For a cultural outlet, black students at Colorado often drive 40 minutes to Denver. "Not just for nightclubs," says Jones, who is from San Diego. "But for churches, jazz concerts, restaurants—things you take for granted growing up in a black community." Black players say that Boulder doesn't even have a barber shop that knows how to cut their hair. Fortunately, defensive tackle Art Walker has won his teammates' trust as a hairstylist. "You just show Art a picture of what you want, he does it," says Jones.
While all has been quiet this fall, Colorado's black players are not ready to say that the racial climate in Boulder has improved. Says Flannigan, "During the season we're not on the streets that much. Ask me again this winter."
On the Monday before the Nebraska game, Flannigan's immediate problem was the throng of reporters gathered outside the Colorado clubhouse before practice. He knew that he would be one of the team's most sought-after interviews—the result of an old error. In the second quarter against Nebraska last season, Flannigan had burst into the Husker secondary and found himself face-to-face with nothing but daylight. Six points, easy, for Flannigan, who has run the 40 in 4.28. Except that, without being touched, he dropped the ball. Colorado lost 7-0, and Flannigan learned he would never hear the last of that fumble.
Monday's practice ended with a lesson on—of all things—how to eat lobster. That night, the supplier of the team's training meals was to make good on his offer of a lobster dinner if the Buffaloes beat Oklahoma. The tutoring, though, was wasted on Salavea. "In Samoa, that was all we ate," he said. He consumed several lobsters, including, to the general disgust of everyone at his table, the crustaceans' brains and, as his teammates described it, "green stuff."
Strength coach Jeff (Maddog) Madden, for one, was glad to see it. Madden routinely inspects Salavea's plate after meals to be certain he is consuming enough, for Salavea is a finicky eater and has had problems keeping weight on. Last year, he played at 236; he is now at 265, give or take a lobster claw or two.
Amid the lobster shells, the talk at dinner was of Nebraska linebacker Jeff Mills. Posted on the bulletin board in the Colorado locker room was an article from the Rocky Mountain News in which Mills was quoted as saying, "They can use Sal Aunese's death however they want...they still have to strap it up and play football."
The Buffs regarded those as fighting words. Said fullback Erich Kissick, "If he's implying we're milking Sal's death, he doesn't know what he's talking about. Sal will be with me the rest of my life."
Said McCartney, "Nobody could orchestrate the way the team has come together. Nobody could plan it. It just comes from within."
In his office several days before the Nebraska game, McCartney noted that snow was in the forecast, and the observation triggered a memory. "When it gets cold up here, a lot of guys put on gloves and add layers of clothes," said the coach. "Not Sal. Sal was from San Diego, but he refused to acknowledge the cold. He'd go out in short sleeves, just like a lineman. It was like that when he got sick. He refused to show us his pain. Only his spirit." By the end of his reminiscence, McCartney was crying.
By the next morning, Boulder was under five inches of snow. "This isn't bad," said Walker. "It isn't one of those bitter cold snows we get in February, around then." He was equally unimpressed with Nebraska's offensive line, which he had been studying on film since 8 a.m. "Oh, they do some things to try to trick you. They'll pull a guard one way and run the other way. Nothing I haven't seen."