College Football Memories
college football so great? Is it the sounds of the band or
the beautiful cheerleaders? Maybe it's the speed and power
of marvelous athletes, or the voices of famed broadcasters.
To some of you it may be the scowls and plaid jackets of the
games' famous headmen. As we embark upon the next written
chapter in this glorious Bible that is college football, let
us remember one more thing that makes this sport so great
- the memories. In the famous words of Woody from Can't Hardly
Wait fame (I'm stretching
), "It's all about the
memories, man!" - each one personalized and each one
are 10 memories that stand out in my mind and what they mean
to me. Some of these have helped build life lessons, while
others are just things I remember. Mind you, I have only been
a fan for 18 seasons, so you will read no mentions of Bear
Bryant, OJ Simpson or the Four Horsemen in this article. Many
teams, many fans, many perspectives and many moments etched
further adieu, and in no particular order, here are mine.
"Win it for Sal!"
I love all human-interest stories and few in sports have captured
me as much as the inspired 1989 Colorado Buffaloes. Here was
a program that was a perennial Big Eight conference doormat
to the likes of Nebraska and Oklahoma, going back two decades.
Here was an unproven quarterback named Darian Hagan trying
to replace a veteran leader, team captain and fan favorite
who had tragically fallen ill to cancer, Sal Aunese. The Buffaloes
needed magic, and so the diminutive Hagan became their "Magic
Man". An inspired Colorado team went 11-0 on their way
to the national championship game. The moment I will remember
most is the Buffaloes beating Nebraska, 27-21. A Nebraska
team that had beaten Colorado 20 of their past 21 meetings.
Before the game, the players and fans pointed to a dying Aunese
in the press box. The fans stormed the field as the players
and coaches wept when it was over.
This moment always reminds me of the power of inspiration
and motivation - not only in the game of college football,
but also in life.
"Moore to Moore
1990 was a wacky season of college football, perhaps one of
its best. At one point, Michigan was 3-1 and ranked number
one in the nation. All the powers were falling, and nobody
seemed to be rising to the top. Out of nowhere came George
Welsh and his Virginia Cavaliers. It was the perfect story
- 7-0 and crushing opponents behind the nation's top offense,
the Cavaliers were top-ranked and the darling of the media
and fans. The All-American combination of Shawn Moore to WR
Herman Moore, with Terry Kirby in the backfield, was dominating.
Heisman awards and national championship talk was abundant.
And then along came a Yellow Jacket. Actually, about 80 or
so Yellow Jackets from Georgia Tech swarmed into Virginia
and stunned the Cavaliers in one of the great college contests
of all-time, 41-38. It was a heartbreaking loss, and the Cavaliers
never did recover. While Georgia Tech went onto a co-national
championship, the Cavaliers lost four games and seemingly
faded into oblivion. To this day I consider that one of the
better college football teams I've seen, but when you pull
the heart out of the beast, sometimes very little remains.
This moment always reminds me how fragile that perch is at
the top, and just how quickly the mighty can fall. How silent
and empty it is once you have fallen
And again, what
an emotionally driven game college football is.
"Whose afraid of the Black Shirts?"
The answer to that question from 1993-1997 would be, "just
about everyone". What I remember most about Nebraska's
power run during the mid-90s wasn't the three national championships,
unprecedented 60-3 record or numerous All-Americans. It was
the fear. Teams literally were afraid of this team. And not
just the SW Missouri State School of the Blinds of the world,
but big-time programs like Florida, Tennessee, Washington,
Kansas State, Oklahoma, Colorado and UCLA all took a whopping
from the Big Red. And when I say whopping, I mean backdoor
beat down. This team wouldn't just wear you down in the fourth
quarter; they would crush you from start to finish. The 1995
bunch is easily the most dominant team on paper of the modern
era, having won each game by more than two touchdowns. The
way they broke the heart, will and bones of what was a tremendous
Florida team in that Fiesta Bowl was remarkable and frightful.
You could see the intimidation in opponents' eyes when the
Black Shirts lined up on defense and the games became almost
comical, regardless of who lined up on the other side.
I wouldn't say I learned anything from this team, but I will
say it is an era of power football like none other since I've
been a fan.
"When to wear a Michigan Hat."
Just days prior to the 1992 Rose Bowl, Washington QB Billy
Joe Hobert was seen wearing a Michigan hat - the opponent
for the Huskies in the upcoming game. It was one of the biggest
games in Husky history, as UW was 11-0 and going for the national
crown. When a reporter asked Hobert why he wore the enemy's
insignia on his noggin, he replied "Well, I'm gonna need
something to wipe my ass with." Two days later, the Huskies
demolished Michigan 34-14 and claimed a share of the national
This moment reminds me of the fun involved in this game, and
the fact these kids are barely even young adults.
"Phenomenon or Fluke?"
Go ahead and call me a geek for this. My favorite part of
sports is and always has been the stats. I love stats. They
say numbers don't lie, and I would agree in 99 percent of
cases. Which brings me to the phenomenon that was the University
of Houston over a decade ago. Through June Jones' revolutionary
run-and-shoot system, Quarterbacks Andre Ware and David Klingler
combined for nearly one hundred touchdowns, over 10,000 yards
and one bronze statue over a 22 game span from 1989 to 1990.
It was a statistician's paradise. The Cougars made record
books feel like revolving doors. The Cougars scored 60+ points
eight times and had a remarkable 84 versus Eastern Washington
and a video-game-like 95 versus Southern Methodist. But despite
all these achievements, the Cougars never got their respect
from the media and fans. Why? Because when push came to shove
and the Cougars stepped up against good college defenses,
the offense stalled. Just 13 points against Texas A&M
and 24 points against Texas - both losses - cemented this
Cougar juggernaut's legacy as a big-game flop.
This moment reminds me - always contain excitement and anticipation
over a team's performance, or even a life experience, until
it's tested up against the big boys.
"Third Down and Impossible."
Every college football season there is one game that stands
above all others, that has an incredible aura surrounding
it. In 1989, that game was a November clash of Catholics vs.
Convicts - top-ranked Notre Dame took their 23-game win streak
into the Orange Bowl to play the Miami Hurricanes. The game
was at night, and CBS did an extraordinary job of building
the hype and anticipation. Dennis Erickson, who was Miami's
head coach at the time, said that was the loudest and most
electric environment he has been a part of, to this day. The
bad boys of college football were smarting over the pain of
a 31-30 loss to the Irish a year ago. For two quarters, the
Hurricanes were seemingly dominating the Irish but still only
lead on the scoreboard 17-10. It was 1988 all over again.
Would the Irish pull out more magic? And then it happened.
Facing an improbable third down and 43 from deep inside their
own territory, the Miami offense stepped up to the line for
the play. I remember the announcer joking, "There is
no play in the playbook for this type of situation. I would
call a touchdown." I remember Craig Erickson launching
a beautiful spiral to Randal "Thrill" Hill for a
44-yard gain, and making the improbable probable. I remember
Hill taking a bow after the catch, and I remember the announcers
nearly jumping out of their seats. The play broke the Irish's
back as the Canes went onto win, 27-10 that night.
This moment reminds me - in the game of college football,
as in life, never count your eggs until they are fully hatched.
"Silky Smooth and Ready to Shine."
There are many stories of tremendous athletes who fall due
to injury (or off-the-field problems) and never quite reach
their potential. Each fan has their personal favorite example
of this. For me, it is Michigan's running back Tony Boles
in the late eighties. Many of you might not remember Boles
- he was the upright runner with the silky smooth stride that
lit up defenses in the Big Ten during '88 and '89. He was
the kid trying to fill the legendary Jamie Morris' shoes.
Number forty-two had a special something to him, even while
sharing the backfield with the equally talented Leroy Hoard.
That is until a fateful day in 1989, during a game between
the Wolverines and Minnesota. Boles injured his hip after
landing awkwardly and never stepped foot on the college gridiron
again. "Silky Smooth" was no more, and now he is
forgotten in college football lore.
This moment reminds me that fame forgives nobody and accepts
no heed for tragedies. In the game of college football, too
often we focus on the stars and forget about the other great
players on the field, players who someday may (not) achieve
"Conducting Rocky Top."
Fitting endings to glorious careers - that is the dream of
every college quarterback. In 1997, when Peyton Manning decided
to return for his senior season, I remember everyone focusing
on his desire to right "the" wrong - this would
be the year Manning would finally help Tennessee beat nemesis
Florida, easily win the Heisman trophy and perhaps top it
off with a glorious national championship performance. It
was a script already written, just waiting to be acted out.
None of it happened for number sixteen. Manning lost to the
Gators in an embarrassing manner, was runner-up for the bronze
statue (beaten by a defenseman, Charles Woodson) and bowed
out of the Orange Bowl on the short end of a 42-17 trashing
by the Nebraska Cornhuskers. But one moment during Manning's
senior year run will forever remained etched in my mind. A
moment that not only defined the man, but the essence of why
these kids love the college experience so much. It is that
picture of Peyton Manning conducting the Tennessee band after
the SEC title game, as over 20,000 orange-clad loyalists sang
Rocky-Top long into the night.
This moment forever reminds me that beyond what pressures
the media and fans place on these kids, success sometimes
can be defined in different ways. To say a player did not
achieve success because of not accomplishing certain very
ominous goals is to live in a "black and white"
society. Here is to the "grey", and here is to Peyton's
"This War was Shorter"
It was the North versus the South, Civil War II, as top-ranked
Florida State was coming to Ann Arbor to play the third-ranked
Michigan Wolverines in an early season 1991 match-up. At the
time, (growing up in Metro Detroit) I can remember the eagerness
all the fans had in this game. All the trash talking about
which football style was superior would finally be coming
to resolution. It was going to be the rugged, pound-it-out
style of the Big Ten against that cocky, speedy bunch from
Tallahassee. As Keith Jackson introduced the game, there was
an energy one could feel from the announcers, the players,
the coaches and the fans. This game had the makings of an
epic. Well, Michigan fans know what happened next. The game
started. And two plays in the player that most signified the
Seminoles' renegade style, cornerback Terrell Buckley, intercepted
an Elvis Grbac out-pass and ran to pay-dirt for a lightning-quick
7-0 Florida State lead. With all due respect to Michigan,
the game did have its close moments, which most fans seemingly
ignore. Right before the half, the Wolverines, behind the
magical play of Desmond Howard, cut it to 25-23. But in the
end, the Seminoles proved too much and cruised to a 51-31
victory. Since that time, many North teams have beaten teams
from the South, including Ohio State over Miami and Michigan
over Florida - both just a year ago. But the stigma still
remains. And this fateful September afternoon over a decade
ago may be the influence behind it all.
This moment reminds me that despite all the talk and hype
that goes behind college football games, nobody really knows
what is going to happen until the game plays out. And again,
the youth of these kids can make this outcome very unpredictable.
"A Lasting Image."
The 2003 Fiesta Bowl was one of the most dramatic college
football games ever played. It was a fitting end to a glorious
season for Ohio State, but an unfitting conclusion to one
of the most storied college careers of our time. While most
will focus on an infamous penalty call, the image that will
forever burn in my mind is that of Miami's Ken Dorsey- hands
on his head, bent down in agony on the field and all by himself.
Never has a player been so underappreciated and so disrespected
as Dorsey, arguably the greatest of all Miami quarterbacks,
perhaps the best leader I've witnessed on a field at any level,
and a young man whose heart and mind overcame many of his
physical limitations - and whose class topped all others.
I remember Dorsey after the game, accepting full blame for
the loss, and a week later still broken and unable to talk
during the Shrine game. We could all learn some life lessons
from this kid. I remember Dorsey then needing to defend himself
almost immediately as the NFL draft came calling, the same
tireless defense he seemed to have to conjure up every minute
for the past two years of his glorious college football career.
Here was a quarterback who won 38-of-the-40 games he started,
and his only two losses were to teams with a combined 25-1
record. Here was a player who, despite his frail stature,
rewrote the records of Kosar, Kelly and Testaverde. Yet nobody
could just accept him and merely appreciate number eleven
for what he did.
This moment reminds me that college football careers are short.
We should enjoy the talents and performances of these special
few athletes when they are around, rather than questioning
everything about them - appreciate them or keep quiet. These
guys are not being paid for what they do, and therefore we
should not criticize them. The "Dorsey Debate" was
the single biggest example I can remember in college football
of a player being questioned so much to the point he had to
unfairly defend himself. We looked like the enemy when we
should have just simply said, "thanks".
are my moments. Hope you enjoyed. What are yours? Please feel
free to write and let us know.