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William F. Reed
October 15, 1990
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October 15, 1990

College Report

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Since the Big Eight Conference didn't do the right thing by awarding Missouri a 31-27 victory over Colorado, wouldn't it be wonderful to see the Colorado president, William H. Baughn, take the high road and insist on giving up his school's tainted 33-31 win? Such a move wouldn't be unprecedented. In 1940, Cornell relinquished a tarnished 7-3 victory over Dartmouth, and to this day the game stands in the record book as a 3-0 win for Dartmouth (page 110). Besides striking a blow for sportsmanship, a similar action by Colorado would give the Buffaloes, and big-time college football in general, some badly needed positive exposure.

Yeah, sure, it's not Colorado's fault that the officials lost track of the number of downs at the end of last week's game in Columbia. Amazing as it seems in retrospect, the Buffaloes, trailing 31-27, got five chances to score after getting first-and-goal at the Missouri three-yard line with 30 seconds remaining. On first down, quarterback Charles Johnson, subbing for the injured Darian Hagan, took the snap and grounded the ball, stopping the clock with 28 seconds showing. On second down, tailback Eric Bieniemy dived for two yards to the one. At this point, with 18 seconds left, Colorado took its final timeout, but, as TV replays later showed, the down wasn't changed on either the sideline marker or on the scoreboard.

After Bieniemy was stopped for no gain with eight seconds to go, the clock was briefly stopped, apparently because Colorado coach Bill McCartney had complained to the officials that Missouri was getting up too slowly from pileups. Then, on what should have been fourth down, Johnson grounded the ball again, stopping the clock at 0:02. On fifth down, Johnson sneaked in for the winning TD.

Players from both teams began leaving the field while irate fans began streaming onto it. Then, after a 15-minute delay, the officials summoned both teams back for the extra-point attempt, because the Tigers could conceivably block the kick and return it for the tying two points. But Johnson took the snap under center and fell on the ball, ending the game and beginning the chaos. A group of Missouri fans took out their frustration by tearing down a goalpost, and the seven-man officiating crew was pelted with debris as it left the field with a police escort.

After reviewing films of the game for two days, the Big Eight on Monday indefinitely suspended all seven of the officials. But the league's commissioner, Carl James, who was at the game, said the final score would remain the same. "The rules of football," he said, "do not allow for changing the outcome of the game." McCartney tried to deflect attention by criticizing the slippery footing on Missouri's six-year-old artificial turf. "We slipped and slid all day, or we would have put more points on the board, I'll tell you that," said McCartney. To which Missouri athletic director Dick Tamburo replied, "If he's complaining about slipping on the turf, I'm complaining about seven officials who can't count."

So, will anyone at Colorado be a good sport, as Cornell's president was in '40, and give up the win? Or is that just the pointy-headed Ivy League way of doing things, always letting little things like principle and integrity get in the way of the really important stuff, like winning at any cost? On Monday, Missouri formally petitioned the Big Eight to have the game's outcome reversed. That won't happen, and the Buffaloes seemed determined to keep the win, even though it's difficult to see how McCartney or his players can get any satisfaction from it.


Let's hear it for San Diego State coach Al Luginbill. Instead of being deliriously happy with a tie against Wyoming last Saturday, as many of his brethren would have been, he went for the win. At the end of a wild game in Laramie, Wyo., an offensive slugfest in which San Diego State and Wyoming combined for 1,263 yards of offense, the Aztecs pulled to within 52-51 on Dan McGwire's 12-yard touchdown pass to Jake Nyberg with 2:10 remaining. Luginbill then went for two points.

The attempt failed, thanks to a strong rush by Wyoming's Outland Trophy candidate Mitch Donohue, who forced McGwire into an off-balance throw. But at least Luginbill gave his team what it had earned, which was an opportunity to win. After the missed conversion, Wyoming recovered an onside kick and ran out the clock to improve its record to 6-0.

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