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Colorado collapses in second half against Stanford in improbable 46-43 2OT loss

The Buffaloes led 29-0 at halftime

BOULDER, COLORADO - OCTOBER 13: Head coach Deion Sanders and Shedeur Sanders #2 of the Colorado Buffaloes talk before taking on the Stanford Cardinal at Folsom Field on October 13, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images)
Colorado is now 4-3 overall and 1-3 in the Pac-12 after losing to Stanford on Friday night. (Photo by Justin Tafoya/Getty Images) (Justin Tafoya via Getty Images)

Colorado’s chances at a bowl game might have disappeared in an incredible second-half collapse against Stanford on Friday night.

The Cardinal overcame a 29-0 halftime deficit to stun Colorado 46-43 in double overtime. Wide receiver Elic Ayomanor was unstoppable after halftime and made an amazing catch over Colorado star Travis Hunter to send the game to a second overtime.

Colorado QB Shedeur Sanders threw an ill-advised interception on third down on the Buffs’ possession in the second overtime as Stanford was able to win the game on a 31-yard field goal by Joshua Karty.

The overtime TD catch was Ayomanor’s third of the game. He finished with 13 catches for a school-record 294 yards as Colorado could do nothing to slow him down.

Ayomanor scored Stanford’s second TD of the game in the third quarter on a 97-yard catch-and-run. He scored on a 60-yard TD on the following possession and Stanford QB Ashton Daniels soon started to look his way nearly every pass play.

The Buffs ended up with Hunter shadowing Ayomanor but even that didn’t work.

Daniels was 27-of-45 passing for 396 yards and four TDs. He had thrown for fewer than 60 yards and completed just a third of his passes before Ayomanor’s 97-yard catch.

Colorado looked great in the first half

Colorado appeared on the way to a dominant win through the first 30 minutes. Hunter returned to the lineup for the first time since he suffered a lacerated liver on a late hit in Week 3 and scored the first TD of his Colorado career to give the Buffs a 14-0 lead.

Colorado’s other three TDs in the first half were scored by Xavier Weaver as he caught two TDs from Sanders and ran for another.

But the offense Colorado had in the first half disappeared in the second as the defense was getting ripped to shreds. Stanford outscored Colorado 19-0 in the third quarter and cut the lead to 29-26 in the fourth quarter before Hunter scored his second TD of the game.

Stanford responded six minutes later, however, and cut the lead to three again. Colorado drove into Stanford territory, but coach Deion Sanders elected to take a delay of game and punt on 4th and 4 instead of going for the first down with 3:03 to go.

The punt went out of bounds at the Cardinal 1-yard line, but Stanford was undaunted by the long field. The Cardinal went 71 yards in 14 plays as Karty hit a 46-yard field goal to send the game to OT as time expired.

Colorado finished the game with 17 penalties and had myriad issues getting the correct number of defensive personnel on the field in the red zone. The Buffs were flagged for having 12 men on the field three times as Stanford approached the end zone over the course of the game and appeared to have only 10 men on the field for Karty's game-tying kick.

Colorado’s tough remaining schedule

The Buffaloes drop to 4-3 with the loss ahead of their bye week and it’s hard to see how Colorado gets to six wins and bowl eligibility after Friday night’s second half.

Make no mistake; the improvement Colorado has made after a 1-11 season is significant. Deion Sanders’ use of the transfer portal has reaped immediate benefits. But this is still a team with significant flaws and not near the top teams in the Pac-12. And there are a lot of top teams in the Pac-12 remaining on Colorado’s schedule.

Four of Colorado’s final five games of the season are against opponents currently ranked in the top 20 of the AP Top 25. The Buffaloes head to No. 18 UCLA in Week 9 before No. 15 Oregon State visits a week later. Arizona is the only unranked team on the schedule before the season ends with trips to No. 19 Washington State and No. 16 Utah.

That’s a daunting schedule for a top-tier team, let alone one that currently sits tied for 10th in the Pac-12. While it’s not impossible that Colorado can get two more wins and make a bowl game, the Buffaloes’ chances at the postseason would be far, far better if they would have simply hung on for a win Friday night.