Stanford football (2-4, 1-3 Pac-12) delivered a come-from-behind victory against the Colorado Buffaloes (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) in a double overtime matchup in Boulder. Stanford fans witnessed history be made as the Cardinal recorded the largest comeback in program history.
Conference play is proving to be more difficult for Colorado than head coach Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders initially predicted. With three losses on the books, the hype around Coach Prime and his improved Buffaloes is slowly regressing. Nonetheless, Colorado was the big favorite heading into this game.
Wide receiver and cornerback Travis Hunter returned to the field for the first time since his liver injury on Sept. 16, the result of a Colorado State defensive player’s late tackle. Working through Stanford’s zone defense, the 6’1″ sophomore finished the game with 13 receptions for 140 yards.
Wide receiver Xavier Weaver also posed a threat for Stanford’s defense; he scored three touchdowns in the first half alone. Hunter and Weaver combined for all five of the Buffaloes’ touchdowns and 224 receiving yards.
Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders had strong performance early in the game, making effective reads and producing runs and quick darts to get the ball down the field. He finished the game with 400 yards and 33 completions.
The Buffalo defense kept Stanford at bay in the first half, preventing receiver progression down the field. The defensive line got a couple sacks on sophomore quarterback Ashton Daniels with quick blitzes that left no room for a play.
Whether it was Weaver’s slow jog to the end zone for Colorado’s fourth touchdown or the 0-29 deficit, Stanford came out of halftime with a different attitude. After similar deficits against teams like USC and Oregon, anyone would expect Stanford to use its last efforts to try and shrink the gap by a touchdown or so, perhaps to lessen the deficit of a loss. Instead, the Cardinal left everyone speechless, as both the offense and defense stepped up in unexpected ways to produce a 26-0 run in the third quarter.
Sophomore wide receiver Elic Ayomanor served as the biggest asset for the Cardinal on Friday night. Through disorienting circumstances, he managed to execute plays that landed him three touchdowns over 294 receiving yards — the most in school history.
Each touchdown was notable: his first, he faked out the cornerback guarding him and beat two others on Colorado’s defense for a 97-yard run to the endzone. The second featured a back shoulder fade catch in which he beat Hunter and two others to glide into the endzone. His final score came in the first overtime, where he caught the ball behind Hunter’s neck while running in front of him. The ball, trapped between Ayomanor’s hands and Hunter’s helmet, and Hunter were dragged into the end zone to extend the match to double overtime.
Senior wide receiver Bryce Farrell also helped close Stanford’s Friday night victory. Early in the third, Daniels slipped the ball to Farrell before executing a fake handoff to running back EJ Smith in the backfield. This play stalled Colorado’s defense and secured the Cardinal’s first touchdown of the game. Farrell’s other came late in the fourth, when Daniels lobbed the ball to him right over Colorado defensive back Carter Stoutmire’s shoulder for six points.
The Hunter-Sanders duo was met with the renewed energy of the Stanford defense in the second half. Hunter, swarmed more by more defenders for various plays, left Sanders out to dry. Moreover, Sanders’s decision-making got worse over the course of the second half. A prime example is when the game was tied in double overtime: with the opportunity to win it all, Sanders tried lobbing the ball over senior safety Alaka’i Gilman to Hunter in the back of the endzone. Instead, Gilman was able to intercept the ball and give Stanford a chance to win it with a score. Stanford’s defensive coverage of every receiver in the endzone, paired with line pressure on Sanders, put the ball back in their hands.
Senior kicker Joshua Karty sent the Cardinal to overtime with a 46-yarder to end the fourth quarter and sealed the victory with 31-yarder, snapping Stanford’s four-game losing streak and keeping bowl-eligibility intact. But most importantly, Karty’s game-winner kicked morale back into high-gear. After back-to-back 3-9 seasons and a four-game losing streak that included a shocking loss to Sacramento State, the program needed a confidence-boosting win. But for it to come in this fashion is truly incredible.
Up next, the Cardinal return home to face off against the No. 18 UCLA Bruins (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12) on Oct. 21. Catch the homecoming action on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. at Stanford Stadium and on ESPN.
Editor’s Note: A previous version of this article incorrectly identified the location of the homecoming football game as Memorial Stadium. The Daily regrets this error.