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Plati-'Tudes Summer Series: 1971 Week 2

Jun 24, 2021
Joe Duenas made his first and only career start against Wyoming after Ken Johnson was injured in practice during the week.

Welcome to a notes and comment column in its 22nd year, penned by CU Associate Athletic Director David Plati, who is wrapping up his 38th year as the Buffaloes' director of sports information.

Plati-'Tudes No. 137 ... The second installment in a 12-game series in marking the 50th anniversary of CU's 1971 season, when the Buffaloes finished 10-2, won the Bluebonnet Bowl to finish third in the nation behind Nebraska and Oklahoma, the only teams that bested CU that fall.  The Buffs opened with a 31-21 win at No. 9 Louisiana State, going from unranked in the preseason to No. 12 ahead of the second game of the year, the home opener against the University of Wyoming.

1971 Game 2: Colorado 56, Wyoming 13  
Timing is everything, and perhaps never more so in CU history than on Sept. 18, 1971.   At kickoff, light blowing snow was coming to an end and the skies eventually remained overcast with the temperature a chilly 38 degrees.  But a major snowstorm that blanketed most of the Colorado Front Range the day before dumped as much as 18 inches in Boulder.  Many said at the time had this not been the first game with Astro-Turf at Folsom Field, the game may very well have been postponed if not called off entirely.

The Buffs jumped on the Cowboys from the start, getting two rushing touchdowns from a surprise starter.  CU's starting quarterback who led the Buffs to a win at LSU the previous Saturday, Ken Johnson, was injured in practice earlier in the week, so coach Eddie Crowder called upon another sophomore, Joe Duenas, to make his first career start.  It would be the only start in his career for the diminutive 5-7, 175-pounder from La Junta, Colo., but it was most memorable.  

He rushed 15 times for 106 yards and three touchdowns, including the first two scores in the game, and completed 4-of-7 passes for 111 yards and another TD.  His runs of 14- and 13-yards had CU ahead 14-0 with 4:50 to go in the first quarter.  The Cowboys did cut the lead to 14-7, but CU answered with 21 straight points, with John Tarver netting CU's next score on a 7-yard run early in quarter number two.  Larry Thomas added a 2-yard run three minutes later for a 28-7 lead, and Duenas scored his third touchdown on a 34-yard scamper less than six minutes into the second half.

After Wyoming scored its final points of the day (missing the kick), with 1:37 left in the third quarter, Duenas hooked up with Cliff Branch on a 74-yard TD pass.  Rich Bland scored CU's last touchdowns, coming 116 seconds apart midway in the fourth quarter on runs of 3- and 19 yards.

"I was delighted with his play," Crowder said about Duenas.  "He was playing under a lot of pressure because he didn't know he would be carrying the load until Thursday.  I didn't mind going with him at all."   What he didn't like were CU's mistakes. "We won't be able to afford those detail mistakes (in the next game at Ohio State)."   

Randy Geist and Bud Magrum paced the CU defensive effort, with identical totals of 11 tackles with five solo and a quarterback sack; Geist also had an interception and a pass broken up.  The Buffs forced six turnovers for the second straight game (three interceptions), which helped counter four committed by the offense.  The Cowboys were limited to 260 yards on offense, while CU amassed 534 – including 405 on the ground – despite running one less play than UW (75-74).

Charlie Davis had his second straight 100-yard game, rushing for 109 yards on 17 carries, while Bland gained 72 on 13 tries and Thomas 58 on 11 attempts.  Five different Buffs caught one pass each.

Wyoming, which had won its opener over South Dakota at home, would finish 5-6 on the season, tying for fourth in the Western Athletic Conference with a 3-4 mark.  The Buffaloes, now 2-0, would hit the road for the next game at Ohio State; the Buckeyes opened the season with a 52-21 win over Iowa at home, but were idle the Saturday before hosting CU.

NOTE: In that 1971 season, John Tarver accomplished something that has yet to be matched to this day.  He carried the ball 122 times for 677 yards and six touchdowns; he was never stopped one single time behind the line of scrimmage for a loss.

This P-'Tudes Number: 12            
12 again?  This time it's the potential for a 12-team College Football Playoff.  My initial thought is that if the Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12 hold at nine conference games, then the ACC and SEC need to step up to the plate and improve non-conference scheduling.  Right now, those teams collectively have one less opportunity for a loss that than the 36 teams in the Pac-12, Big Ten and Big 12, and if the committee looks at losses as much as the general feeling prevails, that's an advantage for those two leagues which rarely seems to be taken into consideration, at least in the weekly polls.  If this were to come into effect in 2023 (possible), allowing for eight league games, the Pac-12 would have as of now an additional 23 games against Power 5 opponents when including those additional 12 conference games (and likely 24, some schedules aren't complete); and the SEC would have 15, the ACC 22 (the latter both have 14 members).  The Big 12 has 21 additional Power 5 games when including the 10 "ninth" games, and the Big Ten has 27 (with 14 ninth league contests). 

One school has three Power 5 non-conference opponents (Virginia Tech, one of which is not Notre Dame); a handful have two: Colorado and Utah (Pac-12), Purdue (Big Ten), West Virginia (Big 12), Florida, Georgia and South Carolina (SEC) and Duke, Florida State, Georgia Tech, Louisville, North Carolina, Pittsburgh and Virginia (ACC, but four of those have Notre Dame built in as part of the Irish's five-game deal with the conference).  The Buffs host Nebraska and play at TCU in 2023; the third out of conference tilt is CSU at Folsom, one of the toughest Power 5-Group of 5 rivalries in the nation.

"Plati-'Tudes" features notes and stories that may not get much play from the mainstream media; offers Plati's or CU's take on issues raised by those who have an interest in the program; answers questions and concerns; and provides CU's point of view if we should disagree with what may have been written or broadcast.   Have a question or want to know CU's take on something?  E-mail Dave at, and the subject may appear in the next Plati-'Tudes.