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: PreseasonGame Ones

Game Twos …

1986 Season – “A Game For the Ages” 


Game Two (CU 0-1) … Oregon 32, Colorado 30 … Holding a lead of 30-23 with 3:22 left in the game, the Buffs seemed to be comfortably in control of the game against the Oregon Ducks.  Quarterback Mark Hatcher had just scored his second touchdown of the day on a 55-yard run to put the Buffs back on top, and all the Colorado defense had to do was hold Oregon one last time.

With under a minute to play, the score remained 30-23.

Forty four seconds and nine Oregon points later, though, Colorado was 0-2.

After the Colorado score with just over three minutes to play in the game, Oregon marched quickly down the field, scoring on Derek Loville’s one-yard run.  Oregon Coach Rich Brooks, opting to play for the win rather than the tie, went for a two-point conversion.  The bold move seemingly backfired on the Ducks, though, as quarterback Chris Miller’s pass fell incomplete.

Now, with less than a minute to play and down 30-29, Oregon had no choice but to go for an onside kick.

Everyone of the 26,155 in attendance in Eugene knew it was coming, including the Buffs.  Still, Oregon recovered the onside kick, as Duck kicker Kirk Dennis shot a low, hard kick off of linebacker Don DeLuzio and into the waiting arms of Tim Cooper.

Still, all was not lost.

In fact, the odds still favored a Buffs’ win.  Colorado would post its first win of the 1986 season if could hold Oregon for just a few more seconds.  The Buffs’ defense, though, allowed the Ducks to get within range.  Five plays after recovering the onside kick, Oregon kicker Matt MacLeod to put through a 35-yard field goal with no time left on the clock.

The loss – at best – disheartening. At worst? Devastating.

Continue reading game story here

1991 Season – “Kissing Your Sister”


Game Two (CU 1-0) … No.23 Baylor 16, No. 12 Colorado 14 … Baylor kicker Jeff Ireland’s 35-yard field goal with 0:51 remaining gave the Baylor Bears an unlikely 16-14 win over the Colorado Buffaloes.

Ireland’s third field goal of the game came about as a direct result of a blocked field goal attempt by Colorado kicker Jim Harper.  Up 14-13 with just over three minutes to play, the Buffs lined up for a 24-yard field goal to give the Buffs a 17-13 lead.  Instead, Satana Dotson blocked the kick, with the ball eventually recovered by the Bears on the Buffs’ 30-yard line, some 65 yards downfield.  Three plays later, Ireland sent the Buffs and a stunned crowd of 50,754 home with the Buffs first loss at home in fifteen games.

Baylor owned the first half of the game in every category, including a remarkable 20:50-9:10 edge in time of possession.  Still, the halftime score was 7-3, Colorado, as the Buffs posted the only touchdown of the half, a 26-yard pass from Darian Hagan to senior tight end Sean Brown.  Baylor, responded in the second half, scoring ten unanswered points in the third quarter to pull ahead, 13-7, going into the final fifteen minutes. Colorado finally regained the lead, 14-13, on the first play of the final stanza, on a Kent Kahl’s 10-yard scoring run.

With just over three minutes remaining, the Buffs seemed to have the game under control.  Lining up for a 24-yard chip shot field goal, Jim Harper was in a position to force the Bears to score a touchdown to win.  After Dotson’s block and subsequent scramble for the ball put the ball deep in Colorado territory, though, it was the Baylor kicker who was the hero.

The unexpected loss resulted in a poll free fall for the 1-1 Buffs.  In the AP poll, Colorado dropped from #12 to #19, while Baylor jumped from 23rd to 14th with the win.  Colorado was not only distancing itself from the national title chase, but it also appeared that the Buffs were to be also-rans in the Big Eight.  While the Buffs were stumbling, Oklahoma and Nebraska were both undefeated and in the top ten (Oklahoma 7th; Nebraska 9th).

Continue reading game story here

1996 Season – “Ooooh, So Close”


Game Two (CU 1-0) … No. 5 Colorado 48, Colorado State 34 … The Buffs’ in-state rival from Fort Collins was more cause for concern than had been Washington State in the opener.

Under the leadership of head coach Sonny Lubick, the Rams had posted an 8-4 record in 1995, repeating as Western Athletic Conference Champions. The Buffs were traveling to Fort Collins for the first time since 1988, and would participate in only the third night game (8:00 p.m. kickoff) in the 28-year history of Hughes Stadium.

The game was entertaining for the 36,371 who attended, as both teams scored early and often. The Buffs allowed the Rams to take leads of 7-0 and 14-7 before assuming control of the game. Down 14-7 after a 96-yard kickoff return for a touchdown, CU reeled off 28 points before halftime. Lendon Henry scored the second and third of his three touchdowns to give Colorado the lead. The second touchdown, on a six yard run, tied the score late in the first quarter. Later, with 13:18 to play before half, Henry gave the Buffs the lead for good on a 27-yard pass from Koy Detmer.

A few minutes later, junior defensive tackle Viliami Maumau gave Colorado a two-score lead. Maumau batted a Moses Moreno pass into the air, caught it, and raced 33 yards for a touchdown and a 28-14 CU lead.

Up 35-20 at half, the Buffs never allowed the Rams within two scores the rest of the contest, but the game was still in doubt until the last two minutes of the fourth quarter.

Quarterback Koy Detmer continued to impress, completing 31-of-42 passes for 364 yards and two touchdowns, including a 41-yarder to James Kidd. During one stretch in the first half, Detmer set a school record by completing 14 consecutive passes, breaking the record of 12 set by Kordell Stewart in 1992.

Also starring in the 645-yard offensive display (the 2nd highest yardage total ever for a Buff team away from Boulder) was junior tailback Lendon Henry, who scored three touchdowns, including the 27-yard reception which put the Buffs ahead to stay, 21-14. Tailback Herchell Troutman also got into the act, posting a career-high 184 yards on 26 carries.

Continue reading game story here

2001 Season – “Seems Like Old Times”


Game Two (CU 0-1) Colorado 41, No. 24 Colorado State 14 … For a change, it was Colorado who seized early momentum in a big game.

Junior cornerback Donald Strickland returned an interception for a touchdown in the first minute of play to set the tone as the Colorado dominated No. 24 Colorado State, 41-14.

Playing before 75,022 at the new Invesco Field at Mile High, the Buffs’ secondary, which had given up big plays to the Rams in two consecutive losses, came up with four interceptions on the afternoon, returning two for scores.  “They got a brief glimpse of the defense you are going to see this season,” said Strickland.

To compliment a dominating defense, the CU offense clicked on all cylinders.

Bobby Purify and Chris Brown both rushed for career highs, leading the Buffs to over 300 yards of rushing offense for the first time in almost six seasons.  Purify put up 191 yards alone, including an 18-yard scoring run in the first quarter to put the Buffs up 14-0.  Brown contributed 121 yards and two short-yardage scores.  With the Buffs crunching out 315 yards of rushing offense, quarterback Craig Ochs only had to be efficient in the passing game, and he was, connecting on 15 of his 18 passes.

CSU did make an attempt to make a game of it after Purify put the Buffs up by two scores in the first quarter, as H-back Joel Dreessen scored on a three yard pass from quarterback D.J. Busch to cut the CU lead to 14-7.  The Rams would not score again until the fourth quarter, however, as the Buffs scored 17 unanswered points to put the game out of reach.

After Jeremy Flores hit a 21-yard field goal to give the Buffs a 17-7 halftime edge, senior safety Michael Lewis intercepted a Busch pass and returned it 41 yards for a score midway through the third quarter.  The first of two Chris Brown one-yard scoring plunges gave the Buffs an insurmountable 31-7 lead late in the third.

The convincing win gave the Buffs some much needed breathing space.

After a week of heavy criticism, CU players and coaches were ready to move on.  “Coach (Barnett) did a great job of getting them ready over as hard of circumstances as you could ever imagine,” said Tom McMahon, co-defensive coordinator.  “Everybody’s making this a ‘job game’, for crying out loud.  It’s the second damn game of the season.”

Continue reading game story here

2016 Season – “Welcome to The Fight”


Game Two (CU 1-0) Colorado 56, Idaho State 7 … Sefo Liufau passed for 204 yards and two touchdowns and rushed for 54 yards and another score in less than a half as Colorado routed Idaho State, 56-7.

Phillip Lindsay ran for two scores as the Buffs built a 49-0 halftime lead on its way to a second straight blowout win.

Liufau, who had 384 yards of offense in the 44-7 win over Colorado State in the 2016 opener to earn Pac-12 Player of the Week honors, had another big game with touchdown passes of 15 and 4 yards. He ended his day with a 19-yard touchdown run late in Colorado’s 35-point second quarter that made it 42-0.

Liufau’s backup Steven Montez connected with Kabion Ento for two more touchdown passes.

Jakori Ford scored for the Bengals (1-1), who had just seven first downs and 96 yards total offense.

“I was very impressed with what our staff did with our guys, I liked how focused they were”, said CU coach Mike MacIntyre. “Our upperclassmen did a good job of staying focused in practice and they kept working. That’s what we talk about all the time, it’s to worry about Colorado and nothing else. I’m seeing that in this group of guys”.

Continue reading game story here … Essay for the game, “Great(er) Expectationscan be found here

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


2 Replies to “A Pleasant Stroll – Game Twos”

  1. Stuart, that blasted Baylor game still shows up in my nightmares. I could not believe how far that bloody ball bounced down the field after they blocked the kick! It was like the Energizer Bunny, it kept going, and going, and going….

    1. Glen,
      I’m with you = very frustrating game; very frustrating finish.
      Thanks for the vivid recollection of the blocked kick!

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