 79 more.

The final score was more lopsided than the game itself.

Colorado opened the scoring with a three-yard Hagan run and a 40-yard Jim Harper field goal to post a 10-0 first quarter lead. The next two scores belonged to the Cowboys, however, as Wyoming knotted the score at 10-10 early in the third. Sophomore fullback James Hill put the Buffs on top to stay minutes later with a one-yard plunge. The point after was blocked, however, leaving the score at 16-10, Colorado.

The blocked PAT and subsequent Wyoming field goal gave the Buffs a precarious 16-13 lead heading into the final quarter.

Continue reading game story here

1996 Season – “Ooooh, So Close”


Game One … No. 5 Colorado 37, Washington State 19 … Senior quarterback Koy Detmer made a triumphant return to Folsom Field, leading the Buffs to a convincing 37-19 win over Washington State.

Washington State came into the game on the heels of a 3-8 1995 campaign, but were not to be taken lightly. Led by sophomore quarterback Ryan Leaf, the Cougars were picked to finish in the middle of the Pac-10 Conference in 1996.

The Buffs started slowly, scoring only on a 31-yard field goal by Jason Lesley in the first quarter. In the second stanza, though, Colorado posted three scores to take a commanding 24-6 halftime lead. Detmer opened the touchdown spree, scoring on a one-yard sneak to open the second quarter. Detmer later connected on scoring tosses of seven yards to senior receiver James Kidd and 43 yards to junior Chris Anderson.

Taking the second half kick, the Buffs marched down the field, going 96 yards in eight plays to take any lingering mystery out of the game. On a perfectly timed screen, Detmer hit running back Herchell Troutman for 25 yards and a 31-6 lead.

From there, the Buffs went on cruise control, coasting to a 37-19 victory.

Continue reading game story here

2001 Season – “Seems Like Old Times”


Game One Fresno State 24, Colorado 22 … CU kicked off the 2001 season in inauspicious fashion, turning the ball over five times in falling to Fresno State, 24-22.  The most costly turnover came with 3:32 remaining in the game and CU trailing 24-22.  On third-and-goal on the Bulldogs’ two-yard line, quarterback Craig Ochs threw an ill-advised pass in the direction of fullback Brandon Drumm.  The pass was intercepted by cornerback Devon Banks, and the Buffs fell in their season opener for the third consecutive year under Gary Barnett.

Barnett called the play “a good, safe, run-pass option … Craig tried to force it.  Just throw it away; we line up, kick a field goal and go up 25-24.”  Instead, the Buffs fell for the ninth time in 12 games.  “I committed the cardinal sin,” said Ochs.  You never throw an interception in the red zone.”

Still, the Buffs would not have been forced to rely on a late score had the first 56 minutes of the game not been a comedy of errors.  Four Buff turnovers led to 17 points for Fresno State.  The Bulldogs jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead after running back Chris Brown and Ochs fumbled in Colorado territory.  A Roman Hollowell 77-yard punt return for a touchdown in the second quarter gave the Buffs a short-lived spark.  The teams then swapped 80-yard scoring drives, with CU’s extra point being blocked, leaving the Buffs with a 21-13 halftime deficit.

In the second half, the Buffs dominated, but could not alter the scoreboard.  Colorado’s defense, which allowed only 287 total yards, kept the score close, but the deficit remained the same.  The teams traded field goals, making the score 24-16, which remained the score until Ochs connected with wide receiver John Minardi for the second time in the game, this time from 16 yards out with 7:51 remaining. The two-point conversion attempt failed, however, leaving the Buffs with the final deficit, 24-22.

Continue reading game story here

2016 Season – “Welcome to The Fight”


Game One Colorado 44, Colorado State 7 … The 2015 opener against Hawai’i opened with a three-and-out and a blocked punt from the Colorado offense, and the Buffs never really recovered … in that game, or really, the entire season.

Against Colorado State in the 2016 opener, though, the Buffs got off to a fast start, storming out to a 21-0 first quarter lead, never looking back in a 44-7 domination of the Rams.

Sefo Liufau went 23-for-33 for 318 yards and a touchdown, also contributing 66 yards rushing on 14 carries. Phillip Lindsay had 20 carries for 95 yards and two touchdowns to lead a 260-yard rushing attack. The receiving corps also failed to post a 100-yard effort, but were more than happy to settle for Bryce Bobo’s 99 yards on five catches, and the 97 yards and a touchdown from Devin Ross.

In all, Colorado went for 578 yards of total offense, holding Colorado State to 225 yards (including only 63 yards passing). The Buff defense forced four turnovers, and surrendered only 12 first downs.

Continue reading game story here

… Coming Next … Game Two for the 1986, 1991, 1996, 2001 and 2016 seasons … coming soon … 


3 Replies to “A Pleasant Stroll – Game Ones”

  1. We should play Wyoming more…
    I still remember the emotional disgust watching the Fresno State Game, was a real gut punch for sure.

  2. Two quick comments. I remember Barnett getting scorched by the media after the Fresno game because he “called out” Ochs in his post-game press conference. The media always killed Barnett and showered Lubick with love. Second, the 2016 season is bittersweet because the fallout afterwards with the move of Leavitt to Oregon and the subsequent debacle with the coach (can’t remember his name) that abused his girlfriend. Not to mention that Mickey Mac turned out to be a fraud.

    1. I love the Mark Kizla comment after the Fresno State game … shows how much he loved the Buffs …

      The Denver Post columnist Mark Kiszla was even more harsh, stating the Buffs’ season, before Labor Day had hit on the calendar, was already “on the brink of disaster.” Kiszla went on to report: “Some of us are seriously beginning to wonder if Colorado made a huge error in hiring Barnett, because the third-year coach repeatedly proves himself far better at making lame excuses than producing meaningful victories.” Kiszla finished his column with a prediction. “Either he must beat the Rams, or Barnett must go.”

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