PULLMAN, Wash. – Deion Sanders barely got through a game on Friday night because of flu-like symptoms that had impacted him all day.
“I’m a little under the weather so this is gonna be a little foggy for me,” the Colorado head coach said as he sat down for a postgame press conference.
The illness was hardly the worst thing he dealt with, though.
Sanders’ struggling Buffaloes hit their low point at Gesa Field, thumped by host Washington State 56-14 in a game that was every bit as disastrous as that score would indicate.
“Great win by our opponents,” Sanders said. “They played a heck of a game, coached a heck of a game. They came to play handily from the start to the finish. Obviously it don’t look like we did.”
CU (4-7, 1-7 Pac-12) is now in sole possession of last place in the conference after its fifth straight loss. The first four games in this current losing streak came by a combined 25 points, but this one was never really close, despite Washington State coming in riding a six-game losing streak.
Before the first quarter came to a close, the Cougars (5-6, 2-6) had scored on offense, defense and special teams. By halftime, the Cougars led by 35 and CU star quarterback Shedeur Sanders was out of the game with an injury.
“Very sad of how we played,” Coach Prime said. “We practiced hard this past week. We prepared like no other and to go and display a performance like that is not indicative of who we are, what we are, how we are.
“I’ve been boasting since the beginning of the season I have not seen us quit. Have not seen us quit, have not seen us turn it down and not want to play and not want to execute.”
There was some of it on Friday, though.
Washington State scored on a 40-yard fumble return from Brennan Jackson to make it 14-0.
For a brief moment late in the first quarter, the Buffs regained some hope, however. Shedeur Sanders returned after missing a series with injury to throw a 45-yard touchdown pass to Travis Hunter and cut the deficit to 14-7.
CU didn’t even have time to celebrate that score, though, as WSU’s Leyton Smithson returned the ensuing kickoff 98 yards for another touchdown, sucking the air out of the Buffs’ sideline.
Less than 4 minutes of game time later, the Cougars scored again. And, then they knocked Shedeur Sanders out of the game.
Cougars quarterback Cam Ward tacked on two short touchdowns before the half, putting the game completely out of reach at 42-7. Ward threw for 288 yards and accounted for four scores on the night (two passing, two rushing).
“I didn’t see quit. I didn’t see that,” Coach Prime said. “Maybe not passion in the first half. Maybe not the purpose, the mental and the physicality that I would want to see as a coach. Maybe not that in the first half.
“But, in the second half, after we challenged them to do so they responded. They didn’t give up. I promise you they didn’t give up.”
Not giving up was small consolation on a night when the Buffs were thoroughly embarrassed by a team that shared the Pac-12 cellar with them before the game. Although wins haven’t been there as much as CU had hoped, the Buffs have battled week-in and week-out. Friday was a complete meltdown.
In addition to losing Shedeur Sanders to injury, the Buffs gave up a second fumble return for a touchdown to Jackson in the second half. They had three turnovers overall and more yards in punts (406) than on offense (255).
“Very, very (surprising), because it’s not who we are,” Coach Prime said. “We’re still trying to figure out our identity, trying to figure out who we are in turbulent times. And I still don’t know. After all these weeks, I still don’t know.”
Shortly after that, he paused and said, “I’m sorry, my head is throbbing right now.”
Whether it was his illness or his team’s performance causing that headache isn’t clear. But, one cause of his pain will be easier to fix than the other.
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