PULLMAN, Wash. — Colorado fell behind early and never recovered Friday night as the Buffaloes dropped a 56-14 decision to Washington State at Martin Stadium.

The loss eliminated CU from bowl eligibility as Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders’ Buffs lost their fifth game in a row to fall to 4-7 overall and 1-7 in Pac-12 play. Washington State ended a six-game losing streak to improve to 5-6 overall and 2-6 in Pac-12 play.

Five of Colorado’s last six games had been decided by one score, but the Cougars made sure early this one wouldn’t be close. WSU took advantage of a host of CU mistakes to build a 21-7 lead after one quarter and a 42-7 edge at the half and the Buffs never managed a serious threat.

Washington State scored three rushing touchdowns, two passing touchdowns, two on fumble returns and one on a kick return.

Colorado also lost more than a game, as quarterback Shedeur Sanders was sacked four times and suffered a pair of injuries. He left the game twice in the first half, with the second time becoming a permanent exit. He finished 6-for-10 for 86 yards and one touchdown, a first-quarter scoring toss to Travis Hunter that temporarily pulled Colorado to within 14-7.

The Buffs played two other quarterbacks in the game, Ryan Staub and Gavin Kuld, with Staub directing a late touchdown drive to wrap up the scoring.

Sy’veon Wilkerson rushed for 49 yards and a score for Colorado. Hunter had four catches for 82 yards and a touchdown.

The Cougars outgained the Buffs 469-255. Colorado converted just 4 of 17 third down attempts and WSU recorded five quarterback sacks — four on Sanders, who has now been sacked 52 times this season.

“The opponents played a heck of a game, coached a heck of a game,” said Coach Prime, who was also “under the weather” for the game. ” They came to play handily from the start to the finish. Obviously it doesn’t look like we did. You give up two fumble returns for touchdowns and a kickoff return for a touchdown, that’s not the recipe for a win. They executed early and executed often and when they got Shedeur out of the game it was tough sledding from then on.”

HOW IT HAPPENED: Washington State jumped on the Buffaloes early, recording an offensive touchdown, a defensive score and a special teams touchdown in the first period to take a 21-7 lead.

Meanwhile, Buffs quarterback Sanders found himself under pressure from the beginning.

The Cougars sacked Sanders once on Colorado’s first series, leading to a punt and 65-yard Washington State drive for a touchdown.

WSU then dumped Sanders twice on CU’s next possession, with the second resulting in a fumble and 45-yard scoop-and-score from Brennan Jackson. The PAT gave WSU a 14-0 lead with 5:14 still to play in the first quarter.

Sanders was hurt on the fumble play and freshman Ryan Staub replaced him following the WSU defensive touchdown. The two teams then exchanged punt and Sanders re-entered the game following WSU’s kick.

Three three plays into the drive, Sanders hit Hunter with a 45-yard touchdown pass and Alejandro Mata’s PAT pulled Colorado to within 14-7.

But whatever momentum Colorado grabbed from the touchdown pass proved to be short-lived. WSU’s Leyton Smith took the ensuing kick and raced 98 yards to the end zone to give the Cougars a 21-7 lead.

Washington State then added three unanswered touchdowns in the second quarter. WSU quarterback Cameron Ward led a 67-yard drive for a score and 28-7 lead, then guided scoring drives of 97 and 73 yards to take a 42-7 lead into halftime.

Sanders, meanwhile,left the game for good after an errant snap resulted in a fumble. He pounced on the ball but was injured on the play and headed to the locker room for the remainder of the half before returning to the sidelines dressed in warmups for the second half.

Staub re-entered the game but the Buffs went three-and-out on the next two possessions and the Cougars added touchdowns after both to take their 42-7 lead.

“I’m very sad of how we played,” Sanders said. “We practiced hard this past week. We prepared, and to go and display a performance like that it’s not indicative of who we are, what we are, how we are.”

Colorado turned to its third quarterback of the game in the second half, but Gavin Kuld couldn’t light a spark.

CU’s defense did produce a couple of early stops before WSU found paydirt again, with Ward directing a 66-yard scoring drive, culminating with a 34-yard touchdown pass that gave the Cougars a 49-7 lead.

Washington State’s defense then struck again on Colorado’s ensuing possession. An errant Kuld pitch to Dylan Edwards put the ball on the turf and WSU’s Jackson was on the spot again, rumbling 74 yards for his second scoop-and-score of the game and a 56-7 Cougars lead.

The Buffs finally found the end zone again with 11:48 left in the game. Staub re-entered and directed an 11-play, 80-yard scoring drive, with Hunter making a leaping grab between two defenders for a 27-yard gain to the WSU 3-yard line. Four plays later, Sy’veon Wilkerson scored from a yard out to make the score 56-14.

Sanders did credit his team for not quitting. Instead, the Buffs continued to compete in the second half.

 “I’ve been boasting since the beginning of the season that I have not seen us quit,” he said. “I have not seen us turn it down and not want to play and not want to execute. There were some plays in the first half that I didn’t see the passion that I wanted to see but we got on them a little bit at halftime and they went back out there and they fought. So I do applaud them for fighting in the second half and not giving up.

TURNING POINT: While WSU controlled the game from the beginning, the Buffs did have a chance to grab some momentum when Sanders threw a touchdown to Hunter to cut the deficit to 14-7. But Colorado gave up a 98-yard return for a score on the ensuing kick and WSU dominated from that point on,

KEY STATISTICS: The Buffs were just 4-for-17 on third down … The Cougars outgained Colorado 469-255 … CU’s defense gave up an average of 7.2 yards per play.

WHAT IT MEANS: The Buffs won’t be bowling this year, meaning Sanders and his staff can turn their full attention to the roster and recruiting after next week’s season finale.

NEXT UP: The Buffs wrap up their regular season next Saturday at Utah.


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