Is Boulder a football-crazy town? It’s hard to say. But on Saturday, there was no doubt that this city loves their University of Colorado Buffaloes.
The past few years have been rough for CU football fans. Besides the 10-4 Pac-12 South winning team in 2016, the Buffs are coming off back-to-back five to seven years. In fact, CU is just 39-73 since 2010. A struggling decade was perhaps the reason behind a sold-out Folsom Field that was only half-full of Buffs fans, but they were loud when it mattered.
Colorado defeated the No. 25 Nebraska Cornhuskers 34-31 in overtime for a memorable come-from-behind win. When Nebraska’s attempt at a game-tying field goal missed right, the sea of red turned into a sea of black and gold with a field rush for the ages. The university will receive an NCAA fine for the rush, but that was hardly important as CU regained control of their home.
Head coach Mel Tucker led his first game here in Boulder and he couldn’t deny that the game was special.
“There was a lot of red who left here disappointed,” Tucker said. “I never sensed that (Nebraska) had any type of advantage. Our fans were loud, they were supportive, we fed off of our fans (and) our students were great. This is what makes CU a special place.”
Between the lines, junior defensive tackle Mustafa Johnson experienced the game in Nebraska last year and believed this season’s edition was even bigger.
“I was ecstatic,” Johnson said. “Next thing I know, all the fans were running on the field, hitting me and whatnot. It was amazing, I honestly have never been apart of something like that.”
Tucker often says that the most competitive player on a football team has to be the quarterback. Senior Steven Montez epitomized the coach’s feelings with his second-half performance. Leadership was a question mark for CU at the end of last year and Montez has stepped up in a big way to answer that call.
While Montez credits the Husker’s fanbase for showing up on Saturday, he was “almost positive that (CU) fans are definitely louder.”
According to Montez, the rivalry also induced some words on the field.
“To be honest, I think they (Nebraska) talked themselves right out of the game,” Montez said. “I think they came in too amped up. Before the coin toss, they were talking trash, they were at the bottoms of the piles talking trash, they were spitting, they were doing dirty stuff.”
From the fans’ perspective, the rivalry isn’t all hate. Julie Koeplin, a Nebraska fan who is married to a Buffs fan, called the relationship “stressful” when it comes to college loyalty. But she found that Boulder was respectful of the red she displayed on Saturday.
“Everybody has been pretty nice,” Koeplin said. “Nebraska fans are great, we love them, and today just everybody is super nice.”
“Next thing I know, all the fans were running on the field, hitting me and whatnot. It was amazing, I honestly have never been apart of something like that.”
Mustafa Johnson, junior defensive tackle
But not all receive a warm welcome. Melanie Cassidy, the mother of Nebraska player Chris Cassidy, made the trek down to Boulder to watch her son play. She described her acceptance in Boulder as mixed.
“Most people have been okay,” Cassidy said. “We’ve had a few things (said) that were a little negative, but it kinda goes with the territory. It’s a rivalry.”
On the Buffs’ side of things, Melissa Serdinsky wore black and gold with pride.
“I think it’s great,” Serdinsky said. “It’s great that Nebraska’s back playing (Colorado) and it’s a long history.”
All in all, the fan experience appeared to be a success and the fine line of a civil rivalry was met. More importantly, the game helped bring the excitement of football back to Boulder.
Tucker remembers his playing days with the Wisconsin Badgers coming into Boulder and the atmosphere that was here during the early 1990s. With just two games under his belt, Tucker has already gone a long way to bring that environment back to CU.
“We have a great football tradition here,” Tucker said. “This is a football town, football is important to a lot of people. We understand that and you could see that out there today … It was just a great atmosphere for college football, I can’t imagine it being better anywhere else.”
Contact CU Independent Head Sports Editor Jack Carlough at firstname.lastname@example.org.