Colorado vs Missouri: The Fifth Down Game

Fifth Down Game
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Cast your minds back 30 years to a college football season unlike the one of today. The college football scene around the country was far different from the number of games to conferences to the way a National Champion was crowned to the media coverage. In 1990, the Colorado Buffaloes were on their way to winning (sharing with Georgia Tech) the National Championship. But Colorado wouldn’t have got a hold of the title had it not been for a controversial moment against the Missouri Tigers, in a game that would become known as “The Fifth Down Game”. The race for the College Football Playoffs will be exciting once again in 2020 with both Colorado and Missouri in the hunt. Football fans can visit to get a bet bonus and tips on all of the weekly college football games.

The Fifth Down Game: 30 years since controversy in Columbia

The controversy in Columbia that allowed Colorado to go onto a share of the National Title came away from home. It was a moment of confusion and chaos in which the home team’s chain gang made a huge mistake costing the Tigers the game and sending Bill McCartney’s team on to a share of the championship.

What happened?

Colorado had finished No. 4 in the nation in 1989 losing what would have been the National Championship decider to Notre Dame in the Orange Bowl. It was the team’s only loss of the season. In 1990, Colorado was arguably a better team although they went into Columbia in front of over 46,000 fans ranked 12th with a record of 3-1-1.

The Buffaloes were without starting quarterback Darian Hagan for the game due to injury. Hagan is considered one of, if not the, greatest quarterbacks in Colorado history. The signal-caller was replaced by Charles Johnson, who was also capable of running the team’s offense to move the yardsticks.

With the Buffaloes trailing and marching toward the endzone, Johnson spiked the ball on first down to stop the clock with seconds left. On second down, Colorado ran the ball unsuccessfully before calling a timeout. It was here that the Missouri chain gang didn’t change the down marker. Colorado once again ran the ball on second down (which was really third down) and again it was unsuccessful. Johnson then spiked the ball once more to kill the clock on third down (which was actually fourth down).

Colorado now had a further down due to the chain gang’s massive error. The fifth down allowed Johnson to run a quarterback sneak and punch the ball into the endzone for the winning score. The Buffaloes won 33-31 as chaos descended on Columbia with fans going nuts running onto the field.

…But wait!

As game officials raised their arms for the touchdown, cameras showed Johnson never made it into the endzone causing further controversy. Even before the fifth down, officials had stopped the game clock claiming Missouri’s defenders were delaying the game adding fuel to the fire of conspiracy.

Chaos rained down on Faurot Field after the final whistle. The Buffaloes celebrated the win but fans stormed the field and chased the officials off of it. They also tore down the south end goalposts, which had only been erected for that game after being taken down by fans after a shock win against Arizona State weeks earlier.

The Aftermath

Colorado dropped two places in the top 25 after the win. However, the team’s unbeaten run to finish out the season saw them shoot up to the No. 1 position. Colorado then went onto win the Orange Bowl 10-9 avenging the previous season’s loss to Notre Dame. Missouri collapsed after the loss going 4-7 to finish out the campaign.

Although the Missouri-Colorado rivalry ended with both schools leaving the Big 12, they continued to play heated games until their respective departures. The date of October 6, 1990, is still considered a black day around Columbia and memories of the Fifth Down Game still live on with a certain generation of football fans.

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