Final five

With 40 seconds to go, Buffs quarterback Charles Johnson completes a pass to Jon Boman, who slips on the turf at the 3-yard line. The next five plays led to an improbable CU victory.

First down: Johnson spikes ball to stop the clock.

Second down: Running back Eric Bieniemy stopped short of the goal line.

Third down: Bieniemy stopped for no gain.

Fourth down: Johnson spikes the ball to stop the clock.

Fifth down: Johnson runs in for winning touchdown.

The marker said it was fourth down when Buffs quarterback Charles Johnson scored the game-winning touchdown for No. 12-ranked Colorado against Missouri.

But the stat sheet after the game on Oct. 6, 1990, said the play was run on fifth down.

The Fifth Down Game will always be remembered by everyone involved: the players for CU and Missouri, the coaches, the referees, the fans and especially the media that were there to cover the game and saw what happened that day in Columbia, Mo.

"I turned to John Henderson from the (Denver) Post, who was covering the beat at the time, and said, 'CU just lost the game' " said B.G. Brooks, who covered the team for the Rocky Mountain News. "CJ spiked the ball on fourth down. ... Not many people in the stadium knew what was going on."


CU took over deep in its own territory with under three minutes to go and trailing 31-27. Johnson and the Buffs drove down the field and reached the Missouri 3-yard line after tight end Jon Boman slipped on what looked like a sure touchdown. Then things got crazy and confusing.

The five downs went spike, run, run, spike, touchdown run by Johnson.

"I always referred to the down marker on the field," said Les Shapiro, who called the game for KCNC. "I never trusted the scoreboard because sometimes it wouldn't change and not be right.

"I remember turning to my partner Dave Logan and saying off the air, 'I think it's the wrong down on the marker.' And I don't like watching the replay of the game because I missed it being fifth down."

CU associate AD David Plati was taking stats for KOA during the game. He had a running play-by-play during the game.

"Gerry DiNardo, our offensive coordinator at the time, ran in from the coaches box and asked how many plays did we get," Plati said. "And I said I am pretty sure we ran five."

After Johnson scored the teams left the field without CU kicking the extra point.

"As the teams were leaving the field there was chaos," Brooks said. "The officials go to this little hut outside the stadium and things were being thrown at them and people were cursing at them."

The officials decided that CU had to kick the extra point. The teams returned to the field and the Buffs took a knee to officially end the game.

After the game, media members asked coaches and players about the fifth down. CU head coach Bill McCartney didn't want to talk about the fifth down but wanted to center things on the slippery turf at Memorial Stadium.

"After talking about the turf, McCartney asked me if the Buffs got an extra down and I said, 'Yes you did,' " Brooks said. "Then McCartney turned to Bill Marolt, who was the athletic director at the time, and asked if they could take the win away from us, and Marolt said no."