Daily Camera (Boulder)
Hollowell’s big returns sparked upset win
Buffs’ special teams starred in 2001 victory over No. 12 K-state
That was written on the tape bands secured to Roman Hollowell when he and the Colorado Buffaloes took the field at Kansas State 19 years ago this week.
Up to that point, a talented Buffs teams that would climb into the national top five by the season’s end — adding a historic thumping of Nebraska along the way — was finding respect difficult to come by. A season-opening letdown against Fresno State had knocked the Buffs off the national radar, and three wins in a row against middling opponents had not repaired the damage.
However, on Oct. 6, 2001, the Buffs had an opportunity to change that. Backed by two critical punt returns from Hollowell, CU produced a key road win that reasserted the team’s confidence that it could play with any of the top teams in the Big 12 Conference, or even the nation. Years later, Hollowell would earn respect by carrying on the business venture dream of his late mother, yet on that day it was Hollowell’s return skills that helped bring respect to the Buffs.
“Knowing how talented we were that year, I knew if we wanted to accomplish our goals that we had set at the beginning of the year, I knew we had to go to K-state and somehow get a victory,” Hollowell said. “After that win I feel like we were starting to get the respect that we deserved. Everyone in that locker room, we knew what kind of team we were capable of being. I think that game in Manhattan probably solidified it a little bit and gave us some respect.
“I had ‘respect’ written on my tape bands. I think that game was one of my main factors in attaining respect not only for myself, but for my team as well.”
CU had reeled off consecutive wins against lightweights Colorado State, San Jose State, and Kansas to take a 3-1 mark on the road against the 12th-ranked Wildcats. In a backyard brawl-type battle against Kansas State, two long punt returns by Hollowell set up two of the three field goals converted by Jeremy Flores.
Hollowell’s final big play, a 53yard punt return, set up Flores’ final field goal, a 22-yard boot that gave CU a comfortable 10-point lead with under three minutes remaining. Hollowell returned two punts for touchdowns that
season and three during his career, yet those non-scores against K-state proved as valuable as any of his returns into the end zone.
Despite a setback at Texas two weeks later, the Buffs climbed all the way to No. 3 late in the year after a 62-36 rout of Nebraska followed by a win against Texas in a rematch in the Big 12 title game.
“I was really disappointed I didn’t get into the end zone on that second one,” Hollowell said. “But just knowing how stiff that Kansas State defense was that season, I knew a couple punt returns would definitely be helpful. I knew that field position would help us out quite a bit.”
A Colorado native who played at Mullen High School, the direction of Hollowell’s life changed when his mother was diagnosed with cancer in 2011. Hollowell had earned a graduate degree at the University of Denver and was working in college administration when his mother passed away less than a year later. Her dream was always to open an affordable day care center for preschool age children, and Hollowell has made that a reality over the past decade. He still owns and operates the facility on the near west side of Denver.
“Very, very unique situation,” Hollowell said. “I decided to segue from what I was doing work-wise to keep her legacy rolling. I was scared to death. Didn’t know what I was doing. Didn’t know if it would be successful or not. But I have a great staff and I’ve been doing it ever since. I know we always talk about finding your passion in life, and this was her passion.”