What went right: CU's defense played fairly well, especially early on, to keep the Buffs in the game.
What went wrong: CU's offense was dismal, netting just a third-quarter field goal. It was the first time since Nov. 17, 2012, that the Buffs failed to score a touchdown.
Turning point: CU was on the verge of a third consecutive stop of the WSU offense to start the game, until Luke Falk tossed a 29-yard pass to Dom Williams on fourth-and-6 from the CU 38-yard line. Three plays later, the Cougars scored and seized momentum for the rest of the night.
CU player of the game: Chidobe Awuzie. The junior nickel back set the tone on defense with several early tackles. He finished with nine, including one behind the line of scrimmage.
Bottom line: For the first time this year, the Buffs have lost four in a row. This one put an official end to their bowl hopes.
PULLMAN, Wash. - Passion poured out of the voice of Phillip Lindsay on Saturday night.
Unfortunately for Lindsay and the Colorado football team, passion was not a part of the Buffaloes performance in a 27-3 loss to 24th-ranked Washington State at Martin Stadium.
"It's just frustrating. It's frustrating because we've worked so hard and we've come up so short on a lot of games," Lindsay said after the mistake-prone Buffs stumbled through one of their worst efforts of the season.
"It comes down to heart. You have to have a dog in you. This sport right here, you have to have a dog in you. Today we didn't go out there with that mentality. That's what got us. We didn't go out there with fight. It showed on the field. It's sickening to see that."
Safety Tedric Thompson said the most disappointing aspect of Saturday was the fact that the Buffs "didn't really come out to play."
"I think we came out flat and it's kind of bad when your head coach has got to remind you that we play in the Pac-12 and we can't come out flat like that," Thompson said. "That's more my frustration, the way we came out and played."
CU (4-8, 1-7 Pac-12) was held out of the end zone for the first time since 2012 as its very thin bowl hopes finally died.
Throughout the season, the Buffs have suffered a series of heart-breaking close losses. This one was simply disheartening, as the Cougars (8-3, 6-2) beat the Buffs in a variety of ways.
Washington State threw for 332 yards and gained 149 more on the ground - nearly double its season average.
Defensively, Wazzu came into the weekend with the nation's worst run defense, but held CU to 85 yards on the ground. For the first time since 2006, the Cougars kept a conference foe from scoring a touchdown.
"I didn't have them ready enough to play," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "I thought they'd be ready to play better. We had opportunities to win this game."
Those opportunities came early, and like so many good opportunities this year, the Buffs let them get away.
Colorado's defense forced a punt and stuffed a fourth-down attempt on Washington State's first two offensive possessions. Against the high-powered Cougars, that was a heck of a start for the Buffs.
The Buffs didn't do anything to capitalize, though.
Their first offensive possession ended with Diego Gonzalez missing a 47-yard field goal. Their second ended with Cade Apsay, making his first career start, failing to convert a fourth-and-1 quarterback sneak.
That failed fourth-down attempt gave Washington State the ball at the CU 42-yard line. Seven plays later, the Cougars' Keith Harrington scored on a 1-yard touchdown. En route to that touchdown, Wazzu quarterback Luke Falk threw a 29-yard pass to Dom Williams on fourth-and-6 from the CU 38.
"After we didn't get the fourth down play, that was a big play," MacIntyre said. "Then, it's fourth down and they throw a fade route and make a great catch. That, to me, was a big turning point in the game."
After a CU punt, Falk engineered a 10-play, 96-yard march, capped by an 11-yard touchdown pass to Williams to make it 14-0.
CU never had a shot after that because time after time, the Buffs got in their own way.
Gonzalez missed a second field goal just before halftime, receivers dropped passes and the run game sputtered. The Buffs had costly penalties once again, and they even had issues with bad snaps for the first time this year.
A microcosm of CU's night came in the fourth quarter, with the Buffs trailing 24-3. On fourth-and-goal from the 3, center Alex Kelley delivered a low shotgun snap to Apsay, who fell on the ball for a drive-killing 4-yard loss.
Apsay did throw for 238 yards, but he was sacked four times and threw a pair of interceptions.
"We just couldn't piece (a drive) together, with all the flags and false starts and all of that," Apsay said. "It definitely hurt us. It's been a trend, actually. We move the ball so well in the open field and something just hurts us and kills the drive."
On this night, too many killed drives led to another disappointment in a season filled with them.
"It's in the heart of a man," Lindsay said of CU's lack of fight against Wazzu. "You either want to go out there and fight or you don't, but people need to make their mind up.
"Every time you step on that field, it needs to be a battle. All we have is each other. I look to my left and I look to my right, that's all I have is my brothers. Until everybody starts to understand that and starts to go with that, it's going to be hard.
"But, we're going to find it."
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.