Colorado vs. Nebraska Rivalry: Review of Wild Decade
Friday is the last time that Nebraska and Colorado will play each other annually as conference foes.
There has been some absolute gems in this series, but that's not what this article is about. This article is about the wacky games that have occurred in just the last 10 years.
If you wanted to do this rivalry justice, you would need a little booklet full of newspaper clippings and high-quality photos (and better reporting for that matter). So to prevent an injustice, I am focusing strictly on the last decade's bizarreness.
Here are the top five games of this rivalry's final decade...
No. 5: 2008
Alex Henery. That's what people remember about this game. Well, Ndamukong Suh running over Cody Hawkins like a Greyhound bus was memorable for Husker fans as well.
Nebraska got off to a slow start only to bounce back, taking the lead 24-17 in the second quarter. Henery lined up for a field goal to give the Huskers a 10-point cushion...but then Nebraska went for the LSU behind-the-head toss field goal fake (which Nebraska already had run that season), and Jimmy Smith picked the ball off en route to pay dirt.
Momentum swung back to Colorado, and Nebraska had to fight its way back.
Late in the fourth quarter, with just under two minutes to play, Nebraska was driving to recapture the lead in a 31-30 ball game. The Colorado defense stepped up and got a huge sack on Joe Ganz at the 40-yard line. It looked like the Buffs were damn well going to win the game. The wind had been sucked out of Memorial Stadium.
Henery was sent out to kick a 57-yarder with the winds a-howling. He hit it...pandemonium ensued, and a folk hero was born. I've been to nearly 40 games at Memorial Stadium—never had I heard the place so loud.
On Colorado's next possession Hawkins got picked and bulldozed by Suh, and the game was officially decided.
No. 4: 2005
If there was ever a bright spot in the Bill Callahan era, this was it.
Nebraska came into Boulder as a huge underdog having just barely escaped Kansas State to become bowl eligible. Colorado already had the North locked up (i.e. the right/obligation to get whupped by Texas).
This game wasn't supposed to mean much, but try telling that to Gary Barnett, who never quite got his team back on track again after this game (although one could argue his team was already off track the previous week in a loss to Iowa State).
Nebraska didn't just win this game; they owned it. Zac Taylor threw for 392 yards, two touchdowns and no interceptions. After the game Nebraska players took off their pads to reveal "Restore the Order" t-shirts. Husker Nation got really excited for the first time under Callahan and rode that into the Alamo Bowl.
It just never got better for Bill Callahan after that. The order was never restored, nor did the team ever reach any higher level. On the bright side, at least vendors made a lot of cash on them t-shirts.
No. 3: 2004
Nebraska held an NCAA record, which still stands today, of 35 consecutive bowl appearances coming into this game. Many of the records Nebraska formerly held were lost in the Frank Solich years, which made extending this record more urgent in the hearts of Husker fans.
This urgency, however, did not translate into the team's play, as Nebraska failed to make plays, leading to a 26-7 deficit that carried on until the end of the fourth quarter.
Nebraska made a comeback attempt with a few late touchdown passes, but it was too late, and Colorado escaped Lincoln with a 26-20 victory, ending Nebraska's bowl streak record while putting a sour stamp on Bill Callahan's first season.
With the bowl streak record gone, the only record left for Husker fans to hang on to became the consecutive sellout streak, which, barring major catastrophes, will stand for many more years.
Something that gets overlooked about the 2004 season is that Nebraska only scheduled 11 regular season games that year. If AD Steve Pederson would have just scheduled one more non-conference game, then perhaps the bowl streak could have been extended. That is not too significant though, as it would have ended in 2007 anyhow, but it is fun to imagine nonetheless.
Another thing that I always found odd about this game was that David Horne had six catches, which was more action than he saw all year. It was a good résumé builder on the way to Northern Iowa. Sorry, just felt like that should be noted.
No. 2: 2003
Rumors were floating all around Nebraska coming into this game. Newspapers quoted anonymous sources that said that Frank Solich would soon be fired. That just seemed crazy to most people given that Solich was 8-3 coming into the game.
Most people watched the game without realizing that it would be the last time they would see Solich leading the Huskers.
Nebraska played one of its best games all season. After taking the lead 14-10 in the second quarter, the outcome never seemed in doubt. Cory Ross had a big day on the ground, and Jammal Lord connected on a couple of big passes on what seemed to be a ho-hum day for Husker fans.
The Huskers won 31-22 and sent Solich out a winner. Soon after, Solich was canned, and the agonizingly slow search for a new head coach began. Even in today's big money, ultra-competitive college football scene, getting fired after a 9-3 season is just bonkers.
No. 1: 2001
Black Friday means something more to Husker fans on the day after Thanksgiving than just getting good deals at retail stores. It means the near collapse of a program that looked like it was on top of its game.
This game may have had the most impact of any game in Husker history. This is where, for the first time in nearly 40 years, Nebraska was massacred late in the season in a game that it was supposed to win.
As Malcolm Gladwell would say, this is the game where Nebraska finally "tipped" on its way toward mediocrity (which Steve Pederson would say), which it is still having fits getting out of.
Coming into this game, Nebraska had a stout defense that was still respected and feared across the country. Well, Chris Brown and company changed that outlook by rushing for seven touchdowns (Brown had six himself) and 380 yards.
Heisman winner Eric Crouch did not have a bad game himself, rushing for 162 yards and throwing for another 198 yards, but it was nowhere close to being enough. Nebraska did not have chance in this game from the word "go."
When it was all said and done, Colorado won the game 62-36 while racking up nearly 600 yards of offense. The blackshirts earned themselves nicknames like "pinkshirts" and "blackskirts" after this game, and rightfully so. They were exploited, and they would be exploited time and time again in years to come after this.
Craig Bohl had a promising career in the Nebraska football program, but he was reduced to merely a footnote after this game. To be fair to Bohl though, he is having success at North Dakota State, so good for him.
Husker Nation is still looking to get back to where they were before "the fall" that occurred after this game. Well, what could be better than beating Colorado, ending the Buffaloes' chance at postseason play and getting back to the Big 12 championship for starters?