Allen’s catch halts Buffalo stampede in overtime thriller

Sean Goebel/File

BOULDER, Colo. — With Colorado defensive back Parker Orms tucked inside in single coverage, quarterback Zach Maynard saw the matchup he wanted. Lining up out wide, receiver Keenan Allen saw a matchup that he could exploit.

Cal head coach Jeff Tedford saw both of these things. And so what did the veteran coach think as soon as Maynard floated a fade route to his half-brother toward the back right pylon?

“Once they lined up, I knew it was going to be a touchdown,” Tedford said. “Keenan jukes people. As long as that throw was good, I knew it was going to be a touchdown.”

Despite school-record performances by Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen and wide receiver Paul Richardson, the Cal football team (2-0) utilized the Maynard-Allen connection to set up and convert the game-winning touchdown and in turn escape with a thrilling 36-33 overtime victory over the Buffaloes (0-2) on Saturday afternoon at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo.

Though he barely completed more than 50 percent of his passes, Maynard delivered another clutch performance, finishing 18-35 for 243 yards with four touchdowns and one interception. The junior signal-caller stepped up with several key third down completions and overcame an ugly first-quarter interception to lead the Bears to their second victory of the young season.

The touchdown pass was far from the only big play that Maynard and Allen recorded on the afternoon. The two started with a wild trick play that saw Allen pass the ball back to Maynard to set the Bears up for their opening touchdown, and in overtime completed a pivotal 32-yard strike on first-and-30 to set up the game-winning touchdown.

For a Cal defense that surrendered only one major reception last week against Fresno State, Colorado’s Hansen and Richardson turned a potent Cal secondary porous with several big plays.

The Buffs outgained the Bears, 582-370, but they couldn’t turn their tremendous offensive effort into a win. Hansen, who was sacked six times when these teams faced off last year, finished an eye-popping 28-for-49 for a school-record 474 yards and three touchdowns while the electric Richardson caught 11 balls for an astonishing 284 yards, also a Colorado single-game record. The two connected on 66 and 78-yard touchdown plays within 1:53 of one another that turned a 23-13 Cal lead into a 27-23 Colorado advantage.

Though Richardson torched the secondary for most of the afternoon, Cal cornerback Steve Williams broke up two critical plays — one late in the fourth quarter and the other in overtime — to keep him out of the end zone for a third time.

“I didn’t really get him a lot, but I had a feel for him,” Williams said. “He was getting open and finding holes in the zone. We just couldn’t stop him and we had to make adjustments.”

A seesaw affair in a hostile environment, Cal continued to battle back on offense despite its defensive struggles. The Bears failed to sack Hansen all afternoon, with blitzes negated primarily by screen passes. Despite allowing three long touchdown completions, Cal did not give up any touchdowns in the red zone.

While Richardson and Stewart provided the bulk of Colorado’s offensive production, Cal spread its receiving attack out. Allen and Marvin Jones each recorded five receptions, but Maynard tossed two touchdowns to Anthony Miller — the tight end’s only two receptions of the afternoon and his first ever two-touchdown game— and one to walk-on fullback Nico Dumont for his first-ever collegiate touchdown.

Saturday was also a career day for running back C.J. Anderson. The junior transfer only carried the ball four times, but barged through the defense for a 19-yard touchdown run on a play titled “jazz”, breaking an arm tackle to put the Bears up 30-27 shortly after Hansen’s 78-yard strike to Richardson. Anderson also picked up a critical first down on third-and-one in overtime.

“Just like smooth jazz,” he said with a laugh. “It’s my favorite play.”