The Three Things that Led to CU’s Historic Collapse Against Stanford

Photo Credit: USA Today

Everything was going according to plan in Boulder on Friday night. Well, for a half at least. The heavily favored Buffs took a 29-0 lead into halftime against Stanford before taking their foot off the gas and watching everything fall apart… Colorado eventually fell to the Stanford Cardinal 46-43 in double overtime, droppig to 4-3 on the season. The 29-point blown lead is the largest in Buffaloes history, and it came against a team that is arguably the worst in the Pac-12 right now. How did this epic collapse happen? Let’s delve into three things that went wrong in the second half for Deion Sanders and company.

1. The Buffs Lost Their Discipline
Three takeaways from Colorado's loss to Stanford - Sports Illustrated Colorado Buffaloes News, Analysis and More

Photo Cred: SI

Lack of discipline has become a common theme of this Colorado football season through seven games, and it reared its ugly head on Friday night. The Buffs were whistled for 17 penalties that cost them 127 yards, and some of them were backbreakers.

The Buffaloes had a penalty for 12 men on the field on defense four separate times, giving one free play after another to the Stanford offense. The Buffs had numerous personal fouls and unsportsmanlike conduct penalties as well. None were as crucial as Travis Hunter’s personal foul at the beginning of the fourth quarter.

With Colorado leading 29-19 and Stanford driving in CU territory, the Buffaloes got a stop on a third-and-long to force a field goal attempt. However, Hunter gave a Stanford wideout an extra shove after the play and got hit for a personal foul. The penalty gave the Cardinal a first down, and they eventually punched it in for a score to cut the Buffs’ lead to three. 

The 17 penalties were a season high for a Colorado team that had been racking them up in recent weeks. This time, it finally came back to bite them…

2. The Secondary Fell Apart
Twitter reacts to Stanford's unbelievable comeback win over Colorado
Photo Cred: USA Today

The Buffaloes’ secondary had a massive talent advantage over the Stanford receivers. Travis Hunter was back, Omarion Cooper had been playing well, and talented freshmen Cormani McClain and Carter Stoutmire had been improving. On the other hand, Stanford had struggled to pass the ball all season, entering Friday’s contest with less than 200 yards per game through the air.

The first half was more of the same. Stanford threw for just 35 yards in the first half, never even threatening on the Colorado side of the field. Consequently, they dug themselves into that 29-point halftime hole.

The script flipped in the second half, however. The Cardinal threw the ball all over the place, finishing with 364 passing yards after halftime. Wide receiver Elic Ayomanor was the top target, reeling in touchdowns of 97, 60, and 30 yards, respectively, in the second half. The Buffs tried every one of their corners on Ayomanor, and none of them found any success.

Ayomanor finished with 13 catches for 294 yards and three scores, carrying the Stanford offense on his back. The Stanford wideout had just 207 yards receiving combined through the first five games of the season before popping off on the Buffs’ secondary.

3. The Buffs Offense Relaxed
Buffs Sink Stanford On Price's Game-Winning Field Goal - University of Colorado Athletics
Photo Cred: CU

For a comeback like this to happen, the defense has to fall apart, but the offense certainly played its part. After making things look easy on that side of the ball for the first 30 minutes, the Buffs were suddenly unable to move the ball and find open receivers or protect the quarterback in the second half.

Interestingly, the Buffs just ran the ball 14 times in the second half after running it 16 times in the first half, despite the need to kill the clock. They were shut out for the entirety of the third quarter while Stanford marched back into the game and, save for one touchdown drive in the fourth quarter, never really got it going again.

The final Colorado offensive play summed up the whole night. On third-and-goal from the two-yard line in double overtime, the Buffs ran a mesh to get Hunter or tight end Michael Harrison open. It appeared as if both were about to come open but ended up running into each other, thus blowing up the play. Shedeur Sanders scrambled around and desperately heaved a pass into the end zone, despite it being just a third down. He threw an interception to Alaka’i Gilman…

That final play ultimately sealed the Buffaloes’ fate, as Stanford was able to set up for the game-winning field goal. It was a historic collapse, arguably the worst in school history, and the Buffs now head into their bye week with that sour taste in their mouths.

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