The CU marching band plays before a football game on Nov. 7, 2009 at Folsom Field. (CU Independent file/Lee Pruitt)
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Editor’s note: The first decade of the 21st century might have ended, but we can’t kick off the new decade until we look back at the moments in sports that touched us all. For CU Independent staff writer Richard Londer’s most memorable sports moment, click here.
Four envelopes were laying on my bed in my brightly lit bedroom of my parent’s two-story home in Miami.
The spotlight was on me. It was my National Signing Day. Whichever envelope I chose would be the college I would attend for the next couple of years of my life.
Would I go to the scorching hot atmosphere at Arizona State University? How about the University of Maryland, which is within driving distance of our nation’s capital? Or maybe I would like to go fishing in the state known as the “Land of 10,000 Lakes” and attend the University of Minnesota?
The answer, as you might have guessed by now, is I chose the envelope with the view from Macky Auditorium looking south into the luscious greens of the Rocky Mountains during summertime.
My right hand grabbed the University of Colorado envelope and as I took the contents out of the packet, a wave of energy soared through me. I was having a flashback.
My most vivid memory of CU was on Nov. 23, 2001. It was Black Friday.
While most people go shopping that day, I like to stay home and watch college football. At 3:30 p.m. EST on Black Friday at a dark and gloomy Folsom Field, it was the 11-0 Nebraska Cornhuskers facing the 8-2 Colorado Buffaloes. Nebraska was No. 1 in the BCS (Bowl Championship Series) standings and CU was No. 15.
What I saw that day defied not only my eyes, but the rest of the country as well.
At the end of the first quarter, CU held a commanding 28-3 lead. But at halftime, the lead shrunk to 42-23. By the time there was 4:17 left in the third quarter, Nebraska cut the deficit to 12.
I began to panic.
The Buffs can’t blow a 35-3 lead, can they? What happened to CU’s offense? Could this be the greatest comeback since the Buffalo Bills erased a 35-3 lead themselves to beat the Houston Oilers in overtime in a NFL playoff game?
After all, Nebraska was the No. 1 team in the nation. All great teams never go down without a fight. And I was watching this game not because of CU, but because Nebraska and the hometown Miami Hurricanes were on a collision course to meet in the BCS National Championship Game at the Rose Bowl.
My worries, thankfully, were exacerbated because the Buffs went back to what they knew best. It was a play called 98G.
The 98G was a running play where guard Andre Gurode pulled outside to the strong side of the formation and with fullback Brandon Drumm, their job was to create holes as big as the Grand Canyon for running backs.
CU tailback Chris Brown gashed the vaunted Blackshirts defense for three of his six touchdowns in the fourth quarter as CU repelled Nebraska’s rally in a 62-36 win. Brown and Bobby Purify combined for 352 rushing yards against the Huskers.
I remembered every time CU ran that play, I screamed and hollered 98G. My mom thought I was going crazy, but the play was unstoppable.
The hollering and hooting for 98G didn’t stop the following week as I watched the Buffs build a 36-17 lead and hang on to beat the Texas Longhorns 39-37 to win the Big 12 Championship.
CU’s win over Nebraska was my most memorable sports moment from the first decade of the 21st century because:
1. It caused BCS controversy over who should play in the National Championship Game for the second consecutive year. The year before, the Florida State Seminoles, Miami and Slick Rick Neuheisel’s Washington Huskies were clamoring for the right to play the Oklahoma Sooners for the national championship. Miami’s claim was they beat Florida State. Washington’s claim was they beat Miami. Florida State, uh, didn’t have a claim. Yet, the computers selected the ‘Noles to play Oklahoma.
What pissed me off about Florida State’s selection was that the game was in the Orange Bowl. The ‘Canes had home field advantage. To this day, I firmly believe the Canes would’ve won three straight national championships if the BCS hadn’t screwed them in 2000 and the officials didn’t screw them against Ohio State in the 2003 National Championship Game.
2. Speaking of screw jobs, I felt the BCS screwed Colorado and Oregon when they chose Nebraska to play Miami in the Rose Bowl. When the matchup was announced, I told anyone who would listen that the Cornhuskers shouldn’t be playing for the national championship when they couldn’t even win their own conference. I wanted the Buffs to play Miami for all the marbles. In hindsight, I was right and wrong. Miami mauled Eric Crouch and Nebraska’s option offense but Oregon walloped CU in the Fiesta Bowl.
Then again, I was more right than wrong.
At the time of CU’s wins over Nebraska and Texas, I was 16 and a junior in high school. I had never filled out a college application. I had no idea I would one day attend CU. But, the world works in mysterious ways, which is why this is my most memorable sports moment from the first decade of the 21st century.
Maybe next decade:
1. Down 2-0 in the 2006 NBA Finals to the Dallas Mavericks, the Miami Heat erased a 13-point fourth quarter deficit in Game 3 en route to their first NBA championship. To this day, I still believe I was the only person screaming at the top of my lungs begging the Heat not to flame out while the rest of American Airlines Arena thought the game and the series was over. Typical Miami fans.
2. Boston Red Sox pitcher Curt Schilling’s bloody sock in Game 6 of the 2004 ALCS. Schilling gutted out seven innings while pitching on a dislocated ankle tendon held down by three sutures in a 4-2 victory that sent the ALCS to a deciding Game 7. The Red Sox beat the New York Yankees 10-3 the next night and swept the St. Louis Cardinals in the World Series for their first championship since 1918.
3. New York Giants quarterback Eli Manning’s Houdini act to escape a sack on third-and-5 and launching the ball deep to wide receiver David Tyree, who caught the ball and held on to it pressed against his helmet while New England Patriots safety Rodney Harrison tried to jar the ball loose as he was tackling Tyree. The Giants upset the Patriots 17-14 in Super Bowl XLII and ended the Patriots run for perfection.
4. Kansas Jayhawks guard Mario Chalmers nailing a fadeaway 3-pointer over the outstretched arm of Memphis Tigers point guard Derrick Rose at the top of the key with 2.1 seconds left to send the 2008 NCAA Men’s National Championship Game into overtime. Kansas beat Memphis 75-68.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editor Cheng Sio at Cheng.email@example.com.
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