What went right: CU played well early on. The Buffs scored a touchdown on their first offensive possession and forced an early Stanford punt. The defense came out aggressive early on.
What went wrong: The Buffs didn't maintain their early fire, and the game got out of hand in the second quarter. The offense couldn't stay on the field, and the defense couldn't get off the field.
Turning point: Late in the first half, CU trailed 21-7, but had a chance to put up a late touchdown or field goal going into the half. Instead, Sefo Liufau was intercepted. Stanford went 57 yards in seven plays the other way to go ahead 28-7 and essentially put the game away.
CU player of the game: Derek McCartney. The sophomore defensive lineman came out aggressive early. He finished with five tackles and a sack.
Bottom line: Another Pac-12 defeat for the Buffs, who continue to struggle against their league foes, falling to 1-14 the last two seasons. The Buffs have lost nine consecutive conference home games.
In recent weeks, the Colorado football team had found a way to control the clock and wear down opponents.
That's Stanford's game, and on Saturday, the Cardinal showed CU how it's really done.
No. 9 Stanford dominated the Buffaloes from the start and kept its pursuit of a national title alive with a 42-10 rout at Folsom Field.
"To put in a week's worth of preparation and to come out flat like that is really frustrating," CU quarterback Sefo Liufau said after a second straight defeat for the Buffs (4-6, 1-5 Pac-12). "Any time you come out like that against a very good team, it's not going to end up in your favor."
It's certainly not the way to beat Stanford (8-1, 7-0), which treated the Buffs like it has so many other opponents over the years.
The Cardinal controlled possession for 38 minutes and 1 second, rolling up 472 yards.
A week after running a school-record 114 plays on offense, CU had just 53 snaps against the Cardinal, picking up just 231 yards.
"You want to be able to control a game like they did at times," CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Of course, it helps to have the talent Stanford has, too.
Behind an experienced and mature offensive line, former Valor Christian High School star Christian McCaffrey ran for 147 yards and threw a fourth-quarter touchdown pass. Quarterback Kevin Hogan was 17-for-23 for 169 yards and two touchdowns and added another 40 yards and a touchdown on the ground.
The number that burned the Buffs the most, however, was 10. Stanford was 10-for-16 on third-down conversions, and that downplays just how good it was on third down.
While the first-team offense was in the game — basically through three quarters — the Cardinal converted 10 of 13 third-downs. On two of the three misses, the Cardinal converted a fourth down on the next snap.
"The difference in the game was them making third downs and us not," said MacIntyre, whose offense was 2 of 11 on third down. "The third down plays is what got away from us. They got driving and got going."
Stanford was 2-for-3 on third downs (and 1-for-1 on fourth down) in a game-opening touchdown drive.
Early in the second quarter, the Cardinal faced third-and-18, and Hogan connected with Michael Rector for a 43-yard touchdown.
Later in the quarter, CU forced Stanford into fourth-and-2 at the 6-yard line, but the Cardinal faked a power run and Hogan floated a pass to a wide-open Dalton Schultz in the end zone.
An 11-yard Hogan scramble on third-and-7 in the third quarter keyed another touchdown drive.
"We had a lot of opportunities to help our offense out and get this win," safety Tedric Thompson said. "We weren't able to capitalize."
Thompson was kicking himself for one lost opportunity, in particular.
With CU down 35-10 midway through the third quarter, Thompson picked off a Thompson pass and returned it 71 yards before getting tripped up at the 3-yard line.
"I feel like I should have scored," he said. "I was mad at myself for that."
CU's offense had four chances to get those last 3 yards and put seven points on the board. Instead, they netted negative-2 yards and turned the ball over on downs at the 5.
"If you want to win games, you have to do that, you have to finish off drives," Liufau said. "We didn't and you're not going to win if you don't do that."
That sequence was a microcosm of CU's day on offense.
CU did respond to Stanford's opening touchdown with a nice six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of its own, but spent the rest of the day sputtering.
"It all comes down to doing your job and everyone doing their job on a given play," Liufau said. "We didn't do it. It all comes down to me. I will take blame, no matter what happens, for this offense. I have to pick it up if this offense wants to take this team places."
As Saturday proved, he's not alone.