After those gut-wrenching near-misses against Colorado the past two years, I'd guess the 1993 Kansas football team would consider a victory at Boulder today tantamount to triumph in a bowl game. Kansas is long overdue for some good fortune in this series.
All I can hope is that the Jayhawks break Buffalo hearts the same as their Crimson and Blue counterparts did in 1950, 1952, and 1957. And can avoid the horrible torment they absorbed in 1961 at Boulder, much like KU did in blowing that 30-24 affair out west in 1991.
That was the snowstorm fiasco where Colorado drove 80 yards in eight plays to score the winning touchdown with less than a minute left. Kansas helped the Buffs too much in that one, same as in 1961. How painful was '61? KU with one of the finest clubs in its history entered the fourth quarter with a 19-0 lead. It toppled 20-19 when quarterback Gale Weidner went on a rampage the reeling Jayhawks couldn't squelch.
Then there's last year's game here. Kansas built a 14-point lead but coughed up the lead and the game in the last three minutes. CU, its charmed life against Kansas intact, went home with a 25-18 win.
But the three Kansas-Colorado games I remember most fondly are ones when Dame Fortune favored the Jayhawks. I suppose that doesn't surprise you, huh?
First 1952. Halfback Charlie Hoag scored three touchdowns in this 21-12 triumph against a terrific CU team led by tailbacks Zack Jordan and Carroll Hardy. CU had tied powerful Oklahoma 21-all the week before; that's how good it was. But the Kansas defense led by ends Morris Kay and Don Bracelin and halfback Gil Reich was just as brilliant.
Kansas led only 14-12 when Reich with explosive head-on tackles twice kept Hardy from reaching the end zone. Gil wasn't a defensive All-American that year by accident. On one occasion at the goal-line, Morris Kay protected the outside and forced Hardy to go through a niche like a subway turnstile. It was made to order for Reich, who bored in and stiffed the talented Buffalo dead in his tracks. Hoag then jetted 66 yards in the fourth quarter to lock it up.
Seldom, maybe never, have KU and CU had better teams on the same field. Only 32,000 spectators were here.
You like miracle comebacks? Take the 1950 Kansas explosion against the Buffs here.
Kansas fell behind 21-0 entering the final 20 minutes. Hoag, then a sophomore, rocketed 85 yards to score on a kickoff. Fox Cashell missed the conversion and it was 21-6. Some in the crowd of a mere 24,000 began departing.
Right half Wade Stinson ran eight yards to score the second Kansas touchdown. Then Kansas forced a kick and opened its third drive from the Buffalo 32. Stinson dashed over left tackle for four yards but fumbled. To prove KU can enjoy some luck in this series, the ball caromed, like a calculated basketball pass, into the hands of homegrown end Bill Schaake. Ever the opportunist, Schaake never broke stride en route to the score. Bill Rinehart's conversion cut the gap to 21-20.
Kansas drove 70 yards to win 27-21, getting its only three pass completions of the game. Quarterback Chet Strehlow spotted Schaake (who else?) in the end zone 23 yards away and locked up a comeback equivalent to that 50-47 stunner at Iowa State last fall.
Then there was 1957 at Boulder when Lawrence real estater Duane Morris not only kicked the extra point that gave Kansas a 35-34 victory, but intercepted a pass by Boyd Dowler (later a Green Bay Packer star) to choke off the final threat. Yeah, kids actually played two ways in those days. Another bizarre angle was that the Jayhawks used three quarterbacks to win it, and two of them kicked vital extra points.
Quarterback Bobby Marshall was hurt, so co-captain Wally Strauch started, fired two first-quarter touchdown passes on fourth-down situations and kicked the conversions. He suffered a head injury, so sophomore Morris directed the team to its third-quarter score, booting the point after that one, too. Duane also was hurt.
Enter Larry McKown, seeing his first varsity duty, and he produced two touchdowns. Larry hit halfback Homer Floyd with a 58-yard desperation heave that tied it at 34-all. In trotted Morris, a straight-on kicker, to toe the clincher.
Morris too often is overlooked when they recount the late 1950s era for KU. Heady, versatile and a doggone good athlete, as a 1959 senior he was the quarterback in a foursome that included left half John Hadl, right half Curtis McClinton and fullback Doyle Schick. With Morris gone, Jack Mitchell moved Hadl to quarterback for 1960.
Other current local residents on that 1957 club include centers Chet Vanatta and John Wertzberger. That win at CU was KU's only win in its first six games. Then coach Chuck Mather resigned, knowing he would be fired. The Jayhawk players regrouped and roared 4-0 down the stretch for a 5-4-1 that represents one of the best turnarounds of any season.
Let's hope Kansas finds some of that 1957 luck still lurking around the field at Boulder today. What a delicious payback a KU victory would be after those heartbreakers of '91 and '92.