Taylor racked up both of his touchdowns and 103 of his 135 yards in the game's final stanza. It was enough to give Stanford a 20-12 win that may not have been pretty, but gave the Cardinal plenty of reasons to be proud.
"I told Andrew, I told Coach, I wanted the ball," Taylor said of his late-game performance. "I knew we were wearing them down and they were tired, and I wanted to make them pay."
The game hinged on an option play. Stanford trailed 12-7 with under 10 minutes left, and had done nothing in the second half, punting three times and throwing two interceptions into coverage, in Andrew Luck's worst game of the season.
Then, on second and five, Luck sprinted left, with Taylor on his outside shoulder. Colorado had blitzed on the play, leaving only one defender on its right flank. Luck leaned into that linebacker and flipped the ball to Taylor, who ran 59 yards unguarded to the Buffalo nine.
"People forget that I can hit too, even though I'm a quarterback," Luck said. "It was 2-on-1, so I knew if I could take out their guy and get it to Stepfan, it was going to be a big play. Luckily, we were able to do that."
Suddenly, the fireworks show was back on for the Cardinal. Taylor punched it in from three two plays later. After Levine Toilolo dropped Luck's two-point conversion pass, Stanford had a 13- 12 edge with 9:03 to go.
A Henry Anderson sack, one of Anderson's 2.5 and Stanford's six on the day, killed the visiting Buffaloes' next drive, and Stanford countered by progressing methodically down the field in a ground-heavy drive, converting three third downs along the way. Taylor capped the six-minute march with a nine-yard score on a toss left.
Colorado had only 40 seconds to go and eight points to make up. A few Hail Maries later, it was all over.
"Colorado's going to do well in the Pac-12, really well," Coach David Shaw said. "We didn't know much about them out West, and they weren't a big name heading into the season. I think you saw they're a tough, tough team., and it was good for us come back late like that."
Colorado's Tyler Hansen found Paul Richardson open 20 yards downfield in the middle of the third quarter, and Richardson ran it in for a 30-yard score. After Hansen misfired on the Buffs' two-point conversion attempt, Colorado had a 12-7 lead that they carried into the final period.
Justin Castor hit 45- and 39-yard field goals in an otherwise lackluster start to the game, giving Colorado a 6-0 lead midway through the second quarter. Luck and the Cardinal responded with their best drive of the half though, going to the well three times on quarterback rollouts. The first two rollouts went for seven and 19 yards. The last, on fourth-and-goal from the five with a minute left in the first half, found Anthony Wilkerson in the right corner of the end zone.
Efficiency made the difference in a game that saw both teams cough up two turnovers and gain about 350 yards apiece. Stanford converted 5-of-11 third downs and scored touchdowns on three of four red zone trips. Colorado, meanwhile, could convert only 2-of-10 third downs, and came away with just six points on their two chances inside Stanford's 20.
Disclaimer: The Bootleg's crystal ball cannot be held responsible for any wagers placed. Also, EA Sports doesn't know about injuries and depth chart changes and such. Take the stories in the spirit in which they're intended.
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