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Plati-'Tudes Summer Series: 1971 Week 5

Jul 14, 2021
Receiver Willie Nichols (left) and kicker J.B. Dean (right) played prominent roles in the '71 road win at Iowa State.

Welcome to a notes and comment column in its 22nd year, penned by CU Associate Athletic Director David Plati, who is wrapping up his 37th year as the Buffaloes' director of sports information.
Plati-'Tudes No. 140 ... The fifth 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 4-0 with wins over No. 9 LSU and No. 6 Ohio State on the road and home victories over Wyoming and Kansas State.  For game five, CU hit the road again with a trip to Iowa State.

1971 Game 5: Colorado 24, Iowa State 14  

Now 4-0 for just the third time since 1958, Colorado traveled to Iowa State with a No. 5 national ranking – its third highest in history at that point (the '67 team was No. 4 after opening 4-0 and then No. 3 with another win).  It was Parent's Day for the 3-0 Cyclones, who wanted a piece of the Buffs after losing 61-10 the previous year in Boulder.  The second-largest crowd in ISU history at the time (32,000) was on hand for the game, which featured unseasonably cool temperatures (low 50s) with winds  gusting up to 20 miles an hour.  CU was heavily favored, but a game at No. 2 Oklahoma the next Saturday likely was on its collective minds.
Though I couldn't find any real reference to that and though the Cyclones never led, this was a 7-7 game at halftime and a 14-all affair until J.B. Dean made a 37-yard field goal with 6:42 left in the game.  The Buffs got an insurance score on an 8-yard run by Cliff Branch with 42 seconds remaining which accounted for the 24-14 final score.
Iowa State came out fired up, with the second-largest home crowd in its history (nearly 32,000) at the time in the stands at Clyde Williams Field (Jack Trice Stadium opened in 1975).  But the Buffs quieted the crowd quickly with a 14-play, 75-yard drive that ate up six-and-a-half minutes.  CU did have to convert four times on third down, the last time when Charlie Davis ran it in for touchdown from 7 yards out; Dean's PAT kick made it 7-0.  However, the potent CU offense wouldn't light up the scoreboard again for almost 29 minutes. 
In the meantime, Iowa State tied the game early in the second quarter on a halfback option pass that covered 28 yards from George Amundson to Willie Jones; it was the third time ISU called that specific play on the year but the first time it worked.  CU was stymied a bit on offense, with only one of its last six possessions of the half with plays in ISU territory – on a series that started at the ISU 40 after a shanked punt.  The teams went into the half without many yards on offense, CU owning a 176-155 edge in yards.
The second half started much like the first; whatever adjustments the CU coaches made at halftime showed up right away, with the Buffs using 11 plays to march 70 yards, culminated with an 11-yard TD pass from Ken Johnson to Willie Nichols for a 14-7 lead (for some reason, the play-by-play typist for Iowa State logged it in as "Johnson back-passes complete to Nichols in the end zone" … a back-pass apparently was when the QB dropped back to pass -- doesn't that happen on almost every pass play when not in a shotgun, which may not have yet been conceived in 1971?). 
ISU tied the game with 3:31 left in the quarter, and then the teams remained deadlocked with the ISU crowd once again coming alive.  The defense took over on both sides, neither team able to do much.  Iowa State failed on a 4th-and-1 when Brian Foster broke up a pass, and on its next series, tackles Chris Havens and Dave Darovec teamed on a nine-yard tackle for loss on 3rd-and-3 to stifle that threat and CU took over with 9:08 to play at its own 45. Eight player later, Dean made good on the field goal and CU would take the lead for good, 17-14.
The Buffs would stop Iowa State two more times, the latter on a Dean interception at the CU 38.  After ISU called timeout with 1:15 to play, CU surprised all with a deep pass call, which Johnson completed to Branch for 56 yards to the ISU 5.  After an illegal motion penalty, Branch took it in for the final points of the game.
Tackle Bud Magrum again led CU in tackles with 14 (six solo, two for losses with a quarterback sack), while linebacker Billie Drake had 13 (five solo).  Iowa State finished with just 265 yards offensively, as the Buffs finally had a decidedly margin of 90-64 in plays.  Meanwhile, the Colorado offense cranked up in the second half, picking up exactly – 265 – what Iowa State had for the game to finish with 441 total yards.  Davis led CU with 113 yards rushing (on just 17 carries), with Johnson adding 93 and John Tarver 62.   Johnson completed 5-of-14 passes for 107 yards, with Nichols hauling in three for 35 yards and Branch's one for 56.
Iowa State finished 8-4 on the year, finishing fourth in the conference (4-3) and dropping a 33-15 to LSU in the Sun Bowl.  The Cyclones just missed cracking the Top 20 (there wasn't a top 25 until 1989); but they earned enough notice and got on the radar of the voters in '72, climbing as high as No. 12 in early November.
Colorado, 5-0, also for just the third time since 1958, had escaped Ames and had a mid-October date at No. 2 Oklahoma next on its docket.  The Sooners were 4-0, coming off back-to-back wins over No.  17 Southern California (33-20) at home and over No. 3 Texas (48-27) in the Red River Shootout.  It had the CU game pegged for Homecoming, and after winning 15 of the first 19 games in the series (with one tie), the schools had split the last six games.
NOTE: Colorado did not have player names on the back of its jerseys; Iowa State's were emblazoned with simply, "Cyclones" on the back … The only larger crowd for an ISU home game at this point in its history was the year before against Nebraska (34,007 in a 54-29 loss); it was the smallest crowd the Buffs would play in front of in 1971, when CU performed in front of 60,000-plus four times, when it only had done so in a season two times on three previous occasions.

This P-'Tudes Number: 1                                                                       

That's where Boulder ranked (again) in the U.S. News & World Report's best places to live in the United States.  The publication selected Boulder No. 1 for the second straight year based in part of "its desirability among U.S. residents (based on a survey of more than 3,600 people), college readiness among high school students, reported well-being among residents and stable job market" all contributed to it taking the top spot.  Colorado Springs came in at No. 6, Denver at No. 14 and Fort Collins at No. 17.  The next Pac-12 cities were Seattle (No. 19), Salt Lake City (No. 23), Phoenix (No. 40), Eugene (No. 65), Tucson (No. 81), Los Angeles (No. 126).  San Jose, reasonably close to Stanford, checked in at No. 36, Salem, up the road from Corvallis, was No. 62, while Spokane, ditto to Pullman, was No. 78; The only city/area that didn't make the top 150 was Berkeley/Oakland, though San Francisco with all of its ills did somehow come in 15th.

Update on Week 3's 3-0: Absolutely no responses from my colleagues, so it's very possible that the '71 Buffaloes opening 3-0 with two wins on the road against top 10 teams is the only time it has happened?  Possible, yes, some never respond but at this point, it's obviously a definite rarity.
"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.