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Plati-'Tudes Shorts: Top Game 13's

Jul 30, 2020

Plati-'Tudes Short No. 13 ... The 13th installment of CU's best or most exciting football games in its history as to when they occurred in week 13 of any season.  Many are obvious, a few obscure, and no doubt some up for debate.  So here are the best "game 13" games in our history in my humble opinion:

#1—1990: Colorado 10, Notre Dame 9 (Orange Bowl at Miami).
In an Orange Bowl where there was no shortage of heroes for Colorado, the No. 1 Buffaloes toppled No. 5 Notre Dame, 10-9, enabling the school to claim its first-ever national championship in football. CU overcame two key injuries in rallying in the second half for the victory: most remember Charles Johnson subbing for Darian Hagan at quarterback after he tore his ACL right before halftime, but the Buffs also lost outside linebacker Kanavis McGhee for the game with a shoulder injury as Paul Rose replaced him and more than holding his own.  After a scoreless first quarter, the Buffaloes drew first blood on a 22-yard field goal by Jim Harper three minutes into the second quarter. Notre Dame came right back, marching 62 yards in nine plays, with Ricky Watters scoring from two yards out. The score remained at 6-3, however, as CU's Ronnie Bradford charged through the line and blocked Craig Hentrich's extra point try. Hentrich booted a 24-yard field goal early in the second half to extend the Irish lead to 9-3, but later in the period, Chad Brown forced Watters to fumble, with Rose making the recovery.  Johnson then coolly directed the Buffaloes to the go-ahead touchdown. Eric Bieniemy's one-yard touchdown run and Harper's extra point kick rallied CU into the lead. The Buffalo defense then held Notre Dame in check, as the Irish held on to the ball for only less than four minutes the rest of the game, mustering only 35 yards of total offense after CU went on top.  Colorado's road to the national championship wasn't without a couple of late scares. Notre Dame's Raghib Ismail broke loose on a punt return with less than a minute remaining, appearing to run 91 yards for a score, but CU's Tim James was clipped on the play, nullifying the play. And with 13 seconds to go, the Irish still had a chance, especially with Hentrich's leg. On its own 38, a completion in the 20 or so yard range would have set up a winning field goal attempt, but Deon Figures intercepted the Rick Mirer pass at the Buff 36 and ran out the clock. Bieniemy rushed for a game-high 86 yards on 28 carries, with Johnson earning the MVP honor, completing five of six passes for 80 yards. Defensively, the Buffs limited the "Golden Domers" to just 264 yards, and Greg Thomas was another hero in picking off a pair of Mirer passes in Colorado territory. The win, which gave CU an 11-1-1 record for the season, also snapped a seven-game CU bowl losing streak. Notre Dame finished the year with a 9-3 mark, and No. 6 in the nation. 

Runner-Up—2004: Colorado 33, Texas-El Paso 28 (Houston Bowl).
Joel Klatt passed for 333 yards and two touchdowns, both coming in the fourth quarter, and Tom Hubbard had two interceptions in leading Colorado to a 33-28 come-from-behind victory over the Texas-El Paso Miners in the second annual EV1.Net Houston Bowl. The Buffaloes spotted UTEP a 14-3 first quarter lead, but held the Miners to just 191 yards while outscoring them 30-14 over the last three periods. Klatt and Hubbard were respectively named the game's offensive and defensive most valuable players, though there were many stars for the Buffaloes on this afternoon. Mason Crosby made good on 4-of-6 field goal tries, tight end Joe Klopfenstein had a record day with five receptions for 134 yards and a touchdown, punter John Torp neutralized UTEP's return game and linebackers Thaddaeus Washington and Akarika Dawn combined for 16 tackles with five for losses and two quarterback sacks.  Trailing 21-19 to open the fourth quarter, UTEP answered a Buff field goal on the previous possession with a 4-play, 80-yard drive capped by a 3-yard touchdown pass from Jordan Palmer to Johnnie Higgins. That was the end of the fireworks for UTEP and it lit a fuse for the Buffaloes. Colorado came right back on the first play of its next possession. Klatt hit a streaking Klopfenstein across the middle, with the junior breaking two tackles and outrunning a safety for a 78-yard touchdown reception. It was the longest play by a tight end in Colorado history, some 21 yards longer than the previous best. Crosby's PAT kick brought CU back to within 28-26. The Miners then worked the ball to midfield, and on a 2nd-and-13, Palmer was intercepted by Hubbard at the Buff 28 to end the threat with 11:10 on the clock. CU immediately countered with a six play drive that covered 72 yards that had a little bit of everything.  On 4th-and-3, Torp faked a punt and scrambled 22 yards around the left side to give the Buffs a first down at the UTEP 43, and two plays later Klatt hit a wide open Evan Judge on a 39-yard TD reception to give Colorado its first lead since the first quarter. 

Honorable Mention—2011: Colorado 17, Utah 14 (at Salt Lake City).
The Buffs, sitting at 2-10 on the season and 1-7 in their first year in the Pac-12, had little to play for, other than to win the first game in 49 years since the teams last played in 1962.  Tyler Hansen ran for one touchdown and threw for another and Colorado held off a late Utah rally in defeating the Utes, 17-14.  The win snapped a 23-game road losing streak by the Buffaloes, and in the process, ruined the Utes chance to win the Pac-12 South Division as all the Utes needed to face Oregon in the league's inaugural championship game was a win.  Winless on the road since a 31-26 victory at Texas Tech in 2007, the Buffs jumped out to 10-0 lead on a 1-yard run by Hansen, the play capping a 12-play, 80-yard effort on the opening possession of the game.  Will Oliver's 23-yard field goal midway through the second quarter upped the lead to double figures, where it stood at the half.  Utah countered with its first score, taking the second half kickoff and driving 68 yards where a Tauni Vakapuna 3-yard run cut the lead to 10-7.  CU responded right back with an 82-yard drive, with Hansen hitting Evan Harrington with a 1-yard toss; Oliver's PAT kick made it 17-7.  Utah added the final score of the day late in the third quarter (a 6 yard-pass from Jon Hays to Shawn Asiata), but would drive into CU territory on all three of its last possessions.  The Buffs held, forcing one turnover and two missed field goals.  By keeping Utah from winning the division title, the Buffs earned some payback from 50 years earlier: in 1961, CU was flying high after a 7-6 win over No. 10 Missouri, sporting a 6-0 record and No. 8 ranking with dreams bubbling about a possible national championship.  Utah rolled into town the next Saturday and dealt the Buffs a 21-12 blow, ending any chance of that happening.