October 8th – at Stanford          No. 7 Stanford 48, Colorado 7

Leading Heisman trophy candidate Andrew Luck passed for a season-high 370 yards and three touchdowns as the No. 7 Stanford Cardinal ran around, through, over and past the out-manned Colorado Buffaloes, 48-7.

On the day, Stanford rolled to 553 yards of total offense, while Stanford’s top ten defense held the Buffs to 264 yards. Playing without five suspended players on defense and without the Buffs’ only play-maker on offense, the outcome of the game wasn’t much in doubt after only a few minutes of play, as the Cardinal methodically pulled away from the inept Buffs.

As fate would have it, the game turned in Stanford’s favor before Andrew Luck ever had the chance to take the field.

Colorado freshman kicker Will Oliver began the game with a “sky kick”, which traveled only as far as the Stanford 33-yard line. There, the ball was fumbled, and was recovered by Colorado linebacker Jon Major. The Buffs were in business at the Stanford 36-yard line as the sell-out crowd of 50,360 shifted restlessly in their seats.

Two passes from senior quarterback Tyler Hansen to red-shirt freshmen Keenan Canty, sandwiched between two runs by Rodney Stewart, pushed the ball to the Stanford 12 yard line. There, the Buff drive stalled, with two rushes for no gain and an incomplete pass. Kicker Will Oliver was sent it to give Stanford its first deficit of the entire season.

Then, the play of the game … Instead of connecting on a 29-yard field goal, Oliver’s kick was blocked, with Stanford senior linebacker Max Bergen picking up the loose ball and rambling 75 yards for a Cardinal touchdown.

Instead of a 3-0 lead, the Buffs, a 29-point underdog who had to have every break go their way, found themselves down, 7-0, with 11:03 still to play in the first quarter.

The Colorado offense, disheartened by the turn of events, returned to form. In a three-and-out, the Buffs managed a delay of game penalty and a sack, resulting in a fourth-and-17. Taking over at the Stanford 22-yard line, the Stanford offense finally was able to take the field. A nine-play, 78-yard drive ensued, highlighted by a 27-yard pass from Andrew Luck to tight end Levine Toilolo on the only third down of the drive. Running back Stefan Taylor then did the honors from a yard out. Though the extra point was missed, the 13-0 lead was all the Cardinal would need on the day.

But more than three quarters of play remained.

After the next Colorado offensive drive stalled, Stanford again marched down the field. A pair of incomplete passes by Luck (his first two incompletions of the game) forced the Cardinal to settle for a 47-yard field goal attempt a minute into the second quarter. The kick sailed wide right, though, and the Buffs’ offense, held to 40 yards of total offense in yet another frustrating first quarter, took to the field.

The Buff offense began its drive in familiar fashion – with a holding penalty. On second-and-20 from the 19 yard line, though, Tyler Hansen and Rodney Stewart connected on the best play of the game for the Colorado offense. The Hansen-to-Stewart connection was good for 76 yards, with Stewart finally caught at the Stanford five yard line. On second down, Hansen hit red-shirt freshman Tony Jones for a five yard touchdown. Stanford 13, Colorado 7.

Colorado was within a score of the heavily favored Cardinal, and the defense, for a second consecutive drive, kept Luck and the Cardinal from scoring. On a third-and-six at the Colorado 30, Luck threw only his second interception of the season. Sophomore safety Terrel Smith picked off the Luck offering at the Colorado 19 yard line, and the Buffs were back in business.

Snapshot … Score: Stanford 13; Colorado 7. Buffs with the ball after intercepting Andrew Luck. 11:05 to play in the second quarter.

That was as good as it would get for the Buffs.

Another three-and-out, which included the second of three sacks of Tyler Hansen in the game, gave Stanford the ball back near midfield. A seven-play, 53-yard touchdown drive ensued, aided by yet another personal foul on junior safety Ray Polk. A third-and-26 from the Colorado 28 was no problem for Andrew Luck, who connected with Griff Whalen for a 27 yard gain. This time, Jeremy Stewart did the honors from a yard away. Stanford 20, Colorado 7.

A quick four play drive by the Colorado offense gave Stanford one more chance to score before halftime, and the Cardinal took advantage. It took only six plays for the Stanford offense to find itself with its third first-and-goal at the one yard line of the half. Apparently feeling left out of the scoring binge, Andrew Luck did not hand off this time, instead throwing for a one-yard touchdown to fullback Ryan Hewitt. Stanford 27, Colorado 7.

Taking over with just over two minutes before the half, the Colorado offense put together its most sustained drive of the first thirty minutes. Three consecutive completions from Hansen to senior wide receiver Logan Gray put the ball into field goal range, but Will Oliver’s 46-yard offering went wide left as time expired.

Halftime score: Stanford 27, Colorado 7

 

Any flickers of a second half resurrection by Colorado were doused in the first five minutes of the second half.

Colorado went three-and-out to start the third quarter, with a 43-yard punt by Darragh O’Neill being returned 31 yards to the Colorado 37 yard line. From there, Andrew Luck made quick work of the Colorado defense, hitting Ryan Hewitt for the second time in as many drives, this time from ten yards out. With 10:57 to play in the third quarter, all that remained to be determined was the final score.

After a five play “drive” by the Colorado offense netted 13 yards, the Stanford offense took off on its most impressive drive of the game. The Colorado defense made the Cardinal work, with the drive taking 14 plays. By the same token, the Buffs’ defense only forced two third downs along the way. On fourth-and-goal at the one yard line, junior running back Tyler Gaffney became the fourth Cardinal to score from a yard out. Stanford 41, Colorado 7.

On the first play of the fourth quarter, after the Buff offense had put together back-to-back first downs for the first time since the end of the first half, Tyler Hansen was intercepted. A drive which had made it as far as the Stanford 26 generated no points, and the only question remaining for the Cardinal fans in attendance was whether Andrew Luck would play in the fourth quarter.

He did.

Luck led the Cardinal on a 70-yard touchdown drive, culminated in Luck’s third touchdown pass of the game, this time from 30 yards out to Griff Whalen. Stanford 48, Colorado 7 … with 10:55 still to play in the game.

Mercifully, there was no more scoring, with each team only generating one more first down apiece in the final ten minutes. With substitutions aplenty, both teams punted twice (the only two punts of the game for Stanford, to eight for Colorado). Sophomore running back Josh Ford earned his first carries as a Colorado Buffalo, posting 15 yards on four carries, all coming on handoffs from red-shirt freshman quarterback Nick Hirschman.

Final Score: Stanford 48, Colorado 7

 

The final stats sheet was as lopsided as the score.

Stanford had 28 first downs, to 11 for Colorado. Stanford had 392 yards passing and 161 yards rushing, to 204 and 60 for Colorado. The Buffs’ leading rusher was Rodney Stewart, who needed 11 carries to accumulate all of 21 yards.

For Colorado fans looking for positive numbers, they were few and hard to come by. Freshman punter Darragh O’Neill continued his overall solid play, with eight punts going for an average of 43.2 yards. And – get this – for the first time all season, Colorado had fewer penalty yards than the opposition, with six penalties for 47 yards (compared to five penalties for 65 yards for the Cardinal).

“We have what we have,” said Jon Embree after the game. “We just have to find a way, figure out a way. I told the seniors a lot of them have seven opportunities left to play football again, and they have to make sure they keep bringing a sense of urgency to practice.

“It is what it is, and at some point guys are going to have to step up and make a play when they’re in there. You can’t change, and injuries are a part of the game. So you have to find a way to win.”

Was the loss of the five players the previous week a distraction for the Buffs? Not according to Tyler Hansen, who went 15-for-29 for 202 yards against Stanford. “We love those guys (linebacker Liloa Nobriga, defensive backs Parker Orms, Paul Vigo, Ayodeji Olatoye and Josh Moten),” said Hansen, “but they did the stuff they did, and didn’t deserve to be here. Coach Embree did the right thing and we support him. We’ve got guys who want to be here and are doing the right things to be here. Coach Embree makes it known that you don’t do the right things in academics or out of football, then you’re not going to be around.”

Offensive guard Ryan Miller, agreed. “I actually think it could be a lot worse,” said the senior captain. “I still think this team has a ton of heart, and we’re not going to quit – we won’t quit.”

As for the future, which includes a game October 15th at Washington (4-1, 2-0 after a bye this weekend), Hansen added, “We’ve got to move on … It’s water under the bridge. We’re as good as any team we’ve played so far.”

With Colorado at 1-5, 0-2 in Pac-12 play, there might be a few out there who would disagree with Hansen’s statement.

 

Game Notes –

– Colorado now trails Stanford in the all-time series, 4-3, with three of the four losses in Palo Alto;

–  When Stanford missed a field goal in the second quarter, it snapped a streak of 16 consecutive field goals, dating back to last year’s Baylor game, in which the opposition had been perfect against the Buffs;

– Opponents are only 5-of-102 against Colorado since 1993 in converting a third-and-20 or longer, with the latest coming when Stanford converted a third-and-26 in the second quarter;

– Colorado only traveled with 62 players to Stanford (teams are allowed to take 70 under NCAA rules), with 56 seeing action;

– The Stanford game marked only the second time in 38 games in which the Colorado defense did not record a sack;

– Linebacker Woodson Greer became the 13th true freshman to play for Colorado this season. Greer recorded one tackle, going for a loss of one yard;

– Red-shirt freshman wide receiver Keenan Canty earned his first career start against Stanford (in place of Paul Richardson, who will be out two-to-three weeks with a knee sprain). On his first play as a starter, Canty caught his first pass, a five yarder on the first play from scrimmage. Canty finished the game with three catches for 23 yards;

– Other Buffs seeing their first action in a Colorado uniform: red-shirt freshman quarterback Nick Hirschman; red-shirt freshman defensive lineman Kirk Poston; junior defensive tackle Eric Richter; and sophomore wide receiver Alex Turbow;

– Four other Buffs, who had been limited to special teams play previously, saw their first action on the line of scrimmage: freshman offensive lineman Paulay Asiata; red-shirt freshman Kaiwi Crabb; sophomore tailback Josh Ford; and freshman linebacker K.T. Tu’umalo;

– After making his first six field goals as a Buff, freshman Will Oliver has now missed three in his last two games, including two blocks. On his first miss to make it past the line of scrimmage, a 46-yarder on the last play of the first half, Oliver admitted to sneaking a peak at the Stanford rush. “That one’s on me,” said Oliver.

– Sophomore tailback Tony Jones scored his first career touchdown with his five-yard reception in the second quarter;

– The 76-yard connection between Tyler Hansen and Rodney Stewart was the 7th-longest by a running back in CU history, and the 27th longest pass play overall;

– Stanford went only four-of-ten on third downs against the Buffs, but that was of little consequence. On the day, Stanford averaged 7.2 yards on first down;

– After posting 145 yards of total offense in the second quarter, the Colorado offense generated only 79 yards of total offense the remainder of the game; and

– Colorado, in six games, has now played in four time zones (Eastern, Mountain, Pacific, Hawaiian). Oddly enough, for the first time since 1945, Colorado will not play a game in the Central time zone.

 

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