STANFORD, Calif. – Perhaps hoping a change of scenery (and leagues) might make a difference, the Colorado Buffaloes packed up their ignominious 20-game road losing streak and brought it to the Pac-12 Conference on Saturday.
No such Luck . . .
No. 7 Stanford and this season’s Heisman Trophy frontrunner, stellar quarterback Andrew Luck, made CU’s first Pac-12 road venture as unfulfilling as its previous trips in the league the Buffs recently left.
Behind Luck’s 370 yards passing and the Pac-12’s top defense, Stanford stormed past CU 48-7 before 50,360 at Stanford Stadium. Luck, who finished second in last season’s Heisman voting, played 31/2 quarters and completed 26-of-33 passes, three for touchdowns and one interception.
The unbeaten Cardinal won for the fifth time this season (2-0 Pac-12) and pushed college football’s longest winning streak to 13. CU dropped to 1-5, 0-2 – and the schedule hardly lightens up for the Buffs. They’re at Washington next Saturday, return to Folsom Field On Oct. 22 to face No. 9 Oregon, travel to No. 22 Arizona State on Oct. 29 and come back to Boulder on Friday, Nov. 4 to play Southern California.
CU’s secondary has been ravaged by injuries and last week lost four players to indefinite suspensions. Also, the Buffs lined up Saturday without their top receiver, sophomore Paul Richardson, who is out for three weeks with a knee injury suffered last week in practice. Redshirt freshman Keenan Canty took Richardson’s place, making three catches for 23 yards.
The Buffs, who rushed for a season-high 161 yards last week, were limited to 60 by a Cardinal defense that entered Saturday’s game yielding a league-low 62.2 rushing yards a game. Stanford also tops the conference in total defense (312.0 yards a game) and scoring defense (11.5 points).
Stanford finished with 553 yards in total offense, CU 265. The Cardinal earned 27 first downs to the Buffs’ 11. CU starting quarterback Tyler Hansen was 15-of-29 for 202 yards and accounted for the Buffs’ lone TD – a 5-yard shovel pass to tailback Tony Jones. Hansen was intercepted once and was replaced in fourth quarter by redshirt freshman Nick Hirschman, who saw his first duty of the season.
The Buffs trailed 27-7 at halftime, yet they got the start they wanted . . . it just didn’t work out to their advantage. In fact, they were sabotaged by their good fortune.
After linebacker Jon Major recovered the opening kickoff at the Stanford 36-yard line, CU drove to the 12. The drive stalled there and Will Oliver was summoned to attempt a 29-yard field goal attempt.
At least the Buffs could get three points and end the Cardinal’s streak of not having allowed a first-quarter point this season . . . right? Wrong. Inside linebacker Max Bergen burst through the Buffs O-line, blocked Oliver’s attempt – it was his second blocked kick in as many weeks – and scooped up the ball, returning it 75 yards for a touchdown.
Instead of possibly having the lead, CU trailed 7-0 after Jordan Williamson’s PAT.
After that, it was all Luck – every bit of it of the Andrew variety.
The Stanford senior didn’t throw an incompletion in the first quarter (6-for-6, 109 yards) and had his team up 13-0 by quarter’s end. On the Cardinal’s 78-yard scoring drive, Luck accounted for 72 of the yards on four completions, then handed off to tailback Stepfan Taylor for a 1-yard TD dive. Williamson’s extra point attempt caromed off the right upright, but Stanford led 13-0.
The Buffs pulled to within 13-7 after Williamson sailed a 47-yard field goal attempt wide right early in the second quarter. Following his miss, CU capitalized on a 76-yard Hansen-to-Rodney Stewart screen pass to the Stanford 5, then Hansen and Jones connected on the short shovel pass for Jones’ first career score.
Oliver’s PAT pulled the Buffs to 13-7, and after safety-turned-corner Terrel Smith intercepted Luck at the Buffs’ 19-yard line, it appeared CU might still be in the fight. Not on this trip.
The Buffs went three-and-out, the Cardinal went 53 yards – converting a third-and-25 – and scored on a 1-yard Jeremy Stewart dive. With Williamson’s point after kick, Stanford was up 20-7 . . . and the skids had been greased.
By halftime, Luck had completed 14-of-18 passes for 219 yards, with a 1-yard TD toss to Ryan Hewitt that gave Stanford its 27-7 lead when first-half play ended. A potential beat-down was brewing, and on its first second-half possession the Cardinal worked toward making it happen.
Luck and Hewitt teamed for a 10-yard scoring completion and Williamson’s PAT pushed Stanford comfortably ahead 34-7 with 11:03 left in the third quarter. Later in the third, tailback Tyler Gaffney capped an 84-yard drive with a 1-yard plunge, and Williamson’s kick made it 41-7.
The fourth quarter began with Luck still throwing. Just under 4 minutes in, he teamed with Griff Whalen for a 30-yard score (48-7 with Williamson’s PAT) and this one couldn’t end soon enough for CU.