BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Despite shutting down Shedeur Sanders, No. 16 Oregon State was looking ripe for another upset Saturday night at Colorado until Buffaloes new play-caller Pat Shurmur gave them a reprieve just before halftime.
Instead of running the ball from his own 4 and heading into halftime down just 7-3, Shurmur called for a pair of passes, both of which fell incomplete, before a run was stuffed at the line of scrimmage.
Three plays, no yards, 27 seconds.
“That was huge in a lot of ways,” Beavers coach Jonathan Smith said after Oregon State held on for a 26-19 win Saturday night.
Anthony Gould returned the punt from Colorado’s end zone 28 yards and another 5 yards was tacked on for an illegal formation flag on the Buffs, giving the Beavers the ball at the 20 with 22 seconds left.
On first down, DJ Uiagalelei hit running back Deshaun Fenwick for the touchdown that made it 14-3 at the break.
“We shouldn’t have been throwing there. We needed to run the ball,” Sanders told ESPN as he walked to the locker room. “That’s on me,” Coach Prime added.
The Buffs went nowhere on the opening drive of the second half and Uiagalelei’s 1-yard keeper made it 20-3.
Shedeur Sanders came into the game as the nation’s second-leading passer with a 337-yard average. But he was limited to 41 yards before halftime and finished with 245 after two late touchdown drives following an in-game painkiller injection for the second straight week in his sore hip.
“When I get mad, it’s just a different me,” Sanders said of his pair of 75-yard touchdown drives after the Buffs’ first 10 possessions resulted in just 78 yards of offense.
Beavers linebacker Easton Mascarenas-Arnold said the plan was “to punish him every single play no matter what.”
The Beavers (7-2, 4-2) started slowly but picked up steam with a pair of touchdown drives spanning halftime, then tacked on field goals on their next two drives before running out the clock on their final possession.
With their fifth loss in six games, the Buffs (4-5, 1-5 Pac-12) fell under .500 for the first time all season.
After a painful loss at UCLA last week in which his quarterback son was under constant durress, Buffs coach Deion Sanders switched up play-calling duties, promoting Shurmur from consultant to co-offensive coordinator. He called plays from the booth down to the field where original coordinator Sean Lewis relayed them.
“It’s not really a big change,” Shedeur Sanders said. “We’re all in this together.”
Deion Sanders said the change was necessary to try to shake the Buffs from their offensive doldrums, but ESPN commentator Brock Osweiler was critical of Colorado for not adding a tight end or running back to the protection scheme and basically leaving the five O-linemen on an island all night. The Buffs don’t use their tight ends for blocking and routinely line up with four wide receivers.
The change to Shurmur didn’t provide the spark the Buffaloes had hoped as they managed just 52 yards of offense in the first half and mismanaged their final possession, leaving the Beavers enough time to score the touchdown that gave them the double-digit halftime lead.
Sanders promised a different Buffs team in the second half, including his QB, who was 11-for-19 for 41 yards at that point.
Yet, it was more of the same after the break until Shedeur Sanders hit Travis Hunter from 15 yards out to pull CU to 23-12 with 10:41 remaining. After an OSU field goal, Sanders directed another 75-yard drive, capping this one with an 11-yard pass to Anthony Hankerson, to pull Colorado to 26-19.
After stuffing Colorado on the opening drive after halftime, the Beavers went 85 yards with Ugiagelelei scoring on a 1-yard keeper. Atticus Sappington’s extra point made it 21-3 but the Buffaloes were offside, and Smith decided to go for 2 instead.
That decision backfired when Uiagalelei fumbled the snap and cornerback Kendrick Breedlove scooped it up and ran it the other way for Colorado’s first defensive return for a 2-point conversion since 1991 against Nebraska.
Shedeur Sanders isn’t moping about the Buffs’ tough stretch. On the contrary, he’s looking at it was something that will pay dividends next year.
“Whenever you win all the time you don’t ever really go through that grit, that pain, that suffering. So, sometimes it’s good to go through this process to make sure you don’t ever feel like that again,” he said. “So, I’m fine with it.”
Among the more than a dozen prospective recruits at the game was somebody who could help keep Sanders safe: five-star offensive lineman Jordan Seaton from Washington, D.C.
Oregon State: After scoring just once in their first eight drives, the Beavers settled in nicely with two TDs and two FGs on their next four possessions.
Colorado: The Buffaloes find themselves in need of two wins over their final three games to become bowl-eligible.
The Beavers fell five spots last week after their 27-24 loss at Arizona, but winning in Boulder steadies them this week.