This Day in History —November 27th
Colorado record on November 27th 1 —3
1913 Oklahoma L 14—3;
1930 Denver W 27—7;
1947 Denver L 26—20;
1998 Nebraska L 16—14.
November 27 —Colorado —best game on this date
Colorado at #14 Nebraska November 27, 1998
The Buffs came into the 1998 matchup with Nebraska with a 7-3 record. Nebraska, under new head coach Frank Solich, was 8-3, and had just lost to Kansas State for the first time since 1968, clinching the Big 12 North title for the Wildcats. Still, both teams had plenty to play for—Nebraska was ranked 14th , and had top ten aspirations. The Buffs were playing for second in the North, a better bowl, and, unbeknownst to the players, for one last chance to beat the Cornhuskers in the Neuheisal era.
#14 Nebraska 16, Colorado 14
"General” Robert Neyland, longtime head coach at the University of Tennessee, is a legendary name in the annals of college football. In leading the Volunteers to over 160 wins in 20 seasons, the College Football Hall of Fame coach was used to winning. “Almost all games,” Neyland pointed out, “are lost by the losers, not won by the winners.”
Such was the case in Memorial Stadium on Thanksgiving weekend, 1998.
The Buffs, despite facing a Nebraska team equally riddled with injuries and self-doubt, came out playing like an intimidated team. Early mistakes proved to be the difference in a frustrating 16—14 defeat, giving Nebraska a seven game winning streak over the Buffs.
Just as was the case in 1995, when the Buffs allowed Ahman Green to score on a 57—yard run less than two minutes into the game, (on the way to a 44—21 loss) and in 1992, when an interception led to a three—yard scoring run by Derek Brown with only 1:14 off of the first quarter clock (en route to a 52—7 rout), Colorado played early like a team destined to lose.
After a touchback on the opening kickoff, the Buffs set up shop at their own 20—yard line. On Colorado’s second play from scrimmage, quarterback Mike Moschetti fumbled. The ball squirted loose, finally recovered by the Buffs back on their own one—yard line. Two plays later, a shanked punt by Nick Pietsch gave the ball to the Cornhuskers on the CU 30—yard line. Nationwide, Buff faithful uttered: “Here we go again”. The Buff defense held, however, and after Kris Brown missed a field goal attempt, Colorado had new life. Perhaps this would be the year that the Buffs would overcome the first quarter blahs and carry the day!
Mike Moschetti’s first pass attempt after the missed field goal attempt brought the Buffs back to reality. Moschetti, harried by defensive lineman Jeremy Slechta, was intercepted by free safety Clint Finley, who returned the pick 42 yards for a touchdown. That gave Nebraska the first score of the game with 11:09 still to play in the first quarter. The missed field goal had been a ruse. Colorado was back to playing like Colorado. Even worse, Colorado was making Nebraska look like Nebraska again.
But a funny thing happened on the way to the rout. The Buffs didn’t fold. In fact, the Buff defense played brilliantly, holding Nebraska out of the end zone for the remainder of the game. Three field goals and 254 yards of total offense were all the Cornhuskers could muster. For the second time in 1998, the CU defense had held a top ten offense to 16 points.
And, for a second time, CU lost.
Colorado did put together decent drives, tying the score on a 17—yard pass from Moschetti to Javon Green midway through the first quarter. Colorado took the lead, 14—13, on a 13—yard pitch and catch from Moschetti to freshman fullback Andy Peeke in the third. Colorado even had a chance to put the game away late in the third quarter. After taking the lead, the Buffs’ defense forced a Nebraska punt. On a nifty reverse punt return, freshman John Minardi took a pitch from Ben Kelly, following a convoy 39 yards, all the way to the Nebraska 22-yard line. Already up 14—13, the Buffs seemed poised to deliver a knock-out punch and pull out a win in Lincoln for only the second time since 1967.
Destiny, though, took a hand. Penalties, missed assignments, and turnovers sealed the Buffs’ fate. Colorado did not even get a field goal attempt out of their great field position. Given ample chances by their defensive teammates, the Colorado offense just could not put together that one drive which would have righted so many wrongs.
Cornhusker Kris Brown connected on a 25—yard field goal with 8:48 remaining to give Nebraska a 16—14 lead. The Buffs had several opportunities in the waning moments to put together a final drive to pull of the upset, but it wasn’t meant to be. An offensive pass interference call against senior wide receiver Darrin Chivarrini (held without a catch for the first time all season) put an end to the Buffs’ final chance.
"When you do a post-mortem on a two-point loss,” said a disconsolate Rick Neuheisal after the game, “it’s the most sickening thing. It’s hard for me to stay upbeat.” Neuheisal would have to, though, as the 1999 season would begin with the preparation for CU’s upcoming bowl game, announced a week later to be Oregon in the Aloha Bowl.
So much in college football rides on perception. A team in the preseason top ten will be given much more leeway with a loss than a pretender which does not have the history or the hype. Coming into the game against Colorado, much of the talk was of the end of the Nebraska dynasty. The Cornhuskers in 1998 had lost to Kansas State for the first time in 29 years, had lost at home for the first time in six years, and had been saddled with three conference defeats for the first time since 1976. First-year head coach Frank Solich, while not on the hot seat for his job, was certainly subject of much discussion amongst the Nebraska faithful.
One win later—never mind that his team had been outplayed in many facets of the game—Solich and Nebraska were back amongst the elite. 9—3 (the 12th game courtesy of a set up game with Louisiana Tech to start the season), Nebraska now had nine wins for the 30th consecutive year. The 47—game home winning streak and 19—game winning streak overall had been lost earlier in the season, but the beat went on. Nebraska edged closer to the top ten in the next poll, rising to 13th.
For Colorado, though, coming on the heels of a 5—6 year, there was only mild consolation in a 7—4 campaign. The Buffs had been 5—0, but had stumbled mightily down the stretch. Those who saw the glass as half empty noted that head coach Rick Neuheisal, who had posted a 20—4 record in his first two seasons utilizing primarily Bill McCartney’s recruits, had gone only 12—10 since with his own recruits in the leadership positions. Those who saw the glass as half full noted that many young players had been forced into duty due to injury, and saw the winning campaign as a sign that the ship had been righted.
In either event, Colorado’s win early in November against Iowa State had assured the Buffs of a bowl game, which Neuheisal recognized as vital to the advancement of his young team due to the extra practices a bowl game provided. Colorado would have to wait, though, until after the conference championship games to find out where and when they would be playing.
A game against the 6—5 Washington Huskies (how’s that for irony, considering what transpired a month later) seemed the most likely scenario for the Buffs as the Conference Championship games were being played. Along with the title games, though, was a make-up game between Miami and UCLA. The game, originally scheduled for September 26th, had been re—scheduled to December 5th due to fears that a hurricane would hit the Miami area the last weekend in September. For UCLA, the later game proved disastrous, as the 3rd—ranked Bruins fell to the Hurricanes, 49—45. The loss eliminated UCLA from consideration for the National Championship game (once beaten Florida State being chosen to face undefeated and top-ranked Tennessee), with the Rose Bowl being the Bruins’ consolation prize. This move set off a chain reaction, as Arizona, which had hoped to head to Pasadena for the first time in school history, was now relegated to the Holiday Bowl and a match-up with Nebraska. Oregon, in turn, which had anticipated a trip to San Diego to face the Cornhuskers, was now in line for a Christmas Day bowl game with Colorado. Oregon’s loss was Colorado’s gain, as the Buffs were now facing a ranked (21st) opponent with an 8-3 record rather than a 6-5 unranked opponent.
There should have been little reason for animosity between the two schools. The teams had only met 13 times, with Colorado maintaining a 7—6 edge. In fact, there had been a bond between the schools since 1984, when tight end Ed Reinhardt nearly lost his life playing against the Ducks in Eugene. Reinhardt suffered a near fatal head injury during the game, but was saved with the quick aide of Oregon doctors. Head coach Bill McCartney made a special point after Reinhardt’s recovery to thank the people of Eugene and the University of Oregon.
That was in 1984; this was 1998. The teams’ most recent meeting, in the 1996 Cotton Bowl, had left the Oregon coaching staff and some players with a bad taste in their mouths. Colorado won the game, 38—6, but it was the final touchdown which irked head coach Mike Bellotti. The score, a five—yard run by Ayyub Abdul-Rahmaan, came as a direct result of a fake punt run by the Buffs with only a few minutes left on the clock and the game well in hand. Bellotti had first stated “no comment” after the game when asked about the play, later sarcastically calling the play “good coaching”.
Neuheisal, for his part, apologized after the Cotton Bowl about the play, explaining that he was simply trying to avoid Colorado’s sixth blocked punt of the season. The animus was hard to miss though, as many pre—game stories in the media centered on the controversial call. Neuheisal continued to apologize, but acknowledged that the play, along with the final score, would probably be used as a motivational tool by the Oregon coaching staff.
At the conclusion of the Aloha Bowl, though, the coaches for both teams were not in need of motivational tools—they needed oxygen.
The Buffs would go on to defeat the Oregon Ducks, 51-43, in the Aloha Bowl. The Christmas Day game would prove to be the last game for CU head coach Rick Neuheisal, who left for the Washington Huskies just a few weeks after the win over the Ducks.
Best Games in College Football History November 27th
1976 —#3 USC 17, #13 Notre Dame 13 —The 50th game in the rivalry went to USC, as running back Ricky Bell, hobbled by an ankle injury, still posted 75 yards in his final regular season game to lead the Trojans to victory. Bell went on to finish second in the Heisman balloting to running back Tony Dorsett of Pittsburgh. Both USC and Notre Dame won their bowl games, with USC taking care of Michigan, 14—6, in the Rose Bowl to finish second in the polls, while Notre Dame handled Penn State, 20—9, in the Gator Bowl to bring the 1976 season to a 9—3, 12th—ranked conclusion.
1982 — Auburn 23, Alabama 22 —For a change, neither team was ranked coming into the Iron Bowl, but that did not mean that the game lacked drama. Alabama head coach Paul “Bear” Bryant lost his final regular season game as Alabama head coach. The 23-22 setback was the Crimson Tide’s first loss after nine straight wins in the series. Auburn was led by freshman halfback Bo Jackson (who would go on to win the Heisman trophy as a senior in 1985), who had 114 yards and two touchdowns. The win was the first for Auburn head coach Pat Dye over Alabama, and represented the first time in 30 tries since 1970 that a Bear Bryant disciple had defeated his mentor. Alabama recovered to defeat Illinois, 21—15, in the Liberty Bowl, to sent Bryant out a winner in his final game as head coach. Auburn also won its bowl game, defeating Boston College, 33—26, in the Tangerine Bowl. The Tigers, who finished 9—3, were rewarded with a #14 final ranking, while Alabama, at 8—4, ended the 1982 season unranked.
1993 —#1 Florida State 33, #7 Florida 21 —Hated rival Florida was 9—2 on the 1993 season, and had won 23 straight games in the Swamp, but the #1 Seminoles were not intimidated. Quarterback Charlie Ward, who would be awarded the Heisman trophy a few weeks later, passed for 446 yards and four touchdowns in the FSU win. Ward’s counterpart, freshman Danny Wuerffel (who would win the Heisman trophy himself in 1996), was ineffective, and was yanked by Florida head coach Steve Spurrier in favor of backup Terry Dean. #1 Florida State went on to defeat #2 Nebraska, 18-16, in the Orange Bowl, to claim the national championship. Florida, for its part, recovered to dominate #3 West Virginia, 41—7, in the Sugar Bowl. The big win boosted Florida to #5 in the final poll.
1998 — Texas 26, #6 Texas A&M 24 —Texas came into the game 7—3 and unranked; Texas A&M 10—1 and ranked 6th . Of course, the Longhorns prevailed, and did so in record—setting fashion. With NCAA career rushing record holder Tony Dorsett looking on, Texas running back Ricky Williams became the all-time rushing leader, doing so on a 60—yard run in the first quarter. On the day, Williams ran for 259 yards, giving him 2,124 for the 1998 season and 6,279 for his career. Still, Texas A&M was 10—1 for a reason, and rallied from a 16—7 deficit to take a 24—23 lead late, but a Kris Stockon 24—yard field goal with four seconds remaining gave the Longhorns the upset. Texas A&M rebounded from the disappointing loss to their chief rival to upset Kansas State in the Big 12 title game, but could not sustain the success, falling to Ohio State, 24—14, in the Sugar Bowl to finish 11—3 and ranked 11th . Texas, meanwhile finished 9—3 after a 38-11 win over Mississippi State in the Cotton Bowl. The Longhorns, unranked for much of the season, finished with a #15 final ranking.
2004 — Missouri 17, Iowa State 14 (OT) —Missouri was 4—6, and had lost five games in a row. Iowa State was 6—5, but controlled its own fate in the race for the Big 12 North title. In a season tainted by mediocrity in the Big 12 North, the Cyclones, on the heels of a four-game winning streak, were poised to win their first football title since 1912. Iowa State tied the game at 14 midway through the fourth quarter, and was in position to win the game late, but Cyclone kicker Bret Culbertson shanked a 24—yard field goal attempt with 1:05 to go in the game (Missouri quarterback Brad Smith saved the day for the Tigers—after he threw an interception near midfield, he ran down Iowa State safety Steve Paris at the Missouri 15—yard line, preventing a game—winning touchdown). In overtime, Missouri kicked a short field goal to take the lead, and the game ended when Iowa State quarterback Bret Meyer threw an interception in the endzone. The loss by Iowa State allowed Colorado to claim the 2004 Big 12 North title. Iowa State did gain some measure of consolation in defeating Miami (Ohio), 17—13, in the Independence Bowl to conclude the 2004 season with a 7—5 record.