The University of Colorado played Colorado State (known as the Colorado A&M Aggies until 1957) in football in all but eight years from their first meeting on Feb. 10, 1893, through the 1958 season. The series then went dormant for 25 years.
The rivals quit playing as CU was just beginning a more profitable in-state rivalry with the Air Force Academy. In 1958, the season of the Buffs' first meeting with the Falcons and their last before the dormancy against the Rams, CU hosted both schools at Folsom Field. The CSU game attracted only 23,000; the AFA game drew 40,000 fans. The CU/AFA series continued through 1974 as the two squads played every season except 1968 during that span.
Following pressure from the state legislature, CU athletic director Eddie Crowder reluctantly agreed with CSU athletic director Fum McGraw for the series to resume with a five-game contract beginning at Folsom Field on Sept. 17, 1983.
The match-up would feature two second-year head coaches, CU's Bill McCartney and CSU's Leon Fuller. Though the schools had not played for 25 years, the hype leading up to the rivalry's renewal was heated.
On Tuesday of the week of the game, a miscommunication led to McCartney missing the "Big Five Huddle" with the media in Denver featuring coaches from area schools. Fuller was present and took his shots at McCartney, saying, "We work on Sunday," referring to McCartney's absence at the luncheon and his decision not to work on Sundays because of his religious beliefs.
"CU would rather play Drake, but a lot of people I talk to don't even know what state Drake is in. I think CU-CSU is a better rivalry," Fuller also remarked. The jab alluded to Chuck Fairbanks' CU squads losing to Drake in 1979 and 1980.
McCartney remained quiet to the media and shut off access to players on Tuesday afternoon. He was intense during practice, however, putting CU players through what several players considered some of the hardest practices they had been through.
The Denver Post was allowed in both locker rooms prior to kickoff, and reported the following comments from McCartney's pregame speech:
"Nothing can happen out there that can hurt us. Any eventuality that might happen will pull us together and make us stronger. Every guy on this team is committed to sixty minutes . . . I want you players to come out and pound 'em out there. We're going to get those babies!"
Both teams were emotionally charged as the contest began, but the Buffs were able to translate it onto the field, jumping out to a 24-0 lead in the first half. The Buffs would go on to win 31-3 behind a dominant running game that totaled 250 yards on the ground.
The game drew a near-capacity 49,783 fans to Folsom Field and the Rocky Mountain Showdown has been played in all but five seasons since.
CSU's leading receiver in the game was tight end Keli McGregor, who had four catches for 51 yards. McGregor would become President of the Colorado Rockies before tragically dying of a viral heart infection in April of 2010.
At tight end on CU's side was true freshman Jon Embree, who was playing in only his second game as a Buffalo and notched his first victory as a player against the Rams. Embree will be making his third appearance as CU's head coach on Saturday against CSU, looking for his first victory.
Below is the game story recapping the 1983 game that renewed the rivalry that will continue on Saturday, 28 years to the day later:
All's swell for Buffs in 31-3 rout
By Mike Madigan, Rocky Mountain News Staff Writer
BOULDER-Hell Week turned into Swell Week for the University of Colorado Saturday.
Two first-half touchdown catches by Loy Alexander and the birth of a vicious running game broke the backs of the Colorado State Rams, and the Buffaloes went on to a surprisingly one-sided 31-3 victory in the first game between the two schools in 25 years.
Colorado stunned CU and CSU fans alike among the 49,783 in Folsom Field by bolting to a 24-0 lead before CSU managed its only points in the game on a Jon Poole field goal just before the half.
Everything that went wrong for Colorado a week ago in a bitterly disappointing loss to Michigan State, went right Saturday. And that after what undoubtedly was the toughest week of practice since Bill McCartney became head coach a year ago.
"This makes it a lot easier to face tomorrow," CU tight end Dave Hestera said.
Where CU managed only 47 yards rushing against Michigan State, it pounded the Rams for 250-including an even 100 by tailback Chris McLemore.
Where the CU defense allowed Michigan State 17 points in the second half, it held CSU scoreless, with only 73 yards offense, in the final two quarters.
Michigan State even toppled mighty Notre Dame 28-23 Saturday. "That's a shock," said McCartney.
Plus, CU benefited from what appeared to be one extremely lucky break on the third series of the game.
CSU punted from its own 33-yard line after being stopped twice in a row by the Buffs' defense. CU safety Jeff Donaldson tried to follow the kick as it floated around in a swirling wind, but when the ball landed it suddenly caromed wildly and was recovered by the Rams. However, officials ruled the ball had never touched a Colorado player and gave possession to CU at its own 46, the start of excellent field position the Buffs enjoyed all day.
"I thought the ball bounced off one of our kids, and they gave it to us," said McCartney, shaking his head. "That official missed that one. I don't know how they could justify giving us that ball."
CSU head coach Leon Fuller didn't say his team should have gotten the ball, but he nevertheless was disappointed it didn't.
"I don't know how referees make their decisions," he said.
CU quarterback Steve Vogel, who had one of the steadiest days of his career (11 completions in 19 attempts, two touchdowns, 137 yards), hit Alexander for a first down at the Rams' 7. Then on the very next play Alexander sliced in front of cornerback Hardy Griffin to catch a 7-yard touchdown pass. Tom Field added the extra point, the first of four he kicked in the game, running his string to 39 in a row.
The Colorado defense stopped CSU cold again, CU taking the punt and starting at its 27 this time. Vogel hit Alexander again for a first down at the 48. McLemore and fullbacks Lee Rouson and Guy Egging marched the ball down to the CSU 8. And then Vogel lofted what might have been the prettiest pass of his career 8 yards to Alexander in the left corner of the end zone, and Colorado led 14-0.
"I have a lot of confidence in Steve Vogel and he has a lot in me," said Alexander. "That's how I think the quarterback-split end relationship should be to be successful."
CU's first four possessions started at its own 46-, 46-, 27- and 49-yard lines. On the fourth series the Buffs needed only four plays before tailback Darryl Johnson broke free over left tackle for a 32-yard touchdown run.
CU's last series before the half was a collage of all the nice things that happened to produce 386 yards total offense. McLemore got a great block from Hestera and charged 31 yards to the CSU 40. Vogel then hit two straight passes to Alexander for 20 and 16 yards. Three straight plays didn't yield a yard, but Field kicked a 21-yard field goal and CU had its 24-0 lead.
Poole answered with his field goal as time ran out in the first half.
Things got worse, if that was possible, for Colorado State in the second half.
Terry Nugent, the Rams' talented quarterback who completed 23 of 42 passes for 192 yards in the game, was intercepted twice, by CU's Victor Scott and Jeff Donaldson. Colorado State never mounted a rushing game, finishing with only 42 yards on the ground. As a result, the Buffs' secondary, one of the best in the Big Eight, relished in intimidating Ram receivers.
"That's one of the things we talked about," said Donaldson, who is from Fort Collins. "We wanted to go out and show them what it's like to play in the Big Eight."
"I didn't know what hate was until I stepped onto that field, until I was yelled at and cussed at," said Jeff Champine, CSU's all-Western Athletic Conference split end. Champine caught just two passes for 30 yards.
"Colorado played real good hard-nosed football, just like you'd expect a good team to do," Fuller said. "They improved over last week. They'll do real good in the future."
But, as McCartney observed, "This is only one week."