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 postedPreseasonGame OnesGame TwosGame Threes

*** Posted *** … The latest CU at the Game Podcast has been posted. In addition to a discussion of the Sam Noyer announcement, with Brad and I looked back at the memorable CU/Nebraska games in 1986 (“20-10”!!) and the Ice Bowl of 1991 … This episode for the podcast, which is now well into its second season, can be found here

Game Fours …

1986 Season – “A Game For the Ages” 


Game Four (CU 0-3) … No 10 Arizon 24, Colorado 21 … A year earlier, the Arizona Wildcats entered the game against Colorado 3-0, only to be stunned by the Buffs, 14-13, in Tucson.  In 1986, Arizona, 3-0 once again, came to Boulder determined to record the Wildcats’ first victory over the Buffs in 13 attempts.  The tenth-ranked Wildcats would not be denied, though the hard-fought 24-21 win over the Buffs was anything but easy.  The Buffs led throughout the game, but Arizona took the lead from the Buffs when it mattered, scoring on a 67-yard catch-and-run from quarterback Alfred Jenkins to flanker Jeff Fairholm late in the fourth quarter.

For most of the day, it appeared that the Buffs would pull out their first win of the season.  Freshman halfback O. C. Oliver, who had made a name for himself in the Ohio State game in leading the team with 83 rushing yards, scored the first two touchdowns of his Colorado career, putting the Buffs up 21-12 in the third quarter on a two yard run.  Later, after freshman Jeff Campbell electrified the home crowd with a 41-yard run to the Wildcat 39, yard line, all looked good for the Buffs’ upset.

Too bad there were still 20 minutes left to play.

On the very next play, the Buffs’ offensive line, which was forced at times to play three freshmen due to injuries, broke down, enabling Arizona to force quarterback Mark Hatcher into a fumble.  The fumble led to a field goal which cut the Buffs’ lead to 21-15.

From then on, the Buffs could do little right, including two penalties near their goal line which forced punter Barry Helton on fourth down to step out of the end zone, taking a safety which cut the Buffs’ lead to 21-17.

Still, the Buffs had a four point lead, and the Buffs’ defense took the field late in the game with a great deal of confidence.  Only 6:34 remained on the game clock.  Arizona was backed up to its own nine yard line.  The Wildcats had struggled against the Buffs’ defense all day.  Four plays later, though, the Wildcats were in the lead.  The 67-yard scoring pass with 4:45 left closed out the scoring.

24-21, Arizona.

“It’s ironic,” said Arizona coach Larry Smith after the game, “that was the exactly the same pass we threw last year that they intercepted to shut us down.  It was exactly the same call.”

Continue reading game story here

1991 Season – “Kissing Your Sister”


Game Four (CU 2-1) … Stanford 28, No. 17 Colorado 21 … “Touchdown” Tommy Vardell lived up to his nickname, scoring three touchdowns in leading Stanford to a 28-21 upset of 17th-ranked Colorado. Vardell rushed for 114 yards, also contributing 97 yards receiving, in posting almost as many total yards as the entire Buff offense. On the day, Stanford out-gained Colorado, 485-270, holding the Buffs to their lowest offensive output in two years.

Stanford took a 7-0 lead on the game’s first drive on a Vardell one-yard run. In the second quarter, however, the Buffs responded with 14 points of their own. Red-shirt freshman cornerback Chris Hudson returned an interception 40 yards for one score, with Darian Hagan connecting with red-shirt freshman wide receiver Michael Westbrook from 20 yards out to give Colorado a 14-7 halftime lead.

The remainder of the game was left to the Stanford offense, with Vardell scoring twice in the fourth quarter.

Vardell’s third score on the day gave Stanford a 28-14 lead with only 6:37 to play. A ten-yard touchdown run by Lamont Warren pulled the Buffs to within seven a few minutes later, but the Buffs would not see the ball the remainder of the afternoon.

Colorado was now 2-2 on the season, and defense of its national title was over … before conference play even began.

The next poll saw Colorado clinging to the final poll spot, at No. 25. The Big Eight championship was still a possibility, and a three-peat as conference champions was plenty of incentive.

Still, Buff fans had to be realistic. If Colorado could be handled by a Stanford squad which had come into the contest 0-2, how could the Buffs be expected to handle the likes of Oklahoma and Nebraska?

The Buffs had two weeks to think about that, having a bye week before facing Missouri.

It would be a long two weeks.

Continue reading game story here

1996 Season – “Ooooh, So Close”


Game Four (CU 2-1) … No. 12 Colorado 24, Texas A&M 10 … In the 1996 pre‑season Associated Press poll, the Aggies of Texas A&M were ranked 13th, two spots higher than A&M had been ranked at the close of the 1995 campaign.

The pre‑season ranking, though, proved to be the high‑water mark for the 1996 Aggies.  An opening game loss to BYU, 41‑37 in the Pigskin Classic, was followed by a stunning defeat at the hands of the Ragin’ Cajuns of Southwestern Louisiana, 29‑22.  A win over North Texas to raise the Aggies’ record to 1‑2 did little to appease the A&M faithful heading into the game against Colorado.

Colorado did its best early on to quiet the standing‑room‑only crowd of 70,339.

Buff safety Ryan Sutter (yes, that Ryan Sutter – of future “The Bachelor” fame) forced a fumble on the opening kickoff, and the Buffs wasted little time taking advantage of the turnover.  On the first play from scrimmage, senior wide receiver Rae Carruth took a handoff from Koy Detmer on a reverse.  Twenty eight yards later, Colorado had a 7‑0 lead.  The game was only thirteen seconds old (setting a new school record for the quickest score from scrimmage to open a game), and the Buffs were ahead to stay.

Early in the second quarter, running back Herchell Troutman took a Detmer screen pass 50 yards for a score and a 14‑0 Buff advantage.

After Texas A&M scored midway through the second quarter to pull to within 14-7, the Colorado offense responded with an eight-play, 80-yard drive culminated in a seven yard touchdown pass from Detmer to Darrin Chiaverini.

Down 21-7 in the third quarter, Texas A&M went for a fourth-and-one at the CU three yard line. The Buff defense, which allowed only one touchdown on the day, forced Aggie quarterback Kyle Bryant into an incompletion. Texas A&M would not threaten again until the Buffs had a 24-7 lead and less than four minutes remained, settling for a 30-yard field goal to close out the scoring.

Colorado had to overcome school‑record performances by Aggie quarterback Branndon Stewart (34‑64, 385 yards) and receiver Albert Connell (18 receptions, 208 yards) to win its eighth straight game on the road, and hand A&M a rare home loss (63‑4‑1 at Kyle field since 1985).  Koy Detmer completed 16 of his 27 passes for 246 yards and two scores, while the Buff defense had seven sacks and recovered four fumbles.

The Buffs had won their first‑ever Big 12 Conference game, but it was an “ugly” win (11 more penalties).  For his part, Buff quarterback Koy Detmer was not concerned.  “We said before the game we’re not going to worry about how pretty it was”, said the senior Buff quarterback, “we were just going to be excited about winning.”  Offensive guard Kyle Smith agreed:  “Twenty years from now, people won’t look back on all the penalties or anything.  They’ll look back at W’s and L’s, and we got the W.”

The Buffs had made it through September with three W’s and one L.  After the A&M game, Colorado had a second bye week.  Many Buff fans took the opportunity of the off week to watch Nebraska, defending national champion, previously unbeaten and seemingly invincible, fall to Arizona State, 19‑0.

The race for the first Big 12 title, not to mention the national championship, was back on

Continue reading game story here

2001 Season – “Seems Like Old Times”


Related … September 15th – Colorado at Washington State … Cancelled … “Remembering September 11th

Game Four (CU 2-1) Colorado 27, Kansas 16 … “The first thing you have to say,” said a relieved Gary Barnett after his Buffs had finally put away the Kansas Jayhawks, 27-16, before 47,495 on a beautiful fall afternoon in Boulder, “is that it looked like we took two weeks off.”

For much of the game, the 2001 Buffs looked like their much-maligned 2000 counterparts.  Dropped passes, mental errors, and penalties – especially the penalties – kept Kansas in the game until very late in the second half.

The game started out well enough for the Buffs.

After spotting Kansas an opening field goal, Colorado marched smartly down the field, covering 80 yards in eight plays, completing the scoring drive when Chris Brown scored from seven yards out to give Colorado a 7-3 lead.  The Buffs’ second drive was equally impressive before it stalled inside the Kansas ten yard line.  Jeremy Flores connected on a 22-yard field goal to put the Buffs up 10-3.

With two drives resulting in two scores, it seemed like the Buffs would be able to score at will, and another 41-14 or 51-15 score appeared imminent.

Instead, for the next two quarters, the Buffs became their own worst enemy.

The Jayhawks’ only touchdown drive of the day came in second quarter, when two Buff penalties kept the drive alive.  A roughing-the-kicker penalty on a fourth-down punt attempt and a personal foul penalty after an incomplete pass attempt on 3rd-and-15 gave Kansas 30 of their 73 yards.  A 38-yard touchdown pass from Mario Kinsey to Roger Ross tied the score at 10-10.

Adding insult to injury, Kansas kicker Johnny Beck connected on a Folsom Field record-setting 59-yard field goal as time expired to give the Jayhawks a 13-10 halftime lead.

A third quarter Colorado field goal tied the game at 13-all, but ten seconds into the fourth quarter, KU’s Beck connected again, this time from 46 yards out, to give Kansas a 16-13 advantage.

This final scoring effort by the Jayhawks seemingly aroused the inconsistent Colorado offense, which finally put the Buffs back in the lead, 20-16, on a 17-yard pass from Craig Ochs to Daniel Graham on the Buffs’ next possession.

Next, after the Colorado defense held and forced a short punt, the Buffs’ offense needed only one play to put the game out of reach. Chris Brown broke through the middle of the Jayhawk line and sprinted 40 yards for a 27-16 lead which held up the rest of the game.

Brown finished the day with 140 yards on 22 carries, with Cortlen Johnson contributing 113 yards on only eight carries.  On the day, Colorado racked up 338 yards rushing and 524 yards of total offense.  Impressive numbers, but the scoreboard did not reflect the domination of the Buffs on the field.

“We had a great effort”, said Barnett of his Buffs, now 3-1, 1-0 in Big 12 play.  “I thought we really played hard.  We just can’t play that sloppily in two weeks.”

Continue reading game story here

2016 Season – “Welcome to The Fight”


Game Four (CU 2-1) Colorado 41, Oregon 38 … Red-shirt freshman quarterback Steven Montez threw for 333 yards and three touchdowns in his starting debut, leading Colorado to a 41-38 victory over Oregon. Montez also ran for 135 yards and a score as the Buffs raced out to leads of 23-7 and 33-17 before needing an Ahkello Witherspoon interception in the end zone with 48 seconds remaining to preserve the victory.

Devin Ross had 153 yards and a touchdown receiving, with the Buffs rolling to 593 total yards overall. The victory was the first for the Buffs over the Ducks since joining the Pac-12, and the first overall since defeating Oregon in the 1998 Aloha Bowl.

“I would say this is a signature win,” said MacIntyre, whose team was 0-5 against the Ducks since joining the league. “These kids believe they can beat anybody.”

For the game, Colorado had 593 yards of total offense, compared to 508 for Oregon. The Buffs posted 260 yards rushing, over half coming from quarterback Steven Montez (135, on 21 carries). Devin Ross became the first Buff in the 2016 season to go over 100 yards receiving, posting seven receptions for 153 yards and a touchdown.

“Pretty much a legendary game for his first one,” MacIntyre said of the 333-yard passing; 135-yard rushing day for Steven Montez. “I knew he was good, but to set the record for Colorado history (for the most total offense by a quarterback in his starting debut), I would say he exceeded my expectations.”

Noteworthy … While not overwhelming, the Buff special teams held their own against the Ducks. The kickoff return team allowed 97 yards in returns, a 19.4 yard average, but did not allow a game-breaking return. The punt team, which was a disaster against Michigan the week before (two blocked kicks, another returned for a touchdown), was more than adequate. Alex Kinney had only three punts on the day, but averaged 40.3 yards per kick … with no returns.

Continue reading game story here

… My Essay for the game, “Halfway Therecan be found here

Highlights from the Oregon game … 

Or, if you only have time for the Witherspoon interception which sealed the win … 

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


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