John Russell's sports column appears Tuesdays in Steamboat Today. Contact him at 871-4209 or email jrussell@SteamboatToday.com.
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Steamboat Springs I still can remember sitting in the stands of Folsom Field in November 1991 watching as a small group of fans attempted to push past several large security guards to get to the turf.
The Colorado Buffaloes had blocked a 41-yard field goal attempt in the closing seconds of the Big Eight game against Nebraska to preserve a 19-19 tie.
Sure, it would have been better if Colorado had won the game, but for the 52,000 fans, that didn’t seem to matter. The Buffs had hung with the Huskers for four quarters and had avoided losing in one of the biggest rivalries in college sports.
The game was moved to the day after Thanksgiving in 1996 and quickly became a holiday tradition for many football fans.
But Black Friday doesn’t mean what it used to for Colorado fans.
Sure, you might have gotten up at 1 a.m., ran out and picked up that 46-inch LED television at Sears hoping for some high-definition football Friday afternoon. But by the time you got it home, unpacked the box and hooked it up to watch the Colorado football game, you knew something wasn’t right.
Sure, the picture was clear, but the team on the other side of the field was not the Huskers.
Instead of the long-running rivalry, what you got was a pretty good Pac-12 game with Utah.
The game was big for the Utes, a team playing for a chance of getting into the Pac-12 championship game. But there is no way that the game could measure up to facing Nebraska.
Beating Utah is nice, but let’s be honest. Beating the Nebraska Cornhuskers is the kind of thing that can make an entire season for the Buffs — no matter where the teams are in the polls.
The game against the Huskers is something that every CU fan waits for each season.
It doesn’t matter how many times the Cornhuskers trampled poor Ralphie in the past; a single victory against Nebraska is something Buffs fans can hold onto and revive in almost any conversation for years down the road.
“You remember that game back in ’89 when we crushed Nebraska, 27-21,” an aging Buffs fan, like myself, might work into a conversation.
On the other hand, the fans would prefer to forget the fact that Nebraska has dominated the series, winning 49 of the 69 games the two teams have played from 1968 to 1985.
But just like the days when the real buffaloes roamed the plains of Colorado, the rivalry is gone, and it’s sad.
This season, the Buffaloes continued to search for the formula that will take them back to the top of the polls and the top of the BCS.
Yes, it’s true that without Nebraska, the day after Thanksgiving never would be the same for Buffs fans. After all, I still can remember sitting in the student section of Folsom Field in 1989 and watching the Buffs beat the Huskers. It was the kind of day that made me proud to be a Buffalo, and the kind of rivalry that made the game fun to watch.