Maybe Colorado won because it was Boulder

October 30, 1972

Now wait a minute. Oklahoma visits Colorado. That's the Mighty Sooners vs. the Disappointing Buffaloes, right? Oklahoma, with a defense that has yet to permit a touchdown and the Big Eight's top offense, invades Colorado, which in both defense and offense is sixth in the conference. These are the Sooners who have beaten everybody so far by an average score of 49 to 1.5, and these are the Buffaloes who have lost 31-6 to Oklahoma State.

O.K. So what happens? Well, Colorado conies up with some off-the-wall factors: a captured Oklahoma secret agent named O'Shaughnessy, a horde of screaming hippies, a barefoot Chilean kicker who once played a cop in Conquest of the Planet of the Apes, the right kind of shoes for semiwet AstroTurf and some guy running around on the sidelines dressed as a buffalo head—not a whole buffalo, just the head. Probably the last guy was not much of a factor, but why would anybody go around in a buffalo head if it weren't essential?

And Colorado wins 20-14. How are you going to figure it? Maybe somebody told them Oklahoma State was Oklahoma and vice versa. Anyway, now Nebraska, Oklahoma and Colorado—the Big Three of the Big Eight—have each lost a game. Nebraska still has to play Oklahoma and Colorado, and both Nebraska and Oklahoma have to play Iowa State, which looks strong enough to come up with some new wrinkles of its own—somebody dressed as a Cyclone maybe—and knock off one of the bigger Biggies. Ah, it's an unsettled world, even out there in the heartland.

Not everything that glittered about the Colorado effort was peculiar, of course. The passing attack was the same impressive drop-back operation that beat Iowa State the week before. Quarterback Ken Johnson—who missed the first half of the Oklahoma State game and a whole week of practice preceding it because of his father's death—completed 10 of 19 against the Sooners for 151 yards, with Tight Ends J. V. Cain and Jon Keyworth making most of the catches. Running Back Charlie Davis fired into chinks, broke tackles and gained 85 hard yards in 26 hard carries. And the Colorado defense allowed the Sooners inside the Buffalo 40 only twice.

The Buffaloes also intercepted three passes, recovered a fumble and stacked the outside so that they consistently got to the Sooners' great flying back, Greg Pruitt, sooner than he could get going. Pruitt couldn't be ganged up on that way last year because of Jack Mildren's running speed at quarterback, but the Buffaloes—who were being thwarted similarly until two weeks ago when they switched from play-action to drop-back passing—proved that this year it can be done. Nothing is sacred.

Colorado played such commanding field-position ball that it seemed the better team at the half even though Oklahoma led, 7-0, on a 17-yard scoring run by senior Quarterback Dave Robertson after Colorado fumbled on its own 35.

In the third quarter the Buffs took over for sure. Sophomore Tailback Gary Campbell fumbled away their first threat on the Sooner 10, but, after the defense got the ball back at the Oklahoma 46, Campbell took a pitchout on the 43, broke several tackles and scored. The TV instant replay showed the nation that Campbell had stepped out of bounds on the one, but no one on the field caught it, or him.

Fred Lima, the aforementioned native of Chile, proceeded to miss the first extra point of his prep and college career, but nothing could stop the Buffaloes after Campbell's run. They kicked off to the Sooners and forced them into punting, or rather into trying to punt. All-America Center Tom Brahaney's snap to Joe Wylie at the OU 21 was high. Wylie leapt and knocked the ball down, but the Colorado rush precluded kicking, so he threw a desperation pass, which the Buffaloes' Cullen Bryant, who is no relation to the author of "To a Water-Fowl," intercepted and returned to the Sooner 18.

Three cracks by Davis, whose running style takes you back to the days of Duane Thomas, got the Buffaloes to the 7. Then Johnson threw into the end zone to Keyworth, who wrestled the ball away from a defender for the touchdown.

A pair of 33-yard field goals by Lima—whose credits also include a 57-yarder against Iowa State and the role of a thug in The Godfather—made the score 20-7 and rendered Oklahoma's closing 73-yard touchdown drive more of a time killer for the Buffaloes than a threat by the Sooners. Pruitt got the six points, on a 10-yard pass from Robertson.

It was Pruitt's third reception, but the OU passing attack—75 yards—was not nearly enough to take the pressure off the running game. Pruitt could manage only 53 yards on the ground, which was creditable considering how rough the going was, and the OU total offense was only 238 yards, 296 fewer than its average going into the game.

One thing that hampered the Sooners was the slickness of the AstroTurf, which had been rained on that morning. Every time you looked up, Pruitt or Wylie was slipping down. Davis sat down suddenly a couple of times himself, but in general the Buffaloes were far more surefooted—no doubt because they were wearing a new 47-cleat shoe, developed especially for wet carpeting. Oklahoma had arrived with special steel-tip cleats which were also supposed to suit the conditions, but after slipping and sliding too much in pregame warmups they went back to their dry-turf shoes, and slipped and slid too much on them during the game.

Which made everybody around Boulder feel wonderful. Maybe it wasn't the shoes that kept the Colorado people from slipping; maybe they were so high they didn't touch the turf much. They had been aroused by Mildren's reported remark that Colorado was a choke-up team, and by the nefarious activities of O'Shaughnessy, the spy. Colorado Head Coach Eddie Crowder, an All-America quarterback at OU in 1952, refused to shake the hand of Oklahoma's Chuck Fairbanks before the game, and, when the Buffaloes huddled inspirationally before the opening kickoff, Crowder took a running leap into the midst of them, whereupon coach and players all jumped up and down and almost couldn't stand how worked up they were. Colorado's student population, which tends to look more like besiegers of the 1968 Democratic Convention than rooters for any imaginable college eleven, joined right into the spirit of the occasion, leaping and rah-rahing in the stands as though it were the most relevant thing in the world.

So much for the intelligence career of Steve O'Shaughnessy. He is, or at least was at last notice, a law student at Colorado—and was a 1971 Oklahoma cornerback. During the week O'Shaughnessy's roommate, who could live with the secret no longer, went to the Colorado athletic department and told it that O'Shaughnessy had been scouting the Buffs and reporting nightly to Fairbanks. O'Shaughnessy was apprehended, the case was made public and the reaction around Boulder amounted to roughly three times the national outrage over the Watergate case.

"The information that O'Shaughnessy supplied was of a general nature," Fairbanks maintained after the game. "You know, how does CU look? What's their spirit like?" The presumable answer: "High."

"This spy thing proves the questionable worth of spying on the opposition," said Crowder. "The incident did much more for us than it did for them."

So why hasn't it worked that way for McGovern? How are you going to figure it?

PHOTOAS USUAL, CHARLIE DAVIS WAS COLORADO'S BIG BUFFALO, RUNNING FOR 85 YARDS

HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
OUT
HOLE YARDS PAR R1 R2 R3 R4
IN
Eagle (-2)
Birdie (-1)
Bogey (+1)
Double Bogey (+2)