The greatest games The Denver Post sports department has ever seen

Members of The Denver Post’s sports section have watched or reported on sporting events as reporters or fans their whole lives. So it’s safe to say that we’ve witnessed more than a few good games. Here are some of our favorites:

CU Buffs 20, No. 3 Nebraska 10

Date / locationOctober 25, 1986, Folsom Field

Short: Sorry to the late great Fred “The Count” Casotti, I’m a bit of a CU football historian, and I consider this game the milestone that started Buffs’ biggest run. CU had gone a long, miserable 17 years without beating the Cornhuskers, which coach Bill McCartney boldly called Buffs’ rivals. But in a real rivalry, one team doesn’t win all matches and CU had a lot to prove. The Buffs played exceptional defenses and the attack scored long touchdowns on a downside by Jeff “Soupy” Campbell and a halfback pass from O.C. Oliver to Lance Carl. The streak was over, the goal posts were taken away and an era had arrived. The Buffs won the national championship four years later in the middle of a 20-season span (largely) of excellence. I think the count would approve. – Mike Judson

UNLV 90, Georgia Tech 81

Date / location: March 31, 1990, NCAA Final Four, McNichols Sports Arena

Short: In the history of Denver sports, there has never been a wild rollercoaster ride until 1990, from the agony of the lopsided loss of the Broncos to San Francisco in the Super Bowl to the crazy and thrilling thrills of the CU Buffs’ National Championship. Plus, we were blessed with the lonely appearance of the Final Four in our dusty old cow town. That NCAA tournament was unforgettable for Loyola Marymount’s inspired run after Hank Gathers ‘death and one of the hottest shows ever in Vegas: Larry Johnson’s Runnin’ Rebs and Tark the Shark. Before blowing Duke out of the modest (and dumpy) McNichols Sports Arena for the championship, UNLV was forced to recover from a seven-point deficit against Georgia Tech in the semifinals. The jackets were led by high-scoring Dennis Scott, but the NCAA’s player of the year was just one of six future first-round NBA picks on the floor. And I will believe this forever: if dirty problems couldn’t find Kenny Anderson in the second half, Tech UNLV would have broken. – Mark Kiszla

Nuggets 98, Sonics 94 (OT)

Bill Chan, The Associated Press

Dikembe Mutombo of the Denver Nuggets celebrates his teams’ victory over the Seattle SuperSonics, Saturday, May 7, 1994, Seattle, Washington. Denver defeated Seattle, 98-94, to take the best-of-five series 3-2.

Date / location: May 7, 1994, Western Conference First Round (Game 5), Tacoma Dome

Short: They were far from the best team in franchise history, but have Nuggets ever had more fun than Dikembe Mutombo, LaPhonso Ellis and Mahmoud Abdul-Rauf as dashing NBA kids? I still laugh to think about how Denver led by eighth-seeded Seattle coach George Karl in the opening round of the playoffs to distractions and then top-placed Sonics, who set a record of 37-4 in the regular season on their home floor, in a win-or-go-home Game 5. The unlikely heroes were two backups: Robert Pack scored 23 points and Brian Williams took 19 rebounds. But the images that are forever etched in my memory are that Mutombo blocks a shot from Shawn Kemp late in extra time and then falls flat on his back in the lane after the last buzzer, lifting the ball to the sky, as a thank offering for the basketball gods. – Mark Kiszla

CU Buffs 27, Kansas State 17

Date / locationNovember 18, 1995, KSU Stadium, Manhattan, Kan.

Short: A Forerunner: My all-time favorite game is Pittsburgh Penguins-Washington Capitals Game 2 of the 2009 Eastern Conference semifinals, when Sidney Crosby and Alex Ovechkin both scored hat-tricks. But with a Colorado theme, and since the source of the recent Broncos has dried up, I went way back. The Cotton Bowl was at stake when CU visited Kansas in the 1995 regular season finale. I was a K-State undergrad for the game for the Topeka Capital-Journal (good experience) and the K-State Collegian (no comment) . Down 17-13 with 2:24 remaining, the Buffs took the lead on a six-play, 80-yard drive that took only 80 seconds and was covered by quarterback John Hessler’s 20-yard touchdown pass to James Kidd. The Buffs added a clumsy recovery in the end zone to secure the 27-17 victory. I was on the sidelines for the end of the game, which made it particularly memorable rather than watching it from the glass press box. It was grand college football at its best and started a lively rivalry in CU-Kansas State for the rest of the 1990s. – Ryan O’Halloran

Broncos 31, Packers 24

The greatest games The Denver Post sports department has ever seen

(AP Photo / John Gaps III, file)

Security Steve Atwater jumps up to block a Brett Farve pass during Broncos’ Super Bowl XXXII win against Green Bay on January 25, 1998 in San Diego, California.

Date / locationJanuary 25, 1998, Super Bowl XXXII, Qualcomm Stadium in San Diego.

Short: First a confession. I was born and raised in Colorado and became a Broncos fan when I was a toddler. I attended some of the most meaningful games in Broncos history, including their victory over the Raiders in the 1977 AFC title game that sent Denver to its first Super Bowl. My brother Steve captured the Colorado flag flying over the South Stands that day, while my cousin Mark took home the American flag. So imagine my emotions when the Broncos won their first Super Bowl. At the time, I was the sports editor of the Longmont Times-Call and worked with Troy Renck. The memories remain vivid. Elway’s helicopter. John Mobley knocked over Brett Favre’s last pass. Pat Bowling shouted, “This one’s for John!” I would be an impartial sports journalist (as if there is such a thing). But I’d like to admit I got confused when the Broncos beat the Packers. I then got chills with Elway’s father, Jack, in the dressing room. Patrick Saunders

Avalanche 3, Devils 1

Ray Bourque

John Leyba, The Denver Post

Avalanche Ray Bourque raises the Stanley Cup over his head after Game 7 of the 2001 Stanley Cup Finals in Denver.

Date / locationJune 9, 2001, Stanley Cup Final, Game 7, Pepsi Center

Short: When my husband and I approached the Pepsi Center, someone offered us nearly $ 2000 in cash for our tickets! But since day 1, we were subscribers, joining 18,000 other raw fans screaming and shaking our white pompoms. Alex Tanguay opened the score in the middle of the first period and again beat in the second. Joe Sakic made it 3-0 after a power-play opportunity, but the Devils countered with a power-play goal of their own. Even with Patrick Roy in the net, the last century and a half seemed like an eternity. Looking back at the summary of the match, it seems impossible that each team had only five shots on target in the third period, as we turned down the minutes and seconds to see Sakic take the Stanley Cup and give it to Ray Bourque so he finally he could lift it above his head. – Lori Punko

DU Pioneers 1, Maine Black Bears 0

Date / location: April 11, 2004, at FleetCenter in Boston (now TD Garden)

Short: DU captured his sixth NCAA Championship and broke an extraordinary 35-year drought for 35 months after losing legendary alum Keith Magnuson in a car accident. Some believe it was Magnuson who invisibly tripped a Maine attacker during an escape and set the game to 1-1 in the third period. Denver, which benefited from a disapproved Maine goal due to an outdated skate-in-the-crease rule, killed a 6-for-3 drawback in the last 1:18 of the game and Pioneers goalkeeper Adam Berkhoel ended with a 24 Save a shutout to relieve his mother’s intense emotional anxiety captured by ESPN cameras. The game was played to a dual audience of 18,597 – the largest hockey rally in a building that still houses the Boston Bruins – and the result broke Maine’s 10-game winning streak. – Mike Chambers

Rockies 9, Padres 8

Matt Holliday from Colorado Rockies, on ...

Jack Dempsey, Associated Press file

In this October 1, 2007 photo, Matt Holliday of the Colorado Rockies is flooded on the ground by teammates Troy Tulowitzki (2) and Yorvit Torrealba (8) as San Diego Padres catcher Michael Barrett (4) watches after Holliday scored the score during the 13th inning of a wildcard tiebreaker baseball game in Denver.

Date / location: October 1, 2007, Game 163, Coors Field

Short: The Rockies’ wild-card tiebreaker against San Diego had it all: future Hall of Famers, extra innings, young Troy Tulowitzki, Matt Holliday and his bloody chin, and a sold-out crowd went mad. The game lasted 13 innings, lasted 4 hours, 40 minutes and had 15 pitchers in total. The 13th inning was when the magic unfolded as the Padres led Scott Hairston’s homerun with two runs to leftfield. Hall of Fame poet Trevor Hoffman climbed the mound in the bottom half and was immediately hit, with Kazuo Matsui and Tulowitzki (4-for-7) hitting back-to-back doubles to narrow the lead to 8-7. Holliday followed with a triple to the right to balance the game. Todd Helton was walked intentionally to bring forward the unlikely hero Jamey Carroll, whose flyball to shallow rightfield Holliday scored from third place after tapping and sliding first into the head of his house, banging his chin. This was the start of Rocktober – a great run in October that ended with the franchise’s first and only World Series trip. – Jeff Bailey

Steelers 27, Cardinals 23

The greatest games The Denver Post sports department has ever seen

Al Bello, Getty Images

James Harrison # 92 of the Pittsburgh Steelers scores a touchdown after a 100-yard interception in the second quarter against the Arizona Cardinals during Super Bowl XLIII on February 1, 2009, at Raymond James Stadium in Tampa, Florida.

Date / location: February 1, 2009, Super Bowl XLIII, Raymond James Stadium in Tampa

ShortJames Harrison in the beginning, Bruce Springsteen in the middle and Larry Fitzgerald and Santonio Holmes exchanging punches during the bitter, wild ending. Thanks to Harrison’s 100-meter interception return, the favorite Steelers took a 17-7 lead at rest. Pittsburgh expanded that cushion to 20-7 in the fourth quarter before the script did a triple lutz. The final 7:40 of the game saw the Cardinals, behind vintage Kurt Warner and two Fitzgerald scores, roll away 16 straight runs to take a 23-20 lead with 2:37 left in regulation. But what was about to become one of the biggest comebacks in Super Bowl history was replaced by a brilliant Steelers touchdown drive, topped by Holmes’ corner tip tip catch with another 35 seconds about. Warner, then 37, didn’t have enough time to answer, but in hindsight, the feat likely contributed to solidify the undeveloped caller’s eventual selection to the Pro Football Hall of Fame. – Sean Keeler

US 1, Costa Rica 0

The greatest games The Denver Post sports department has ever seen

Denver Post file

US striker Clint Dempsey (8) scores a goal against Costa Rica goalkeeper Keilor Navas (1) during the first half of a FIFA 2014 World Cup Qualifier match at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on March 22, 2013 in Commerce City.

Date / location: March 22, 2013, Dick’s Sporting Goods Park

Short: In arguably the most outstanding football game ever played on Colorado soil, the US men’s national team hosted Costa Rica in a World Cup qualifier now known as the ‘Snow Clasico’. Heavy, wet spring snowflakes began to fall just before kickoff, and by the end of the game, several inches had collected. Clint Dempsey, who was the captaincy for the United States, scored after 16 minutes and buried a rebound on a deflected shot by Jozy Altidore. The field conditions deteriorated significantly as the game progressed, and the team crew often ran onto the field to clear the 18-meter boxlines with kicks when the ball was on the other side. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan shutout a noisy sold-out crowd. Costa Rica filed a formal protest to have the game played again, which FIFA rejected. – Dan Boniface

Oklahoma State 38, Oklahoma 35 (OT)

Date / location: December 6, 2014, Memorial Stadium, Norman, Okla.

Short: OSU was seven points behind with less than a minute left and no timeouts when an OU point pinned the Cowboys on their own 15. But wait! There was a flag to run against the kicker. OU coach Bob Stoops, eager for a better field position, accepted the penalty and chose to repoint the football. It was a bad choice since the player came back to give it back – a man named Tyreek Hill. The future NFL all-pro sprinted 92 yards for a touchdown to force overtime, and behind true freshman quarterback Mason Rudolph, the Cowboys completed an unlikely walk-off winner with a field goal. The last win in the regular season gave OSU bowl suitability, arguably saved coach Mike Gundy’s job and provided a moment I will never forget from my time playing Cowboys football for The Oklahoman. – Kyle Fredrickson

Broncos 20, Patriots 18

Outside linebacker Von Miller (58) from ...

Helen H. Richardson, The Denver Post

Outside of linebacker, Von Miller (58) fired from the Denver Broncos quarterback Tom Brady (12) from the New England Patriots in the second quarter. The Denver Broncos played the New England Patriots in the AFC Championship game at Sports Authority Field at Mile High in Denver, CO on January 24, 2016.

Date / location: January 24, 2016, Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Short: It may have been the last chapter between Tom Brady and Peyton Manning, but the legendary quarterbacks were not the main attraction. Denver’s all-pro edge rusher, Von Miller was downright unstoppable against the mighty Patriots, brady Brady all through the game, taking up 2.5 sacks. The Broncos defense ended an acclaimed attack in New England with an average of an AFC-leading 29.1 points per game during the regular season. A few early touchdowns from Manning to Owen Daniels with a tight ending and a few field goals from Brandon McManus were all Denver needed to hit his ticket to Super Bowl 50 for 77,112 deafening fans. – Joe Nguyen

Pomona 56, Eaglecrest 49

Pomona head coach Jay Madden ...

Aron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Pomona Panthers head coach Jay Madden is doused in water by players after the second half of Pomona’s 56-49 win over the Eaglecrest Raptors in the Colorado class 5A state title game on Saturday, December 2, 2017. The combined 105 points are the most in a 5A- title game ever.

Date / location: December 2, 2017, Sports Authority Field at Mile High

Short: In a championship heavyweight fight where neither team refused to stop demolishing, Pomona defeated Eaglecrest in the highest-grossing class 5A football title game in Colorado history. Gold Helmet Award winner and current Washington State star Max Borghi led the Panthers with 247 rushing yards and three touchdowns, securing Pomona’s second state title after falling into the championship the previous two seasons. While quarterback Ryan Marquez and widespread Billy Pospisil also played for the Panthers, making three touchdowns, the grim Eaglecrest bounced back from an early 14-0 deficit behind quarterback Jalen Mergerson and Kenny Wantings’ attacking prowess. Just when you thought a team was gone, a turnover or a big scoring game would swing momentum the other way. – Kyle Newman

Blazers 140, Nuggets 137 (4 OT)

Gary Harris (14) from the Denver ...

Aron Ontiveroz, The Denver Post

Gary Harris (14) of the Denver Nuggets tugs on the jersey of CJ McCollum (3) of the Portland Trail Blazers while Jamal Murray (27) of the Denver Nuggets provides assistance during the first quarter on Friday, May 3, 2019.

Date / location: May 3, 2019, Western Conference Semifinal (Game 3), Moda Center

Short: I remember the candy. In Portland, unlike other NBA arenas, visiting reporters are treated to a variety of Sour Patch kids, Butterfingers, and Twix bars – all within easy reach of media seats. You can see how my stomach would have danced in the middle of the second four-off playoff game in NBA history. That doesn’t even explain the pressures of newspaper deadlines, which I had long passed by the time the Blazers survived the Nuggets 140-137 in Game 3 of their second round series. Nikola Jokic played a whopping 65 minutes and tripled. The team flipped back and forth in the extension sessions, with the lead changed several times, but no significant distance was ever created. In the end, the Blazers turned to Rodney Hood in the fourth extension. As one of the few players left on either side with legs left, Hood buried seven consecutive points as time ticked. – Mike Singer

CU Buffs 34, Nebraska 31 (OT)

Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Tony Brown ...

Andy Cross, The Denver Post

Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Tony Brown (18) makes a catch against Nebraska Cornhuskers cornerback Lamar Jackson (21) in the first quarter at Folsom Field, September 7, 2019.

Date / location: September 7, 2019, Folsom Field

Short: The Big Red invasion began early on Saturday morning, when thousands of Husker fans descended on the Flatirons to renew a rivalry neither fan ever wanted to leave. At kick-off, more than half of the stadium was painted red, with only the student section and part of the bottom bowl filled with Buff’s allegiance. What followed was a back-and-forth affair in which the Buffs recovered from a 17-0 deficit – a 96-yard Steven Montez-to-K.D. Nixon flea flicker, a 7-yard Years Mangham TD run and 26-yard fade from Montez to Troy Brown, the highlights. James Stefanou’s 34-meter field goal put CU ahead in OT, and then the last of Mustafa Johnson’s three sacks forced a 50-meter field goal attempt from Isaac Armstrong that fluttered wide to the right as the student section flooded Folsom Field. – Matt Schubert

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