Where does loss to CSU rank on misery meter?

ON THE UNOFFICIAL list of most painful Cougar losses, it's hard to imagine any circumstance in which a setback to Colorado State would crack even a top ten. The Rams aren't a rival. They're not ranked or in a major conference. They just don't matter that much. But oh how looks can be deceiving. Because in the pantheon of crimson pain, mighty CSU catapulted itself to unspeakable heights Saturday.

The Cougars needed a win in the New Mexico Bowl in order to achieve something they haven't in a decade: a winning season.

The loss to CSU dropped the Cougs to 6-7 on the year.

Getting to a bowl for the first time in a decade was great, but coming away from it with yet another losing season on the books pretty much negates the psychological energy that was accrued beforehand.

When you factor the soul-sapping way the game was lost, the relevance grows exponentially.

The Cougars were a bigger, faster, superior team. They led virtually from start to finish, had a big lead late -- and then proceeded to surrender 18 points in a 2-minute, 52-second cluster of shaky defense, turnovers and a perplexing disdain for clock management.

The calamity was so utterly inexplicable that Cougfan.com message board posters were debating Saturday night what to name it ... The Turkey in Albuquerque, the Mile High Meltdown, the Nightmare in New Mexico, etc. etc.

On the meter of pain, it is a game that will be talked about among the faithful for decades.

Epic is not too big a word to describe what transpired.

But how epic?

In terms of plain old head-scratching "What were they thinking?" epic, it likely ranks in a class all its own.

But purely in terms of pain, no matter how acquired, Cougfan.com it ranks No. 2 on our list of the most excruciating crimson setbacks of the last 50 years. Here's our top five …

1. 2002 APPLE CUP: Huskies 29, Cougs 26 (3 OTs)

The Cougs came into this one ranked No. 3 in the nation. They were favored, at home, and jumped out to a solid lead. In fact, even with Jason Gesser knocked out of the game midway through the fourth quarter, WSU still led by 10 with just more than four minutes left and the Huskies pinned on their own eight. The collapse was capped by the infamous backward forward pass -- and the Dasani bottles began to fly. This ranks No. 1 on the list because it was against the arch-rival and the Cougs were part of the national title discussion going into the weekend.

2. 2013 TURKEY IN ALBUQUERQUE: Colorado State 48, Cougs 45

There is so much seemingly preventable damage in this one that pages could be written. Suffice to say, at this juncture in the program, another losing season was not what the doctor ordered when the bowl gods delivered Colorado State as the opponent.

3. 1975 APPLE CUP: Huskies 28, Cougs 27

The Cougs were leading 27-14 and knocking at the door late in the game. It was fourth- down-and-one at the Husky 14. The rain was coming down and kicker Chuck Diedrick was already 0-for-3 on the day so Cougar coach Jim Sweeney called time out and decided the best option was a simple run up the middle. Quarterback John Hopkins and others pleaded to instead fake the run and fire a quick pass to tight end Carl Barschig. As Hopkins turned to trot back out on the field, Sweeney reiterated "run it" and Hopkins thought he said "try it." The subsequent pass was picked off by Al Burleson and returned 93-yards for a TD. The Cougs went three-and-out on their next position, but the Huskies were still left deep in their own end with the clock winding down. Warren Moon then fires a deep pass that is tipped by WSU's Michael Carter -- and caught by UW's Spider Gaines, who races 78 yards for the score. The PAT seals the deal for the Dawgs.

4. 1989 MARINOVICH MARCH: Trojans 18, Cougs 17

The Cougars, coming off a nine-win campaign in '88, were 4-0 and ranked No. 19 to start the Mike Price Era with No.11 USC coming to town. The game was a nail biter that the Cougs had under control with the clock running down and USC pinned deep in its own end. A long pass on fourth-down by Todd Marinovich gave the Trojans hope and they wound up driving the length of the field to score as time expired. A PAT would tie, a two-point conversion would win it. They went for two. Price said years later that the Cougs knew exactly what the Trojans were planning on the two-point-try but were simply out-executed.

5. 2012 THE COLORADO MIRACLE: Buffs 35, Cougs 34

This one ranks high because it was supposed to be one of the milestones on the Cougars' road back to respectability and the give away of the win at the end was borderline surreal. The Cougs were favored in a conference game for the first time in forever -- and by 21 points, no less. The Buffs were considered by many to be one of the worst teams in the nation. WSU dutifully built a huge lead. The score was 31-14 with the Cougars standing on the Buff 19 yard-line with just more than 8 minutes left. Curious play calling and abominable clock management resulted in a loss that never should have been and let the air out of a balloon of excitement that had the faithful buzzing for the first time in years. Were it not for a spectacular win over Washington in the season finale, the stench from this one and the season it helped create would have led to a downright toxic off season of fan finger pointing.

Honorable mention (modern era only):
2003 UW 27-19
2003 Notre Dame 29-26 (OT)
1997 Arizona State 44-31
1985 Oregon 42-39
1981 UW 27-10

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