The biggest receiving game in Stanford football history led to the biggest comeback in school history.
Redshirt freshman Elic Ayomanor set a Stanford record with 294 receiving yards, including 97- and 60-yard touchdowns in the second half and a 30-yard highlight-reel touchdown in overtime while being blanketed by star wide receiver/cornerback Travis Hunter, as Stanford defeated Colorado 46-43 in double overtime on Friday night in Boulder, Colorado.
“For our guys, to know what they went through, to be down 29-0 on the road against a really good team, and just continue to compete and believe, a number of times they could have succumbed, I’m really proud of them,” said first-year coach Troy Taylor, who recorded his first Pac-12 win. “They don’t stop, they come in every week with incredible focus and tenacity. They inspire me every day.”
Stanford (2-4, 1-3 Pac-12) broke a four-game losing streak at Folsom Field in a game that had been sold out since mid-July. Alaka’i Gilman intercepted Shedeur Sanders on the first possession of the second overtime, and Joshua Karty made a 31-yard field goal to win it.
Ashton Daniels and Ayomanor connected for 97- and 60-yard TDs in the third quarter as Stanford scored 26 straight points after trailing 29-0 at the half.
Ayomanor, a redshirt freshman from Medicine Hat, Alberta, Canada, had 15 catches for 207 yards entering the night.
The previous record for yards in a game was 278 by Troy Walters against UCLA in 1999. Walters had a 98-yard TD catch from Joe Borchard in that game, which was the only longer reception in program history.
Ayomanor made a cornerback slip on a quick pass and outran the Colorado secondary on the 97-yard catch. He followed that up by catching a back-shoulder pass from Ashton Daniels and then racing across the field for a 60-yard score.
But his most impressive catch came in overtime, when he caught a 30-yard pass by pinning the ball against Hunter, who was faceguarding Ayomanor.
“He’s always had a lot of ability,” Taylor said. “Just needed a little confidence.”
Daniels completed 27 of 45 passes for 396 yards and four TDs.
Hunter had 13 catches for 140 yards and two scores after missing the previous three weeks with a lacerated liver, while Sanders was 33 of 48 for 400 yards and five TDs. Sanders was second in the country in passing yards per game (336.7) and third in passing TDs (16) entering the night.
Colorado (4-3, 1-3 Pac-12) scored TDs on its first four drives, going 77 yards in 8 plays, 70 yards in 9 plays, 80 yards in 7 plays, and 66 yards in 5 plays. It even pulled a successful fake extra point after one score, which gave it a 29-0 halftime lead.
Hunter showed why he was the top recruit in the Class of 2022, putting on a spin move that caused Stanford linebacker Tristan Sinclair to miss completely on an attempted open-field tackle and then turning the corner for a 24-yard TD.
Colorado extended its lead with two easy TDs by receiver Xavier Weaver in the second quarter. Stanford was fooled so badly by a reverse that Weaver lightly jogged into the end zone, and then Weaver was five yards behind cornerback Colin Wright for a 39-yard TD.
Sanders was 14 of 18 passing for 201 yards and three TDs in the first half alone, while Stanford’s QB duo of Daniels and Justin Lamson was 6 of 18 for 35 yards.
But the Cardinal finally got pressure on Sanders in the third quarter, sacking him four times, including a sack by Lance Keneley on fourth-and-2 and a 21-yard sack by Mitch Leigber on fourth-and-4. Colorado had allowed 5.2 sacks a game, which ranked 129th out of 130 FBS teams.
After a personal foul by Hunter erased what would have been a fourth-and-22 for Stanford, the Cardinal scored on a 1-yard keeper by QB Justin Lamson to get with 29-26 with 12:35 to play.
The Buffaloes responded with a four-play, 75-yard drive to go back up by 10 on a 16-yard TD by Hunter, but Stanford got back within three on a 3-yard TD pass from Daniels to Bryce Farrell with 5:06 remaining.
Sanders overthrew Hunter on third-and-4 from the Stanford 41 with three minutes left to give the Cardinal one last chance, but Stanford started at the 1 after the Colorado punt. The Cardinal drove down and Karty kicked a 46-yarder as time expired to extend the game.
NOTES: Stanford preseason all-conference tight end Benjamin Yurosek appeared to injure his left shoulder in the third quarter and returned to the sideline with his arm in a sling. … The Cardinal next face four straight ranked teams – No. 18 UCLA, No. 7 Washington, No. 19 Washington State and No. 15 Oregon State – before finishing at home against Cal and No. 21 Notre Dame.