BOULDER, Colo. – Christian McCaffrey is a dynamic runner, returner and receiver.
He can do a pretty good imitation of a quarterback, too.
“This guy can really throw the ball,” Stanford coach David Shaw said after McCaffrey threw a touchdown pass on a trick play in Stanford’s 42-10 rout of Colorado on Saturday. “There are not many positions the young man can’t play. I’d say offensive and defensive lines are it. He’s one of those phenomenal football players.”
Stanford, ranked No. 11 in the season’s first College Football Playoff rankings last week, can clinch the Pac-12 North title by beating Oregon at home next Saturday.
McCaffrey’s 28-yard touchdown toss to tight end Austin Hooper was the highlight of his homecoming in front of family and friends who drove up from nearby Denver, where he starred at Valor Christian High School and where his father, Ed, starred for the Broncos in the 1990s.
McCaffrey’s TD toss came on the first play of the fourth quarter and was his last play of the game.
Kevin Hogan, who surpassed Andrew Luck as the school’s winningest quarterback with his 32nd victory, told McCaffrey only to throw it if Hooper were wide open.
“Hooper kind of nudged me and said, ‘Throw the ball,’” McCaffrey recounted. “We knew I was going to throw it.”
Said Shaw: “We’ve been working on it for a while. Needless to say, he was a little excited.”
Hogan needn’t have worried about his talented tailback throwing into tight coverage.
“We came running up and our corner lost his eyes on the guy that he had and he came open,” Buffs coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Before his beautiful spiral into the end zone, McCaffrey chipped in 220 all-purpose yards.
“One day he’s going to be the governor here and he really wanted to put on a show and he did today,” Shaw said.
His day might have been even better, but a 13-yard TD on Stanford’s opening drive was overturned upon review when he was ruled down a foot shy of the goal line, prompting McCaffrey to crack, “I wish the field was 99 yards. I think I would have a lot more touchdowns.”
Hogan threw two TD passes and ran for another as the Cardinal (8-1, 7-0 Pac-12) bounced back from a scare at Washington in which they escaped with a two-point win on a shanked field goal as time expired. Their final three games are all at home, against Oregon, Cal and Notre Dame.
The Buffs (4-6, 1-5) wore throwback uniforms — gold helmets, black jerseys, gold pants — in honor of former coach Bill McCartney, who led Colorado to the national title in 1990, after watching ESPN’s 30-for-30 “The Gospel According to Mac” earlier in the week.
They looked like that national championship team but sure didn’t play like it.
After answering Stanford’s touchdown on its opening drive with one of their own, the Buffs gave up three consecutive touchdowns, including Hogan’s 1-yard run with 2 seconds left in the second quarter, and trudged to the locker room trailing 28-7 at halftime.
The Buffaloes, who have lost 21 consecutive games to ranked teams, kicked a short field goal on their opening drive in the second half, then tried an on-side kick. Only, Rollins Stallworth, whom the Buffs expected to turn and run downfield as he’d been doing, instead stayed put and recovered the ball at the Colorado 47.
Freshman running back Bryce Love scored on the next play to make it 35-10.
Tedric Thompson’s 71-yard interception return gave the Buffaloes some hope and their offense the ball at the Stanford 3. But again they were stuffed and on fourth down they went for it. But Liufau threw incomplete.
The Cardinal offense responded to the defensive stop with a 13-play, 95-yard drive that McCaffrey capped with his TD toss eight seconds into the fourth quarter.