The game started off with a major momentum shift. Colorado looked poised to grab an early lead after Jeremy Stewart fumbled a short kickoff and the Buffaloes recovered on the Stanford 36-yard line. However, Stanford roared back, holding the Buffs on that drive, scoring a touchdown on a field goal block, and scoring again on its next drive.
Play of the quarter: Colorado was ready to draw first blood, with kicker Will Oliver lined up for a chip-shot field goal after Stanford's defense stiffened inside the red zone. However, linebacker Max Bergen had other plans. As the Buffs lined up to kick the field goal, Bergen knifed through the offensive line, blocked the kick, and then picked up the ball and ran 75 yards the other way for Stanford's first touchdown of the day. The play robbed Colorado of the momentum it had acquired after its surprise kickoff recovery.
Luck fantastic yet again: As predicted, Colorado's injury-ravaged secondary has proven no match for Andrew Luck and his receiving corps. Luck is 5-of-5 for 95 yards in the first quarter, clinically dissecting the Buffs' pass defense and constantly finding open receivers. His favorite targets have been Levine Toilolo and Griff Whalen, who have two catches apiece.
Defense locking down the run: Stanford's defense has locked down Rodney Stewart and the dangerous Colorado running game, allowing just four yards on eight carries. The inside linebackers—Max Bergen, Jarek Lancaster and A.J. Tarpley—have done a good job of bottling up Stewart. However, the pass defense leaves something to be desired; Hansen is 4-of-7 with 36 yards passing, with at least one of those incompletions coming because Hansen missed a wide-open receiver. The Cardinal appear to be rotating their cornerbacks, with Johnson Bademosi, Barry Browning and Terrence Brown all seeing significant action.
Halftime: Stanford 27, Colorado 7
The second quarter was full of twists and turns, aS Colorado looked to be on the verge of grabbing some momentum back a few times over the course of the quarter. Rather, it was the Cardinal who came up with big plays when they needed them, and now carry a 20-point lead into the locker room at halftime. The most telling statistic in this game is probably third-down conversions: Stanford is a respectable 2-of-4, while the Buffs are an atrocious 1-of-7.
Play of the quarter: About five minutes into the half, the Buffaloes had intercepted Andrew Luck and were threatening Stanford's narrow 13-7 lead. Stanford's defense, however, would have none of it. On the third play after the interception, linebacker A.J. Tarpley sacked Colorado QB Tyler Hansen, forcing the Buffaloes to punt. Colorado couldn't regain its footing, as Stanford's offense went on to expand its lead by two touchdowns.
Stewart shut down by front seven: Tailback Rodney Stewart was the player a lot of analysts thought could give the Shayne Skov-less Stanford defense some trouble in this game. However, apart from one monster 76-yard reception, in which he broke Devon Carrington's tackle attempt and did a fantastic job of eluding the Cardinal pursuit, Stewart has been shut down, as he has six carries for all of eight yards. If the Buffs want to get back into this game, Stewart's play will have to dramatically improve.
Tight ends, Gaffney shine on offense: Though Andrew Luck had his normally insane numbers in the first half—14-of-18 passing for 219 yards, one touchdown and one interception—the unordinary numbers came from running back Tyler Gaffney and the Card's trio of tight ends: Zach Ertz, Coby Fleener and Levine Toilolo. The tight ends have two receptions apiece, with each hauling in a catch of 26 yards or more. Meanwhile, Gaffney is having a breakout game, as he's run for 58 yards on just six carries, with a few carries coming out of the Wildcat (wild card?) formation.
Players to watch: Last week Jarek Lancaster stepped up on defense; this week, it appears to be A.J. Tarpley's turn. Including the aforementioned sack, Tarpley has four tackles on the day, and has been a big part of the reason Rodney Stewart has been unable to gain any traction in the ground game.
Second-half prediction: Colorado threatened more than once in the first half to make this game competitive, but Stanford always responded in a big way. Expect the Buffs to come out strong in the third quarter and cut into Stanford's lead; however, the Cardinal will close out the game unequivocally in the fourth quarter, and walk out of Stanford Stadium with its undefeated record intact.
Are you fully subscribed to The Bootleg? If not, then you are missing out on all the top Cardinal coverage we provide daily on our award-winning website. Sign up today for the biggest and best in Stanford sports coverage with TheBootleg.com (sign-up)!