They say a win is a win, no matter the form or fashion it comes in. Colorado (4-2, 1-2 Pac-12) got one of the uglier victories on Saturday night, coming from behind to beat Arizona State (1-5, 0-3 Pac-12) 27-24 in Tempe.
“Wonderful win,” said Deion Sanders postgame. “Played like hot garbage, and we’re trying to figure this out. Sick of it, I am. I’m sick of us coming out here and putting forth the effort we put forth in the first half. We had really diligent meetings and we’re trying to figure this out because 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.”
Photo Cred: CU
Kicker Alejandro Mata was the hero for the Buffs, drilling two fourth-quarter field goals, including the game-winner from 43 yards out with 12 seconds remaining. The Buffs’ kicking game had been inconsistent throughout the season, and the special teams did have their moments on Saturday. Mata, however, drilled all three of his PATs and helped give the Buffs a pivotal win.
“Mata is Mata,” said Deion Sanders of his kicker. “Mata don’t miss. You can call a timeout to freeze him all you want, it don’t mean nothing to Mata. It’s who he is. It’s what he always says to me when I walk over to him and give him a hug. He said, ‘I don’t miss.’”
Photo Cred: Sporting News
The Buffs got off to another slow start in this one, allowing an opening-drive touchdown and following it up with a three-and-out for the third straight week. Their offense was choppy throughout the first half, something that became a theme over the first half of the season. With the Buffs trailing 14-7 towards the end of the first half, they just needed a spark.
As he has done all season, Shedeur Sanders came through, escaping the pocket and tying the game with a 16-yard touchdown run to knot things up. The final drive of the first half encapsulated the first three quarters for the Buffs. After regaining momentum on the Sanders touchdown run, the Buffs gave up 15 yards on an unsportsmanlike conduct penalty, allowing the Sun Devils to get into field goal range and take a 17-14 lead at the break.
In the second half, the Colorado defense played some of their best ball of the season, shutting ASU out on their first four drives. Freshman cornerback Carter Stoutmire put a stamp on the performance by flying off the edge to block a 52-yard field goal attempt. Regardless, the defense couldn’t hold up forever, faltering by giving up a 94-yard touchdown drive. This allowed the Sun Devils to tie the game up at 24 with just 50 seconds left.
Photo Cred: AZ Central
“They left too much time on the clock,” said Shedeur Sanders after the game.
It took the Buffs quarterback just two snaps, a pair of completions to Javon Antonio, to drive the Buffs down into field goal range and set up Mata’s game-winning kick. Saturday marked the first conference win on the road for the Buffs since they beat Arizona in Tucson on Dec. 5, 2020. It also moves the Buffs within two wins of bowl eligibility with six games to go, just a year removed from a disastrous 1-11 campaign.
Shedeur Sanders’ final stat line was modest in this one, finishing 26-for-42 with 239 yards and a score, adding a second touchdown on the ground. The raw yardage numbers may not be what they usually are, but Sanders continuously made plays when the Buffs desperately needed them.
Antonio led the Buffs in receiving with five catches for 81 yards and his first touchdown of the season, while Anthony Hankerson added 58 yards on the ground on ten carries. Linebacker LaVonta Bentley and cornerback Omarion Cooper starred on Buffs’ defense in this one. Bentley led the team in tackles with 11 and added two tackles for loss and a sack. Cooper registered seven tackles and two pass breakups and was excellent in coverage throughout most of the game.
On the Arizona State side, quarterback Trenton Bourguet had a strong outing, finishing 32-for-49 with 335 yards, an opening-drive rushing touchdown, and a passing TD to tie the game in the final minute. Star receiver Elijhah Badger continued as the Sun Devils’ top target, catching 12 receptions for 134 yards. The Buffs are back at it one more time before their bye week, as they will head back to Boulder to take on Stanford on Friday night. Kickoff will be at 8 p.m. MST.