Woody Hayes didn't experience very many bad Saturdays in Columbus, Ohio.
The legendary Ohio State coach compiled a record of 206-61-10 with three consensus national championships and 13 Big Ten titles during his run with the Buckeyes.
But 40 years ago, Hayes met his match when Eddie Crowder and the Buffaloes roamed into Ohio Stadium. Colorado, ranked 10th at the time, beat then-No. 6 Ohio State 20-14 on Sept. 25, 1971.
Larry Zimmer called the game. It was his first season as CU's radio man.
"I remember looking at that schedule. They opened at LSU," Zimmer said after providing the color commentary on KOA (850 AM) for CU's 28-14 victory over Colorado State on Saturday at Sports Authority Field.
The Buffs opened the 1971 campaign unranked, but that changed quickly after Crowder's team upset the ninth-ranked Tigers 31-21 in front of a rowdy crowd of 70,099.
Running back Charlie Davis, wide receiver Cliff Branch and defensive end Herb Orvis were the stars on the team. Other notable players included tight end Bob Masten, linebacker Carl Taibi, halfback Gary Campbell, defensive back Glenn Bailey, defensive back Pat Murphy, center Don Popplewell, andoffensive guard Dennis Havig.
CU crushed Wyoming at Folsom Field, 56-13, before taking down the Buckeyes in front of 85,538.
The Buffs finished the season 10-2 and ranked third in the Associated Press poll behind No. 1 Nebraska (13-0) and No. 2 Oklahoma (11-1). CU's losses were to the Cornhuskers 31-7 in Lincoln and to the Sooners in Norman 45-17.
"When you start off with two wins away from home at places like Baton Rouge and Columbus, I said at the time it was a special team," Zimmer said. "And it turned out that they were."
Crowder capped off his only 10-win season at CU with a 29-17 victory over Houston in the Bluebonnet Bowl, which was played in Houston.
No moral victories
There were high hopes for the Buffaloes in 1986. Bill McCartney, after suffering three losing seasons while rebuilding the program, coached CU to a 7-5 record in 1985 with a win over Washington in the Freedom Bowl.
McCartney's fifth season in Boulder got off to a rough start, however, when Colorado State beat the Buffs 23-7 at Folsom Field. After an excruciating 32-30 loss at Oregon the next week, CU had to travel to Columbus to take on Ohio State, which had coasted to a 36-13 victory in Boulder in 1985.
"We had a pretty good football team," McCartney recalled. "We were kind of like a football team that hadn't found itself yet, but one that had some real potential. We went to Ohio State and we were kind of under the radar. We could have very well won that game."
Ohio State also entered the game with an 0-2 record after opening the season with losses to No. 5 Alabama (16-10 at the Kickoff Classic at Giants Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.) and No. 17 Washington (40-7 at Husky Stadium).
A crowd of 88,404 showed up for the Buckeyes' home opener against CU. The Buffs' defense played well, but the visitors limped home with a 13-10 loss after a 19-yard field goal by Ohio State place-kicker Pat O'Morrow was ruled to have squeezed inside the uprights.
Jon Embree, a senior tight end, was knocked out of the game with a shoulder injury in the first quarter. A quarter of a century later, the first-year head coach still believes CU tied the game with a late field goal that the officials ruled was no good.
"I thought, 'Well, maybe it's a holdover from Mac and his Michigan days,'" Embree said. McCartney was an assistant at Michigan before taking the CU job in 1982. "I thought we made the field goal that would have tied it. Our defense played a heck of a game."
The Buckeyes embarked on a nine-game winning streak, which was snapped by Michigan, and finished No. 7 in the AP poll following a 28-12 victory over Texas A&M in the Cotton Bowl.
The Buffs fell to 0-4 a week later after a 24-21 loss to No. 10 Arizona in Boulder. But McCartney's 1986 squad rallied to make a memorable run in the Big Eight.
CU opened conference play 5-0, including a 20-10 victory over No. 3 Nebraska, and finished the regular season second in the Big Eight behind Oklahoma (the Buffs' only conference defeat was 28-0 at Norman).
Some of Embree's teammates included fullback/linebacker Eric McCarty, linebacker Barry Remington, linebacker Darin Schubeck, safety Mickey Pruitt, cornerback Solomon Wilcots, cornerback David Tate, nose tackle Kyle Rappold, offensive guard Bill Coleman, center Eric Coyle, halfback O.C. Oliver, punter Barry Helton, halfback Ron Brown, defensive tackle Don Fairbanks and offensive guard Junior Ili.
CU turned 0-4 into 6-6, losing to Baylor in the Bluebonnet Bowl. The program's all-time winningest coach says suffering the early-season hardships was frustrating.
"Losing breeds losing," McCartney said. "It's like losing to Cal. You out-gain them and everyone says you should get a lot of confidence from that. That's how the typical person in the stands rationalizes it, is that you would gain momentum from a performance like that. But really, losing doesn't do that."
When asked about CU's last trip to Columbus, Embree reacted the same way as his coach. The Buffs' painful 36-33 overtime loss to Cal didn't do much for the 2011 team, except drop the record to 0-2 entering the CSU game.
"I remember how hard we fought as a team (at Ohio State)," Embree recalled. "It felt a lot like (the Cal game). We put it all out there and it was kind of like, 'What do you have to do to win a game?'"
A sea of red
The Buffs will play Ohio State again this Saturday in Columbus. Over the last 25 years, the capacity at the "Big Horseshoe" has increased to 102,329.
It has been a difficult year for the Buckeyes, who also beat the Buffs 27-10 in the Orange Bowl on Jan. 1, 1977, and lead the all-time series 3-1.
Head coach Jim Tressel was forced to resign before the season in the wake of an NCAA investigation. Star quarterback Terrelle Pryor, facing a six-game suspension, decided to skip his senior season and is now a member of the Oakland Raiders.
Ohio State (2-1) fell out of the AP top-25 on Sunday for the first time in seven years after getting drubbed 24-6 at Miami.
CU (1-2) has some momentum after delivering Embree his first win as a head coach on Saturday. But the Buffs have lost 18 consecutive true road games dating back to Oct. 27, 2007.
"It's a hostile environment, and I almost went to school there. So I've always known about their traditions from the gold pants to some of the other things they do," said Embree, who chose to play for McCartney at CU instead of at Ohio State or UCLA. "It's obviously one of the most storied programs in the history of college football."
The Buffs' starting running back, Rodney Stewart, was born in Columbus on Jan. 3, 1990. He grew up dreaming of playing for the Buckeyes but was not recruited by Tressel after earning first-team All-State honors at Brookhaven High School in Westerville, Ohio, as a senior.
"I just have to keep my head straight," Stewart said of playing Ohio State. "I might cut my phone off this week. It's going to be a big game. I'm going to be playing in front of my family; it will kind of be like a home game for me."
Toney Clemons, coming off his best game at CU (three catches, 65 yards and a touchdown against the Rams), played in Columbus as a visiting player when he was a sophomore at Michigan.
"We've got to keep that crowd out of the game. A lot of people don't understand that that stadium is their 12th man. It's going to be a sea of red," said Clemons, who transferred to CU in 2009. "It's going to be hostile. It doesn't matter who they play, the fans do not like you. They'll treat every game like it's a rival game.
"We've got to keep them out of the game early, because it gets loud in there. It get vicious."