Looking back: Bobby Anderson’s stellar CU Buffs debut

Colorado legend kick-started career in 1967 opener against Baylor

Colorado’s Bobby Anderson rushed for 83 yards and three touchdowns in his debut against Baylor in 1967.

(Note: The coronavirus pandemic has postponed the fall sports season in the Pac-12 Conference until at least January and that means no Colorado Buffaloes football this season. Instead, will feature memorable games and players from the past as we look back at each week in CU football history. In this installment, we look back at the week of Sept 14-20.)

Throughout the summer of 1967, Bobby Anderson knew he was going to be the starting quarterback for the Colorado Buffaloes, despite the fact that he was just a sophomore on a senior-laden team.

Yet, after the defense forced a Baylor three-and-out in the first minutes of the season opener at Folsom Field on Sept. 16, 1967, CU head coach Eddie Crowder took a quick moment to make sure Anderson was ready.

“With somewhat of a smirk on his face and in a very relaxed manner, I think he was probably trying to relax me, he threw an arm over my shoulder and said, ‘Bobby, you don’t have any problem with me starting a sophomore quarterback, do you?’” Anderson recalled more than five decades later. “I said, ‘No coach, we’ll be fine.’”

On his first series, Anderson fumbled. On his second, his first career pass fell incomplete. Not the start he wanted, but by the end of the day, Anderson had rushed for 83 yards and three touchdowns, thrown for 129 yards and led the 10th-ranked Buffs to a 27-7 victory.

With that, the legendary career of Bobby Anderson was underway.

On a team filled with exceptional upperclassmen – including his older brother, Dick, an All-American safety – Anderson was a star for what was Crowder’s best CU team to that point.

In 1967, he ran for 733 yards and nine touchdowns, threw for 782 yards and two scores and earned honorable mention All-American honors in helping the Buffs finish 9-2 and ranked 14th in the country. He capped the season by winning MVP honors after CU’s 31-21 win against Miami in the Bluebonnet Bowl.

While Anderson can still recall many details of the games he played, he credits much of his success that season to his teammates and Crowder.

“The confidence I had as a sophomore starter was really at a high level because of the great senior leadership that we had on that team,” he said.

Anderson praised the skill and character of many teammates. In addition to his brother, CU was loaded with talent, including second-team All-American guard Kirk Tracy, and honorable mention selections Frank Bosch (defensive tackle), Wilmer Cooks (fullback), Charles Greer (defensive back), Mike Montler (guard), Kerry Mottl (linebacker) and Mike Schnitker (defensive end).

Also not forgotten by Anderson is tight end Mike Pruett, guard Bart Bortles, center Bruce Heath, split end Monte Huber, tailbacks William Harris and Larry Plantz, slotback John Farler, defensive tackles Ron Scott and Bill Brundige, fellow quarterback Dan Kelly and … well, the list goes on.

“For me, it comes down to teammates and players and their names,” he said.

The talent on the roster and the confidence Crowder developed in Anderson flushed any nerves he might have felt going into his varsity debut as a sophomore in 1967 (freshmen weren’t eligible to play varsity at that time).

“I was certainly excited,” he said of the opener against Baylor. “I don’t think there was a nervousness; it’s just that high energy of adrenaline you have flowing, getting ready to go perform in an arena with great players. I just felt a lot of confidence with the guys that surrounded me.”

Playing in front of 31,400 fans at Folsom Field on Sept. 16, 1967, Anderson shined, but it was clear why he had so much confidence in his teammates.

CU lost four fumbles, all of them in Baylor territory, but still rolled to a 20-0 lead in the third quarter. Mottl intercepted two Baylor passes in the first quarter to set up Anderson’s first two touchdowns. Rocky Martin, Mike Bynum and Dick Anderson all contributed to the defense holding the Bears to 213 yards. Harris, Huber and Steve Engel combined for 223 yards of total offense.

“We had a good day offensively that day,” Anderson said. “The defense was an excellent defense, too.”

While Anderson credits many of his teammates, it didn’t take long for the Buffs to feel confident in him, too. With Kelly, a senior, electing to play baseball in the spring, Anderson won the starting quarterback job and capped his spring with a great performance in the alumni game.

“If Anderson progresses normally, he can become a very fine quarterback,” Crowder said before the 1967 season.

Anderson did turn out to be a very fine quarterback – and tailback.

During his career at CU, Anderson helped the Buffs go 21-11, including two bowl game victories. He threw for 2,198 yards and nine touchdowns and ran for 2,367 yards and 34 touchdowns. He and Darian Hagan (1988-91) are the only players in CU history with 2,000 yards passing and rushing.

Two games into his senior year, Crowder asked Anderson to switch to tailback because of an injury to Engel. He played the final nine games at tailback and the Buffs never missed a beat, as he was named first-team All-American.

In his final game, a 47-33 win over Bear Bryant’s Alabama Crimson Tide in the 1969 Liberty Bowl, Anderson ran for 254 yards and three touchdowns.

“That was a culmination of just a wonderful time at CU for sure,” he said.

Anderson is one of four players to have his jersey retired by CU, became the fourth Buffalo elected to the College Football Hall of Fame in 2006 (his brother was elected in 1993) and is enshrined in the CU Athletics and Colorado Sports halls of fame. In 1970, he was a first-round draft pick of the Denver Broncos and played six seasons in the NFL.

Anderson’s greatest memories, however, go back to the men he played with and the man who made him comfortable against Baylor and every other time he took the field.

“One thing that Eddie always said that always stayed with me … he said, ‘Poise is a product of preparation,’” Anderson said. “It was just a simple statement. He always had to be not only physically, but also really mentally prepared and I think the thing that earmarked his teams is we just felt like we were always really mentally prepared.”