Buffs Make Statement, Top Stanford To Improve To 2-0
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STANFORD, Calif. — Karl Dorrell's Colorado Buffaloes sent a message Saturday afternoon: the Buffs deserve to be in the conversation of Pac-12 South contenders.
Certainly, Stanford won't disagree. The Buffs hit on all cylinders offensively and the defense came up with big plays when most needed in a 35-32 win over the Cardinal that improved CU to 2-0 under Dorrell's direction.
Just like in their opening win over UCLA, the Buffs had some tense moments down the stretch. Colorado led 28-9 midway through the third quarter, then had to fight off a Stanford rally late in the game.
But in the end, Colorado prevailed to record its fifth consecutive 2-0 start to the season and remain in a tie with USC for the Pac-12 South lead.
The Buffs' offense rang up 432 yards in the win, led by another excellent performance from senior quarterback Sam Noyer, who threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns and also ran for 36 yards and a pair of scores. Sophomore running back Jarek Broussard notched his second straight 100-yard effort, finishing with 121 yards on the ground, and wide receiver Dimitri Stanley had his second game with six catches, finishing with a career-high 126 yards receiving, including a 55-yard touchdown.
Defensively, the Buffs were outstanding in the first half, then came up with enough stops in the second half to get the win. CU limited Stanford to just 70 yards rushing, including only 9 yards by Stanford starting tailback Austin Jones. Colorado also had two big red zone defensive stands, and held the Cardinal to 5-for-16 on third down tries.
The Buffs defense also had five tackles for loss (two each by Carson Wells and Terrance Lang) and linebacker Nate Landman was credited with 14 tackles and a fumble recovery.
"It was a great win for our team," Dorrell said. "If I had the choice, I would have orchestrated it a little bit better in the second half … We felt we built a pretty comfortable lead — and that's the point of the matter, it wasn't too comfortable, because they came back. But our players hung in there. That's a good team that we played. I would have liked to have finished that game on our terms, but it's a great win. We're still learning as a team. I felt we played as well as we needed to to finish the game."
HOW IT HAPPENED: After taking a 14-9 lead into the locker room at halftime, the Buffs seemed ready to seize control for good early in the third quarter.
CU opened the half with a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive. Noyer capped the march with a 10-yard keeper to the end zone with 11:32 still to go in the third quarter, his second rushing touchdown of the game.
Colorado's defense then delivered a Stanford three-and-out, and the Buffs needed just three plays and 1:09 to score again. After a 22-yard pass to Dimitri Stanley and a 5-yard Jarek Broussard run, Noyer found a wide-open Brenden Rice for a 34-yard touchdown pass. It was the CU true freshmen's first score in a Buffs uniform and it gave the Buffs a 28-9 edge with just under nine minutes to go in the third quarter.
Stanford then managed to cut the Colorado lead to 12 by going 82 yards on the ensuing possession for its first touchdown of the game. Quarterback Davis Mills carried in from 2 yards out to narrow CU's margin to 28-16.
But the Buffs again had an answer. Colorado went 80 yards in 10 plays, getting a 22-yard Noyer completion to La'Vontae Shenault and a 17-yard Broussard run before Jaren Mangham capped the march with a 2-yard run on the first play of the fourth quarter. Evan Price's fifth PAT of the game gave CU a 35-16 lead.
Once again, the Buffs received excellent play from their offensive line — even without starting center Colby Pursell, out with an injury. Starting guard Kary Kutsch moved over to center and junior Chance Lytle stepped in at left guard to make his first career start. Also getting plenty of quality snaps was sophomore Kanan Ray at right guard.
"Kary is a very good player for us," Dorrell said "He's among the most quiet guys on the team. He doesn't say boo. He just works his tail off … Chance played well, which I'm excited about. He did some really nice things. It's kind of that next man up mentality when someone gets dinged. You have to go to the next guy to come in and be productive and keep the offense moving. We were able to do that up front."
Indeed, the Buffs finished with 432 yards total offense — 177 on the ground and 255 in the air.
But, after the Buffs had that "comfortable" lead in the fourth quarter, the Cardinal managed to make it close in the final period.
Stanford sliced into CU's 19-point lead by driving 73 yards for a touchdown with 8:45 to play and a successful two-point conversion closed CU's cushion to 35-24.
Following a CU punt, the Cardinal drove for another score and another two-point conversion to cut the Buffs' lead to 35-32.
But along the way, the Cardinal had been forced to use all of its timeouts. When CU took possession, just 2:34 remained on the clock. The Buffs used three running plays and then punted deep into Stanford territory. The Cardinal had just 10 seconds remaining and Stanford's last-gasp play went nowhere, sending the Buffs home as winners.
"I wanted to eat some clock," Dorrell said of his offense's fourth quarter plan. "We had a good lead at a certain point where you needed to try to get (Stanford coach David Shaw) to burn his timeouts, which eventually is what happened. When you have a lead like what we had, two or three scores and it's about 10, 11 minutes left, you want the other side to start burning their timeouts. Those are the saving factors for them."
Stanford drew first blood, collecting a 48-yard field goal on the game's opening drive.
But after struggling to find its rhythm early, the Colorado offense finally found its rhythm. The Buffs got on the board on their fourth possession, getting a 55-yard touchdown pass from Noyer to Stanley, who ran a slant pattern across the middle, gathered in the pass on the run and raced untouched to the end zone. Evan Price's PAT gave CU a 7-0 lead with 3:20 to go in the first quarter.
Stanford cut the margin to one point, 7-6, with a 33-yard field goal on the ensuing possession, but the Buffs answered again with another touchdown. Noyer directed a 10-play, 75-yard scoring march that he finished with a 7-yard touchdown run for a 14-6 lead.
The Buffs converted three third-down tries on the drive, including a 29-yard Noyer completion to La'Vontae Shenault and a 3-yard Noyer run.
Stanford then answered with one more field goal to pull within 14-9, as CU's red zone defense held again inside the 20.
The two teams then traded punts, with Colorado defensive lineman Terrance Lang coming up with a big stop for minus-4 yards on a Stanford third-and-2.
CU had one more chance with the ball, but the Buffs' last drive ended at the Stanford 39 when a Hail Mary try to the end zone fell incomplete as the half ended with the Buffs holding a 14-9 lead.
Colorado held a 194-164 yardage edge after one half, and CU's defense was excellent on third down, holding Stanford to 1-for-8 on third-down tries.
"Our guys kept fighting," Dorrell said. "The offense put together a good performance. I would have loved to have finished the game like we finished it last week, where we had the ball and took the knee. But we had the dramatics all the way to the end. But fortunately we got the W and can learn from it and go on to next week."
TURNING POINT: After Stanford had cut CU's lead to 14-9 in the second quarter, the Buffs regained momentum with a nine-play, 75-yard scoring drive to open the second half.
KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs held Stanford to just 70 yards on the ground and also limited the Cardinal to just 5-for-16 on third down conversions. Two key stops came early in the game, when Colorado stopped two Stanford third down tries in the red zone, with the Cardinal having to settle for field goals both times.
WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs proved they are legitimate contenders for the Pac-12 South.
NEXT UP: The Buffs are scheduled to play host to Arizona State next Saturday in an 8 p.m. game at Folsom Field.