TEMPE, Ariz. — Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders worked his fourth-quarter magic again Saturday, leading the Buffaloes to a game-winning field goal in the final minute as CU took a 27-24 win over Arizona State at Mountain America Stadium.

Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders’ Buffs improved to 4-2 overall and 1-2 in Pac-12 play while the Sun Devils fell to 1-5, 0-3.

Colorado started slowly again and trailed for much of the first three quarters. But the Buffs finally came back to take a 24-17 lead in the fourth quarter before ASU tied the game at 24-24 with 50 seconds remaining after a 94-yard touchdown march.

That was more than enough time for Sanders and CU’s offense. The Buffs quarterback connected with Javon Antonio for a 43-yard gain on first down after the kickoff and four plays later, Alejandro Mata booted the game-winning 43-yard field goal with 12 seconds left on the clock.

It was Sanders’ third fourth-quarter game-winning or game-tying rally this season. He also led the Buffs to a come-from-behind win at TCU in the season opener and guided Colorado to a game-tying touchdown in regulation against CSU before the Buffs won in overtime.

Sanders finished the game 26-for-42 for 239 yards and a touchdown and he also rushed for a score. He was 6-for-10 for 87 yards and a touchdown in the fourth quarter and is now 44-for-58 for 669 yards and seven touchdowns in the fourth period this season.

Antonio, who has been injured for much of the season, had just three catches this year. But he finished Saturday’s game with five receptions for a team-high 81 yards and a touchdown. Tight end Michael Harrison had a team-high six catches for 36 yards and Anthony Hankerson ran 10 times for 58 yards.

ASU actually outgained the Buffs, 392-295, with quarterback Trenton Bourguet throwing for 335 yards and a score. The Sun Devils had a statistical edge in most categories — except for the one that matters most, as CU’s offense made sure Colorado had the edge on the scoreboard with its final-minute heroics.

Despite the win, Coach Prime wasn’t happy with CU’s overall performance.

 “Played like hot garbage,” Sanders said. “And I’m trying to figure this out. Sick of it. I really am. I’m sick of us coming out here and putting forth the effort we put forth in the first half. We’ve had really diligent meetings and we’re trying to figure this out, ’cause I’m sick of it. I’m sorry. I’m happy about the win but I’m not happy in the fashion that we won it in. We’re better than that. We really are better than that, and we gotta start showing that. I expect to win and I expect to win in a better fashion than that. I’m sick of these consistent holes that we’re displaying and the penalties and the things that we’re doing. We’re so much better. I apologize for my anger today, but I don’t accept mediocrity.”

HOW IT HAPPENED: Colorado trailed 17-14 at the half and after a scoreless third quarter, the Buffs were still behind by three heading into the final period.

But CU finally took its first lead of the game just seconds into the fourth quarter. Sanders ran for 17 yards on a 61-yard march and Hankerson tacked on a 13-yard run to give the Buffs a first-and-goal at the 9-yard line.

Two plays later, Sanderson found Antonio for a 9-yard scoring toss and Mata’s PAT gave CU a 21-17 lead with 14:32 to play in the fourth quarter.

CU’s defense then came up with a stop and Xavier Weaver delivered a 51-yard punt return to give the Buffs possession deep in ASU territory. ASU’s fifth sack of the game put Colorado behind the sticks, but the Buffs still managed to reap a 42-yard Mata field goal to take a 24-17 lead with 10:13 left in regulation.

ASU took the ensuing kick and drove into CU territory before the drive stalled. Colorado freshman Carter Stoutmire then blocked a 52-yard ASU field goal attempt and the Buffs took possession with a 24-17 lead and 6:32 on the clock

But the Sun Devils forced a Colorado punt and finally found their offense on the next possession. Bourguet led a 13-play, 94-yard touchdown march, throwing a 15-yard touchdown to Troy Omeire with 50 seconds remaining and the PAT tied the game at 24-24.

That, however, was enough time for Sanders to once again work his magic. He threw a 43-yard completion to Antonio on first down and four plays later, Mata kicked the game-winning 43-yard field goal.

“It felt great,” Mata said. “I’ve always wanted that opportunity. I knew Coach Prime was going to be aggressive, so I had to be ready to make that kick.”

Colorado’s quarterback said the Buffs have to figure out a way to get things rolling earlier.

“I wouldn’t say I played fantastic,” Sanders said. “Honestly, we missed a lot of things. We have to play a full game, not just a half a game. That’s the biggest takeaway from this one.”

But, the quarterback said, there was never a doubt that CU would go for the game winner in the final minute instead of playing for overtime.

“You’ve got 50 seconds on the clock and you’ve got me back there,” he said. “What would you want to be conservative for?”

Colorado did indeed once again suffer from a relatively slow start, scoring just two touchdowns over the first three quarters, and the Buffs played from behind for much of that time.

After giving up an opening drive touchdown to ASU, the Buffs responded with a 16-play, 75-yard scoring drive on its second possession, converting two fourth downs in the process.

Sanders was outstanding on the drive, completing seven passes for 60 yards, including a critical 15-yard completion to running back Dylan Edwards on fourth-and-8.

Colorado then drove to the ASU 1-yard line and the Buffs went for it again on fourth down. Wide receiver Xavier Weaver took the handoff and darted into the end zone and Mata’s PAT tied the game at 7-7 with 2:03 still to play in the first quarter.

ASU regained the lead midway through the second quarter. The Sun Devils took over on their own 41 after a CU penalty on a punt and they needed nine plays and 4:50 to reach the end zone. Cam Skattebo bulled in from 1-yard out to give Arizona State a 14-7 lead.

But Sanders and his teammates had an answer. After the two squads traded punts, Colorado marched 81 yards for the tying touchdown. Sanders had a 24-yard completion to Jimmy Horn Jr. on the drive, then scampered in from 16 yards out for his third rushing touchdown of the season. Mata’s PAT with just 54 seconds left in the half tied the game at 14-14.

But the Buffs committed another critical penalty on the ensuing kickoff, giving ASU decent field position. It was just enough for the Sun Devils to drive 48 yards and get a 33-yard field goal on the final play of the half to send Colorado into the break trailing 17-14.

TURNING POINT: After trailing for much of the game, Colorado finally took the lead, 21-17, early in the fourth quarter on a 61-yard touchdown drive. Although ASU did manage to tie the game in the final minute, the momentum still seemed to be on CU’s sidelines and the Buffs delivered.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs ended a two-game losing skid and gave Coach Prime his first conference win as Colorado’s coach. CU is now just two wins away from becoming bowl eligible with six games remaining.

UP NEXT: The Buffs return home next week for a Friday night game against Stanford, set to kick off at 8 p.m. at Folsom Field (ESPN).


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