A football team from Boulder representing the state’s namesake was looking for an identity. The year was 1934, and October meant the start of the Rocky Mountain Faculty Athletic Conference schedule for Colorado ‘U’ against Colorado Teacher’s College.
Bill Saunders entered his third year with a vision of improving the ‘Silver and Gold’ from the prior year’s record of 7-2. After taking over Boulder’s team in 1932, the former C.T.C. coach faced his old Bears squad for a second-consecutive season. Saunders’ first head-to-head match-up resulted in a dominating 24-0 home shutout over the teachers of Greeley.
Colorado escaped the first two games of the season with scoreless ties at Kansas and against Missouri, before seeing the Bears again. A 62-mile trek separated the RMFAC foes with a rare Friday night game on the horizon. CU owned the all-time series lead; in the nine prior times, C.T.C.’s only win came in 1918. A new coach by the name of John Hancock was the talk of the conference, as he had the Bears in prime position to compete for a title.
A preview of the 1934 ballgame was written in the Greeley Daily Tribune with a description of how Hancock was perceived by his fellow coaches.
“Coach John Hancock of the Colorado Teachers College has constructed a football team this year that has several Rocky Mountain coaches worried,” the Tribune wrote.
“The Rear first line-up is considered to be about as good as any of them and some sports writers in the west are of the opinion that the Teachers are due to turn an upset Friday night when they face Colorado University. Hancock and his assistant, Pete Brown, do not look for a win for their protégés, but they said Friday morning that their team was ready to go and then assured plenty of excitement for the crowd at the Jackson Field. The Bears have been drilling this week on pass attack and defense, are expected to show what they can do by the air route Friday night.”
A train from Boulder en route to Greeley left with the players and band members from the University at 4:15 p.m., blazing the tracks at a speedy 30 miles per hour. The steaming locomotive arrived at 6:15 p.m, ushering players into Jackson Field. Nearly 1,500 Boulderites made the trip aboard the train along with another 1,900 spectators traveling by automobile. Colorado reserved a 1,660 seat student section at the east end of the field for the 8:15 p.m. kickoff.
“Saunders is bringing his in-state boys from the Flatirons to Greeley determined to roll up some scoring in his first conference game and the Bears are just determined that the point total shall be small.” Chester Nelson, writer for the Rocky Mountain News, predicted Colorado would win by about “12 or 13 points.”
Colorado ‘U’ outmatched by Teacher’s defensive prowess
In the first quarter the Bears All-American honorable mention quarterback, Roy Hardin, threaded a couple passes to receiver Don Merriman, but it was rusher Walter Mast orchestrating an outstanding offensive game plan that keyed C.T.C. He ran over Colorado defenders to take a 6-0 lead going into halftime.
The ‘Silver and Gold’ capitalized off a Dale Murphy blocked punt early in the third quarter, taking over at the Bears’ 32 yard line. Two plays later, CU quarterback James Counter found a seam off the left edge, shaking off the Teachers’ secondary for a 30-yard touchdown. A drop-kick point-after attempt by Doy Neighbors gave Colorado a 7-6 lead.
And the Bears came roaring back.
On the ensuing drive CU’s Del Ritchhart tried to pin C.T.C. deep in their own territory. Bears returner Tom Murphy took the kickoff 23 yards to the Bears’ 38-yard line. Mast lead the march down the field, capping the 62-yard drive with a 29-yard touchdown run. A second score of the night for the running back would be the difference maker and CU couldn’t recover from the Bears’ 205 total yards from scrimmage. C.T.C. upset Colorado by a score of 13-7.
Following the defeat, Colorado packed up and headed back to Boulder around 1 a.m., about the same time western sports writers put heat to the presses with the news of the Bears’ victory. The Greeley Daily Tribune noted the Teachers’ rare accomplishment against CU.
“It was the first time in history of football warfare in the Rocky Mountain area that a Teachers college team has humbled an eleven from Boulder. To make the achievement more glorious, the win was chalked up against an outfit touted as the most powerful ever put together in the shadow of the Flatirons, a team considered as the golden haired boys of the Rockies.”
Colorado was in the process of selecting a name for their football team. After the showing against the Teachers, some writers suggested such names as the “Flatiron Flops” and “Boulder Busts”. Later that year, the ‘Silver and Gold’ school newspaper adopted the ‘Buffaloes’ nickname through a $5 nationwide contest.
Colorado ‘U’ finished the 1934 season with a 7-1-2 record, splitting the Rocky Mountain Conference title with the Colorado Aggies and Colorado Teachers College.