(AP) — Colorado coach Jon Embree has tried to stay positive, to focus on the players who are still trying to turn the struggling program around.
After the Buffaloes' latest lopsided loss, the first-year coach has shifted his sights toward the players who aren't a part of the collective effort, the ones who appear to just be happy they're on the team.
"You can tell which ones by the way they play, the way they act on the sidelines, how they act after a loss like this, how they have acted after previous losses," Embree said after Colorado's 48-14 loss to No. 23 Arizona State on Saturday. "In some cases we can't do anything about it because they are the only people we have, which is the sad thing."
Colorado (1-8, 0-5) has had a difficult run through its inaugural Pac-12 season, riddled with injuries and inconsistencies that comes from using so many young players.
Against Arizona State, the Buffaloes couldn't stop Brock Osweiler through the air, Cameron Marshall on the ground or hold onto the football on offense.
Tyler Hansen, back from last week's concussion, threw for 285 yards and a touchdown, but also had two interceptions after replacing freshman Nick Hirschman in the first quarter.
The Buffaloes had five turnovers total, didn't score on offense until the game was out of reach and allowed Arizona State to roll up 522 yards of offense to lose their 22nd road game and sixth straight overall.
"We have to change (the) culture around here," said Hansen, who was cleared to play Saturday morning. "We want guys who want to win, who want to play for the University of Colorado, who want to see the Buffaloes play for championships, rather than having guys who are just OK with being out there."
Arizona State (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) has put itself in position to at least play for a championship after learning how to take down a heavy underdog instead of giving it a chance.
The Sun Devils haven't been particularly good against teams they were supposed to beat, including a sluggish-starting win over then-winless Oregon State to start October.
Knowing it couldn't afford a slip-up against an injury-riddled, 31-point underdog, Arizona State manhandled the Buffaloes on both sides of the ball from the start, jumping out to a 21-point lead in the first quarter.
Marshall finished with 114 yards on 15 carries, the Sun Devils ran for 207 yards on 36 carries and the defense pushed its turnover total to 24 on the season to stay a game ahead of UCLA in the division race.
"From Oregon State, we learned how to come out and start a football game, how to come out and execute," said Osweiler, who hit 18 of 28 passes for 307 yards and a pair of touchdowns. "I think we did a great job of that today."
Arizona State put itself in control of the Pac-12 South with a solid run through the toughest stretch of its schedule.
The Sun Devils have a favorable closing road to the Pac-12 Championship game, with four of their five games against teams with losing records.
Unlike the Oregon State game, there was no lookahead or letdown this time.
Osweiler hit Jamal Miles on a 25-yard touchdown pass on Arizona State's fifth play. Next drive, Arizona State's line created a hole big enough for a bus to drive through and Marshall cruised through for a 19-yard touchdown run.
Osweiler made it 21-0 before the first quarter was over, threading a 33-yard pass just over the shoulder of Colorado defensive back Ray Polk into the hands of Kevin Ozier for a touchdown.
Marshall added touchdown runs of 11 and 4 yards to keep the Buffaloes from making any kind of run.
"We took down there right away and scored and dominated the first half," Arizona State coach Dennis Erickson said. "I thought it was a good effort, I really did."
Arizona State's dominance wasn't much of a surprise the way Colorado's year has gone.
The Buffaloes came into their inaugural Pac-12 season without much depth, making the rash of injuries even tougher to take.
Colorado's injury report for Arizona State listed 18 players, including five out for the season, leaving Embree to spend his first season in Boulder shifting the roster around like a game of Sudoku while trying to find combinations that work.
The lack of a bye week hasn't helped much, either.
Outscored 145-33 the previous three games, Colorado found itself on the wrong end of another rout almost from the opening snap.
Arizona's offense had its way with the young Buffs, piling up 222 yards in the first quarter on the way to a 31-7 halftime lead.
Colorado's offense didn't have it much better, even after switching quarterbacks.
Hirschman opened under center and nearly threw an interception on his first pass. He was just 3 for 6 for 16 yards when Hansen replaced him for Colorado's third series.
Hansen appeared to be fine after last week's hit and had a few decent plays in the first half, but he and the Buffaloes couldn't get out of their own way.
Colorado had two turnovers in the half — an interception by Hansen and a fumble on a hook-and-ladder that failed miserably — and got its only points when Josh Moten scooped up a deflected backward pass and ran the fumble in for a 16-yard touchdown that made it 24-7.
Three plays later, Marshall scored on an 11-yard touchdown run, set up by Osweiler's 51-yard pass to Aaron Pflugrad over the middle. Hansen completed a Hail Mary to Logan Gray at the halftime buzzer, but the 53-yard pass was well short of the goal line.
It was that kind of day — and season — for the Buffaloes.
"I understand we're playing short-handed and I understand it's not the best circumstances for us," Embree said. "That still doesn't change your mindset. My mindset is to go out there and win in spite of. You can find a million reasons why you can't, the goal is to go out there and find the one reason you can and go out there and do it."
Just like the Sun Devils did.