All season long, Colorado head coach Mel Tucker has talked about the Buffaloes needing to play "complementary football" to give themselves a better chance to win.
It may have finally sunk in for offensive coordinator Jay Johnson what the phrase actually means. Instead of the steady stream of low percentage "superman passes" that predominated during Colorado's five game losing streak, the Buffaloes' OC finally figured out that dominating the clock in the 4th quarter also gave them a chance to win.
It not only gave Colorado the win, but it also took all the time off the clock so that Stanford did not even have a chance for a comeback.
Paradoxically, that style of clock management has been a staple for Cardinal coach David Shaw ever since he took over the Stanford program. And the style of play Stanford has used is based on solid defense and controlling the line of scrimmage from both sides of the ball. Usually the team that can control the trenches wins the game.
The best way to control the line from the offensive standpoint is to be able to run the ball. Tucker likes to use the phrase "on our terms" when describing his dedication to the running game.
Holding on to the ball, and milking the clock for all it's worth, is the best way to keep the opposing offense off the field. And it's incredibly important when you have a defense that was undermanned and decimated with injuries.
During the Stanford game, it was the much maligned defense that dominated the game for the Buffaloes. Stanford made three trips inside the red zone on the day and came came away with only two field goals. Their lone touchdown was on a 85 yard catch and run.
The outstanding job the Colorado defense did was helped greatly by the offense's dedication to moving the sticks and running the clock. Solid special teams play combined with the O and D to have the best all-around, complementary football, since the Arizona State game.
It's probably too much to predict that the Stanford game was the turning point for the season (especially since there are only two regular season games left), but it will most likely be a turning point for Mel Tucker's Buffaloes going forward into next year.
The year has been a process for Tucker. He's had to get his men to understand and embrace what he's trying to do. And it's not just the players, it's his fellow coaches as well. But his steady hand is already paying dividends.
Those dividends will be greater next year. His charges will have a full year under their belts with his program. And the new players he brings in will be specifically recruited to fill the needs that Tucker needs them to fill.
The Buffaloes now have two weeks to get ready for the Washington Huskies to come to town. Many of the lingering injuries will be able to heal.
But most importantly, the guys on the team have time to focus on how dedication to Tucker's principles will bring them even greater success in the future.