Result: Colorado 21, Stanford 17.
When: Sept. 6, 1990.
Bottom line: Another dogfight is a sign of things to come.
The name Russ Heasley isn't exactly at the top of the list when Colorado fans look back on key contributors from the 1990 season, but the junior guard from Bakersfield, Calif., provided a game-saving play in the first win of the year.
The Buffaloes were locked in another dogfight a week after starting the season with a tie against Tennessee. Late in the fourth quarter trailing by three and driving deep into Stanford territory at Folsom Field, tailback Eric Bieniemy fumbled.
Heasley pounced on the ball at the Stanford 11-yard line, giving CU a first down with less than two minutes remaining. It took the Buffs eight more plays and two fourth-and-1 conversions to take the lead on a 1-yard dive over left tackle by Bieniemy with 12 seconds remaining. It was Bieniemy's third touchdown in what was his debut performance of the season and CU escaped with a 21-17 victory to start the season 1-0-1.
While the Buffs were able to smile when they left the stadium, there were more than a few reasons for coaches to be concerned. The offense had started the first two games sluggish and committing turnovers.
Stanford had jumped to a 14-0 lead in the first quarter with the CU offense giving the Cardinal great field position each time.
The Buffs didn't get on the scoreboard until midway through the third quarter, but the defense kept them in it. Three CU linebackers — Greg Biekert, Chad Brown and Alfred Williams — registered double-digit tackle totals. Williams also made a sack, defensive back Dave McCloughan made an interception and Brown recovered a fumble.
After allowing those first two touchdowns, the Buffs allowed only three points in the final 49 minutes. There were more close games to come and not all of them went Colorado's way.
Chad Brown, linebacker: "I remember saying to my roommate, Julian Hayward, 'It's not going to be easy this year; it's just not going to be easy.' That game was a perfect illustration of how we were going to get punched. You don't realize that because you're successful the year before, teams circle you on the schedule, and teams ramp up to play you. I can't recall what Stanford's record was that year or how they finished up (the Cardinal finished 5-6), but I felt like we got their best effort. We pretty much got everyone's best effort that year."
"Those were good teams. Those were really good teams we were playing. We weren't pointing at them. We were pointing down the road because we had just had a big year. We had those guys pointing at us."
Kyle Ringo: email@example.com, on Twitter: @kyleringo