By: Ben Leonard
You’ve been given the power to pick between two running backs to start your college football program: Christian McCaffrey and Ralphie, Colorado’s living, breathing buffalo. After Saturday, the choice has become harder than you might think.
The Buffalo might have the *slight* size advantage and would be a little harder to bring down. But given Ralphie’s lack of opposable thumbs and rocket arm, I think McCaffrey takes the cake. Side note: can we take Ralphie (aka Daniel Marx) as the fullback?
McCaffrey did it all for Stanford on Saturday, helping Stanford shake off its horrifying weekend at Pullman with an amazing all-around effort, totaling 220 all-purpose yards and throwing a touchdown pass for kicks, propelling Stanford to a dominant 42-10 win over those Buffaloes.
The Denver native felt at home in Boulder right off the bat, carrying the ball five times for 22 yards on Stanford’s opening drive to help lead them to an early 7-0 lead. Stanford got back to playing its brand of football, chewing seven minutes and eleven seconds of the clock before the Buffaloes could get their hooves on the ball. McCaffrey fell just short of scoring a 13-yard touchdown, but Remound Wright punched it in from a yard out to cap the 14-play, 81-yard beauty of a drive.
Colorado gave Stanford a scare in the first quarter, scoring the first time they got the ball. Colorado’s offensive line was dominating the line of scrimmage, pushing around Stanford’s unconventionally sized defensive front en route to a quick 75-yard drive. Colorado forced Stanford to punt on their next drive, leaving the score knotted at 7 at the end of the first.
But those 75 yards on the first drive ended up being roughly a third of their offensive output for the entire game — the Cardinal stifled the Buffaloes the rest of the way, allowing Colorado just 231 total yards, or 156 after the first drive. They ran just 53 plays, in stark contrast with the 113 plays they churned out against UCLA last week. Stanford had a whopping ten tackles for loss, an encouraging sign for an ever-improving defense.
The Cardinal enjoyed such overwhelming success by locking down Colorado’s run game, holding the Buffs to just 2.8 yards per carry, or 1.7 yards per attempt on traditional runs, if you want to exclude quarterback Sefo Liufau’s scrambles. No running back picked up more than 17 yards for the Buffaloes, as Colorado was held to season lows in points scored and total yards.
This put pressure on Liufau, a third-year quarterback who couldn’t stand up to the test, completing just ten of eighteen of his pass attempts for a meager 125 yards. Liufau had to do most of the heavy lifting with his legs and arm, which spelled doom for Colorado. Justin Reid and Dallas Lloyd each picked off Liufau once.
McCaffrey and Stanford enjoyed the chance to toy with Colorado’s defense, outscoring Colorado 35-3 in the final three quarters. Stanford’s offense hummed along and imposed their will on the Buffaloes, rushing for 275 yards and nearly 500 total yards while dominating the time of possession (38:01-21:59). It got ugly fast.
Kevin Hogan returned to form on Saturday, completing 17 of his 23 pass attempts for 169 yards and two touchdowns, including a 43-yard touchdown strike to Michael Rector. But the newly-minted career wins leader at Stanford (32) wasn’t even the most prolific thrower on his own team.
Holding a comfortable 35-10 lead at the end of the third quarter, head coach David Shaw decided McCaffrey needed another play to add to his Heisman highlight reel. He did it with Andrew Luck’s catch and Toby Gerhart’s throw, so why not let McCaffrey sling it? McCaffrey threw a 28-yard pass to Austin Hooper for a touchdown, out-doing Gerhart’s 18-yarder from six years ago. What can’t the guy do?
For your viewing pleasure:
Somehow, it was McCaffrey’s only score of the game. Hopefully, he won’t join Luck and Gerhart on the list of Heisman runner-ups. As hard as it is, force yourselves to pull for Alabama tonight, folks. Leonard Fournette and the Tigers need to go down if McCaffrey wants to have a chance — it’s the reality of the Heisman voting system.
The Cardinal are now 7-0 in conference play for the first time since 2011 when they….lost to Oregon the next week.
Stanford survived a scary moment on Saturday, when star receiver Devon Cajuste took a big helmet-to-helmet hit. The medical staff thought he had to be carted off on a stretcher, but he was able to walk off the field on his own power, and was seen talking excitedly with his family during the game. Shaw says that Cajuste ‘definitely‘ didn’t suffer a concussion.
Unfortunately, the Cardinal didn’t escape Boulder without other significant injury news: corner Alijah Holder will undergo concussion tests after heading a tackle with his head.
Cover Image: Stanford running back Christian McCaffrey, back, fades back to throw a pass for a touchdown against Colorado in the second half of an NCAA college football game Saturday, Nov. 7, 2015, in Boulder, Colo. Stanford won 42-10. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)