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Buffaloes suffer second half collapse in loss to Stanford

Colorado blows a 29-0 lead in an absolute heartbreaker.

Stanford v Colorado Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images

Friday night’s game in Boulder was certainly one to forget if you are a Buffaloes fan. Stanford came into Folsom Field and stunned the Buffs in double overtime by a score of 46-43. Week seven’s game was a tale of two halves. The Buffs looked phenomenal in the first half, but completely unraveled in the second.

For the first time this season, the Buffs came out of the gates blazing. The Buffs scored on their first two possessions and it looked as though Stanford could do nothing to stop a surging Buffaloes offense. Everything was clicking for the Buffs. The offensive line was protecting quarterback Shedeur Sanders well, Shedeur was seeing the field well, the running game looked very strong and Colorado’s defense was getting stop after stop.

Wide receiver Xavier Weaver was flying all over the field, as he finished the first half with three touchdowns. Shedeur was also torching Stanford’s defense, both in the air and on the ground. The Colorado quarterback finished the first half with 201 yards passing and 72 rushing yards. Shedeur looked like an unstoppable force that Stanford could do nothing about. The Buffaloes cruised to a 29-0 lead heading into the locker room at halftime.

At halftime, Coach Prime said he felt his team was getting complacent. There was seemingly a vibe in the locker room that the Buffs had already won the game, and Prime didn’t like that.

“I felt complacency going into the second half because we stalled offensively. We come back out and here comes the complacency.” said Coach Prime postgame.

The second half of Friday’s game was one of the hardest halves of Colorado football to watch in quite a few years. Colorado’s offense came out of the gate slow and sluggish. The defense didn’t look any better either, as their tackling problems from previous weeks miraculously reappeared. On Stanford’s first possession of the half, they marched downfield and scored a quick touchdown to cut Colorado’s lead to 29-6. It felt as if the Buffs still had all the momentum and there was no chance a Stanford could pull off a comeback that large.

After that touchdown, CU quickly punted the ball after only five plays and pinned Stanford at their own three yard line. The Cardinal then immediately ripped off a 97 yard touchdown on a short completion to Elic Ayomanor. That was the exact moment the tides began to change. Colorado had lost all their juice and every single bit was momentum was held by Stanford. The Cardinal then quickly rattled off an additional two more touchdowns, to cut the lead to 29-26.

Colorado allowed 26 answered points in only about 17 minutes of football. The Buffs didn’t answer back until midway through the fourth quarter, when Shedeur connected with Travis Hunter for a touchdown. Friday’s game was Hunter’s return to the field after missing three weeks due to a lacerated liver. Hunter looked very good on the offensive side of the ball at least, where he led Colorado with 140 receiving yards and two touchdowns.

Hunter’s touchdown is just about where the good things end for CU. The Buffs allowed Stanford to absolutely cook their secondary in the fourth quarter. Cardinal quarterback Ashton Daniels was feeding the ball to wide receiver Elic Ayomanor on an identical crossing route over and over again, but CU’s secondary couldn't do anything about it. Ayomanor took full advantage of the Colorado weak coverage, as he set a new school record for single game receiving yards with 294. Stanford essentially used Ayomanor and him alone to tie the game at 36 points and force the Buffs into overtime.

The feeling in overtime was something of a somber one. Everyone in Folsom seemed to know what was coming and that it wasn't going to be pretty. Colorado got the ball first and punched it in a quick touchdown on a pass to Javon Antonio. Stanford immediately answered back, as Ayomanor had one of the most insane catches you’ll ever see on Stanford’s very first play of overtime. The Cardinal wide receiver could barely even see the pass and used Travis Hunter’s helmet to help secure the ball for a touchdown. The Buffaloes got David Tyree’d and were going to double overtime.

Double overtime was over pretty much as soon at it started. After stalling out on Stanford’s three yard line, Shedeur lobbed up a desperation throw that was picked off in the end zone. Stanford than ran three quick runs and kicked a chip-shot 31 yard field to seal the deal. The Buffs had officially blown a 29-0 lead at home to a 1-5 team. Friday night’s game now stands as the largest blown lead in Colorado football history.

No single person lost that game for the Buffs. A historic collapse of that scale requires a group effort and essentially everyone contributed to it. The offensive execution was bad in the second half. There was very little urgency shown by the Colorado offense to go and out puts on the board. Play-calling in the second half wasn’t great either, especially on fourth down. Offensive Coordinator Sean Lewis decided to go for it twice in the second half, both times resulted in Shedeur getting sacked.

The Colorado defense looked as if it couldn’t stop anything the entire second half. Stanford kept running same exact crossing route that has been killing the Buffs all season long and they still haven't figured out the answer. The unit was remarkably slow to react or adjust to Stanford’s offense and a lot of that is on defensive coordinator Charles Kelly. Kelly kept lining Travis Hunter up against Ayomanor in man coverage and Hunter kept getting burned. You’d think to at least switch up coverage or change to zone, but Kelly made the call to stick to his gameplay and make no major changes. Coach Prime wasn't happy with how his cornerbacks played on Friday.

“Our secondary did not play the best game, especially at the cornerback position.” said Prime.

What truly killed the Buffs was penalties against Stanford. Colorado was flagged a ridiculous seventeen times, four of which were especially bad. CU was called four times for having twelve men on the field. Getting called for having too many men on the field once is inexcusable, let alone four times in a single game. This was one of the sloppiest games the Buffs have played and quite some time, as shown by the amount of penalty yards they allowed.

This season’s honeymoon may be over. Coach Prime and his team are heading into the bye week on one of the worst notes possible. The Buffs record now falls to 4-3 and hopes of making a bowl game are looking bleak. Colorado has to play some really tough Pac-12 opponents for their final five games. Stanford was a close to a “get right” game this team was going to get and they squandered that opportunity. Take next week off to relax and decompress after this one, Buffs fans.