Dean Hare/Associated Press
PULLMAN, Wash. – Colorado quarterback Jordan Webb had the option of throwing or running when he went behind center with 12 seconds left and his team trailing Washington State by six.
“I saw the box was thin, so I checked to a run play,” Webb said.
He ran 4 yards untouched into the end zone, the last of three Colorado touchdowns in the final 7 minutes, to lift the Buffaloes over Washington State 35-34 on Saturday in the Pac-12 Conference opener for both teams.
“I knew the offensive line was going to block like they had all day,” said Webb, who ran for two touchdowns and threw for two others in the upset.
Washington State was favored by 19 going into the game.
Colorado (1-3) had been all but given up for dead after losing its first three games, including last week’s 69-14 loss to Fresno State.
“A week ago they were putting the last shovel of dirt on us,” Colorado coach Jon Embree said. “I always felt we were better than we were showing.”
Washington State led 31-14 midway through the fourth quarter. Then the Buffaloes scored three touchdowns in the final 7:06 to pull out the win.
Connor Halliday threw four touchdown passes for Washington State (2-2), which was looking for its first three-game winning streak since 2006.
“We’re a mentally weak team,” Washington State coach Mike Leach said. “That’s got to change.”
“We want to go complacent when we get ahead and panic when something good happens for the other guy,” Leach said. “We are afraid to win.”
It was the third consecutive game in which Washington State led in the first half and let the other team close on them in the second. But they managed to hold on in victories over Eastern Washington and UNLV.
Colorado put up 531 total yards compared to 451 for Washington State.
Webb completed 29 of 42 passes for 345 yards and was intercepted once. He was sacked six times.
Washington State was ahead 34-28 when Colorado took over on its 30 and marched to the Washington State 4. On fourth down, Webb bootlegged up the middle for a touchdown to tie the score. Will Oliver’s extra point gave Colorado its first lead, 35-34, with 9 seconds left.
Colorado had pulled within 31-28 on Webb’s 70-yard touchdown pass to Nick Kasa midway through the fourth quarter, followed by Tony Jones’ 84-yard scoring run with 4:23 left.
On the ensuing kickoff, the Cougars wasted Teondray Caldwell’s 56-yard return and had to settle for Andrew Furney’s 42-yard field goal. That set up Webb’s final drive and touchdown run.
The game was played in air thick with smoke from wildfires 200 miles away in central Washington.
Halliday completed 32 of 60 passes for 401 yards. The Cougars, so far, have shown only flashes of Leach’s high-flying “Air Raid” offense.