Colorado Buffaloes: My Personal Story

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 08: Quarterback Steven Montez #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes passes against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 08: Quarterback Steven Montez #12 of the Colorado Buffaloes passes against the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium on September 8, 2018 in Lincoln, Nebraska. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images) /

The Colorado Buffaloes played the Nebraska Cornhuskers (Bugeaters) on Saturday, the game sparked some nostalgia.

I’ve been around the University of Colorado since the late 1980’s.  From 1988 to 2005 I attended nearly every CU home football game with my mother and family friends.  It was some of the best times in my life and generated a lot of memories that I’ll bet a lot of you share.

I collected offensive or clever Colorado t-shirts, mostly sold outside Folsom Field or on the walk across campus.  I had one that had a buffalo trampling Brian Bosworth in the first night game in CU history.  It said “Buffs Aren’t Afraid to do it With the Lights On”.  The worst was a plain, white tee with a Nebraska football helmet and big red letters that said “<expletive> Nebraska”.  There were more lewd choices, I’m sure it mortified my Mother and friends.

I remember Section 220, Row 56, Seat 9.  I always will.  We sat there for 14 years.

I remember 1988, the year before Colorado rose in National prominence, we trailed Nebraska 7-0 and JJ Flanigan broke away on a run for a sure touchdown, only to drop the ball at the 2.

I remember in 1989, one of the things we always did was find Sal Aunese in the fieldhouse, waving to the crowd.  While the ‘Huskers may have found CU’s attachment to Sal trite, it was a real and emotional thing for us.

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I remember a 1988 game against, Kansas State or Iowa State, some of these are fuzzy on details but the important points remain.  The PA announcer used to say, after running plays, “On the carry…..Number 2…..” and the crowd would yell “J. J. Flanigan!” or “E. Bieniemy!”.  It was fun but it had largely died down.  In that game, a blowout, a tailback named OC Oliver came in and busted a 65-yard TD right up the middle.  Oliver had injured his knee and by the time he came back, Bieniemy and Flanigan had taken over at tailback and OC was buried on the depth chart.  As Oliver crossed the goal line, he dropped to a knee and the PA announcer said “On the carry, number 5……..”.  The deafening “OC OLIVER” that the crowd responded with remains one of the most profound and moving sports experiences of my life.  Years later, I had a chance to talk to Oliver and CJ on a local sports radio show.  I reminded him of the moment and he remembered it vividly.

I remember Darian Hagan running option left against Oklahoma from the 5 and getting buried under a sea of Sooner defenders.  From that pile, the ball popped out and landed perfectly in the hands of a sprinting Flanigan for a touchdown.

I remember Alfred Williams, Kanavis McGhee, Okland Salavea and Greg Biekert forming a fearsome front for Colorado.

I remember a Steve Rosga interception return for a touchdown that felt like it took 10 minutes.

I remember “Sal is Dead, Go Big Red”.  It’s among several distasteful interactions with Nebraska fans that established the ‘Huskers as villains even without the rivalry.

I remember a visit to Folsom from the Miami Hurricanes and a scuffle after Ralphie ran down their sideline, started by a Hurricane DE named Dwayne Johnson.

I remember the old Chip.

I remember a game against Michigan at Folsom in such a downpour I had to go back to the car.

Speaking of Michigan, I remember September 24, 1994.  I was sitting at home on my couch, disconsolate over Colorado’s loss when Kordell Stewart unloaded his 77-yard miracle to Michael Westbrook. A bonus to anyone that can tell me who tipped the pass before Westbrook caught it.

I remember some cat named Kirby DarDar and some other cat named Donovan McNabb pulling off a 20-point third quarter en route to a 26-22 Fiesta Bowl loss for the Buffs that I had the pleasure of attending with my Father.

I remember thinking “Why would you punt to the Rocket?”, seeing the penalty flag and thinking “Why would you punt to the Rocket?”.

I remember for those 15 years, Colorado football was a huge, heavy emotional investment.

I remember thinking Koy Detmer was going to get injured on one of his touchdown celebrations.

I remember Joel Klatt, Bobby Pesavento and Mike Moschetti and John Hessler.

I remember Marcus Houston and what a bummer him being a bust was.

I remember losing my mind when Rashaan Salaam (RIP, friend) hit 2,055 and won his Heisman.  The run that got him over 2,000 went right in front of us.

Colorado Buffaloes Football
Colorado Buffaloes Football /

Colorado Buffaloes Football

I remember Christian Fauria and Dan Graham.

I remember Joel Steed, Mitch Berger, Deion Figures.

I remember the hatchet job SI’s Rick Reilly did on Gary Barnett and the Buffs program.

I remember Rick Neuheisel winning 10-games and it feeling like CU had taken a step back.

I remember the 1990 National Championship (with respect to Georgia Tech) and the 5th down in Missouri that made that possible.  The work those young men put in over the 1988-90 seasons that culminated in the ’90 Orange Bowl win over Notre Dame shouldn’t be lessened because of the fifth down, even though Colorado benefitted greatly from the botched call.

I remember Charles Johnson, bringing it home with Darian Hagan injured.

I remember thinking Chidobe Awuzie was the coolest name I’d ever heard until I heard Laviska Shenault.

I try not to remember the Dan Hawkins era.

I wish John Embree had worked out better.  Buff alum are special.

I remember the fight song but still not the Alma Mater.

I remember when to sing “Dear Old CU”, though.

Oh, how I remember 62-36.  Nebraska can pretend all they want that they don’t care about Colorado as a rival but they cared that day.  Ask Frank Solich if losing to CU matters. I can forever say that I was there.

I remember you, Chris Brown.

I could go on for days but attendance at the University of Colorado football games was a special time in my life, I remember all of it and all of it occupies a special place in my mind.

I remember the friends and family that shared that time in life with me.

Most of all, I remember Michael Leonard Lawless, the anchor of those trips.  Mike had a backpack that was a bottomless supply of trail mix, sandwiches and snacks of all manner.  Mike taught me “pee management”, we wouldn’t drink anything, even water before halftime, lest we spend an entire quarter trying to get to the bathroom.  Mike always had fancy craft beers for after the game.  Once we didn’t have a bottle opener and spent nearly half the ride home trying to figure out how to open a bottle.  I finally got them with a combination of my keys and the seat belt.  Mike made sure we were never without an opener again.

As time went on and getting to Boulder for night/nationally televised games got prohibitive, we stopped going, not too long after that 62-36.  I live in Colorado Springs when we stopped going, it got too difficult to pull off the Buffs games.  We got Mike and his amazing wife Glenna (who was at every one of those games, too) down for an Air Force game and after nearly 20 years, pulled off a tailgate.  It was an amazing day and a perfect cap to our little group’s adventures.

Mikey passed away not too long after and not a day goes by that I don’t think of him and our Buffs bond.  He bought me a little CU football helmet for my birthday one year.  That helmet is sitting on top of my monitor.  It’s always been somewhere prominent.

In the end, that’s all any of us can hope for is to be remembered.  So to the Colorado Buffaloes, Michael Lawless, Glenna Hale and Deborah Longhofer, rest assured.

I remember you.