Savor the Moment

I have a confession to make.

It’s not easy to put to words, but it’s been bugging me ever since the Buffs’ 98-yard fourth quarter drive to tie the Rams at the end of regulation, sending the Rocky Mountain Showdown into overtime.

Okay, here goes … I didn’t enjoy CU’s 43-35 double-overtime win over Colorado State nearly as much as I should have.

There, I’ve said it.

It makes it a little easier now, knowing that I’ve shared.

How could you not enjoy this victory? It was a loud, black-out crowd. Colorado has been the talk of the college football world for the past two weeks. ESPN GameDay, after a 27-year hiatus, returned to Boulder. Fox Sports has spent so much time in town they are going to have to start paying taxes. Celebrities (many of whom I don’t even know) have found their way to the Champions Center, and the venerated 60 Minutes program is set to open its 2023 season Sunday night with CU being the lead story.

Deion Sanders has put the Colorado program on a trajectory that no one other than Coach Prime could have anticipated.

“Tonight we showed resilience”, said Coach Prime. “I mean, the guys had every opportunity to give up. They never doubted themselves on the sideline. I mean, we were upset with some of the things not being executed that we’re called. But these young men never, they give up, and everyone in total, and that’s it, guys. We just need six plays. He’s given six plays, six plays, we’ll score, we can export six plays, just give us six challenging plays, and that’s what they did.”

It was a stunning come-from-behind victory. It is a win which we will be talking about for years. The 98-yard drive to tie the game may not have the historic significance of John Elway’s 98-yard drive against the Cleveland Browns, leading to a playoff victory decades ago … but it was a pretty cool experience.

And for someone who has to commute 700 miles for home games, and who has been chronicling CU’s sorry seasons for way too long, I could have been forgiven for enjoying the win more than most.

And yet … I never hit the crescendo of emotion that the moment deserved.

Perhaps it was due to some of the scar tissue we’ve had to deal with over the past two decades. We certainly could have been forgiven for believing that the Buffs wouldn’t come back. After all, in this game the Buffs overcame a double-digit fourth quarter lead for just the second time in the last 66 games. The other double-digit comeback was also a memorable contest: The 34-31 overtime win over Nebraska in 2019, after the Buffs had trailed, 24-14, early in the fourth quarter.

Two wins against 64 losses … that’s a lot of scar tissue.

Truth is, however, that the disbelief that the Buffs could come back to defeat the Rams is only part of the story.

The rest is that, while I was trying to soak it all in, watching the CU student section go bat-crap crazy at the end of regulation and in overtime, I knew I was going to be in for a long night. And it wasn’t just the game write-up, which I knew would take me well into the early hours of Sunday morning (For the record, between the late start – 8:21, with the finish coming over four hours later, at 12:25 a.m. – the requisite post-game celebration, and the traffic from the sold-out crowd of 53,141 trying to get home, I didn’t get to a place where I could write until almost 2:00 a.m., and didn’t finish getting the Game Story posted until 3:28 a.m.)

No, doing a write-up for a victory is never a chore. It is always, always, always a pleasure.

Rather, my issue was coming up with a theme for this essay.

I was asked during the game last night if I already had an idea for what I was going to title the essay, and Brad, who has been with me through the wars for over four decades now, chimed in that I was already writing the game essay in my head.

And I was. Head coach Jay Norvell had given the quote of the week. “I sat down with ESPN today,” said Norvell. “I don’t care if they hear it in Boulder. I told them, I took my hat off and I took my glasses off. I said when I talk to grown ups, I take my hat off and my glasses off. That’s what my mother taught me”.

It could have been just an off-the-cuff remark. It could have been a calculated attempt on Norvell’s part to swing some national attention towards his team. It could have been Norvell’s attempt to fire up his players to take down their hated rivals and put the Buffs in their place after becoming media darlings for the past two weeks.

In any event, Norvell’s comments made for an easy title for my essay. The Buffs were a 23.5-point favorite coming into the game, and were supposed to make quick work of the winless Rams.

The title for my Essay: “Silence of the Rams”.

Clever, and a good lead-in to a discussion of how the Buffs, inspired by Norvell’s comments, ran up the score against the hapless Lambs from Ft. Collins.

Well, that didn’t age well.

By the time the fourth quarter rolled around, and the Buffs found themselves down, 28-17, with just over 11 minutes to play, I had a new title to my essay in mind: “Hubris”.

Hubris, defined as excessive pride or self-confidence, would have been a fitting description for the Buffs and their response to Norvell’s comments. Quarterback Shedeur Sanders told anyone with a microphone that the Buffs were going to take the disrespect for his father (“Pops”) and put it to the Rams. Coach Prime called the comments by Norvell “stupid”, and all of the media talking heads couldn’t get enough of how inspired the Buffs would be to run up the score against their out-manned opponent.

Yet it was the red-shirt freshman quarterback for CSU who was the star for much of the night, not CU’s Heisman trophy candidate. Ignoring the hostile crowd, Braden Fowler-Nicolosi completed 34-for-47 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns. Yes, Sanders finished with four touchdown passes and 348 yards through the air, but those numbers were far less gaudy with 58 minutes of game clock in the books.

It was the Rams who had three wideouts with over 100 yards receiving on the evening, while the Buffs failed to produce a single 100-yard receiver. It was the Rams who forced CU into a frustrating short passing game, while CSU wide receivers ran crossing patterns freely across the Buff defense all night long.

Then “Hubris” went out the window, as the Buffs clawed their way back into the game. Even with the Buffs showing life in the final two minutes, though, I remained pessimistic. CU was down eight points, 28-20, which meant the Buffs would need not only a touchdown, but a two-point conversion, to tie the game and send it into overtime.

This, from a team which had had a first-and-goal at the CSU four-yard line late in the third quarter, but settled for a field goal after the next three plays netted only two yards.

“We don’t have a two-point conversion play”, I lamented, even as Shedeur Sanders deftly took the Buffs 98 yards for a touchdown … not in two minutes, but in 90 seconds. And yet … wonder of wonder, miracle of miracles … Sanders found every Buff fan’s new favorite tight end, Michael Harrison, for the two-point conversion to tie the game at 28-all, sending the game into overtime.

After tying the game, it seemed that CU was destined to win … but I was stuck again.

What would be the theme for the game essay? “Resiliency”? Perhaps a notable post-game quote from the locker room?

Many times, the game essay writes itself. “I Don’t Believe What I Just Saw”, stealing the quote from the 1988 World Series, seemed a natural fit for the Buffs’ 45-42 upset win over No. 17 TCU. “It’s Personal” was the obvious choice for the Nebraska game, as it was the mantra for Coach Prime and the team the entire week leading up to the 36-14 victory over the Cornhuskers.

Perhaps if the Rocky Mountain Showdown had ended at a reasonable hour, I would have enjoyed the ending more. Perhaps if the Buffs hadn’t trailed for most of the game, leaving me to lament how long the drive back to Montana would be, with the desolate eastern plains of Wyoming as my only companion, I would have soaked in the moment just a little bit more.

I hope you were not like me. I hope that you were a sponge last night, soaking up memories, taking pictures with your mind, so you can relive the experience of CU’s unlikely comeback again and again.

There will be many pundits – many, many pundits – who will be turning their backs on the Buffs in the upcoming weeks. There are some national writers and talking heads who can’t wait for the Buffs to fall flat against Oregon and USC, so they can point out with great smugness that Coach Prime is a paper tiger, and that the Prime Experiment is about to crumble.

(Even a poster here at CU at the Game is already moving on to doom and gloom. From the comments section to the game write-up: The Buffs were exposed by the Rams for the entire game except the final minutes. We have no running attack. We fail to pressure the opponent’s QB. Our defense is not strong enough to handle Pac 12 teams. Unless we beat Arizona State , Stanford and Arizona we can forget a Bowl game.)

Don’t let them get to you. The commentators who will be “predicting” CU’s fall were the same talking heads who predicted CU would be lucky to win three games all season.

Enjoy the day. Enjoy the victory. Buff fans haven’t many wins recently, much less a win over a rival. Much less a comeback win for the ages.

Savor the moment …


9 Replies to “Savor the Moment”

  1. Great write up Stuart.

    Like you, I went back and forth evaluating the game. We were getting torched by crossing routes and some year we will need a running game. Just for grins and (not) giggles, I looked at 20223 rushing vs 2023 through the first 3 games:

    Year Attempts Yards
    2022 95 360
    2023 92 183

    We need to ramp up our rushing game in a big way. Even so I will take the 3 wins over what we sent through last year! Great fun and looking forward to the rest of this year.

  2. My thought for an essay was, “Hello I’m Marcus and I’m a fanatic, it’s been one day since I’ve posted an overconfident fanatic post”. In the vain of an AA meeting describing my over confident posts regarding my prediction of the score and how wrong I was not to consider how bad the rams would want the win and how they were motivated well beyond what they displayed against WSU.

    In the end the Buffs come from behind wins only feed my fanaticism, and if they some how pull off a similar win at Auzten, my fanaticism will be full blown; it’ll be hard to stay off the wagon… the band wagon that is, but a true fan is always on the wagon.

  3. I understand where you were (emotionally) last night Stuart, I was there too… EXCEPT, my girlfriend was (begrudgingly) already calling it for CSU at 11 points behind in the fourth quarter, and I kinda agreed internally, but no way would I allow her to say that. She’s new to the game and doesn’t understand there’s still enough time left, so “f you, they haven’t lost yet!” was my attitude.

    At the two minute mark, “There’s still 2 minutes left, plenty of teams have come back and the Buffs could tie it and win in OT!”, I said, not admitting she could be right, but they still could and this is where Sheduer shines I thought/hoped.

    So I was there, both believing and not believing, but in defiance of my girlfriend I refused to cave.

    When it went into OT, I actually believed what I was selling to my own girl. Haha, the whole time she only saw me as being accepting of the Buffs poor play, but believing they would make a come back. But really I knew it COULD go either way, but for some reason, maybe it was just being in defiance of her, but I believed that they had the time to make a come back and if they tied it the Buffs would win.

    Lucky me, she doesn’t know all the above, she only saw me as concerned but confident… The way it should be 🙂

    Go Buffs

  4. Stuart I continue to admire your commitment to the Buffs community. It is a gift.

    My theme would be re-affirmation. After a pause in the Rocky Mountain showdown, this game re-affirmed my passionate dislike for CSU football.

    The over-the-top media hype was too much and created a poor environment for the players (and thanks Stuart for keeping your website on an even keel). I can understand the Rams players feeling slighted and trying to show they were just as good as the Buffs stars. And at least for the most part they did, for one game. But the CSU personal fouls, particularly the ones against Hunter and then Sanders, showed a lack of character for the Rams. And then to have Coach Norvell commenting on the lopsided penalty yards, almost questioning if calls were unfair against his team? WTF?! Look at the numbers. That was probably one of the dirtiest college football games a team has played. Ever. And it is his team. So thanks CSU players and head coach for reminding us all how low class you are.

    Besides the win, I’m happy the Buffs played with poise and class during the game, even though they were struggling at times.

  5. I felt much like you did. CSU outplayed us for 58 minutes. And that was hard to watch. They came in with a plan and their qb was on point. Their recievers did not drop balls and their o line and d line won the trenches more often than not. I have not rewatched the game yet, so maybe my perception watching the game in person will change. In person, I didn’t think the hit on Hunter was a cheap shot but rewatching it on tv it was egregious. I suspect the chop blocks and crack back are probably as well which disappoints me.
    I have concerns about this team going forward but just like the amazing win over TCU was just one game, so was this. This team can play. CSU played much better against us that they did Washington State. I still believe. I don’t see us making a fun at the national title this year (but then again I never really did before). We will need to step up for the next two games and the last one to play competitively but I think the rest are well within reach.
    I am excited to see if Cormani will step up. Maybe see if McCaskil finally plays. Hopefully wells is back soon as well.

    1. I was hoping for a chance to be in the conversation for a title… the PAC12, not the NC.

      If they still had the North and South divisions, I would have just wanted the Buffs in the conversation, like tied for second in the South, but I didn’t expect it. It would have been pleasantly surprising to see them make the conference playoffs.

      Please Buffs, be competitive in the next two games, the rest of the season will be good if they can hang with Oregon & USC. Do well and the recruits will understand the jump from 1-11 and this year, Prime will still win in recruiting if the Buffs just hang with those teams.

  6. Another nice write up. As an old timer, I felt many of the same things. I am concerned with some of the deficiencies but have always had a longer term view. Per a post a couple months ago, I feel that 2024 is when the team gels on a sustained basis. Though frustrating to watch the discombobulation at times, I certainly would not have projected the Buffs to be 3-0 at this point. The resilience is remarkable as is Shedeur’s leadership and the team’s belief that they will win. Past years’ teams would have imploded and given up. Go Buffs!!

  7. My message to Buffs nation. Never apologize for winning. Ever. It has been too long of losing to ever feel bad about winning. Now about what happened yesterday.

    I almost feel like CSU threw the game against wsu, then took the bye in order to lull us to sleep. The Norvell comment confused me because of the fact they were playing it silent up until then. But while cu is not their opener it is still their Super Bowl and they will do anything they can to win it. Even if that means playing conservatively against a power 5 team at home. I give them credit they played hard (and a “little” dirty). But as I said earlier. Never apologize for winning. Win the game and move on. For crying out loud Bama struggled against USF, another 1-11 team. It’s college football. Anything can happen.

  8. It’s going to be wild at autzen, and a great measuring stick.

    Buffs can win. And maybe we see alto in the backfield a little too. Or oftenball. But Dylan is always a home run waiting to happen, so he’s gotta stay in the mix.

    Travis may have some bruised ribs, but they got dudes who can play.

    This is when it gets serious. Can’t come out flat anymore.

    Pac 12 is tough.

    Go Buffs

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