A Going Away Party in Colorado : Fiesta Bowl: With Salaam turning pro and McCartney resigning, Buffaloes go out in big way, 41-24, over Notre Dame.
Coach Bill McCartney was already leaving and junior Heisman Trophy winner Rashaan Salaam joined him by ending all speculation and announcing his departure for the pros after the game, but despite it all, the Buffaloes had much to celebrate.
Though there was no title on the line, Kordell Stewart and Salaam combined for five touchdowns Monday in leading the No. 4 Buffaloes to a 41-24 rout of the Fighting Irish in the Fiesta Bowl.
McCartney, who resigned Nov. 19 effective after the season, leaves as the winningest coach in Colorado history (93-55-5). Assistant Rick Neuheisel succeeds him.
Only a 24-7 loss to Nebraska on Oct. 29 prevented Colorado (11-1) from a perfect and perhaps championship season.
Salaam, who earlier said he would make an announcement on his future on Jan. 6 despite repeated inquiries, broke the news only minutes after the blowout of the Fighting Irish.
Saying he made his decision three days ago after consulting with his mother and Colorado offensive coordinator Elliot Uzelac, Salaam said, “Coach Mac’s leaving weighed a little bit.
“Getting so tight with my teammates and executing and having a good time, playing some real tough games--this team has been a college football player’s dream.”
“There are a lot of things going on at CU,” Salaam said. “A lot of coaches are bouncing around, and there’s not a lot of stabiliity going on.
“That was the basis why I decided to come to CU, and I signed a four-year deal. But, like Kordell was saying, I’m leaving with Coach Mac.”
Stewart ran for one touchdown and passed for another, and Salaam had two one-yard scores as the Buffaloes scored on five of their first six possessions for a 31-3 lead late in the first half.
Stewart, overlooked most of the season while Salaam was rushing toward the Heisman Trophy, set team bowl record with 348 total yards. Salaam managed only 83 yards in 27 carries--more than 100 yards below his season average. Stewart ran seven times for 143 yards and completed 11 of 20 passes for 205 more.
Notre Dame’s Ron Powlus, sacked a Fiesta Bowl-record three times by tackle Shannon Clavelle, threw three touchdown passes for the Irish (6-5-1) as Coach Lou Holtz was denied his 200th career victory.
A pair of Powlus scoring tosses to Derrick Mayes closed the gap to 31-17 in the third quarter.
But Neil Voskeritchian’s 48-yard field goal, linebacker Ted Johnson’s interception at the Colorado 33, and Salaam’s third score--a five-yard run--with 9:29 left helped extend Colorado’s lead to 41-17.
After a field goal on their first series, the Buffaloes went 70 yards in five plays for a 10-0 lead. Stewart started the drive with a 29-yard run, then passed 37 yards to Phil Savoy. With the ball at the one, Stewart faked to Salaam and passed to tight end Christian Fauria for the score.
An unsportsmanlike conduct penalty against Colorado on the touchdown forced the Buffaloes to kick off from their own 20, giving Notre Dame good field position. Ron Powlus scrambled for 17 yards to set up Scott Cengia’s 29-yard field goal.
Colorado needed only five plays to go 66 yards for another touchdown early in the second quarter. Stewart gained 35 yards on an option keeper, then passed 22 yards to Michael Westbrook before running the final nine yards for a 17-3 lead with 9:21 left in the half.
Salaam then capped a pair of drives with one-yard scores. Stewart’s 46-yard pass to James Kidd set up the first score.
After a shanked punt by Notre Dame’s Chris Wachtel that covered just eight yards and went out of bounds at the Irish 38, Salaam scored again for a 31-3 advantage with 1:35 left.
Battling the clock, the Irish answered with a touchdown.
Lee Becton turned a short pass into a 36-yard gain, and Powlus passed seven yards to Derrick Mayes for the score with five seconds to go.
Powlus found Mayes with a 39-yard scoring pass in the third quarter, but the Irish couldn’t get closer.
McCartney’s final game ended the way his national championship season of 1990 did--with a victory over Notre Dame.
In the 1991 Orange Bowl, Colorado had a much tougher time before beating the Irish, 10-9, to win its only national title.
Salaam, the fourth major-college player to run for 2,000 yards, led the nation in rushing with 2,051 yards and scoring with 24 touchdowns.
His mother, Khalada Salaam-Alaji of San Diego, said she believes he was advised to move up the announcement in order to relieve some of the pressure.