By Eric Christensen
The CU Buffaloes face the Nebraska Cornhuskers at Memorial Stadium in Lincoln, Nebraska on Saturday at 1:30 p.m. The last time the two teams met was in 2010.
BOULDER, Colo. (CBS4)– It’s back! For the first time in eight years, this is officially Nebraska week!
“I’m 48 years old and I literally think about if I want to put on red,” said for Colorado receiver Mike Pritchard. “I do. Isn’t that disgusting? But it’s real.”
“I don’t wear red and I won’t drive a red car,” added former CU quarterback Bobby Pesavento.
Old habits apparently die hard. That’s because for the better part of 20 years this one-sided rivalry provided the Buffs with the highest of highs and the lowest of lows.
The rivalry began to gain traction in 1986. It was Bill McCartney’s 5th year in Boulder and after losing his first four games to the Huskers, Coach Mac and the Buffs felt things were about to change.
Jeff Campbell was a walk-on receiver in 86 and the kid from Vail, Colorado made the first of his many big plays versus the The Big Red with a reverse for a touchdown that helped CU get it’s first win over Nebraska since 1967.
“Nebraska was the one team we had in red on our schedule every year,” said Campbell. ” It was the only team in red and it was the game we picked as our #1 rivalry.”
But one win doesn’t make a rivalry. That was one of the reasons why 1989 was so important.
“We were so confident in 89,” Campbell said.” Nothing was going to stop that team.”
The man they called “Soupy” did it to the Huskers again. The little Husker killer had two big punt returns which led to touchdowns while quarterback Darian Hagan and running back J.J. Flannigan teamed up on an incredible 70 yard option touchdown run as the Buffs finally got Nebraska’s full attention with their 2nd win in 4 years.
By winning in 1989 the Buffs proved that winning in 86 wasn’t a fluke. But winning at Folsom Field is one thing. Winning in Lincoln, Nebraska is another. In 1990 the Buffs were trying to stop a 10-game skid in enemy territory.
Heading into the 4th quarter it appeared the losing streak would reach 11. Colorado trailed 12-0. But 2 incredible catches by Pritchard help set up 4, fourth quarter touchdowns as CU picked up their 2nd straight win over Nebraska, their 2nd straight Big 8 title and ultimately a share of the 1990 National Championship.
“Back to back years when we beat them, in 89 and 90, that did some damage,” said Pritchard. “That woke them up a little bit.”
Over the next 10 years, Nebraska went 9-0-1 against Colorado and it looked like the Big Red restored order in the rivalry. But almost any Buff fan will tell you, they wouldn’t trade those 9 losses for that one win in 2001.
What the Buffs did on Nov. 23rd, will never be forgotten. They embarrassed their biggest rival, who at the time was the #1 team in the country. The final score: 62-36.
“Our senior class wanted to be that group that won the game after however long it was, 8-10 years of losing,” said Pesavento. “Hands down, the coolest football moment of my life.”
Since 2001, Nebraska has never been the same. Of their 46 conference championships, none have come since that November night. Some Buff fans believe Nebraska has never fully recovered from that humiliating loss.
“Sure it would be great to be the one’s that sent Nebraska down,” added Pesavento. “It’s probably a lot more than that but if that was the catalyst, I’ll take it and be proud of it.”
So now the two teams will meet again under friendlier circumstances. Sure there are some familiar faces from the rivalries of old (CU assistant coaches Darian Hagan and Darrin Chiaverini and Nebraska head coach Scott Frost) but they’ll be hard pressed to recapture the passion, heartbreak and emotion of what once was.
“It’s going to be pretty tough to beat what it used to be,” said Campbell while laughing.
“I’m glad it’s back.” added Pesavento. “I don’t know how much kids at either school really understand what it once was.”
“I’m excited for CU and I hope they turn it into an intense matchup and I hope they understand the roots,” said Pritchard. I’m 48 years old, to this day I don’t wear red and I still hate Nebraska. Thanks Coach Mac!”