BOULDER — A new play caller couldn’t change the fortunes for Colorado on Saturday as the Buffaloes dropped a 26-19 decision to No. 16 Oregon State at Folsom Field.

Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders’ Buffs staged a furious rally late but still fell short as CU lost its third in a row and fifth in its last six to drop to 4-5 overall and 1-5 in Pac-12 play.

The Beavers improved to 7-2, 4-2.

Earlier in the week, CU handed play calling duties to Pat Shurmur, who was promoted from offensive analyst. But the Colorado offense struggled for much of the night, producing just one field goal in the first three quarters before a late fourth quarter rally produced two long scoring drives.

CU’s defense kept the game close for much of the night, registering two first-half fumble recoveries, one of which led to a Colorado field goal.

But Oregon State steadily pounded away, getting two first half touchdowns and adding another touchdown and two field goals in the second half to keep the Buffs at bay.

The Buffs, though, didn’t quit. Colorado put together two 75-yard scoring drives in the fourth quarter. CU quarterback Shedeur Sanders — who absorbed another beating and was sacked four times — capped both with touchdown throws. The second, a 12-yard strike to Anthony Hankerson, pulled CU to within 26-19 with 1:42 still to play.

But the Beavers took the ensuing kickoff and gained a first down, allowing them to run the clock out and take the win.

Colorado finished with 238 yards total offense — the Buffs’ second-lowest total of the season — with 160 coming in the fourth quarter. CU’s total included a minus-7 yards rushing, thanks in part to four Oregon State sacks that produced 41 yards in losses.

Sanders finished 24-for-39 for 245 yards and two touchdowns, but was again under pressure for much of the night and his season sack total hit 45.

OSU finished with 418 yards — 223 in the air and 195 on the ground.

“The reason it’s so hard is because you know you’re capable of doing better, playing better, performing better, calling better games, coaching better on my behalf and you are coming up short when you have enough to get the job done,” Coach Prime said. “It’s painful. It hurts myself, the team and all the coaches, the fans … Our kids fought hard. I love the fact that they didn’t have any quit in them. They rallied at the end and gave a heck of an effort. We just wish we could do that in the midst of the game — the first, second, third, and fourth quarters with consistency. And we haven’t found that level of consistency as of yet and that’s what’s truly disheartening.”

HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado’s defense kept the Buffs in the game in the first half, collecting a pair of takeaways — fumble recoveries by Trevor Woods and Derrick McLendon — and three quarterback sacks.

The Beavers managed just one long drive in the half, a nine-play, 71-yard march that culminated with a 23-yard scoring run by backup quarterback Aidan Chiles. The score gave OSU a 7-0 lead late in the first quarter.

But Colorado’s offense never managed to find anything resembling a rhythm.

The Buffs did collect a field goal after they recorded their second fumble recovery of the half. A Shilo Sanders hit on OSU running back Damien Martinez popped the ball loose and McLendon recovered at the OSU 19. Four plays later the Buffs cashed in a 32-yard Alejandro Mata field goal to cut OSU’s lead to 7-3.

Late in the half it looked as if that’s how the score would stand at halftime.

But following an Oregon State punt, Colorado took over at its own 4-yard line with 49 seconds on the clock. The Buffs elected to try to move the ball but instead had two incompletions and a run for no gain and OSU stopped the clock with a timeout.

Colorado then punted and a 29-yard return plus a 5-yard penalty gave the Beavers the ball at the CU 20 with 22 seconds still left in the half. OSU needed just one play to score its second touchdown, a 20-yard DJ Uiagalelei pass to Deshaun Fenwick.

That sent Colorado into the break trailing 14-3.

“We wanted to get out of there because we know we’re receiving the ball in the second half,” Sanders said. “So the plan was to either get a first down and try to go or if we don’t, let’s hit the clock … I think we had maybe one or two dropped passes on that series, which is very unfortunate. Then  they get a tremendous return and that hurt. Had we not done that the score would have been 7-3.”

The Beavers then took full control on their first possession of the second half. After forcing a CU punt, Oregon State drove 85 yards in 12 plays for a touchdown, using 7:26 on the clock but another questionable coaching decision, this time from Oregon State, momentarily changed the momentum of the game.

Oregon State’s PAT attempt was good but Colorado was flagged for a penalty and the Beavers elected to go for two. The move backfired when the snap flew over the quarterback’s head and CU’s Kyndrich Breedlove scooped the ball up and raced 88 yards to the end zone for two points.

The scoop and score cut OSU’s lead to 20-5, but the Colorado offense continued to struggle. Oregon State forced another punt thanks to its third sack of Sanders and the Beavers drove for a 22-yard field goal early in the fourth quarter to stretch their lead to a three-score edge, 23-5 with 13:57 left in the game.

But the Buffs’ offense finally found a spark on the ensuing possession. CU overcame some early issues on the drive that put them in a second-and-34 situation to produce a 75-yard touchdown march. Sanders — who left the field early in the quarter to take a pain-killing injection in the locker room —completed passes of 23 yards to Omarion Miller and 12 and 36 yards to Xavier Weaver to keep the drive alive. He then finished the march with a 15-yard scoring toss to Travis Hunter and Colorado trailed just 23-12 with 10:41 still to play.

Oregon State answered with another time consuming drive, marching 52 yards and using 5:54 off the clock before settling for a 41-yard field goal and 26-12 lead with 4:47 to play.

But the Buffs put together another nine-play, 75-yard scoring march to cut their deficit to one score. Sanders converted a third down with a 19-yard toss to Jimmy Horn Jr., then found Hunter for a 40-yard gain on second-and-21. A 12-yard Sanders pass to Hankerson and ensuing PAT cut OSU’s lead to 26-19 but the Buffs defense couldn’t get a stop on Oregon State’s next possession and the Beavers slipped away with the win.

“You can’t stop losing faith with everything,” Shedeur Sanders said. “Everything’s not gonna work out how you want it to be. So you just have to remain positive and not have any negativity towards the situation because it’s not going to help anything. That’s the situation we’re in so we have to accept that and move forward.”

TURNING POINT: The Buffs had a chance to head into the locker room at intermission trailing just 7-3 and knowing they would get the ball first in the second half. Instead, a gamble to try to move the ball from deep in their own territory late in the half backfired, putting OSU in position for a late touchdown and 14-3 lead.

KEY STATISTICS: OSU rushed for 195 yards and controlled the clock when most necessary while CU finished with minus-7 yards on the ground … The Buffs were just 5-for-14 on third-down conversion attempts … Colorado yielded four quarterback sacks, pushing the Buffs sacks-allowed total this season to 46.

WHAT IT MEANS: After being ranked in the top 25 in the nation following their 3-0 start, the Buffs are in danger of missing out on a bowl bid. CU must win two of its last three to become bowl eligible.

UP NEXT:  The Buffs play their home finale next Saturday at noon (MT) when they play host to Arizona in a game to be televised by the Pac-12 Network.


Story by Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor for Content courtesy of the University of Colorado at Boulder.