The Stanford Cardinal offense did the team no favors Saturday on the Farm. Opportunities went by the wayside in a 10-5 loss to the Colorado Buffaloes.
Stanford Cardinal head coach David Shaw said the play on offense needs to improve. Despite a win over Notre Dame, the Cardinal offense has failed to find consistency. The woes continued for a vanilla Cardinal offense Saturday.
Without a doubt, Stanford left an abundance of points on the field – enough that they would have easily won the game over Colorado. Colorado’s kicking game was a big reason why Stanford was in the game. Kickers Chris Graham and Alex Kinney made just one of four kick attempts.
Led by Joey Alfieri and Solomon Thomas, the Cardinal defense came up with critical stops against the Buffaloes. Although the defensive line gave up big plays during Colorado drives, the red zone defense was stout, stalling the Buffaloes.
Once again, the defensive play was providing the offense with a chance to win, much like against UCLA and Notre Dame. The moment looked apparent again late in the fourth as Ryan Burns led the Cardinal offense into the red zone. Despite evident struggles since losing to Washington, Burns has shown at times he can deliver in critical moments.
On first and goal, however, the moment never came. A botched snap was pounced on by the Colorado defense. A touchdown would have tied the game. Instead, the fumble recovery sent the visiting Colorado cheering section and sideline into a frenzy.
But the game was not over just yet.
The Cardinal defense rose to the occasion and forced a three-and-out on the Buffaloes. Burns was given an opportunity to redeem himself after the miscue. With no timeouts left, the execution had to be perfect in order to force overtime.
The opportunity was short-lived. A deep pass on third down was intercepted by Isaiah Oliver, Burns’ third pick of the game. Twice the Cardinals had a chance to even the score. Twice the chance ended in disappointment.
From the start, Stanford’s offense was not clicking. Despite taking an early 3-0 lead on a 14-play drive, running and passing were dismal. Some play calls were apparent to Colorado, making it easy to stop Stanford. All plays with Keller Chryst were running where he was brought down immediately. The decisions were met with the ire of Stanford fans and coach Shaw could not get the offense in sync.
Christian McCaffrey returned to the lineup after missing the last few games with an injury. His return provided no spark as finished with only 92 yards rushing. Since the Washington game, McCaffrey has been unable to establish the threat he once was seen in past seasons.
With McCaffrey handling the load, backup Bryce Love was unable to establish himself. He finished with 24 yards on three carries, a big drop in production after last week’s breakout performance against Notre Dame.
Burns’ struggles have made his receivers ineffective to make plays. Trenton Irwin led all Stanford receivers with 88 yards. However, in big moments to extend drives, the Cardinal receivers could not come up with the catch.
For Colorado, coach MacIntyre said finishing was important for his team. Since being hired as head coach, the Buffaloes have come out on the wrong side of the game because they couldn’t hold off opponents at the end. This may not have been a pretty finish, but it ended in a victory.
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Sefo Liufau struggled at the start as the Cardinal defense came out attacking. He remained poised and eventually led a nine-play scoring drive in what ultimately would be the winning drive. Shay Fields was left open in the end zone to cap a drive that began at their own 27-yard line.
Phillip Lindsay rushed for 131 yards on 12 carries, carving up the Stanford defense. The Buffaloes’ offensive line won the battles up front, creating gaps up the middle for Lindsay to explode through. If Stanford’s secondary did not wrap up the speedster, Colorado’s score would have been higher.
The Cardinal defense had trouble wrapping up the Buffaloes ground attack, as missed tackles led to extra yards gained. Liufau was able to scramble from the pocket up the middle as the Stanford defense could not tackle on initial contact. Kyle Evans was able to escape at times, finishing with 60 yards rushing.
Kenneth Olugbode was a stalwart once again for Colorado’s defense. He had seven solo tackles and was in on 11 team tackles. However, his biggest play came in the fourth quarter, when he recovered Burns’ botched snap fumble.
Cornerback Alijah Holder made his return to the Stanford lineup after an injury against UCLA. However, Holder appeared injured again holding his shoulder when walking off the field during the game. He did not return and had an ice bag wrapped around his shoulder on the sideline.
Back to the drawing board for Stanford whose record now stands at 4-3. The Cardinal offense did no favors this week, leaving the Cardinal defense hanging. Coach Shaw needs to add some flash to a bland play calling book. With a road game against Arizona next week, Stanford’s offense needs to find a rhythm and get in sync with the whole team.