BOULDER — Colorado’s late-game magic finally came up empty Friday night at Folsom Field as the Buffaloes dropped a 46-43 loss to Stanford in two overtimes.

The Buffaloes appeared ready to run away with the game, dominating the Cardinal en route to building a 29-0 halftime lead. But the Buffs let that lead slip away after the break as Stanford staged a furious second-half rally to tie the game in regulation, then claim the win in the second extra period.

The Buffs fell to 4-3 overall and 1-3 in Pac-12 play while Stanford improved to 2-4, 1-3.

Colorado’s Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders wanted a fast start and the Buffaloes delivered, dominating the first half to build their 29-0 edge. But CU’s offense stalled in the second half and Stanford’s offense caught fire as the Cardinal scored five touchdowns and a field goal while the Buffs managed just one touchdown in the second half of regulation.

A 46-yard field goal by Stanford’s Joshua Karty at the end of regulation tied the game at 36-36 to force overtime. Both teams scored touchdowns in the first extra period, but Stanford intercepted CU quarterback Shedeur Sanders in the end zone on the Buffs’ second possession. Stanford then drove the ball to the CU 13-yard line to put Karty in position for the game-winning 31-yard field goal.

Colorado finished with a slight 532-523 edge in total yards but the Cardinal had a 408-208 edge in the second half and overtime, as Stanford outscored Colorado 46-14 after intermission.

Shedeur Sanders finished 33-for-47 for 400 yards and five touchdowns. He also led CU in rushing with 37 yards on 13 carries, despite being sacked four times.

Two-way standout Travis Hunter returned to the lineup for Colorado after missing the last three games. He finished with 13 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns and was also credited with five tackles.

Stanford quarterback Ashton Daniels — who did not start the game — was 27-for-45 for 396 yards and four touchdowns. Stanford wide receiver Elic Ayomanor had 13 catches for 294 yards and three touchdowns, including TD receptions of 97 and 60 yards in regulation and a 30-yard scoring grab in overtime.

“I’m truly disturbed,” Coach Prime said in his post-game press conference. “We started out the game wonderfully, finally put it together in the first half like I desired, like we desired … and then we surrender three touchdowns unanswered (the total was actually four), which I can’t fathom right now. I’m still trying to wrap my head around it. And then this thing just kept going.”

Indeed, once Stanford found its offensive legs, the Buffs never seemed to find an answer. Colorado also finished with 17 penalties for 127 yards, with several of those flags playing a key role in keeping Cardinal scoring drives alive.

“We’re gonna take this one on the chin because we deserve it,” Coach Prime said. “I’ve never been in one of these. I don’t remember from youth on being up 29-0 and losing a football game. I really don’t. This is a little tough for me.”

HOW IT HAPPENED: The Buffs hit the gas early and kept the pedal to the metal for the entire first half.

CU opened the scoring on its first possession, going 77 yards in eight plays for a touchdown. Shedeur Sanders hit Xavier Weaver for a 9-yard scoring pass — Weaver’s first of three touchdowns in the half — and Sanders also had 44 yards rushing on the drive as Colorado took a 7-0 lead.

Stanford did manage to drive into CU territory on several occasions in the first half but each time failed to capitalize. The Cardinal’s first four possessions ended in punt, punt, missed field goal and turnover on downs while the Buffs added three more scores in their best overall first half of the season.

CU took a 14-0 lead on its second possession, going 70 yards in nine plays for the touchdown. Sanders capped the drive with a 24-yard scoring pass to Travis Hunter — his first score as a Buff — and Alejandro Mata’s PAT made it 14-0.

The Buffs then added scoring drives of 80 yards and 66 yards. Sanders put the finishing touches on the third scoring drive with a 39-yard toss to a wide-open Weaver, which was followed by a Caleb Fauria run for the 2-point conversion and 22-0 lead.

CU then wrapped up the first-half scoring when Weaver took a reverse 14-yards into the end zone, giving him two receiving scores and a rushing touchdown in the first half.

Colorado finished the first half with a 324-114 yardage edge, with Sanders completing 14 of 18 for 201 yards and three scores.

The Buffaloes’ defense, meanwhile, limited Stanford to an average of just 2.8 yards per play in the first half while recording three quarterback sacks.

But the Cardinal flipped the script in the second half.

“I felt complacency going into the half because we stalled offensively and we gave up some yardage,” Coach Prime said. “We come back out and here comes the complacency. Here comes that team that I can’t stand. You can’t understand how in the world that happens to us but it did.”

Indeed, the Buffs seemed like a different team after intermission. CU’s offense suddenly stalled, coming up empty on four straight possessions, and the Cardinal found its offensive footing.

The Buffs didn’t help their cause by missing two fourth-down conversion tries at midfield, both of which gave Stanford a short field. That helped the Cardinal score two of their four unanswered touchdowns, with the other two coming on passes of 97 and 60 yards from Daniels to Ayomanor.

With 12:29 to play in the fourth quarter, the Cardinal had narrowed Colorado’s lead to 29-26.

“It all started when we gave up on the 97 yard touchdown, which was  flat out ridiculous,” Sanders fumed. “That’s when it all started.  That’s when all the foolishness, all the complacency, all the mess started … Our secondary did not play the best game, especially at the cornerback position.”

The Buffs’ offense finally awakened from its second-half slumber after the Cardinal cut CU’s lead to three. Sanders completed passes of 11 yards to Hunter and 48 yards to Weaver, then threw a 16-yard scoring strike over the middle to Hunter to cap a 75-yard drive. Mata’s PAT put the Buffs back up by 10 points, 36-26, with 11:18 to play.

Stanford, though, wouldn’t go away quietly. The Cardinal answered CU’s score with a 13-play, 80-yard scoring drive aided by two CU penalties. Another Daniels touchdown pass helped Stanford cut Colorado’s lead back to three, 36-33, with 5:06 on the clock.

The Buffs then came up empty on their next possession, but CU’s Vassett executed a perfect coffin-corner kick, sending a 45-yard punt out of bounds at the Stanford 1-yard line with 2:55 to play.

The Cardinal then drove 71 yards in 13 plays to put themselves in position for a game-tying 46-yard field goal as the clock hit zeroes to tie the game at 36-36 and send the game into overtime.

Sanders hit Javon Antonio with a 4-yard touchdown pass on CU’s first possession but the Cardinal responded with another Daniels scoring pass to Ayomanor, covering 30 yards.

The Cardinal then forced a Sanders interception on CU’s next possession and the Cardinal needed just three plays to work into position for the game-winning field goal.

TURNING POINT: The Buffs were still in control after Stanford’s first touchdown of the second half. CU downed a punt at the Cardinal 3-yard line and the Buffs defense needed just one more stop to put Colorado firmly back in control. Instead, Ayomanor took a short pass and turned it into a 97-yard touchdown and momentum took a seat on the Cardinal sidelines.

KEY STATISTIC: While most of the statistical categories were fairly even, Colorado’s 17 penalties for 127 yards had a huge impact. Stanford’s fourth and fifth touchdown drives of the second half were kept alive by flags on Colorado and another infraction helped Stanford move downfield for the game-tying field goal at the end of regulation.

UP NEXT:  The Buffs have a bye week next week before returning to action Saturday, Oct. 28, at UCLA. Kickoff time has yet to be determined.


Story by Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor for Content courtesy of the University of Colorado at Boulder.