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Special teams heroics save Colorado in sloppy win over Arizona State

It wasn’t pretty, but a win is a win.

Colorado v Arizona State Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

Coach Prime and the Buffs managed to come away with a win against Arizona State in Tempe on Saturday. Colorado bested the Sun Devils by a score of 27-24 to snag their first conference win of the season. This week’s win wasn’t pretty though. The Buffs played some sloppy football, but managed to do just enough to beat ASU.

The Buffs opened the game up by allowing Arizona State to march right down the field and take a 7-0 lead. Colorado’s offense would follow that up by going three-and-out on their first offensive drive. This marks the fifth week in a row now that the Buffaloes have started slow out of the gates. Thankfully, CU’s wouldn’t wait too long to get the scoring started. Wide receiver Xavier Weaver would punch in a one yard touchdown run to tie the game at seven points at the very end of the first quarter.

After another Sun Devils touchdown midway through the second quarter, Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders took matters into his own hands. Shedeur led the Buffaloes on a drive with less than two minutes left in the half and no timeouts left, which resulted in a 16 yards TD rush by CU’s quarterback. The Buffs went into halftime down 17-14.

This week proved to be further confirmation of something we have already known: the Buffaloes are a second half team. After an uneventful third quarter where no scoring occurred, Colorado kicked it into high gear in the fourth quarter.

Wide receiver Javon Antonio proved to be the CU’s momentum bringer this week. Antonio, who saw significant playtime for the first time this season, provided the Buffs with the spark they needed to beat the Sun Devils. Antonio had five catches for 81 yards and a nine yard touchdown to put the Buffs up 21-17 early in the fourth quarter.

After another defensive stop, Weaver flipped the field with a 51-yard punt return that led to a 42-yard field goal by Alejandro Mata. Arizona State tried to answer with a field goal of their own but Carter Stoutmare made his impact by blocking the kick. The true freshman made his return after getting injured in week two against Nebraska and potentially saved the game for CU.

On their next offensive possession, the Sun Devils marched down the field to score a game-tying touchdown with only fifty seconds left to play. The lack of time and timeouts didn’t matter to Shedeur though, as there was more than enough time in his eyes.

“They left too much time on the clock and we knew that,” said Shedeur postgame. “The coaches knew what was gonna happen, and I knew what was gonna happen.”

The Colorado quarterback uncorked a beautiful pass to Antonio for a 43-yard gain to set up Mata to drill the game winning 43 yards field goal. Mata has fought for the kicker job all season and he proved himself. The Buffs don’t win without him, nor do they win without Weaver and Stoutmire’s special teams heroics.

“I believe in Mata. Why do you think I brought him here?” said Coach Prime postgame. “Mata don’t miss. They called a time out to freeze him and that doesn’t mean nothing to Mata.”

Colorado running back Anthony Hankerson carried his momentum from last week and had a great game against ASU. Although he didn’t get a ton of touches, Hankerson made it count when he was given the ball. He finished the game with 58 rushing yards on only ten attempts, as well as a couple of key first down pickups for the Buffs. He’s proven can pound the rock; now he needs more touches in Sean Lewis’s offense.

Colorado’s offensive line struggles played a big part in Saturday’s slog. The roughed up unit was missing starting tackle Savion Washington and it was very apparent. The Colorado big men had a lot of trouble protecting Shedeur, as they allowed five sacks against the Sun Devils. CU’s offensive line is basically held together with duct tape and chewing gum right now. The Buffs still managed the win, but it’s something that needs to be cleaned up moving forward.

Shedeur also had a rough week against ASU. This week’s performance was likely his worst so far this season (other than the Oregon game but let’s just pretend that never happened). He took a couple of bad sacks and had some ugly overthrows in some pivotal moments. He still finished with 239 yards a touchdown and led the Buffs on that game winning drive. Because of that, all is forgiven.

Colorado’s defense got some major players back like Shilo Sanders, Myles Slusher and Stoutmire. Despite this, the Buffs’ defense didn’t put their best foot forward this week. Much like Colorado State did, the Buffs were torn up in the middle of the field by a backup quarterback. Trenton Bourguet had 335 passing yards, a lot of them coming after the catch due to some poor tackling from the CU defense. Hopefully it was just an off week in Tempe, but it’s another thing that could trouble this team if they don’t clean it up.

It wasn’t just Colorado fans and analysts that thought Colorado played a sloppy game, as Coach Prime wasn’t satisfied with his team’s performance. He opened his post game press conference with some harsh words about his own squad.

“We played like hot garbage. I’m trying to figure this out. I’m sick of it,” said Prime. “I’m happy about the win, but I’m not happy with the fashion that we won. We are better than that, and we’ve got to start showing that.”

It doesn’t matter if it’s ugly, a win is a win. The Buffs now improve to a 4-2 record and are only two wins away from being bowl eligible. Thankfully for the Buffs, next week should be a little easier. A struggling Stanford squad will make their way to Folsom Field to square off against the Buffaloes on Friday night.