Colorado stunned Cal 20-13 in overtime
BOULDER, Colo. — The Colorado Buffaloes had an even bigger celebration after their fans stormed Folsom Field following the successful debut of interim head coach Mike Sanford on Saturday.
Returning to the locker room after a 20-13 overtime loss against Cal, running back Deion Smith was up and walking after being immobilized and carried off the field in the fourth quarter.
“So many fears that everyone has when someone goes out on a stretcher, I was able to reassure the team that it was nothing to worry about,” Sanford said.
“So Deion is on his feet and I think he was emotional because he didn’t get a chance to celebrate on the field with his teammates. But he was a huge part of this win, both in his play and more importantly, how much this team loves him and showed their support for him.”
The entire Buffalo team gathered around Smith, many in prayer, as medical teams from both teams worked on him.
“It was a moment I’ll never forget in my coaching career, the brotherhood that was shown in that moment,” Sanford said.
Watching him get hauled away, “we made a lot of fire,” said Smith’s understudy, Anthony Hankerson.
And watching him walk after that was a really big boost.
After JT Shrout threw a 22-yard touchdown pass to Montana Lemonius-Craig in overtime, Jack Plummer had Mason Starling wide open for a Cal first-and-goal from the 10, but strong safety Trevor Woods came right after the soft pass and dropped the ball.
“I saw the ball go in and he really didn’t make an effort to get it,” Woods said. “I hit him as hard as I could.”
When Plummer’s fourth pitch was incomplete, students stormed the field to celebrate Colorado’s first win of the season.
Sanford inherited a team that was off to just the fourth 0-5 start in school history that cost Carl Dorrell his job as head coach. Sanford immediately emphasized physicality and takeaways, which paid off, starting with Colorado’s first defensive drive when Tyrin Tyler set the tone with a diving interception, the Bears’ first turnover in four games.
Cal (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12) entered the game as a 15½-point favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, but Dario Longhetto was wide left on both-way field goal attempts, missing a 54-yarder in the first quarter and 48 in the second.
Longhetto was good from 34 yards out as time expired in the fourth quarter to send the game into overtime. The Bears won the toss and elected to start on defense.
The Buffs (1-5, 1-2) were preparing for Cole Becker’s 40-yard field goal in overtime when officials stopped the game for an extended review that showed Lemonious-Craig’s right tackle went down just before he was ejected out of bounds by cornerback Colin Gamble.
“I had no idea” the call would be reversed, Sanford said. “I thought it was clearly out of bounds.”
So did the official who marked it as incomplete.
“I knew I was in,” Lemonius-Craig insisted. “I got up and said to the judge, ‘Come on, give it to me, please.’
He didn’t, but the replay official did. So instead, Becker lined up for the extra point, giving Colorado its biggest lead at 17-10.
Smith was hurt on a big rush by Gamble after a catch in the right flat early in the fourth quarter. Outside linebacker Xavier Carlton recovered the fumble and the Bears tied the game at 10 on the restart.
The only scoring in the first half came on Becker’s 31-yard field goal with four minutes left in the second quarter after a penalty that negated Jordan Tyson’s 11-yard touchdown run by Owen McCown.
Shrout replaced McCown, who was nursing a blow to his abdomen, midway through the second half and led the Buffaloes to their first touchdown, a 1-yarder from Hankerson with 14:25 left that gave CU a 10-7 lead.
The capture of J. Michael Sturdivant’s 14-yard touchdown run from Plummer put the Bears up 7-3 with 5:49 left in the third quarter.
“It’s very hard to win at this level, scoring one touchdown,” Bears coach Justin Wilcox said. “You’ve got to get the ball in the end zone and give them a shout out. They did it more than us.”
The Bears’ woes continued in Boulder, where they haven’t won since 2011.
Not only would the Buffs avoid a winless season, but they saw a large crowd of 50,471 and gleefully watched thousands of them storm the field.
Cal CB Lu-Magia Hearns III was injured. He limped to the sideline just before the fourth quarter.
Cal hosts Washington on Oct. 22.