Everybody, it’s Nebraska week. For the first time in a decade, Nebraska is allowing the Colorado Buffaloes into their “state” to compete on the gridiron. For young fans, recent graduates, this game is a specter of years past and glory faded. It’s a redux of Colorado’s best years and best games. For some more seasoned fans, this game is a nostalgic cannon, shooting the black and gold faithful back to the days of Bill McCartney and Gary Barnett.
One game, however fair or unfair, stands above the rest. On a chilly November afternoon, the No. 1 ranked Nebraska Cornhuskers strutted into Boulder. They had a Heisman candidate in Eric Crouch on offense and the nation’s best defense by yardage. It was a complete team all the way around that was reminiscent of the Tom Osborne years. The home team facing this juggernaut was the 15th-ranked Colorado Buffaloes. After a slow start and disappointing loss to Fresno State, Gary Barnett leaned on his experienced offensive line to create some wins. Now in the last week of the year, the only slip-up was to number nine (at the time) Texas in Austin.
As Brent Musberger would note, Nebraska was favored in this matchup by quite a bit. And why not? They were a complete football team. Mean up front and speedy on the outside, the Huskers hadn’t lost yet.
Until they got absolutely demolished, deconstructed, and dethroned by the Buffs. Gary Barnett ran right at the supposed Blackshirts. And then ran again. And again. And ran eight times past the goal line. The end result is a 62-36 massacre. But this part is about how it began.
The defense was up first, tasked with stopping a high speed option offense. Sean Tufts came out fired up and wrestled Crouch down behind the line of scrimmage. Two short plays later, the Buffs get the ball. And they go to work. The first play is a simply power run to the left by Purify that went for three yards. Then, an incomplete pass by Bobby Pesavento forces a 3rd and long. What happens next is a beautiful pitch and catch.
The very next play, Barnett runs a power run right at the vaunted Nebraska front seven. And as the commentators will point out, there was no one to stop Bobby Purify. The offensive line, led by Andre Gurode, opened up a hole so wide that Purify scored even though he stopped running at the ten. There were supposedly eight men in the box. By the time Purify hit the line of scrimmage, there was one, who completely whiffed.
After the quick touchdown, the Nebraska knew they had to respond. If they gave the Buffs anymore momentum, the game could slip away.
So they promptly fumbled the ball.
The Buffs hit quickly. After a quick five step drop, Pesavento lofted a perfect ball to the best tight end the country, Daniel Graham. The result was an easy walk in to the end zone to make it 14-0 with less than five minutes off the clock.
The next score was a little tougher to come by. Nebraska made some forward progress on offense, but eventually sputtered. After a poor punt, the Buffs took over around midfield. They picked up a quick one yarder with Purify, and then immediately went backwards after a false start. The drive eventually ended in a punt, but not before the first sighting of Chris Brown and this beautiful TD wiped out by a phantom holding call. Seriously, the Buffs’ OL is going scorched earth at this point. There are no survivors.
CU gets the ball back after a poorly-timed Crouch slip on fourth down. This favorable field position opened up the playbook even more. Pesavento, who is a master of the play-action, makes the most Pesavento drive here. He stands in the pocket long enough to nail Daniel Graham, but takes a nasty hit in the process. Graham makes it all the way down to the 2, where Pesavento, limp and all, punches it in with a quarterback sneak.
Less than TEN MINUTES are off the clock, and the number one team in the country is already down 21-0 on the road. And we haven’t even reached Chris Brown’s magnificence yet.