STANFORD, Calif. – The Colorado Buffaloes are still a work in progress, but they’ve made more progress than expected.
Considered by many as one of the worst teams in the Pac-12 Conference coming into the season, the Buffaloes have spent the first two weeks proving otherwise.
On Saturday, quarterback Sam Noyer once again led an efficient day by the offense and the defense played well most of the day in a 35-32 victory against Stanford at Stanford Stadium.
In their first year under head coach Karl Dorrell, the Buffs (2-0, 2-0 Pac-12) have already exceeded many outside expectations. Las Vegas oddsmakers had the over/under on CU wins at 1.5 this season.
“We feel pretty confidently about ourselves and I think that’s more in our building than probably the people outside of our building,” Dorrell said after Saturday’s game. “I like to ride on the temperature of the team and the team is very hungry. They’re inspired about playing well and having success this year.”
Leading that charge is senior quarterback Sam Noyer, who won the starting job in preseason camp. Before last week, he hadn’t started a game since he was a senior at Beaverton (Ore.) High School in 2015.
Noyer has now led the Buffs to wins in his first two starts. Against the Cardinal (0-2, 0-2), he threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns, while also running for two touchdowns.
“Being 2-0 is a great feeling,” Noyer said. “I think that wasn’t the prettiest win, but at the end of the day, a W is a W, and we’ve just got to kind of build off this, and keep going.”
In addition to Noyer, the Buffs’ got great performances from Jarek Broussard, who rushed for 121 yards, and Dimitri Stanley, who caught six passes for 126 yards and a touchdown.
As it did last week, the defense played well early and helped the Buffs build a big lead. But, as it did last week, the defense struggled late, forcing the Buffs to hold on in the end.
CU led 35-16 early in the fourth quarter, but Stanford had two touchdowns and a pair of two-point conversions in the final nine minutes to make Dorrell sweat.
“We felt we built a pretty comfortable lead,” Dorrell said. “That’s the point of the matter: it wasn’t too comfortable, because they came back.
“I would have liked to finish that game on our terms. That would have been much better for us to feel better about it, but it’s a great win. I think we’re still learning as a team.”
After Stanford cut the CU lead to 35-32 with 2 minutes, 34 seconds to go, CU receiver La’Vontae Shenault recovered an onsides kick. Stanford didn’t have any time outs, so CU was able to run three times and melt the clock down to 18 seconds before punting the ball back to the Cardinal. Stanford had just 10 seconds to try to go 92 yards and wound up losing six yards on the final play, which included four laterals and a fumble.
Despite letting the Cardinal back in it late, the Buffs were impressive in the win.
After piling up 525 yards in a 48-42 win against UCLA in the first week, the Buffs finished with 432 yards against a Stanford defense that has given them fits for years.
This was the sixth matchup between these teams since CU joined the Pac-12 in 2011. In the first five, CU had scored a total of 43 points, with never more than 16 in a game. They had just four total touchdowns in those games.
In this one, they found the end zone five times and averaged 6.3 yards per play – up from the 5.7 they averaged against UCLA.
“That defense was a lot tougher defense than the defense we played the previous week,” Dorrell said. “And, we were able to do some really positive things. I’m sure we felt we could have had a few more opportunities to put some points on the board, where we had some drives stall, but I think for the most part that we put enough points on the board to win, offensively.”
After a slow start and an early 3-0 deficit, the Buffs got on the board with a 55-yard touchdown pass from Noyer to Stanley with 3:20 to play in the first quarter and they never trailed again.
Noyer had a second-quarter touchdown run to help the Buffs take a 14-9 lead into halftime. In the third quarter, Noyer had another touchdown run and then connected with Brenden Rice for a 34-yard touchdown pass that gave the Buffs a 28-9 lead.
Jaren Mangham added a 2-yard touchdown run early in the fourth quarter.
“We know we’ve to correct some things and clean some things up, some mental errors there, but we got the ball rolling and we got things rolling and as the game went on,” Noyer said. “We kind of started rolling as an offense and then our defense did a great job getting us the ball back.”
Although it wound up being closer than wanted, Dorrell and the Buffs left California with another win, putting them tied atop the Pac-12 South with Southern California.
“We’re 2-0 with a chance to get better,” Dorrell said. “We’re pleased at where we’re at, and we still have so much work to do.”
Game at a glance
Play of the game: In the first quarter, Sam Noyer connected with Dimitri Stanley in stride and Stanley went 55 yards for the first touchdown of the game.
Turning point: CU held a 14-9 lead at the half, but took control early in the third. They scored on the opening drive of the quarter, forced a Stanford punt and then scored again to go up 28-9.
Top 3 Buffs of the game
1. WR Dimitri Stanley: He tied his career high (from last week) with six catches and had a career-high 126 yards and one touchdown.
2. OLB Carson Wells: He was a beast, especially early, finishing with six tackles, one sack, two tackles for loss and two pass breakups.
3. QB Sam Noyer: Poised once again, he threw for 255 yards and two touchdowns and ran for two scores.
Colorado 35, Stanford 32
Colorado 7 7 14 7 — 35
Stanford 3 6 7 16 — 32
First Quarter: STA — FG Toner 48, 11:45. COL — Stanley 55 pass from Noyer (Price kick), 3:30.
Second Quarter: STA — FG Toner 33, 14:13. COL — Noyer 7 run (Price kick), 9:36. STA — FG Toner 28, 4:38.
Third Quarter: COL — Noyer 10 run (Price kick), 11:32. COL — Rice 34 pass from Noyer (Price kick), 8:55. STA — Mills 2 run (Toner kick), 4:35.
Fourth Quarter: COL — Mangham 2 run (Price kick), 14:58. STA — Au.Jones 2 run (Wedington pass from Mills), 8:45. STA — Harrington 1 pass from Mills (Fisk pass from Mills), 2:34.
First downs 22 24
Passing 255 327
Return Yards 61 156
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 1-1
Time of Possession 28:33 31:27
RUSHING — Colorado, Broussard 27-121, Noyer 8-36, Mangham 8-18, Clayton 1-3, Stanley 1-(minus 1). Stanford, Mills 6-36, Peat 5-21, Au.Jones 9-9, Woods 1-4.
PASSING — Colorado, Noyer 15-24-1-255. Stanford, Mills 31-56-0-327.
RECEIVING — Colorado, Stanley 6-126, Shenault 3-60, Rice 2-38, Ja.Jackson 1-14, Arias 1-10, M.Lynch 1-6, Broussard 1-1. Stanford, Wedington 8-77, Au.Jones 7-31, Wilson 6-95, Fehoko 5-74, Harrington 2-18, Higgins 1-29, Tremayne 1-12, Filkins 1-(minus 6).
MISSED FIELD GOALS — None.