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Some adverse elements created a perfect storm for the Buffs and their seniors to earn one last win at Folsom Field. The Buffs topped division rival Arizona, 48-29, to send the seniors off in style.
Winds reached more than 70 miles per hour and caused numerous problems in the kicking game for both teams. The wind also tossed a Ralphie Runner’s cowboy hat nearly 20 rows into the stands and set the Buffs right on course in their final home game of the 2011 season.
“Great win for our program. First Pac-12 win. These seniors, they did it,” said Coach Jon Embree following the victory. CU now stands at 2-9 overall, and 1-6 in the Pac-12.
Twenty-eight seniors were honored before the game and played in front of the Boulder fans one last time. Most of the players have been through the trials that have shaken the program over the last few years and made a win on senior day at Folsom Field that much sweeter.
“It means a lot, we have gone through thick and thin,” said quarterback Tyler Hansen who had his redshirt burned midway through his freshman and sophomore seasons. “This group behind me has gone through a lot, we have been tested. I was a wreck before the game, we all were. To go out with a win is special.”
Colorado took a 20-10 lead into halftime following a quirky play late in the first half. Arizona’s punter, Kyle Dugandzic,received a low snap from center and was forced to go to one knee to catch the ball. The turnover on downs gave the Buffs the ball at the Wildcat 28-yard-line. CU capitalized with a touchdown run from Josh Ford.
The Buffs received the ball to open the second half. Colorado engineered an 11-play, 80-yard drive that ended in a touchdown reception by Toney Clemons from Hansen.
CU, who has struggled in many areas this year including third-down conversions (90th in the nation by completing just over 35 percent), succeeded on three during the drive to extend the lead to 17 points.
The Wildcats, who are led by interim head coach Tom Kish after the firing of Mike Stoops, took a chance on the very next drive. They failed to convert on fourth down after a fake punt only to give the ball right back to the Buffs.
CU used trickery of their own to get into the end zone this time. Rodney Stewart, who ran for 181 yards and gained 204 total yards, received a pitch only to throw it back to the Hansen who casually strolled into the end zone to put Colorado up comfortably 34-10.
But as Buff fans know all too well, it’s certainly not over until it’s over.
Arizona’s Tra’Mayne Bondurant returned an interception for a touchdown to give the Wildcats momentum entering the fourth quarter. The tides were turning in favor of Arizona and Embree called a timeout in an odd spot of the game.
“Let’s just say that I was trying to get their attention,” Embree said.
The team responded to Embree’s call for action.
“I was thinking ‘not this time,’ and the other players were thinking the same thing,” Stewart said. “We didn’t panic at all, we just came out there and executed each and every play.”
Stewart rushed for 101 yards and 2 touchdowns in the fourth quarter alone to move the Buffs out of Arizona’s grasp. On his final game in Boulder, Stewart was awarded the Buff Heart Award by fans for his performance.
“It’s unbelievable, it makes me feel great,” Stewart said.
But wouldn’t you know it—seniors propelled a win on ‘Senior Day’.
“It is important for these guys. It is their senior year. It is their last game at home. It is important for them,” Embree said. “They deserve better than what we are going to end up getting, but we are still going to achieve some things, so this is for them.”
The fans were noticeably excited after the game as they rushed onto the field to sing the Colorado fight song.
“It’s been a rough road and its senior day, our last home game. After the game I was telling everybody it feels so great to get this win,” said senior defensive back Travis Sandersfeld. “We could have easily quit, but we still have drive and passion to come out and get this three game winning streak to send the underclassmen off right.”
Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Andy McDonnell at firstname.lastname@example.org.