Shortly following the blowout win at Colorado State in the afternoon, I hustle the hour down to Boulder, Colorado for a nightcap under the lights of Folsom Field. The Colorado Buffaloes are hosting the prolific offense of Arizona State in a primetime Pac 12 matchup. I park in a residential neighborhood about a mile and half from campus, and with a perfect day overhead, hoof it towards the stadium. The walk is an easy one in Boulder, as the environmentally conscious city is connected by an extensive web of smooth, dedicated concrete bike paths. I even pass by a few automated bicycle rental kiosks, and while the dorky looking, red rental cruisers are tempting, I find myself unable to decipher the complex payment and rental system and carry on at a brisk stroll.

As I near campus, the signature aroma of grill smoke wafts through the air, and a few black tents poke into the skyline beyond. The Colorado campus proves as beautiful as it’s reputation belies. Impeccably kept grounds are manicured like putting greens, flanked by red sandstone clad buildings, the pristine facades reflecting hues of pink and rust in the last few hours of amber sunlight. I make note of a handful of highly visible signs posted on the “smoke free” Colorado campus explicitly banning smoking – of any substance – a comical juxtaposition to the liberal attitudes of the state towards the good herb. A steady flow of black clad fans march towards the beckoning lights of the stadium, a few infiltrating maroon shirts sprinkled in amongst the rabble.

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Ticket reselling is prohibited on the UC campus, so I walk a block south to the intersection of Colorado Ave and Folsom streets to see how the market looks. Shortly after thrusting a lone finger into the air, I immediately recognize one of the scalpers that swarms around, a stout Mexican with a pock marked face – the exact guy I bought my Colorado State ticket from earlier that afternoon. He’s either cagey that I recognized him, or snake-bit from my hammering earlier in the day, but he’s obstinate to any bargaining this time around. Dismissing my half face value offers with a back handed wave, I’m forced to search for something more reasonable.

A few minutes later, I’m flagged down by a pair of stogie puffing, 40 something guys enjoying a small tailgate from the back of a black SUV parked onto a narrow stretch of grass. Bob introduces himself, and informs me that his wife didn’t show up for their third ticket, and offers a choice seat on the 35 yard line in the 13th row. For thirty five bucks, he also throws in a handful of pre game beers, a gentlemanly offer that I quickly accept. Both avid Colorado fans, Bob and Shannon have known each other since rooming together freshman year, and have been coming to games ever since. They were in school during the Buffs heyday in the early 1990’s, when they stampeded through the old Big 8 conference behind greats like Rashon Salom and Kordell Stewart. Thrusting a local New Belgium Ale into my hands, both men are fascinated by my story, and we spend the next thirty minutes chatting football and swapping stories about some of our favorite destinations across the country.

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With about 45 minutes until kickoff, I leave the pair to finish their cigars and head into the stadium, not wanting to miss a second of the infamous Colorado entrance. I’m bogged down briefly on the way into the stadium by inane security proceedings, as the crowd is corralled into cattle guards and and waved over with metal detectors. But I’m in my seat with plenty of time to watch the final thirty minutes of pre game warmups, the receivers running crisp patterns against the sideline while the tailbacks work on their best jukes. Built in 1924, Folsom Field is one of the older stadiums in college football, and like many footprints of that era the stands sit nearly on top of the field with only a narrow sliver of real estate for the team bench. It creates an intimate feel for a stadium of it’s capacity, and affords a better view of all the action on the field, including one of the best pre game traditions in all of sports. In the corner of the endzone, a square, golden corral sits surrounded by a dozen or so handlers dressed in Wranglers and cowboy hats, while a few admirers brave close enough for a photo opportunity. Ralphie the Buffalo lies in wait…

Easily the coolest mascot in college football, Ralphie the Buffalo (technically Ralphie the V) is a live 1300lb American Buffalo that runs onto the field during the opening and halftimes of Colorado football games. After practicing for two hours a day, five days a week, Ralphie and her (yes, It’s a female buffalo) team of handlers make their spectacular entrance as the pre game clock winds down to kickoff. While the full handling team appears to be over a dozen strong, there are five brave souls tasked with actually running Ralphie around the field. As the crowd hushes with anticipation, the corral is thrust open as the PA announcer booms “Here comes Ralphieeee!!!” while the great beast bursts out of the gates to the joy of the vociferous Buffs crowd. Thundering out beyond the fifty yard line in a semicircle, the handlers sprint for dear life, clutching leather reigns as they struggle to keep up with the majestic animal. By the time Ralphie nears her terminus inside the aluminum horse trailer parked on the edge of the field, she’s nearly dragging all five handlers behind her, rumbling onto the ramp as the team dives out of the way in exhaustion. Forget about all the smoke and jock jam entrances you have seen, watching Ralphie run is the most electrifying fifteen second entrance in the sport.

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As the game kicks off, the Arizona State squad immediately take command. Known for their prolific offense under head coach Todd Graham, the Sun Devils run roughshod over the Buffaloes, laying 17 points on them in the first quarter alone. Devils quarterback Taylor Kelly leads the charge, firing three touchdowns and rushing for another one before going down with an injury late in the third quarter. The Buffs simply never answer the high powered ASU offense, routinely being gashed for big plays. To their credit, however, the Colorado squad battles until the final whistle. Even late into the 4th quarter with the game all but decided, they put up a fight, mounting a 99 yard touchdown drive to bring themselves within 14. But it’s too little, too late, and Arizona State skates away with a 38-24 win and a chance to climb further up the polls.

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Thanks to Shannon and Bob for the ticket and the warm Colorado hospitality. Hopefully your Buffs will be back on top soon. Great to meet you guys, and if you are able to find the blog, drop me a note and keep in touch!

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