CHRISTIAN CAPLE

As Colorado heads to the Big 12, 3 UW Huskies-Buffaloes games stand out from Pac-12 era

Jul 28, 2023, 1:58 PM

UW Huskies...

John Ross of the Washington Huskies against the Colorado Buffaloes on Dec. 2, 2016. (Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

(Robert Reiners/Getty Images)

The UW Huskies have played their final Pac-12 game against the Colorado Buffaloes.

Colorado leaving Pac-12, returning to Big 12 in 2024

With CU deciding to leave the conference after this season — and the Buffs one of two Pac-12 teams not on Washington’s 2023 schedule — the Huskies can put a bow on their series history with Colorado, at least as it pertains to league matchups (barring the schools meeting in this year’s conference championship game, that is).

Washington holds a 13-7-1 all-time record against the Buffaloes, but went 8-2 in the 12 seasons since CU joined the Pac-12. Most of those games were ho-hum affairs with few big-picture implications. But there are a few that are worth reflecting on.

Here are three Pac-12-era UW-CU matchups — two UW Huskies victories and one defeat — that stand out.

Nov. 1, 2014: Washington 38, Colorado 23

It’s not as if this was some remarkable victory for the Huskies, who finished Chris Petersen’s first season with an 8-6 record. Colorado, meanwhile, went winless in conference play and finished 2-10.

But this sunny afternoon in Boulder did provide a venue for Shaq Thompson to show why he was perhaps the most unique player in all of college football. Thompson, a former five-star recruit who became an all-conference linebacker and a first-round NFL Draft pick, won the Paul Hornung Award that year as the nation’s most versatile player.

Thompson was a linebacker, but he also played some tailback for the Huskies as a junior … and turned out to be one of their best offensive players. He broke out against the Buffaloes, carrying 15 times for 174 yards and a touchdown. One of those carries covered 56 yards. He also caught a pass that gained 41 yards.

Another fun bit of trivia from that game: Dante Pettis returned a punt 87 yards for a touchdown, ending UW’s 11-year drought without a punt-return score. Pettis went on to set the NCAA record for career punt-return touchdowns with nine.

Dec. 2, 2016: Washington 41, Colorado 10 (Pac-12 Championship)

Pac-12 highlights are few and far between for the Buffaloes, but the 2016 season was the exception: Colorado won the South division and faced Washington in the Pac-12 title game at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif.

This was a fortunate break for the Huskies, because USC — quarterbacked by Sam Darnold — was pretty obviously the best team in the South by season’s end (and handed UW its only regular-season loss). But some early-season struggles cost the Trojans a chance to play for the league title, and Colorado made for a far more manageable opponent.

Washington didn’t put forth its best passing performance (Jake Browning went 9-for-23), but still hung 41 points on the Buffaloes to clinch its first conference championship in 16 years — and a berth in the College Football Playoff. Myles Gaskin rushed for 159 yards, Lavon Coleman rushed for 101, John Ross caught a touchdown pass and freshman safety Taylor Rapp returned an interception for a score.

Despite the Pac-12 champion heading to the CFP, Colorado still had to settle for the Alamo Bowl — where the Buffaloes lost, 38-8, to Oklahoma State — as the Rose Bowl opted to invite USC, instead.

Nov. 23, 2019: Colorado 20, Washington 14

Again, this result won’t immediately jump off the page: it was a bad loss during a mediocre season, one the Huskies finished with an 8-5 record after playing in three consecutive New Year’s Six bowl games from 2016-18. Colorado finished 5-7 in what turned out to be first-year coach Mel Tucker’s only season in Boulder; he left for Michigan State the following February.

This game should stand out, though, as the final one Washington played before Petersen made his shocking decision to resign at the end of the 2019 season. He announced that decision two days after the Apple Cup — which the Huskies won to improve to 7-5 — and said at his press conference the next day that he made up his mind “two or three days” before facing Washington State, and coached that game knowing he was about to step down.

That means UW’s loss to Colorado was the final game Petersen coached without knowing it would be his final season.

The Huskies faced the Buffaloes two more times, one under coach Jimmy Lake (a 20-17 loss at Boulder in 2021) and another under coach Kalen DeBoer (a 54-7 romp in Seattle last season). Former UW coach Steve Sarkisian went 3-0 against Colorado, winning those games by a combined score of 149-34 from 2011-13.

All told, the Huskies outscored the Buffaloes 377-137 as members of the same conference, and scored 40-plus points in four of their 10 meetings. CU did not score more than 24 points against UW as a Pac-12 member.

This column from UW Huskies football insider Christian Caple is exclusive to Seattle Sports. Subscribe to OnMontlake.com for full access to Caple’s in-depth Husky coverage.

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