“It’s Personal”

The current Buff roster can forgiven for not being fully immersed in the dislike Colorado fans have for all things Nebraska. And it’s not just because the current Buff roster has 68 new scholarship players. Even if Coach Prime had retained all of the 2022 roster, there still would have been only a handful of players left from the team which defeated the Cornhuskers, 34-31, in overtime in 2019.

It’s understandably hard for players to fully comprehend the hatred Buff fans have for a program which CU rarely plays, but changing conferences in 2011 hasn’t mended many fences between the fan bases of Colorado and Nebraska. If the message board and twitter battles of recent weeks are any indication, the rivalry is as heated as ever.

While the rivalry may mean little to the new Buffs, they surely have brought with them their own histories of high school and college rivalries with which they have experience. And it’s not like they didn’t get an earful about the hated Huskers during the week leading up to Saturday’s home opener.

“This is the game that everybody wants to win,” wide receiver Jimmy Horn said this past week. “We could play 1,000 games, we could go to bowl games and all that, but this rivalry game, even hearing from fans, they’re like, ‘I don’t care if y’all lose 100 games, as long as y’all beat Nebraska y’all will be good.’ I know people take this one serious. As players, we’ve got to take it as serious as them.”

Quarterback Shedeur Sanders, though, took a more analytical approach to the rivalry in the days leading up to the game. “We just know the history of it,” Sanders said. “Colorado, we don’t like Nebraska. Simple. That’s just what it is. We just got to focus on that. OK, cool, we don’t like Nebraska. That’s not gonna change  the preparation or anything like that, because we prepare like nobody likes us because we know we’re gonna get everybody’s best game. So it’s just another thing on top of it, like a little bit more motivation, but we got to already be motivated.”

Coach Prime, for his part, was fully prepared for what playing Nebraska means to the Buff Nation. “Well, rivalries are rivalries. There’s some more severe than others,” Coach Sanders said. “I think everywhere you go coach from high school or from youth league on up you’re going to have rivalries and just learning the dynamics of the different rivalries. I like it, it’s delightful. So I’ve learned the severity, the serious nature of this rivalry and I’m embracing it 100%. This is personal. That’s the message of the week. This is personal.”

While the new Buffs are just being introduced to the CU/Nebraska rivalry, for many of us, the rivalry is deeply ingrained. For some of us, it dates back to 1982, when Bill McCartney brashly claimed Nebraska as CU’s rival. The former Michigan defensive coordinator, who coached for a team with long-standing rivalries with Ohio State, Michigan State, and Notre Dame, McCartney was surprised to learn when he came to Boulder that Colorado really didn’t have a true rival.

So McCartney chose the Big Red, even though, at the time, CU hadn’t beaten Nebraska in 13 years.

It was insanity, but four years later, in 1986, CU did the unthinkable, with the 2-4 Buffs upsetting third-ranked and undefeated Nebraska, 20-10.

Since then, for me, the Nebraska game has been extremely personal … and I know I’m not alone.

I could regale you with hundreds of Nebraska stories of my history with the Cornhuskers, but here are a few from the past ten days …

  • A week ago Friday, the day after Nebraska lost to Minnesota, and the day before CU turned the college football world upside down in upsetting TCU, I was at the dealership getting the oil changed for my car. The normal tedious wait sped by as I scrolled through the Nebraska message board on the 247 Sports website, reading back through the play-by-play comments as the Cornhuskers lost two turnovers, with a 10-3 turning into a 13-10 loss. Like the first bite of a favorite dessert, it was delicious;
  • There was a gentleman sitting behind us at the game decked out in Nebraska gear (unlike the game four years ago, when the ten rows behind us were a solid red, there was only a handful of quiet Cornhusker fans for this game). He told everyone within earshot that he was born in Colorado, raised in Nebraska, and presently lived in Arvada. He claimed that his two favorite teams were Nebraska nd Colorado. How is that possible? Not once during the game did I turn around to acknowledge this “fan” … he’s a moron;
  • There is a small cadre in our section who have been season ticket holders for decades. We have shared victories; endured losses. As with most fans in the stands, we make the rounds of high fives when CU scores. With just under ten minutes to go in the fourth quarter, wide receiver Tar’Varish Dawson scored on an eight-yard end around, giving the Buffs an insurmountable 29-7 lead. When Dawson scored, I raised my arms in “touchdown” fashion, my fists clenched. Rather than participate in the high fives, I kept my arms raised, staring down at the field, trying to soak in the moment. Despite my appreciation for my fellow fanatics, I wasn’t willing to share this particular moment. This moment was for me, and just me.

The win for me was personal. Very, very personal.

But these joyful moments over the decades have been too few and too far between. Many of the losses to Nebraska were blowouts. Others were painfully close (CU lost five straight to Nebraska between 1996 and 2000 … by a total of 15 points). The Red Horde would invade Folsom, and, more often than not, leave town with a victory – and a smirk.

Just as Colorado fans look down at Colorado State Rams as being the Buffs little brothers, so to do Nebraska fans look down their noses at the Buffs … and their fans.

And it’s not as if we could blame them. When you own a 49-20-2 advantage in a series – as the Cornhuskers did before Saturday – you get to have a puffed chest.

Except … The bloom has fallen off of the Nebraska rose.

The Cornhuskers haven’t won a conference title since 1999 (CU at least has a conference title in this century, with the Big 12 championship in 2001). Nebraska hasn’t had a winning season since 2016, and hasn’t defeated a ranked team since that year.

Like Colorado, Nebraska changed coaches this off-season, with Matt Rhule taking over for the former golden child Scott Frost. Despite having a roster with 62 newcomers (fourth-highest total in the country – CU’s 87 newcomers led the nation), Matt Rhule treated Coach Prime’s roster overhaul with distain.

When asked about Coach Prime telling Transfer Portal recruits “I ain’t hard to find” this past spring, Rhule had this to say: “I hear other schools (say) they can’t wait for today, the transfer portal, they can’t wait to go out … I can’t wait to coach my guys, let me tell you that. I’m not here … I’m not thinking about anybody else but this team out here”.

Colorado’s players were also keenly aware of Rhule’s offseason comments about an unspecified program that “has cameras following them around” (Colorado has several videographers, including the eldest Sanders son Deion Sanders Jr., following the team).

And then Saturday morning before the game, Rhule broke a golden rule … You don’t disrespect the opposition on their home field.

“It was extremely personal,” Shedeur Sanders said. “We go out there to warm up and you got the head coach for the other team (Matt Rhule) trying to stand in the middle of the Buff. It’s OK if a couple of players do it, it’s fine. Just enjoy the scenery, but when you’ve got a whole team trying to disrespect it, I’m not going for that at all, so I went in there and disrupted it”.

Nice to hear these words of pride in CU from a player who with this game was making Folsom Field debut.

After the game, Shedeur wasn’t finished. Sanders took notice of the fact that Coach Rhule had complimented Coach Prime during the run up to the game, then tried this week to walk back some of his earlier comments.

“The coach said a lot of things about my pops, about the program, but now that he wants to act nice — I don’t respect that because you’re hating on another man, you shouldn’t do that,” Shedeur said. “It was just, all respect was gone for them and their program. I like playing against their DC, I like playing against them, but the respect level, it ain’t there cause you disrespected us first.”

During the Buffs’ second half run to a dominant lead, Shedeur Sanders had a Heisman trophy highlight reel play, with his scramble on a two-point conversion attempt ultimately being ruled incomplete. After the play, Shedeur took off his helmet, earning an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.

“One of the funniest moments in the game after Shadeur took his helmet off after he made the tremendous scramble — it was like a Heisman-type play, and I went over and said, ‘You cannot do that, you cannot take your helmet off,’” Deion said.

“He said, ‘Dad, it’s personal.’ And I just bent over and laughed by butt off because that’s in the moment I was upset and he broke the monotony up with, ‘It’s personal.’ So they really took it to heart.”

For the Buff Nation, these words are music to our ears. We had concerns that these new Buffs, with no history of their own with the Colorado/Nebraska rivalry, wouldn’t appreciate just how much this game meant to us.

Beating Nebraska – no matter the year; no matter the records – is always of the highest priority to CU fans. For a myriad of reasons, most of them self-inflicted, we were never able to really forge a rivalry with any of our Pac-12 opponents. When you can’t beat anybody … it’s hard to develop a history.

So when the Buffs, mired in mediocrity during the 2018 and 2019 seasons, beat the Cornhuskers, the pain of those 5-7 seasons was eased: “At least we beat Nebraska!”

Thanks to a foolish new head coach in Lincoln, both Coach Prime and his son had reasons to make the Nebraska game “personal”. They were prepared, and they took it to the Bugeaters, with a 36-14 victory giving a new generation of Buff fans a game they can look back on in future years with pride.

Welcome to the club, gentlemen!


15 Replies to ““It’s Personal””

  1. Stuart,

    Thank you for all the work you do to keep dedicated CU fans informed. I’ve been following you since your days posting as MontanaBuff on BuffZone. Saturday was an absolutely glorious day and I just wanted to post in memory of my father who attended CU in the late 50s and took me to games in the early 90s. My father passed away in 2012 and would have turned 85 on Saturday. Some of my best memories of being with him are from many other glorious days spent at Folsom Field. I’m grateful we appear to have more of those days to look forward to thanks to the leadership of Rick George and Coach Prime.

    To my CU family and friends,

    Shoulder to shoulder!

    1. Jay,
      Thanks for the kind words, and the great story about your father.
      Here’s to many more great memories going forward.

  2. Stuart,

    Thanks for all the work on this site over the years. I know it’s been difficult to continue to follow and support the Buffs over the years. You kept A LOT of Buff fans connected when there were many reasons not to follow the program.

    I watched the game on Saturday with a very close friend who is also a Cornhusker. I sat quietly and watched the Buffs, while he continued to make excuses for the Cornhusker’s repeated mistakes. By the time the game was over he wasn’t talking to anyone and was scrolling the Nebraska message boards. Later in the evening, I asked if he had found the answers he was looking for on the message boards – LOL!

    Games against Oregon and USC later this month will be tough and the schedule only gets harder but I’m going to sit back and enjoy the ride.


  3. “The Cornhuskers haven’t won a conference title since 1999”

    I really don’t see how nebraska can return to dominance in the modern era…. back in the 1960’s it was much easier to entice recruits to Lincoln (just feed them good steak and potatoes and they’d be happy). Todays recruit is so much more sophisticated… why would anyone want to play for a team in the middle of nowhere that hasn’t done anything of relevance for several decades? Corn fans really need to look in the mirror and realize their future, at best, is more like Iowa and Indiana than it will ever be like Michigan or Ohio State (especially now with SC and Oregon coming in).

  4. Stuart, Thank you for your efforts these many years. I have been a Buff Fan since Steady Eddie was the head coach. I think the last time I had a comment was in depths of the Hawkins era.

    I wanted to mention an individual who deserves our thanks and perhaps have a statue erected in his honor – AD Rick George. The hiring of Coach Prime and the move back to the BIG-12 have saved the Colorado Football program and have brought the university back into the limelight. The benefits that the university will enjoy from these two decisions will be many. The only other turning point that had such a huge impact on the program was the decision to retain Coach McCartney after his rocky start. It took several years for that decision to reap its rewards. Mr. George’s decision had an immediate impact after we hit rock bottom at the end of last season.

    I live in the D.C. area, and I’m pleased to report that I’ve been enjoying the almost daily stories of the Buffs in the Washington Post. Many thanks to AD George!

    Thank you again for this site.

    Hooray for the Silver and the Gold!

      1. No, graduated in 1980. Used to cleanup Folsom Field on Sundays with the ROTC cadets. In those days CU was on the Chuck Wagon with Chuck Fairbanks. Game days were mostly painful during that stint.

  5. The Buffs move up to 16th in espn’s power rankings and WSU and UCLA are in too, there are 8 PAC12 teams in the top 25 espn power rankings! What a year for the PAC12 to implode?

    What a year for the Buffs to make a comeback into national relevance?

  6. We didn’t see Coach prime dissing other coaches for how they do their business, but plenty of coaches like Rhule and pundolts had negatives to say; most of them don’t have to play the Buffs. But, most of the PAC12 coaches were actually polite about CP’s ways, not all but most, probably because they were smart enough not to provide bulletin board material.

    Dan going to hear a word or two about “When have they ever won anything?” And while he was right, he was including this group of players in that statement and they knew it. This group of players aren’t the one that’s lost either, in fact as a team they haven’t lost yet and probably will be undefeated when they roll into Oregon.

  7. I can remember driving west into town shortly after the death of Sal Aunese, and seeing the Buff nation sign defaced with red letters reading “Sal is dead go big red”. It was on big time after that. Absolutely reprehensible, inexcusable, and permanent fuel for the fires still burning today.

  8. Stuart, I saw an article this morning about Mel Tucker that deserves a post, in my humble opinion.

    Apparently, after inking his 10 year, $95 million contract extension with Sparty in November 2021, he got very inappropriate with, I shit you not, a sexual assault prevention consultant hired by his own program.

    And it isn’t just allegations. Mel Tucker freely acknowledges that he had sexual conversations with her. He says he struggles to forgive himself for getting in this situation, but that she was a willing participant. Her lawsuit and the months long investigation he’s been under undermine that statement.

    All this to say, Holy Cow did we dodge a huge bullet with that guy. What absolutely abysmal judgement, even if he truly thought it was consenting, to cheat on his wife with a consultant he hired to prevent sexual harassment and assault. I don’t believe his statement that she’s just lying and twisting a consensual affair. But even if that were 100% true, it is STILL on him for cheating on his wife with a consultant under contract to his program. What a stupid way to sabotage your own dream job, and everyone who was counting on him there.

    This reportage by Dan Murphy of ESPN, posted 8 hours ago. ESPN is currently considering a lawsuit against MSU over it’s denied FOIA request in this case. Mel Tucker just turned radioactive, literally over night.

    Receipt: https://www.espn.com/college-football/story/_/id/38366070/michigan-st-tucker-subject-sexual-harassment-investigation

    1. Yeah, and he doesn’t appear to be that great a coach, either. He had one good year because of a few nfl caliber transfers. If this year is like last year, the $80 mill guaranteed is all that would have kept him around. Sounds like with this piece, he may be gone much sooner.

      He does have some big donors behind him though, at least one of whom is kind of a dirtbag himself, so who knows?

      Go Buffs

      1. Yeah, he probably has support from some donors through this. But, unlike Art Briles, he’s an employee of a state institution. That might make it much harder for him to survive this. And, to be honest, he shouldn’t. His awful judgement puts the entire team and university at risk. I mean, I honestly cannot think of a more idiotic thing he could do than to sexually harass a vendor hired to prevent sexual harassment.

        Call me old fashioned, but a coach who puts his selfish desires ahead of the needs of his hundreds of athletes, employees, and boosters is no coach at all.

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