BOULDER, Colo. (AP) — Shedeur Sanders is closing in on several Colorado records despite all the bumps and bruises from all the sacks and hits.
These days, the Buffaloes quarterback has become just as fluent in managing the pain that comes with being sacked 48 times as with running the Buffaloes' pass-centric offense. He's needed at least two pain-numbing injections this season to get through games and a few days off from practice here and there to recover from constantly scrambling behind a shaky offensive line.
But here he is, with two games left, just 57 yards shy of breaking Colorado's single-season passing mark of 3,200 yards set by Sefo Liufau in 2014. Sanders, who's made his watch-flex pose after big moments a popular trend, also has 26 TD passes, leaving him three away from eclipsing Liufau’s mark of 28 for a season.
The durable Sanders is also doing everything he can to help the Buffaloes (4-6, 1-6 Pac-12) pull out of their funk. They've dropped six of seven since a 3-0 start and now need two wins on the road — at Washington State on Friday, at No. 16 Utah in the regular season finale — to become bowl eligible.
“You can’t really go in a dark hole and you can’t go in a dark tunnel when you’re having a season like this because nothing will ever be perfect in life,” said Sanders, who went 23-3 as the starting quarterback at Jackson State before arriving in Boulder with his father, Deion Sanders, to help turn around a Colorado program that went 1-11 a season ago. “So you’ve got to take the good, you've got to take the bad. So that’s what I take from all this — is just keep being consistent, keep playing the game, keep doing my job, keep doing everything we could do to be able to have success."
For Shedeur Sanders, that’s making sure he gets enough treatment throughout the week (his dad has given him some rest days) and by any means necessary to make it through a game. He received a pain-relieving injection at halftime against UCLA, his dad explained. And he needed another for his sore hip in order to finish the Oregon State contest.
“You have to mentally prepare yourself all week,” Shedeur Sanders said of dealing with the pain. “No matter what, it’s going to hurt."
The persistence of Sanders earned him the “ Buffalo Heart Award ” after Colorado's final home game of the season last Saturday, a 34-31 loss to No. 19 Arizona. The award is presented annually to the Colorado player who best exemplifies “heart, determination, desire and grit.”
“It means a lot that they understand what I’m going through day to day," Sanders said. “I’m pushing through mentally, physically, and emotionally. I’m just very proud they are able to see that, too.”
Couple his production in Boulder with what he accomplished at Jackson State and Shedeur has thrown for more than 10,000 yards in his career.
Not that his performance on the next level is a big surprise to him.
“This proves you could come from anywhere and go to a different division, go play on a different level, on a different stage, and be able to do it,” Sanders said. “I really feel like it should be inspiration toward other FCS players, knowing all it takes is you just have an opportunity to do it on a bigger stage.”
The Buffaloes' offensive line gave him more time to operate last weekend, with Sanders sacked three times against Arizona. He was brought down four times the week before against No. 10 Oregon State and seven times the week before that at UCLA.
“Just do the math, I feel like it’s an improvement,” Deion Sanders said. "They (offensive line) gave us a clean pocket at times. The times he had to scramble, you’re going to do that because the opposing team is going to blitz sometimes. But overall, I really think they’ve improved tremendously.”
Colorado also found some offensive rhythm in the second week of longtime NFL coach Pat Shurmur calling the plays after being promoted to the role of co-offensive coordinator. Fellow offensive boss Sean Lewis signaled them in from the sideline.
“We've got to be able to execute no matter what," Shedeur Sanders said. “We have to have the type of mindset that no matter what, we’re going to get this."
AP college football: https://apnews.com/hub/ap-top-25-college-football-poll and https://apnews.com/hub/college-football