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Colorado - Nebraska: An oral history (of sorts)

A few good memories before Saturday’s game between the Buffs and Huskers.

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The last time Colorado and Nebraska squared off on the football field was eight years ago. Since that time, the rivalry has faded while new rivalries have blossomed (well, that’s not really true) but there’s still no love lost between the two schools in neighboring states that are separated by 500 miles. During the game’s peak, there was a pure hatred that was born from true competition. Here are some of the best rivalry stories between the Buffaloes and Cornhuskers as told by former players, coaches and one special ‘Big Red’ fan.

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2001 Heisman Trophy winner and former Nebraska quarterback Eric Crouch

“It never mattered what CU’s record was and there were times they weren’t going to a bowl game. My freshman year they weren’t going to a bowl game— so this rivalry was their bowl game and they made it a very difficult game. Each game I had with them was memorable for its own reason. I can’t really pick out one game. I can’t do that with every team, but for Colorado I can. I guess it etched or scared in my mind. My freshman year we had a close game at home and I remember barely getting by to win that game. My sophomore year we were on the road and won a tough game in double-overtime and my junior year in Lincoln we were behind— threw a couple passes down the field to set up for the game-winning field goal—kicked it and won it in the last second of the game. And then my senior year seems to be the game that everybody remembers just based on how poorly we played that day.

We were 11-0 going into the game that day as the top team in the country. CU ran the ball well and our defense had a really difficult day. The only thing I remember about that day is we had the chance to turn it into a 5-point game in the third quarter and Dahrran Diedrick fumbled on the 1-yard line. Colorado took it all the way down the field 99 yards and scored pretty much sealing the deal. We were down 19 points at halftime, even though it felt like 40 something and brought the score back to 42-30, which was a pretty incredible comeback. Once we fumbled that ball, it was a dogfight to get any yards after that. It took the wind out of us. We were fighting, but they had the energy and momentum. Every game was a special game. We knew ever game against Colorado was going to be a tough, physical game. There was going to be talk. There was going to be outside influences no matter whether the game was in Memorial Stadium or Folsom Field. The entire matchup through my career was a memorable one for me. Typically, Nebraska has the most to lose in many of those game, but Colorado would give it a good shot. Most, if not all, were nationally televised and there was always something on the line for both teams. Whether it was Colorado upsetting Nebraska to go to a bowl game, or winning a conference title— both teams seemed to have something to fight for at the end of the season.”

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Former Nebraska quarterback Tommie Frazier

“For me, there was a case of animosity because a lot of people don’t know that Colorado turned me down. I went there for my first recruiting visit and they offered me a scholarship, but I didn’t accept it when I was out there. Colorado called me that night when I was back home to talk to my parents and told me they were no longer interested in me, because I didn’t accept the offer and they signed Kordell (Stewart). So, that’s where my distain for Colorado came. And then you start hearing all the rhetoric out of Colorado how (Nebraska) is a rival to them and they want to beat us. They did everything— like putting our game in red on the schedule. Of course, coach (McCartney) didn’t help anything with his rhetoric either. Leaving Florida to go all the way to Colorado— if my parents weren’t cool with it then I wasn’t going to do it. When I got back home and started talking to them, CU’s offensive coordinator Gerry DiNardo calls and says they’re not interested in me as a quarterback, but they still wanted me to come. I said no thank you to that…”

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Former Nebraska linebacker Jay Foreman

“It never really was a rivalry because (Colorado) was always getting annihilated by us. They probably hated us more than we hated them, because they never really beat us or anything. They talk about how physical the offensive line was— and how they were able to prepare for that— talk about the crowd and stuff like that. But, at the end of the day when you’re talking about wins and losses that we got to talk about significantly trumped anything they were able to talk about.

You can think of a high school rivalry and it’s not even close. When you think about Colorado-Nebraska, you can just see where the intensity changed. Same thing with Oklahoma. The thing it was just a ploy by coach McCarthy, or whatever his name is, to try and compete with Nebraska— and it just kind of boiled over. The one thing I will say is they were the Tennessee before Tennessee was really rampant with NFL players. And Ohio State before Ohio State started winning a couple national championships. Where on a squad of 22 starters— 18 guys go to the NFL and ten of them go in the first two rounds. And they’ll lose to “Meatloaf State” or something. Colorado could never beat Nebraska. And “we were never pro ready or only had two positions” that could go on to the next level. That’s what they were focusing on and they had some good players with obviously some battles down there in the Orange Bowl prior us stepping on campus. Once we turned a corner on them, there wasn’t any looking back as far as competition and wins and losses.”

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Former longtime Nebraska Coach Tom Osborne

“I don’t know—our rival was primarily Oklahoma. For thirty year Nebraska and Oklahoma either won or shared the conference championship 29 times. So, that was our main rival. Each week the team we played our biggest rival. We gained a lot of respect for Colorado particularly in the 90’s. Bill McCartney built great teams out there with great players. And we certainly respected them throughout the years when they had (Eddie) Crowder, Dal Ward and others like Bill Mallory. Good memories— but, probably never a rivalry for Nebraska.”

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World-renowned comedian and avid Nebraska fan Larry The Cable Guy

“I have no memories of Colorado. All the defeats have been subconsciously removed from my mind via hypnosis and all the victories were treated like a win over Pacific in the 80’s. That’s how low they are on my college football hierarchy. They’re like Kansas State with better uniforms. If Colorado fans were around during Jesus’s day they’d be the one yelling “give us Barabas!” Complete tools and I never give them a thought. (This is for Boulder only. In the spirit of my ticket sales the rest of the state is fantastic)”

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2X Super Bowl Champion and former All-American CU tight end Daniel Graham

[After seeing Larry the Cable Guy’s comments above] “Larry, Nebraska has never been the same since the “Kansas State team with better uniforms” beat their ass 62-36 and their so-called No. 1 team in the country.

Nebraska came into Boulder for that game and some of the ABC announcers already had them playing in the Big 12 Championship. It shows you how long the college football rankings have been messed up. They were talking national championship before that and still went that year, even after we won the Big 12 Championship. Not only beating them, but the way we did beat them in our stadium. It was good for my senior class and great for all the CU fans that were watching for the five years I was at CU. Nebraska won by less than four points in the previous four games before that. Watching the fans storm the field and lift the goalposts up and march on the hill made it worth it.

We weren’t respected enough as a team from the outside media. We didn’t care what everyone outside of the football program thought. We had a lot of confidence going into that game and were well prepared. It was a lot of fun playing in that game and dominating Nebraska like we did. (The rivalry) meant everything. A lot of people want to ask me, “talk about this CSU rivalry”, that’s not CU’s rival. Nebraska has ALWAYS been our rival. When I was there at CU, it was a Red-Letter game. The only one of its kind, so it meant something to everybody. It was always an important game to us.”

Nebraska Cornhuskers v Colorado Buffaloes Photo by Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Fox Sports analyst and former CU quarterback Joel Klatt

[After seeing Larry the Cable Guy’s comments above] “HA...come on, Larry...

I was at the 62-36 game as a fan while I was playing Minor League baseball and that experience made me really think about walking-on at CU which I did the next Fall. In 2004, we went to Lincoln and they had been on a downturn and were trying to become bowl eligible. Nebraska’s streak had gone of 35 straight bowls games was on the line, but we beat them. That was one of the best feelings I’ve ever had athletically. Our locker room was as joyous as any I’ve ever been in. They were our Red-Letter game, and beating them in their own house was EVERYTHING.”

Colorado v UCLA Photo by Stephen Dunn/Getty Images

Former CU coach Gary Barnett

[After seeing Larry the Cable Guy’s comments above] “Tell LARRY (by the way, we play golf together in Arizona) that he can try to erase the 62-36 loss by the “bug eaters,” but it’s like a nightmare that won’t ever end. That game alone made him go into a hypnosis. I just remember CU taking a knee so it wouldn’t be 69-36. Love ya, Larry.”

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Former CU offensive lineman Matt McChesney

“I grew up a massive CU fan. It was the only place I wanted to play. The entire side of my mother’s family all lived in Omaha, Lincoln, or Iowa— So, they’re were always massive Cornhuskers fans. When I went to CU, my grandmother was pissed. She wanted me to attend Nebraska so bad and I was like, “No, grandma sit over there in the chair and be quiet. I don’t like Nebraska.” She still talks to me about to this day like I care. And all I have to say is, “You know we’re going to beat the s*** out of them when we go to Lincoln in September.” She was like, “Oh Matthew, you’re so funny.” I’m like, “It’s not f****** funny, grandma. We’re going to beat your asses.” So, other than talking s*** to my grandma, the Colorado-Nebraska rivalry has been a point of contention in my family forever.

I looked at the history of the rivalry last night to put it in context and from 1995 on the scores have been very close.

1996: 17-to-12; 1997: 27-24; 1998 16-to-14; 1999: 33-30 in double-overtime; 2000, my freshman year, 34-32. Those were the games I grew up watching after seeing them win a national title and struggling for eleven year. Throughout those years, my entire teenage years before I went to college, my family would call me the day after they beat us and singing that f****** “Go Big Red” song into our answering machine every year. Thanksgiving was always really s***ty because we would always lose. And then when I got to CU in 2000, we got beat on the last play of the game— and it was built up into the next year. The 2001 season was special. Not only how the regular season ended, but special because I was a starter on a unit that dismantled the No. 1 team in the country the way we did. It was really a special day for us.

When I was a senior in 2004, I believe was the only starter on a CU defense that beat Nebraska three times. When we beat them in Lincoln, we won the Big 12 North that day and I remember so many people before the season said we wouldn’t win a game along with finishing dead last in the conference. We heard it all including “Barnett’s going to be fired by the middle of the season.” We put ourselves in a pretty good position being an above-average football team. We beat Nebraska in Lincoln and it kept them out of a bowl game. I remember after the game planting our flag at midfield and being so happy we accomplished our goal—beat our rival, won the North and had an opportunity to keep playing. The fight song that day was unbelievable with all the fans who made the trip to support us. If you remember correctly, a majority of people turned on us because of what happened with Katie Hnida. For us to overcome all that and get a win for coach Barnett, and see him get named Big 12 Coach of the Year, it was a great feeling. I miss this rivalry. It’s the reason I went to CU— to beat the s*** out of Nebraska. I respect the hell out of the University of Nebraska, but I don’t like them at all.”

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3X Super Bowl Champion and former CU wide Receiver Cliff Branch

“What a rich tradition. My favorite fondest memory would have to be the 1971 season. Colorado finished No. 3 in the nation, Oklahoma finished No. 2 in the nation, and Nebraska was No. 1— the only time in NCAA history the top three teams in the final polls came from the same conference. The only time that’s ever happens.

I just remember we had to play Oklahoma in Norman and then turned around to play Nebraska in Lincoln. What I remember about going into Nebraska the day before Halloween was we were ready to play. There was a thunderstorm that causes a lot of wetness during the game and the field was soaked. We played in less than ideal conditions that day. It rained throughout the entire game which made the field slippery. So, both teams played on an unfair surface. What happened from then on was unpredictable. Before we knew it, we got the ball on the first three series and fumbled the football, resulting in Nebraska touchdowns on their first three possessions. It’s the end of the first quarter and they’re up 21-0 on us. We finally locked down during the course of the game and Nebraska didn’t score anymore points. I was able to catch a touchdown in the fourth quarter to keep us from being shutout. The score ended up being 31-7 in favor of Nebraska. It was too bad we couldn’t have played on an even field that day and not turn the ball over on our first three possessions.

There were only two games on the schedule that were very important—Oklahoma and Nebraska. And it was always going to come down to those two games on who would win the conference. We only lost two games that year with a record of 10-2, Oklahoma was 11-1 and Nebraska was 13-0. That’s how we ended up finishing No. 3 in the nation. It was ALWAYS a great rivalry. Whenever Nebraska came to Boulder, we had 50,000 seats at Folsom Field and they were bringing 20,000 people with them to the game. It was that big of a rivalry.”

Drew Litton

Colorado and Nebraska meet for the 70th time in a series that goes back 120 years to 1898. The game on Saturday at Lincoln’s Memorial Stadium will be nationally televised on ABC at 3:30 p.m. ET.