When Evan Price’s 37-yard field goal split the uprights as time expired on Saturday afternoon at Folsom Field, Laviska Shenault didn’t sprint onto the field in celebration.
The Colorado star receiver simply reacted as much of Buff Nation probably did.
“Finally,” Shenault said. “Finally we got this one.”
Colorado’s 16-13 victory against Stanford was sorely needed for a team that has had trouble finding success for the past several weeks.
The Buffs (4-6, 2-5 Pac-12) snapped a five-game losing streak overall. They also snapped a three-game home losing streak and an eight-game November losing streak.
More than anything, however, the Buffs got some mental relief.
“It’s been like five weeks since we won a game, so it feels good to get a victory,” senior linebacker Davion Taylor said.
The Buffs did it on a day when the offense managed just one touchdown and 358 yards, but Price, who was filling in for injured James Stefanou, went 3-for-3 on field goals.
Price had not attempted a field goal since going 4-for-5 last year, and Saturday was the first game-winner of his life. It was also CU’s first regulation, walk-off field goal since Kevin Eberhart’s game-winner against No. 3 Oklahoma in 2007.
“I just went out there and wanted to pretend it was just a practice kick,” Price said. “Just do what I normally do: trust my holder, trust the snapper, trust the line and everything just went right.”
As Shenault said, finally.
Not much has gone right for the Buffs lately, but on Saturday, they played their best defensive game of the year and they found a way to finish a game on offense.
The Buffs came in having allowed 30-plus points in 14 straight games. They ranked 11th in the Pac-12 in scoring defense, total defense and on third downs. They were 10th in the red zone.
Against Stanford (4-5, 3-4), the Buffs gave up just 372 yards held an opponent below 14 points for the first time since the 2018 opener against Colorado State.
“In order to play good defense, you have to hold people to low numbers; the most important stat is scoring defense,” CU head coach Mel Tucker said. “To hold a team to 13 points, that’s really our goal. We really played probably our best defense in that regard this season and guys continued to chop wood and play hard and were physical and just very relentless effort.”
Stanford has struggled scoring all year, but still features one of the most talented quarterbacks in the country with KJ Costello. The Buffs got after him all day, sacking him twice, hitting him hard other times, making him uncomfortable often and holding him to 245 yards through the air.
“We knew that … if we got them in third down that we would be able to attack their protections and get to the quarterback,” Tucker said. “And, then we just really needed our rush and our coverage to work together.”
They did, with the exception of one play. CU took a 10-6 lead into the fourth quarter, but on the second play of the frame, with Stanford facing third-and-15, Costello hit Simi Fehoko with a pass across the middle and Fehoko took it the distance for a 79-yard touchdown. That gave the Cardinal their first lead of the game, 13-10.
That was really the only spark by the Stanford offense all day, however.
“Every day we are getting better and it just showed on the field today,” said Taylor, who led the team with eight tackles and two tackles for loss.
Offensively, the Buffs have had some struggles in recent weeks and they weren’t exactly explosive on Saturday. After a game-opening 75-yard touchdown drive, they managed just a field goal in their other six possessions of the first three quarters.
In the fourth, they responded to Stanford’s go-ahead touchdown with a game-tying field goal. Then, after the defense forced a punt, the offense got the ball back with 6 minutes on the clock.
Stanford never touched the ball again, as the Buffs melted the clock with a 13-play drive to the Stanford 19 to set up Price’s field goal.
After missing chances to close out games against Arizona and USC earlier this year, the offense finally delivered when it mattered most.
“It definitely gives us some confidence,” said quarterback Steven Montez, who scored CU’s first touchdown on a 13-yard run and threw for 186 yards. “I think that we’ve had these opportunities before in the past and came up a little bit short, but this time, we just kind of put it all together and everybody was on the same page and everybody was mentally focused and we were playing really physical football.”
Running backs Alex Fontenot and Jaren Mangham combined for 113 yards, while Shenault bowled through the Stanford defense for 5 yards on fourth-and-1 from the Stanford 34 with just over a minute to play.
Offense came through in the clutch, defense was stout most of the day and the special teams delivered the knock-out punch.
“That was a very good team win for us,” Tucker said. “We talked all week about guys playing for each other, playing for the man next to you. That’s what I saw that out there today.”
Colorado 16, Stanford 13
Play of the game: Evan Price’s 37-yard field goal as time expired delivered the Buffs’ first win since Sept. 21 at Arizona State.
Turning point: After Stanford took a 13-10 lead with 14:05 to play in the fourth, the Buffs’ offense responded with a 14-play, 69-yard drive to get a game-tying field goal. The rested defense then forced a three-and-out and that set up the Buffs’ game-winning drive.
Top 3 Buffs of the game
1. PK Evan Price: The redshirt freshman went 3-for-3 on field goals, including the game-winner as time expired.
2. STAR Davion Taylor: He was aggressive all day and finished with eight tackles, including two for loss. He also had a big pass breakup in the fourth quarter.
3. WR Laviska Shenault: He didn’t have a monster game, but battled through injury to catch eight passes for 91 yards. His 5-yard run on fourth-and-1 late in the game was critical.
Colorado 16, Stanford 13
Stanford 3 3 0 7 — 13
Colorado 7 3 0 6 — 16
COL – Montez 13 run (E.Price kick), 11:14
STA – FG Sanborn 40, 5:58
STA – FG Sanborn 36, 9:09
COL – FG E.Price 34, :32
STA – Fehoko 79 pass from Costello (Sanborn kick), 14:05
COL – FG E.Price 23, 7:34
COL – FG E.Price 37, :00
First downs 16 24
Rushes-yards 25-127 41-172
Passing 245 186
Comp-Att-Int 18-29-1 20-30-1
Return Yards 4 0
Punts-Avg. 3-43.33 4-45.0
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 0-0
Penalties-Yards 8-80 5-45
Time of Possession 27:53 32:07
RUSHING – Stanford, Scarlett 13-63, Au.Jones 5-30, Peat 4-29, Costello 3-5. Colorado, Fontenot 18-95, Montez 8-40, Mangham 11-18, Nixon 2-14, L.Shenault 1-5, Brown 1-0.
PASSING – Stanford, Costello 18-29-1-245. Colorado, Montez 20-30-1-186.
RECEIVING – Stanford, Parkinson 5-54, Wilson 3-34, Wedington 3-16, Fehoko 2-96, St. Brown 2-30, Fisk 1-6, Symonds 1-5, Au.Jones 1-4. Colorado, L.Shenault 8-91, Brown 3-32, Nixon 3-32, Stanley 2-12, Bell 1-8, Russell 1-7, Jackson 1-4, Mangham 1-0.
MISSED FIELD GOALS – Stanford, Sanborn 32.