Stanford overcomes 29-point deficit, shocks Colorado in double OT: What went wrong for the Buffaloes

The Stanford Cardinal overcame a 29-point deficit to defeat the Colorado Buffaloes 46-43 in double overtime Friday. It is the biggest comeback in school history for Stanford. Here’s what you need to know:

  • Colorado led 29-0 at halftime against Stanford.
  • The Cardinal scored 26 straight points to start the second half. Down 36-33 with five seconds remaining in regulation, Stanford kicker Joshua Karty converted a 46-yard field goal, sending the game to overtime.
  • In double overtime, Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders threw an interception to Stanford safety Alaka’i Gilman. Karty kicked the game-winning 31-yard field goal to end the game.
  • Colorado two-way player Travis Hunter recorded 13 catches for 140 yards and two touchdowns in his first game back since taking an illegal hit against Colorado State on Sept. 16.

Colorado’s overtime strategy costs Buffaloes

Why did Colorado get the ball to start both overtimes? It’s a strategy built around Sanders’ confidence in his offense and in his son, quarterback Shedeur Sanders. Deion Sanders is supremely confident that the offense will score and wants to put pressure on opponents, which the Buffaloes did in the first overtime, though Stanford answered with a touchdown of its own.

Shedeur Sanders did throw for 400 yards and five touchdowns on the night, but his final pass was intercepted, and that showcased the nightmare scenario in the approach. Sanders’ interception came on third down, but the offense would have had a difficult decision with a fourth-and-goal from the 2-yard line. That decision never came because a desperation pass from Sanders was picked off, but Stanford took over on Colorado’s 25 in the bottom half of the second overtime knowing it needed only three points.

Knowing what is needed to win is a massive strategy advantage for offenses when the team with the ball in the top half of overtime fails to score. Sanders believes the pressure his offense can add by putting points on the board outweighs that. He’s not alone, but few coaches agree with his controversial strategy, no matter how reliable their offense and quarterbacks. — David Ubben, senior college football writer

Colorado’s bowl game chances take a hit

Colorado didn’t just lose a game it led 29-0 at halftime. It might have cost itself a bowl game Friday night. The Buffaloes are now 4-3 but have four games against ranked teams ahead in a Pac-12 that looks like the deepest conference in America this season.

The Buffaloes are off next week, but three of their next five games are on the road, too. If Colorado had held on to win, it would have only needed to beat Arizona in Boulder in its home finale on Nov. 11 to secure a bowl bid. Now, it will have to win that game and likely beat a ranked team to reach a bowl.

Colorado doesn’t have a win against a team that’s currently ranked. It faces UCLA on the road after being idle Oct. 21 and hosts Oregon State a week later. After the home game against Arizona, it closes its season with a trip to Washington State before traveling to reigning Pac-12 champion Utah to close the regular season. Colorado would likely have had better than 50 percent odds to reach a bowl game with a win Friday. Now, those odds have tilted in favor of Colorado being home for the holidays in Year 1 under Deion Sanders. — Ubben

Evaluating Travis Hunter’s return

Hunter didn’t wait long to make an impact after missing three games with a lacerated liver. He provided one of the game’s biggest early highlights in the first quarter with a 24-yard catch and run for a touchdown featuring a spectacular spin move to make Cardinal linebacker Tristan Sinclair dive at nothing but air.

Sanders had aimed to keep Hunter off the field until after Colorado’s idle week next week, but Hunter healed enough and proved his conditioning was good enough to get back on the field.

Hunter continued to play both sides of the ball throughout Colorado’s win but struggled mightily in coverage against Stanford receiver Elic Ayomanor in the second half. Hunter finished with 13 catches for 140 yards and two scores and made five tackles but didn’t break up a pass and was flagged for a personal foul that extended a Stanford drive in the fourth quarter.

Ayomanor also made one of the best catches of the season against Hunter’s helmet to tie the score in the first overtime. — Ubben

The Ayomanor highlight reel

Ayomanor will be all over highlight reels this week, but he’s going to be all over Stanford’s record books, too. He was uncoverable in the second half. He racked up 13 catches, 294 yards and three touchdowns to fuel Stanford’s rally, all in the second half after the Cardinal trailed 29-0 at halftime.

His 294 yards were a school record, and if the record books had a slot for “best catch ever,” his 25-yard helmet catch on Hunter to tie the score in the first overtime would deserve a spot.

Ayomanor’s 97-yard touchdown in the third quarter sparked the run, but he ran slant after slant against the Buffaloes, who had no answers. Cornerback Carter Stoutmire struggled, so Colorado switched Hunter on him for much of the fourth quarter. It didn’t matter. He kept getting open, and even when he wasn’t open, he made contested catches to carry the Cardinal to victory. — Ubben

Highlight of the game

Required reading

(Photo: Ron Chenoy / USA Today)

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