By Morris Phillips
STANFORD, CA–Until someone figures out Jarek Broussard and the Colorado run game, the good times could hang around Boulder for a while.
And Stanford? The physical, hard-nosed bunch always hanging around their football facility for the last decade might not be currently enrolled in school.
Stanford survived a rough first half in which they couldn’t finish anything offensively while the visiting Buffs cleaned up with their quick-hitting run game. But somehow quarterback Davis Mills and kicker Jet Toner kept the Cardinal within range, down five, 14-9.
The appearance of competitiveness disappeared quickly to start the third quarter, as Colorado struck for two touchdowns on their way to a 35-32 win at Stanford Stadium.
“Everybody’s buying in,” fifth-year senior quarterback Sam Noyer said. “Guys are having fun out there. It’s good to see that again. I haven’t seen that in a couple years.”
Noyer ran for a pair of touchdowns and threw for two more, including a 34-yard pass play to Jerry Rice’s son, Brenden that put the Buffs up 28-9 just six minutes into the second half.
Mills did his best to rally Stanford, throwing for 327 yards and a touchdown, but the senior misfired on 25 pass attempts and failed to convert 11 of 16 third down opportunities. Mills’ uneven performance was indicative of his lack of practice and game reps due to COVID testing procedures that the Pac-12 admitted this week contained errors and should not have forced the Cardinal to hold out Mills and three others that missed the opener at Oregon.
“He was in isolation essentially from Saturday afternoon until Thursday night,” coach David Shaw said of Mills. “He was able to come in and get one practice and it showed. There’s not much we could have done about it, but to say that it didn’t affect his performance I think would be inaccurate.”
Mills one-yard touchdown pass to Scooter Harrington cut the Colorado lead from as many as 19 to three with 2:45 remaining. But the Buffs salted away the remainder of the clock, allowing Stanford just 10 seconds and the final play of the game which resulted in a fumble.
The Buffs got 121 yards rushing from Broussard, and 177 yards total on 45 carries. That didn’t include a swing pass that turned into a 55-yard touchdown by Dimitry Stanley, one of several big plays where the Stanford defense was caught uncharacteristically napping.
The Stanford run game underperformed, managing just 70 yards on 21 carries, in part due to Mills needing to throw on nearly every down when their deficit grew to three scores. Still Austin Jones paltry production stood out as the sophomore followed up a 100-yard performance at Oregon with nine yards on nine carries.
The Cardinal fell to 0-2 after finishing last season 4-8, by far the worst stretch of results in the last decade under Shaw. Stanford also dropped their home opener for the first time after 12 consecutive wins.