CU at Stanford, at glance
What went right: The Colorado defense was great all day. Facing a Stanford offense that has been dreadful for weeks, the Buffs never gave the Cardinal much of a shot, holding them to 256 yards and forcing four turnovers.
What went wrong: CU's offense sputtered throughout the day, and the kickers combined to miss three field goals.
Turning point: Tedric Thompson's interception with 6:23 to play in the fourth quarter set up the CU offense to hit a field goal that increased the lead to 10-3 in the closing minutes. It was the breathing room CU needed to finish the game.
CU player of the game: Thompson. The senior safety intercepted two passes on the day and was part of a secondary that yielded just 170 yards through the air.
Bottom line: At 4-1 in the Pac-12, the Buffaloes are clearly one of the leaders - along with Utah - for the Pac-12 South title. It was important win to keep them atop the division.
STANFORD, Calif. — On a beautiful fall afternoon, the Colorado Buffaloes stood in the corner of Stanford Stadium and sang the fight song in front of six sections of seats filled with their fans.
It was the loudest the stadium got all day Saturday, as the Buffs celebrated the slaying of a Pac-12 giant and the achievement of a goal nine years in the making.
Colorado fought through an ugly afternoon to knock off defending Pac-12 champion Stanford, 10-5, and become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
"We do have bigger goals, but to finally get over the hump and finally have a string of success is a great feeling," senior quarterback Sefo Liufau said. "To see it all come to fruition is a great feeling. There's no other better feeling than winning, home or away, with your brothers."
Those brothers inched closer to their ultimate goal of winning the Pac-12 championship. It's a goal that seemed so improbable — even laughable to some — just a few short weeks ago.
Yet, at 6-2 (4-1 in the Pac-12), the Buffs remain tied atop the South division with Utah (7-1, 4-1), which kept pace by winning at UCLA.
In reaching the coveted six-win mark, the Buffs also snapped a 10-game losing streak in the state of California and beat the Cardinal (4-3, 2-3) for the first time since 1990.
"That shows you, like I've been saying, we're a good football team with great character," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "When you beat the Rose Bowl champ ugly, and you've won as many Pac-12 games as we have (over the past five years), to do that on the road is very, very special."
It's the latest signal that this CU team is light years ahead of the Buffaloes who went 5-40 in Pac-12 play from 2011-15.
"I commend coach MacIntyre for the job that he's done at Colorado," Stanford head coach David Shaw said. "Recruiting, coaching, they were very close last year in a lot of games, and didn't finish. This year you see that changed."
The win was hardly a thing of beauty for the Buffs, though.
Throughout the day, their high-powered offense sputtered. Liufau wasn't sharp with his throws. The offense bogged down in the red zone.
The kicking game was a disaster, with three missed field goals, two from third-string kicker Chris Graham and one from fourth-stringer Alex Kinney.
The defense, however, was spectacular, forcing four turnovers, including two interceptions by Tedric Thompson, and holding the Cardinal to 263 yards in total offense.
"I'm extremely impressed with our defense," MacIntyre said. "The way they played was phenomenal."
Stanford star Christian McCaffrey returned to the lineup after missing one game with an injury, but it didn't matter. He had 92 yards rushing and caught two passes for 27 yards, but never hurt the Buffs.
McCaffrey's biggest play came with the Buffs leading 7-3 midway through the fourth quarter, when he took a pass from Ryan Burns and went 26 yards to get the Cardinal out of the shadow of its end zone.
Three plays later, however, Thompson's second interception gave the ball to the offense at the Stanford 20. Once again, the CU offense failed to do much with the opportunity, but Graham shook off two earlier misses to drill a 22-yard field goal, increasing the lead to 10-3 with 2:13 to play.
"We need to score touchdowns if we want to win big games against very good teams, and we weren't really doing that today," said Liufau, who completed just 12 of 25 throws for 135 yards. "To finally go out there and put more points on the board (with Graham's field goal), it's definitely a sigh of relief. It was little stress taken off of our defense and offense."
After Stanford got the ball back, Isaiah Oliver intercepted another Burns pass. CU was able to run the clock down to the final seconds, took a safety and then held the Cardinal on its final last-gasp attempt.
Stanford struck first with a field goal in the first quarter and became just the second team to keep the Buffs scoreless in the first quarter.
CU finally got a touchdown drive together in the second quarter, as Liufau connected with Shay Fields for a 15-yard touchdown.
It was the struggle the rest of the way, but in the end, the Buffs found a way to finally reach that long-awaited six-win mark.
"I think it gets the monkey off the back of the University of Colorado," MacIntyre said. "It's exciting for the University of Colorado, it's really exiting for our fans, but our kids have one goal in mind, to win a Pac-12 championship. This is just one more step that way."
While the Buffs do have bigger things in mind, taking that step on Saturday was huge. That's why the celebration in the corner of the stadium meant so much to everybody in Buff Nation.
"I'll remember this season for the rest of my life, no matter how it ends," Liufau said. "The guys I play with, the tough times, the great times. It's a great feeling."
STA — FG Ukropina 26, 2:33Second Quarter
COL — Fields 15 pass from Liufau (Graham kick), 11:59Fourth Quarter
COL — FG Graham 22, 2:13
STA — safety, :04COL STA First downs 23 15 Rushes-yards 49-224 33-93 Passing 135 170 Comp-Att-Int 12-25-0 16-29-3 Return Yards 25 13 Punts-Avg. 5-42.8 5-49.2 Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-0 Penalties-Yards 6-60 7-60 Time of Possession 26:43 33:17 INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS
RUSHING — Colorado, Lindsay 12-131, Evans 14-60, Liufau 18-36, Fields 1-12, (Team) 4-(minus 15). Stanford, McCaffrey 21-92, Love 3-24, Chryst 3-6, Tucker 0-0, (Team) 1-(minus 2), Burns 5-(minus 27).
PASSING — Colorado, Liufau 12-25-0-135. Stanford, Burns 16-29-3-170.
RECEIVING — Colorado, Fields 4-51, Ross 4-33, Bobo 2-27, Walker 1-13, Lindsay 1-11. Stanford, T.Irwin 7-88, Rector 4-36, McCaffrey 2-26, Schultz 2-15, Love 1-5.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Colorado, Graham 43, Graham 28, Kinney 31.