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Plati-'Tudes Summer Series: 1971 Week 10

Aug 19, 2021

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

Plati-'Tudes No. 144 ... The 10th 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 defeated CU that fall.  Through nine games, the Buffs were 7-2 and ranked No. 12 in the nation; CU split four games against teams ranked in the top 10, all on the road (wins at No. 9 LSU and at No. 6 Ohio State; losses at No. 2 Oklahoma and No. 1 Nebraska).  In week nine, CU scored the last 28 points to pull away from Kansas, and were looking to finish the regular season with two straight home games (for the first and only time in '71).  Up first, CU's final Big Eight league game of the season against Oklahoma State, coming off a home loss to Kansas State.

1971 Game 10: Colorado 40, Oklahoma State 6  
In nine games, the Buffs only had really one occasion where they had a cakewalk, and that was back in week two in a 56-13 win over Wyoming.  Every game since had not been decided by halftime, and on several occasions CU finally pulled away in the fourth quarter.  Oklahoma State arrived in Boulder with a 4-3-1 overall record (2-2 in league play), and a loss to the Cowboys would drop CU to fifth in the league standings with a bowl invitation being no certainty.  Thus, a must-win game for Eddie Crowder's Buffaloes, but the weather could be a factor: though 48 degrees the first week of November, Boulder's classic winds reared its ugly head that day, with 55-to-60 mile per hour gusts.

To say this one was decided early might be an understatement.  On the second play of the game, in what nowadays would be called the wildcat formation, Cliff Branch took the snap from center and ran 64 yards around the left end for a score.  J.B. Dean's PAT kick was blown into the right upright and the score remained 6-0.   

Oklahoma State couldn't do much on offense all day, particularly in the first half, netting 44 total yards on seven possessions.  The Buffs meanwhile started to roll in the second quarter.  John Tarver punched it in from eight yards out, with Dean making the kick and the score moved to 13-0.  After the defense stopped OSU, Branch appeared to have returned a punt 63 yards for a score, but a clipping call negated the flashy play and set CU up at its 33.  No problem, on the first play of the drive, Charlie Davis exploded around the right side and raced 67 yards for a touchdown; Branch scored the 2-point conversion on an end-around and the Buffs led, 21-0.  At that point, Davis had carried the ball 15 times for 188 yards.

It took just six plays on their next drive for the Buffs to march 80 yards for another TD, this time quarterback Ken Johnson scoring on a keeper over the left side.  With the winds still howling, Crowder called for another 2-point try, but this one failed due to a high snap leaving the tally at 27-0.  CU's second quarter onslaught wasn't finished, as on the last possession of the first half with 1:40 on the clock, Colorado again took over on its 20 and, again, needed just six plays to cover 80 yards, with this touchdown coming on an end-around pass from Branch to Bob Masten that covered the final 48 yards.  This time, Dean's PAT kick was blocked but the Buffs headed into the locker room up 33-0.  Davis now had 206 yards on just 17 carries, just the seventh 200-plus yard game in CU history.  But he wasn't done yet.

The 'Pokes got on the scoreboard on their second drive of the third quarter, as after a short punt into the swirling wind, they drove 36 yards in eight plays; their try for two failed.  Tarver ended the day's scoring with a 1-yard plunge on the last play of the quarter, and Dean's PAT kick accounted for the final 40-6 verdict.

The sophomore Davis finished the game setting three records: his 342 rushing yards set new marks for both Colorado as well as the Big Eight Conference, as he toppled a 293-yard effort put up earlier in the season by Oklahoma's Greg Pruitt.  He had bested the previous Buff high of 265 yards by Kayo Lam against Colorado Mines in 1935.  He now had 1,190 yards for the year, breaking the previous best of 1,121 by Byron "Whizzer" White set 34 years earlier in 1937.

In fact, Davis left the game late in the fourth quarter to a standing ovation from the 40,211 in attendance, taking a seat on the bench just eight yards shy of tying the national single-game record at the time.

Branch finished with 59 yards on the ground, plus 50 more in returns; but on this day, he displayed his throwing prowess, competing both of his passes for 88 yards and a touchdown (a crazy 634.6 NCAA passer rating).

CU as a team rushed for 505 yards, the second-most at the time and one of just four ventures of 500-plus in a single-game; the 676 yards of total offense did set a record, topping the previous mark by one yard (the Buffs had 675 against Air Force in 1970).  That record would last for 24 years until CU rolled up 758 against Northeast Louisiana in 1995 (and then eclipsed that with 767 against San Jose State in 1999).

The Cowboys finished with just 124 yards on 63 plays, and committed five turnovers, four of the latter on interceptions.  John Stearns picked off two of those, with Lennie Ciufo and Lorne Richardson making the other two.  Ciufo also paced the Buffs in tackles with nine, while Carl Taibi added eight, four for losses including three quarterback sacks. OSU's Jim Benien, who more often than not punted with the wind at his back, set an NCAA record averaging 53.6 yards for 10 punts.

Now 8-2 on the season, the Buffs would host Air Force in the regular season finale with a chance for the school's fourth 9-win season; CU went 9-0 in 1923 and 9-2 in both 1961 and 1967.  With a 5-2 record in Big Eight play, Colorado was locked into a third place finish.  The Falcons would no doubt be out for revenge and turn the tables on the Buffs: in 1970, a 5-4 CU team went down to the Springs and trounced the 9-1, 10th-ranked Air Force squad by 49-19.  AFA was 6-3 on the year, with wins over two teams CU also had beaten (Missouri and Wyoming).  

NOTE: Davis' 342 yards has stood the test of time; there aren't many records at Colorado that were set prior to the 1971 season that still stand.  As far as 300-yard rushing games are concerned, his was the first by a Buffalo and there have been only three since, all spaced fairly well apart.  The second came on Oct. 1, 1994, when Rashaan Salaam galloped for 317 yards on 35 tries in the heat and humidity in a 34-31 win at Texas (he also had 45 receiving yards in that game, with his 362 all-purpose yards that afternoon remaining a school mark).   The next one was authored by Chris Brown at Kansas on Oct. 12, 2002, when he had 25 carries for 309 yards.  And the fourth?  Less than a year ago when Jarek Broussard had 25 attempts for 301 yards at Arizona.

This P-'Tudes Number: 67                    
Davis' 67-yard touchdown run around the right side in the second quarter pushed him over the 1,000-yard mark for the season (1,036 on his way to 1,386 for the season).  At the time, he became just the fourth player in CU history to eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau.  Fast-forward to Nov. 19, 1994: Rashaan Salaam, already the 11th 1,000-yard runner at Colorado, was in position to become the first 2,000-yard performer (and just the fourth in the NCAA at the time).  With just under 10 minutes left in a decisive win over Iowa State, he had 1,988 as CU took possession.  What happened?  Salaam took the handoff, raced around the right end and topped 2,000 by going – you guessed it – 67 yards for a touchdown.  We don't have Davis' run on video, but here was Rashaan's (with the classic radio call by Larry Zimmer; copy and paste: 

"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.