TEMPE, Ariz -- Ugly. Dull. Depressing.
The latest 60 minutes of torture in this black hole season for the Colorado football program unfolded in familiar form Saturday on the field at Sun Devil Stadium.
Over matched by superior talent, depth and speed once again the Buffs fell behind quickly, surrendering touchdown drives on Arizona State's first two possessions and three of its first four. Colorado came to the desert as a 30-point underdog and by the end of the first quarter of a 48-14 loss that spread seemed kind.
For the third straight week the opponent scored more than 30 points and racked up more than 300 yards of total offense in the first half alone against the beleaguered Buffs' defense.
And for the third straight week another key member of the team suffered a significant injury. True freshman running back Malcolm Creer's season ended two weeks after being activated from a redshirt. He suffered a knee injury feared to be torn knee ligaments. He will be evaluated today.
"I understand we are playing shorthanded. I understand it's not maybe the best circumstances for us, but that still doesn't change your mindset," coach Jon Embree said. "Your mindset is to still go out there and win in spite of. You can find a million reasons why you can't. The goal is to find the one reason why you can and will and then go do it and focus on that.
"You can't control injuries. You can't control the other team's schedule. All you can control is your play, your effort, how you handle the ball, how you do your assignment and then trust your teammate to do the same."
The Buffs have been outscored 193-47 in the past four games.
Colorado lost for the 22nd straight time on the road and 23rd consecutive time outside the state. It is the longest road-losing streak in the Football Bowl Subdivision. The Buffs fell to 1-8 overall and 0-5 in the Pac-12 Conference.
Embree is still looking for his first victory over a team from a Bowl Championship Series league. Fellow Pac-12 newcomer Utah beat Oregon State 27-8 in Salt Lake City on Saturday, leaving the Buffs alone in the cellar.
Redshirt freshman quarterback Nick Hirschman made his first collegiate start for CU after taking the majority of the practice snaps throughout the week while senior Tyler Hansen recuperated from a concussion.
The Colorado offense had been shut out at home against Oregon last week and Hirschman hoped to provide a spark. But it did not go well. Hirschman completed three of six passes for 16 yards and was replaced by Hansen after nearly throwing two interceptions on the Buffs' first two possessions. Hirschman returned in fourth quarter garbage time.
"He was late on things and all that," Embree said. "We just wanted to get him going and see how Tyler was. We felt the way the game was going, we needed to get Tyler in to get something going."
Hansen was intercepted twice, including once in the red zone. It was the first time this season Hansen has been picked off twice in the same game.
"The interceptions were not his fault," Embree said. "I thought he played pretty well. He could have got rid of the ball a little quicker a couple times, but the two interceptions wasn't his issue."
Meanwhile, Arizona State quarterback Brock Osweiler became the latest Pac-12 signal caller to pick apart the injury-riddled and freshman-laden CU secondary. Osweiler completed a pair of pretty touchdown passes in the first quarter.
The first score covered 25 yards to Jamal Miles and the second went 33 yards to Kevin Ozier. Osweiler completed 18 of 28 passes for 307 yards. ASU tailback Cameron Marshall added touchdown runs of 19, 11 and 4 yards and ran for 114 yards.
Colorado's first score came courtesy of one of the few mistakes Osweiler made.
Late in the first half, he threw backward to the wide side of the field. Defensive back Travis Sandersfeld tipped the lateral and cornerback Josh Moten scooped it up and ran into the end zone for a touchdown. It was the first touchdown for the Buffs since the fourth quarter at Washington two weeks ago, but the offense still hadn't scored.
CU drove to within inches of the end zone in the third quarter but was stuffed at the goal line on consecutive running plays on third and fourth down.
The shutout streak extended to seven quarters before the CU offense finally put points on the board when Hansen connected with wide receiver Toney Clemons for a 21-yard touchdown pass in the fourth quarter. The play capped a six-play, 80-yard drive.
Embree was asked what the offense can do to improve down the stretch this season.
"We had the goal-line stand. We had the turnover inside the five. We had the interception," Embree said. "Don't turn the ball over and convert when you're down there. That's what we can do. Don't get down 21-nothing. There is a lot we can do."