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Plati-'Tudes Summer Series: 1971 Week 7

Jul 29, 2021
John Tarver rushed for 106 yards with two touchdowns in CU's 1971 win over Missouri.

Welcome to a notes and comment column in its 22nd year, penned by CU Associate Athletic Director David Plati, who is beginning his 38th year as the Buffaloes' director of sports information.
Plati-'Tudes No. 142 ... The seventh 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 are 5-1 at this point, as No. 2 Oklahoma ended CU's undefeated run with a 45-17 win in Norman on Oct. 16.  CU had opened with wins over No. 9 LSU, No. 6 Ohio State and Iowa State on the road and home victories over Wyoming and Kansas State.  Game seven was CU's annual homecoming affair, with the Missouri Tigers visiting Boulder.
1971 Game 7: Colorado 27, Missouri 7  
Missouri limped into Boulder with a 1-5 record, less than two years after it shared the conference title with Nebraska; the Tigers lone league loss that year was to CU, so perhaps Mizzou came to town with a little revenge on its mind.  The Buffaloes, on the other hand, were heavy favorites despite taking a beating to Oklahoma the previous week … with No. 1 Nebraska on the horizon the upcoming one.  If there was ever a definition for the classic "trap" game, this was it.  And homecoming games hadn't been overly friendly either, as CU was 2-6-1 in its last nine with extra alumni in attendance.
Quarterback Ken Johnson scampered for 20 yards on the game's first play from scrimmage, but the Buffs would net just 13 more on their next six plays, the last of which Mizzou intercepted at midfield.  CU stopped the Tigers on a 4th-and-1 at the CU 31 but yards would again be hard to come by.  The Buffs converted on two third downs in working to the Tiger 21, where on the 10th play of the drive J.B. Dean booted through a 29-yard field goal and CU led, 3-0, a little under 10 minutes in.
Neither team could do much on the next seven possessions combined: the Tigers were held to 51 yards and two first downs on four drives, two of which ended with interceptions by John Stavely and Cullen Bryant.  CU gained 70 yards on its three tries, but two ended with punts and Johnson was stuffed at the line of scrimmage on a 4th-and-1.
CU coach Eddie Crowder was looking for someone to light a fire for the offense, and he subbed in Joe Duenas at quarterback; Duenas earlier in the year starred in CU's 56-13 win over Wyoming when Johnson was injured.   The possession would be Duenas and John Tarver show for the most part: Duenas ran the ball three times for 42 yards -- gains of 20, 13 and 9 -- the latter good for touchdown to cap an eight-play, 56-yard drive.  Tarver carried four times for 16 yards, and Charlie Davis once for three, though he had a seven-yard pop wiped out due to a penalty.  Dean's PAT kick made it 10-0 at the 3:29 mark remaining in the half and Mizzou would never be within one score again.
But the Tigers were hanging in there.  The third quarter was scoreless, and the crowd of 45,129 was growing a bit restless.  A shanked punt on the first play of the fourth quarter set CU up at the MU 37, and after Tarver picked up two yards on the first play, Duenas ran the option, pitched to Tarver at the 33 and he raced into the end zone and finally the Buffs started to pull away, taking a 17-0 lead.
Colorado's defense stifled the Tigers on their first six second half possessions, limiting them to one first down and 32 yards total.  The last one ended with Bryant blocking a 43-yard field goal try as Mizzou was desperately trying to get on the scoreboard.  CU took over at its own 46 and aided by a roughing the kicker call, the Buffs marched to the MU 30 where Dean rammed through a 37-yard field goal.  CU 20, Mizzou zip.
Missouri spoiled CU's shutout bid with 4:09 remaining, when Chuck Roper connected on a six-yard TD pass to John Henley.  It would have been the Buffs' first goose-egging of an opponent in two years (14-0 at Iowa State) and at home since '67 (34-0 over the Cyclones).  It needed help from CU, as Cliff Branch fumbled a punt that the Tigers recovered at the Buff 30.  Colorado added the final points on another Duenas to Tarver pitch, this one covering 24 yards with 59 seconds left on the clock.
Tarver was the star on offense, gaining 106 yards on 16 carries with the two scores.  And had been the case all year, his trademark was not to get caught behind the line of scrimmage, or even at it; he had yet to be (and wouldn't be) tackled for a loss all season.  On this day, he gained at least two yards for every touch and earned six first downs in all.  Davis picked up 70 on 17 attempts, and Duenas had 64 on 16 tries.
The Tigers finished with 225 yards – 119 passing, 106 rushing – averaging just 3.3 yards per play, or just over one-third of what Oklahoma had done against the Buffalo defense the previous week.  Mizzou ran just 23 of its 68 plays in CU territory, and those gained a paltry 68 yards, with 52 of those on its final two drives of the game after things were long decided.
As for the homecoming "jinx," this was the first of six straight wins in the designated game for the Buffaloes (three each over Missouri and Iowa State).
Missouri's 24-12 win over SMU in its third game of the season would be its only victory in 1971, as the Tigers finished 1-10 and 0-7 in Big Eight action.  After the loss in Boulder, subsequent defeats came at the hands of Kansas State (28-12), Oklahoma (by a most respectable 20-3), Iowa State (45-17) and to rival Kansas (7-2.  Yes, 7-2).  The '71 season was an aberration as history would show; MU was 5-6 in 1970 and 6-6 in 1972.
The 6-1 Buffaloes now faced another road test against a top 10 team, with a nationally televised Halloween Eve affair in Lincoln versus No. 1 Nebraska on the docket.  NU, the defending national champion, opened the year No. 2 in the preseason polls behind Notre Dame, but moved into the top spot after a 34-7 win over Oregon in the opener while Irish were idle and opened their year a week later.  CU would be the first ranked opponent NU would see in 1971, as the Cornhuskers were 7-0 at that point, having outscored the opponent by 277-40 and had one of the stingiest defenses in the nation. 
NOTE: After Oklahoma put the hurt on CU with 670 total yards, the Buffaloes buckled down the remainder of the season.  Over the last six games, including the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl, CU would allow just an average of 263 yards per game (and 237.2 not including the bowl).  Only Houston in the bowl game managed 200 or more yards in either discipline (219 rushing), otherwise teams would gain over 150 just three times (Nebraska rushing for 180, Air Force passing of 195, Houston passing for 173).
This P-'Tudes Number: 122                                                                 
Tarver had 122 rushing attempts in 1971, gaining 677 yards and scoring six touchdowns.  That set the school record which still stands for the most attempts in a season without being stopped for a loss; it also stood for nearly 30 years for the most consecutive carries without one until Chris Brown toted the ball 124 straight times over seven games in 2001 (Tarver's last carry in 1970 was for a 1-yard loss at Air Force).  In fact, he gained yards on 118 of his 122 tries in '71, stopped for zero gains just four times (twice by LSU, and once by Ohio State and Kansas State).  Tarver gained yards on all six carries against Houston in the bowl game (the stats don't count; if bowl stats did, he finished his career with 139 consecutive attempts without a loss, and 135 for positive yards, as he had 11 in the '70 Liberty Bowl).
"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.