Colorado offense struggles in loss to No. 16 Oregon State

Coach Deion Sanders switched offensive play-callers ahead of the game

Colorado’s coaching switch did not pay immediate dividends in a 26-19 loss to No. 16 Oregon State on Saturday night.

The Buffaloes once again couldn’t get anything going on the ground and yardage through the air was also hard to come by, especially in the first three quarters. The Buffaloes punted on seven of their first nine drives of the game, fumbled on another and nearly had as many yards of offense on a 75-yard touchdown drive in the fourth quarter than they had all game until that point.

On Friday, multiple outlets, including Yahoo Sports, reported that Colorado analyst and former NFL head coach Pat Shurmur would be the team’s offensive play-caller. Shurmur took over play-calling duties from offensive coordinator Sean Lewis.

The move from Lewis to Shurmur came as Colorado had given up 42 sacks over the first eight games of the season and was one of the most one-dimensional offenses in the country thanks to an overmatched offensive line.

BOULDER, CO - NOVEMBER 4: Shedeur Sanders #2 of the Colorado Buffaloes passes the football in the first quarter against the Oregon State Beavers at Folsom Field on November 4, 2023 in Boulder, Colorado. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)
Shedeur Sanders and the Colorado offense struggled in a loss to No. 16 Oregon State. (Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images)

Hardly anything changed in Shurmur’s first game calling plays for the Buffaloes. QB Shedeur Sanders spent much of the game running from Oregon State defenders and when he was completing passes, they were extremely short. At one point early in the third quarter, Sanders had completed 15 of 23 passes for 67 yards.

The Buffaloes finished with 238 total yards — and minus-7 on the ground — after racking up yardage in the final period when Oregon State was up two touchdowns. Sanders went to the locker room after a hit in the third quarter but quickly returned to the sideline and didn't miss a play.

Oregon State effectively put the game out of reach late in the second quarter after Colorado got the ball with less than a minute left at its own 4 yard-line. The Buffaloes had the chance to get to halftime trailing just 7-3 if they could run out the clock, but Sanders threw two incompletions and Oregon State called timeout after a third-down run for no gain.

That three-and-out led to a Colorado punt that was returned 28 yards by Anthony Gould to the Colorado 25 yard-line. Tack on five more yards for an illegal formation penalty on the Buffs, and Oregon State had the ball at the 20 with 22 seconds to go.

The Beavers then scored on their first offensive play of the drive when DJ Uiagalelei hit Deshaun Fenwick for a touchdown and a 14-3 halftime lead. Colorado cut Oregon State's lead to a TD with 1:42 to go but never got the ball back to have an opportunity to tie or take the lead.

The loss drops Colorado to 4-5 with three games to play. The Buffaloes need to go 2-1 over those three contests to make a bowl. That will be an extremely tough task. Colorado will likely be an underdog to all three of Arizona, Washington State and Utah.

Oregon State, meanwhile, is 7-2 overall and 4-2 in the Pac-12. The Beavers are still in the thick of the Pac-12 mix with games remaining against No. 5 Washington and No. 8 Oregon over the final two weeks of the season.