This is beginning to look a lot like a divine autumn in Colorado. Two weeks ago wideout Michael Westbrook caught a tipped pass on the game's final play to give the Buffaloes a 27-26 victory over fourth-ranked Michigan in Ann Arbor. Last week against No. 16 Texas in Austin, Westbrook hauled in another tipped pass in the waning moments of a game. This one came during a drive that set up Neil Voskeritchian's winning field goal from 24 yards with one second to play.
But neither Westbrook nor Voskeritchian was the hero of Colorado's dramatic 34-31 win. Junior tailback Rashaan Salaam rushed for 317 yards and led the Buffaloes in receiving with five receptions for 45 yards. The final drive covered 73 yards, and Salaam had a hand in 72 of them: He ran for 46 yards, caught a pass for 15 and tipped the pass to Westbrook on a play that gained 11 more. And that was after getting three intravenous injections of saline to combat the 100� heat on the turf. "Rashaan showed a tremendous amount of resolve and toughness," said Colorado coach Bill McCartney after the game. "He just kept coming back."
Salaam hails from a high school that is not exactly known for producing prodigious football talents: La Jolla ( Calif.) Country Day. "We played eight-man football on a field that was only 80 yards by 40 yards," says Salaam. His parents, Hakim and Khalada Salaam-Alaji, sent Rashaan to Country Day after he found trouble in a public junior high. "I missed my buddies, but Mom was a disciplinarian," he says.
Colorado has now won two straight games on the final play. Before this season the Buffaloes last won a game on the final play in 1990, when they edged Missouri 33-31 with a TD on "fifth down" after the officials lost count of the number of plays in the series. Colorado went on to win the national championship that year. The '94 season is shaping up very much like that one.
Taking It on the Chin
"What happened to your chin?" Colorado quarterback Kordell Stewart asked Texas coach John Mackovic, noticing the adhesive bandage as the two shook hands after the game. "Cut yourself shaving?"
Not exactly. On the third play of the second half two Longhorn defenders, tackle Tony Brackens and safety Tre Thomas, ran smack into Mackovic as they chased Stewart out of bounds. Brackens's helmet nailed Mackovic under the chin, opening a gash, and Mackovic flew backward onto the all-weather track, cutting his elbow on a drainage gutter. He needed six stitches to close each cut and suffered a mild concussion.
"That's the first time I've ever seen him take a hit," says Mackovic's wife, Arlene, who met her husband after his days as a quarterback at Wake Forest. "The only other bad accident I can recall is when John hit a golf ball that ricocheted off a rock and hit him in the nose. Broke it in 10 different places. His nose was like mosaic tiles."
Although the dapper Mackovic never left the field, his white shirt did. Stained from his skid on the track, it was removed, and a student manager was dispatched to the locker room to fetch another. Still, Mackovic's hair remained amazingly un-tussled. "He likes to be in control," says Arlene. "Of everything."