Ward leads Washington State to 56-14 romp over Colorado; Sanders exits with injury

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PULLMAN, Wash. (AP) — Cameron Ward threw for 288 yards and accounted for four touchdowns, Brennan Jackson had two scoop-and-score touchdowns and Washington State beat Colorado 56-14 on Friday night to snap a six-game losing streak and end the Buffaloes’ hopes of a bowl game in the first year under Deion Sanders.

Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders left the game in the second quarter after taking a big hit on a botched snap. Sanders was slow to get up but walked off the field on his own before being taken to the locker room. The junior was 6 of 10 for 86 yards, including a 45-yard touchdown strike to Travis Hunter. Sanders, the coach’s son, was sacked four times before leaving the game.

“He had some numbness in his hand and couldn’t really grip the ball,” Sanders said. “But then that second hit he just got rolled up on, we decided not to send him back out.”

Colorado (4-7, 1-7 Pac-12 Conference) and “Coach Prime” were the darlings of college football after a 3-0 start, but the team has lost seven of eight since.

Despite a massive improvement upon last year’s win total, Sanders said the program measures itself against its own expectations.

“We’re falling short of what we’re capable of, that’s the part of this that’s tough to digest. We’ve got high expectations here, so this is tremendously disappointing,” said Sanders.

Washington State (5-6, 2-6) kept its hopes for a bowl game alive with the victory, but the Cougars will need to find a way to topple rival Washington next week in the Apple Cup to finish the job.

Jackson returned a pair of fumbles for touchdowns covering 48 and 78 yards, respectively, helping the Cougars to their largest Pac-12 victory since 2016. The Cougar defense forced three turnovers on a Colorado offense that had only committed seven all season.

On the Buffs' second possession, Ron Stone Jr’s. strip-sack of Sanders was picked up by Jackson who returned it for his first score of the night to put the Cougars up 14-0. The hit sidelined Sanders for a series before the big hit in the second quarter took him out for the night.

Hunter’s 45-yard touchdown brought the Buffs within a score for one play before Leighton Smithson stifled any Colorado momentum with a 98-yard kickoff return, the first for Washington State since 2018.

Ward piled it on from there, finding Nakia Watson for a 23-yard touchdown before calling his own number on touchdowns of 1 and 2 yards on consecutive possessions to give the Cougars a 42-7 lead at the half.

Ward dropped in a 34-yard touchdown throw to Kyle Williams before Jackson picked up his second fumble and returned it for a touchdown and a 56-7 lead.

“They came to play from start to finish. They executed early, they executed often, they came to play,” Sanders said. “And with Shedeur out on top of that, it was tough.”

Ryan Staub and Gavin Kuld rotated possessions in relief of Sanders but combined for just 79 passing yards and two turnovers. Hunter led the team with 82 receiving yards.

THE TAKEAWAY

Washington State: The Cougars snapped their longest losing streak since 2013 with a 42-point barrage in the first half after averaging just 20 points per game through the last six weeks. Their defensive line was disruptive from the start, knocking out Sanders with four sacks in the first quarter alone.

Colorado: The Buffaloes' postseason hopes were dashed in their largest loss of the “Coach Prime” era. The Buffs have allowed an FBS-worst 54 sacks this season, and the Cougars’ pass rush proved too much to handle.

UP NEXT

Colorado: The Buffaloes hit the road against No. 22 Utah on Nov. 25 before both teams join the Big 12 Conference next season.

Washington State: The Cougars end the regular season at No. 5 Washington in what may be the final Apple Cup. The Huskies are off to the Big Ten Conference next season.

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AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football