1990 Colorado Buffaloes 11-1-1 Associated Press National Champions/coaches poll runner up. Back-to-Back Big 8 Champions Unanimous All Americans: TB Eric Bieniemy, LG Joe Garten, OLB Alfred Williams. 1st team all Big 8: Eric Bieniemy, Joe Garten, Darian Hagan, Gary Howe, Tim James, Jay Leeuwenburg, Dave McCloughan, Kanavis McGhee, Mike Pritchard, Joel Steed, Mark Vander Poel, Alfred Williams. National awards: Heisman: Eric Bieniemy 3rd. Butkus: Alfred Williams winner. CU leading rusher, Eric Bieniemy 288 carries for 1,628 yards and 17 td. CU leading passer, Darian Hagan 75 of 163 for 1,538 yards. 8 int, 11 td. CU leading receiver, Mike Pritchard 28 receptions for 733 yards and 6 td. Colorado offense starting lineup WR Mike Pritchard SR LT Ariel Solomon SR LG Joe Garten SR C Jay Leeuwenburg JR RG Bryan Cambell So RT Mark Vander Poel SR TE Sean Brown JR QB Darian Hagan JR FB George Hemmingway SR TB Eric Bieniemy SR WB Michael Simmons SR Colorado defense starting lineup LOLB Alfred Williams SR LT Marcellous Elder SO NT Joel Steed JR RT Garry Howe SR ROLB Kanavis McGhee SR LLB Greg Biekert SO RLB Terry Johnson SR LCB Dave McCloughan SR SS Tim James SR FS Greg Thomas SO RCB Deon Figures SO Specialists P Tom Rouen SR K Jim Harper JR PR Dave McCloughan SR KR Mike Pritchard SR, Dave McCloughan SR Coaching staff HC Bill McCartney OC Gerry Dinardo DC Mike Hankwitz QB’s Gary Barnett RB’s Oliver Lucas WR’s Don Frease OL Mike Barry ILB Brian Cabral OLB Bob Simmons DL Ron Vanderlinden Strength and conditioning Jeff “MadDog” Madden Opponents final conference rankings Tennessee 2nd SEC Stanford 6th PAC 10 Illinois 1st Big 10 Texas 1st SWC Washington 1st PAC 10 Missouri 7th Big 8 Iowa St 4th Big 8 Kansas 5th Big 8 Oklahoma 3rd Big 8 Nebraska 2nd Big 8 Oklahoma St 8th Big 8 Kansas St 6th Big 8 Pigskin Classic vs. Tennessee. #5 CU 31 #8 Tennessee 31 @ Anaheim, CA With Bieniemy suspended for the opener, Mike Pritchard took over as the TB and lit the Volunteer defense up. Pritchard rushed for 217 yards with 2 touchdown runs of 55 and 78 yards. CU couldn’t hold on to a 2 TD lead and allowed the Volunteers to rally late to tie the game. #6 CU 21 Stanford 17 @ Boulder In what would be the sloppiest performance by the buffs all season, the Cardinal held the buffs scoreless in the first half. Stanford dominated in the first half with a rushing game and their defense forcing turnovers. Late the second half the buffs got it together with Bieniemy scoring 3 TD’s and the game winner with just 12 seconds left. #21 Illinois 23 #9 CU 22 @ Champaign, IL The Illini had to replace All-American QB Jeff George, and his replacement Jason Verduzco tore apart the buffs secondary. Howard Griffith got the winning score with 1:18 left. The buffs fell to a record of 1-1-1 and went from a #5 ranking to start the year to #20 after the Illinois loss. But it would be the last time the buffs would lose. #20 CU 29 Texas 22 @ Austin, TX Again, the buffs trailed late in the game. A rally led by Bieniemy TD runs led to a 2 TD comeback. Alfred Williams (a Texas native) recorded a QB sack in the end zone for a safety late in the game. Colorado would proclaim the 4th quarter of the Texas game, “The turning point” of the season. #20 CU 20 #12 Washington 14 @ Boulder Colorado got off to another slow start only scoring 3 points in the first half. In the second half Bieniemy went wild gaining 143 yards against the top rushing defense in the country. Deon Figures preserved the win for the buffs by intercepting Husky QB MarK Brunell in the end zone with a minute to play. #12 CU 33 Missouri 31 @ Columbia, Mo In one of the most controversial games of all time, the buffs had to win on the infamous 5th down. With Hagan out of the game due to a shoulder injury, back up QB Charles S. Johnson went 10 of 18 for 151 yards and 1 TD. With 1st and goal from the Tiger 4, The buffs needed a TD for the win with 30 seconds to play. On 1st down Johnson spiked the ball to stop the clock, 2nd down Bieniemy runs to the 1 and CU calls timeout (this is when the down marker officials forgot to turn the down), 3rd down Bieniemy stuffed, 4th down CJ spikes to stop clock, 5th down CJ runs right and dives in for the winning score. #14 CU 28 Iowa St 12 @ Boulder The Cyclones took a stunning 9-0 lead in the 1st half. In the second half the buffs run game took control with Bieniemy going for 131 yards. This was the first time all season the buffs didn’t have a game decided in the final minutes. #14 CU 41 Kansas 10 @ Lawrence, KS For the first time all season, the buffs scored first in the game, with a Jim Harper FG. After that the buffs would build a big lead and the Jayhawks would never have a chance. Bieneimy became CU’s all time leading scorer in this game as Colorado rolled. The most complete game of the season. #10 CU 32 #22 Oklahoma 23 @ Boulder This was a back and forth game until the 4th quarter when Oklahoma could have kicked a FG to take the lead. Instead the Sooners went for it on 4th and 1. Safety Tim James made the stop on a toss pitch to the Sooner TB ad that was the turning point of the game. The very next play Hagan threw a 85 yard bomb to Rico Smith for the TD. #9 CU 27 #2 Nebraska 12 @ Lincoln, NE In the cold, wind and rain, the Buffs and Husker s kept turned the ball over to each other in the first half. Nebraska had a long TD pass to Johnny Mitchell in the third quarter to put the Huskers up 12-0. In the 4th the Buffs and Bieniemy exploded with 4 TD’s from Eric to give the buffs their first win in Lincoln since 1967. #4 CU 41 Oklahoma st 22 @ Boulder The buffs clinched their second straight Big 8 title and berth in the Orange bowl as Hagan had a career best 237 yards passing and 4 TD passes as the buffs crushed the cowboys. #2 Washington lost to UCLA and #3 Houston lost to Texas, moving the buffs up to #2. #2 CU 64 Kansas st 3 @ Boulder The buffs put the game out of reach early scoring a touchdown on seven of their first eight possessions. Colorado racked up a season high 634 yards total offense and Mike Pritchard became CU’s all time receiving leader for a season with 699 yards. Alfred Williams caught a long pass late in the game playing TE, a season long promise from Coach Mac. The same day Penn State knocked off #1 Notre Dame giving the buffs the #1 ranking to end the regular season for the second straight year. 1991 Orange Bowl #1 CU 10 #4 Notre Dame 9 In a rematch of last years Orange bowl, the game was a defensive battle. In the second quarter the buffs lost Hagan to a knee injury and had to once again rely on back up Charles Johnson. Notre Dame took a 6-3 lead into the lockerooms at halftime. Late in the 3rd quarter, the buffs took the go ahead lead with a 1 yard TD run by Bieniemy. With minutes to play Colorado seemed well on their way to the win with a time eating drive that marched into Notre Dame Territory. After a Irish sack and a penalty on CU, the buffs were knocked out of FG range and were forced to punt. The buffs punted to the “Rocket” and he returned it 91 yards for a TD. The play was fortunately called back for a clipping call. Several plays later Deon Figures secured Colorado’s first national championship by picking off Rick Mirer and running out the clock. Final thoughts. The season began with a lot of close calls. This team could have easily started the year 0-6. Then there were the lucky breaks with the “5th down” game and the clipping call in the Orange bowl. But the team found ways to win, period! Great teams find ways to win. This was not the best CU team ever, the 89 and 94 versions were better in my opinion, but this was a damn fine team that deserved the national title after all they had been through. The buffs beat 2 major conference champions (Washington and Texas), and beat or tied 2 major conference runner ups (Nebraska and Tennessee). Plus Notre Dame who was ranked #1 before CU claimed it. Those four games right there are more impressive than anything about the season. Colorado did not get the final #1 ranking in the coaches poll because of Tom Osborne voting for Georgia Tech. Colorado defeated Nebraska in Lincoln when they were undefeated and had everything to lose. Georgia Tech defeated Nebraska in a bowl game with nothing to really win for the Huskers. Osborne then asked for conference votes when it was his turn to win titles. What a two faced devil! With the “split” national title, buff fans get a lot of crap from haters about not deserving it or how it was a “half” national title. I just have one thing to say then, you can find ways that just about ALL national champions through the years didn’t deserve it one way or another. Colorado/Georgia Tech was not the first and only split, and until there is a playoff system, there will always be debates and who was cheated out of what and so on. Hell Nebraska has 2 split national titles, do you hear them calling it a split title? No, they claim they have 5, not 3 with two splits to make 4. I’m just glad I was able to witness this great season! Can’t believe it’s been 20 years!!!