Vidakovich column: Things have sure changed in Buffs land
It was the day after Thanksgiving way back in 1986, and I stood along the railing in the south end zone at Folsom Field in Boulder.
Just below me, the CU student section was in a state of delirium as they climbed and crawled up and over the goal post in an attempt to topple it to the ground. Though the game had ended some time ago, many in the stadium remained seated to watch the scene on the field unfold before them.
The only group intent on getting out of the stadium as quickly as possible was the multitudes dressed in red from the state of Nebraska. They had no use at all for the Buff’s post-game celebration.
Nebraska came into Folsom that day ranked No. 3 in the nation, and they left approximately three hours later with a 20-10 loss stamped firmly to their foreheads. The announcement on the stadium replay scoreboard flashed “Things Have Changed.”
It was a fitting beginning to the days of success enjoyed under Coach Bill McCartney, where the Buffs regularly competed for the conference crown.
The McCartney era hit its apex in 1990 when Colorado shared a piece of the national championship pie with Georgia Tech. It took a little luck with a fifth down at Missouri and a phantom clipping call against Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl to help CU along that year, but the groundwork had been established for expected fortunes on the gridiron in the years to come.
The glory of the McCartney years were never really recreated in the following years. CU did post some excellent records and were invited to many bowl games, but the national championship caliber teams did not occupy Folsom during the nondescript coaching tenures of Rick Neuheisel, Gary Barnett, Dan Hawkins, and several others who failed to fill the big shoes that McCartney had left behind.
The past couple of years, the Buffs have once again found themselves at the bottom of the Pacific 12 Conference looking up at all the other teams. Both CU and Nebraska should have stayed in the Big 12 Conference, where their rivalry could continue to flourish. Nebraska is now in a conference that has 12 teams, but calls itself the Big 10. Aren’t these supposed to be institutions of higher learning?
Nebraska and all of its fans will invade Folsom Field once again on Saturday as the rivalry has been renewed for a two-year series, in which the Buffs won the first game last year in Lincoln. The Huskers are ranked No. 25 in the nation and will bring an improved team from a year ago under Coach Scott Frost.
CU has a new coach this year in Mel Tucker, who, much like the Broncos’ Vic Fangio, brings a no-nonsense approach to the table. The Buffs looked just OK last week in a win against rival CSU, though. The ultimate test of how much CU has improved, and how far they can go this year, will become clearer to us in the next two weeks as the Buffs not only tackle the Huskers, but will entertain maybe the best college team in the state, Air Force, on Sept. 14.
CU and Nebraska is certainly worth your time to give a look-see on Saturday afternoon. Maybe “Things Have Changed” again this year in Boulder. A new coach and a new attitude and work ethic.
Pop the popcorn and let the game begin.
Mike Vidakovich grew up in Glenwood Springs and is a regular sports correspondent for the Post Independent.
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