Result: Colorado 20, Washington 14.
When: Sept. 29, 1990.
Bottom line: Grueling nonconference schedule ends with a win.
One of the lasting images of the 1989 season at Colorado came on the road at Washington, where the Buffs gathered in the middle of the field and pointed toward the sky honoring fallen quarterback Sal Aunese before beating the Huskies 45-28.
Washington returned to Boulder in Game 5 of the 1990 season hoping to get some revenge on No. 20 CU, which had played four hard-fought, close games and entered the contest 2-1-1.
The 12th-ranked Huskies became the fifth consecutive opponent to score first on CU, opening the game with an 80-yard drive capped by a 1-yard run from quarterback Mark Brunell. But Washington scored only once more that afternoon, despite driving deep into CU territory multiple times, and the Buffs pulled out a 20-14 win.
Two players stood out in this one from the CU perspective. Foreshadowing the key role he would play as the season wore on, backup quarterback Charles Johnson was called on in the second half after starter Darian Hagan went down with a sprained shoulder.
Hagan had guided the Buffs to a 20-14 lead before exiting, and while Johnson didn't produce any points, he kept the chains moving and ran time off the clock to limit opportunities for Brunell and the Washington offense.
Washington twice drove inside the CU 20-yard line in the fourth quarter, but the first drive was halted by an interception in the end zone by safety Tim James. The second drive penetrated to the CU 7-yard line, where cornerback Deon Figures knocked down a third-down pass intended for Washington star wide receive Mario Bailey and then intercepted a fourth-down pass meant for the same target.
The Buffs had started a winning streak after a bumpy start and were about to play one of the most controversial games in college football history.
Charles Johnson, quarterback: "I remember after the third game of the season, which left us 1-1-1, it was kind of an all hands on deck, either we're going to do this or not type of deal. Then we had Texas and Washington after that, so it didn't get any easier. Both of those games we barely won. It was a season of trials and tribulations, but it was really a season of incredible growth and maturity of a program. We won in '89 because we had great coaches and great talent. In '90, we won a national championship because we had matured as a team that wasn't the hunter, but we were the huntee at that point. We didn't realize it at first, but we quickly discovered it."
"You don't open the season thinking about winning the national title. You open the season thinking about going to the Orange Bowl. That's your incentive. So that goal was still there and everything was in preparation for mounting that charge."