Just when you thought that Colorado had filled its quota of Houdini acts for the season, doggone if the Buffaloes didn't come up with their most amazing escape yet. Remember how they blocked a field goal on the game's final play to preserve a 19-19 tie with Nebraska? And how they scored a touchdown off a fake field goal, with only six seconds remaining, to steal a 16-12 win from Oklahoma State? Well, all that was just a warmup for what they did to poor Kansas in Boulder.
With 10:49 left in the third quarter, all Colorado had to overcome was a raging snowstorm; the loss of quarterback Darian Hagan, who had been sidelined in the first quarter with a sprained right ankle; and a 24-10 deficit against a frenzied Jayhawk team that could almost smell its first bowl invitation in 10 years—a Freedom Bowl bid that was contingent upon a Kansas victory. Pretty tough, huh? Naw. Not for Houdini U.
First, backup quarterback Vance Joseph threw a 20-yard TD pass to wingback Michael Westbrook. With 12:11 left in the game, the Buffaloes closed the gap to 24-23 on a 19-yard run by tailback Lamont Warren. Instead of kicking the extra point for a tie, however, coach Bill McCartney went for a two-point conversion pass. It failed. "We didn't want anything to do with a tie," said McCartney.
He also called for a fake punt with under four minutes to go, but that fizzled, too, giving Kansas the ball at the Colorado 42. Despite these setbacks, the Buffaloes held and took over with 2:09 remaining. With no timeouts, they drove 80 yards on eight plays, scoring with 40 seconds left, for a 30-24 win that kept them tied with Nebraska for the Big Eight lead.
It was the second week in a row that Joseph, whose older brother, Mickey, is the backup quarterback for Nebraska, had pulled out a win after relieving Hagan. Afterward Kansas coach Glen Mason said, "Right now, I don't know if there's a team in college football that knows how to win better than Colorado does."
Alabama nearly dropped out of sight after a humiliating 35-0 loss to Florida on Sept. 14. Since then the Crimson Tide has won eight straight games, and it will take a spiffy 9-1 record into its final regular-season game, against 5-5 Auburn in Birmingham on Nov. 30. But the question remains: Has Alabama improved dramatically, or has it just been lucky? The Tide got pushed all over the place by lowly Memphis State last Saturday before pulling out a 10-7 win. In its three previous games, 'Bama squeaked by Tennessee 24-19, Mississippi State 13-7 and LSU 20-17. "I'd say we've had a lot of luck the last few games," said freshman quarterback Jay Barker, who quickly added, "The luck comes with the hard work."
For all its industry, however, the final stats showed that Alabama got only 11 first downs and 130 yards rushing, both season lows, against a Memphis State defense that had surrendered 52 points to Tennessee and 33 to Tulsa. Fortunately for the Tide, its defenders bailed out the offense. All the same, Tiger quarterback Keith Benton was impressive, running for 52 yards and passing for 114 more, a performance that prompted Alabama coach Gene Stallings to seek him out after the game to congratulate him.
Memphis State missed a couple of opportunities to score when kicker Joe Allison, a nephew of stock car driver Bobby Allison, missed second-half field goal attempts from 40 and 23 yards. Finally, with 3:51 remaining and the Tigers threatening again at the Crimson Tide 18, Benton, under intense pressure from 'Bama nose-tackle Robert Stewart, ran into defensive end John Copeland, who stripped the ball and recovered it at the 27, ending Memphis State's last hope for an upset.
Even if Alabama is more lucky than good, its performance is a tribute to Stallings. After replacing Bill Curry as the Tide's coach before the start of last season, Stallings lost his first three games, but since then 'Bama has a 16-3 record.