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The Wingspan

The Wingspan

Primetime’s return to the spotlight

Deion Sanders has revived Colorado’s football program, but can he and his squad produce a run through the playoffs?
Image via FanNation and CU Buffs
Image via FanNation and CU Buffs

For 14 seasons Deion Sanders locked down receivers with ease, taunting opposing quarterbacks to throw his direction. Along with his skill on the field, he consistently managed to charm the league with his positive attitude and entertaining charisma. That or you hated every aspect of his boastful persona. When the time came to hang up his cleats he found himself enshrined in the Hall of Fame; now Sanders is back in the role of a Coach and seeing just as much success.

Sanders’ initial success at Jackson State University, the team he formerly coached, managed to catch the attention of bigger schools around the country; on December 2nd, 2022, mere hours after Jackson State’s second consecutive conference title win, Colorado University made the announcement that Sanders would be coming to Boulder the next season to coach the Buffaloes. Sanders took over the Southwestern Athletic Conference with Jackson State, but could he replicate the results in the PAC-12? There was a lot of noise surrounding Colorado’s offseason, whether it was incoming transfers or critics doubting Sanders’ ability to lead the Buffaloes, all eyes would be on Colorado during the first week of College football.

Image via Gerry Melendez for The Undefeated and AndScape

With Sanders as head coach, athletes from all over the nation entered the transfer portal to have the opportunity to play under one of the all-time greats. Sanders also dragged nine players from Jackson State including his sons Shedeur and Shilo and the number two prospect of the 2022 class, Travis Hunter. Sanders was criticized early for promoting his own son as the starting quarterback, a topic of great controversy in the months leading up to the season.

Colorado’s program had been in a slump for a couple years with a combined record of 5-19 from 21’-23’and finishing last in the PAC-12 the previous year. Even more concerning was their week one road game against TCU, last season’s national championship runner-up. While TCU was ranked #17 in the country after losing key seniors like quarterback Max Duggan and receiver Quentin Johnson to the NFL, they were still considered the 21-point favorites in the matchup. Sanders was still under fire for his earlier decision to start his own son, Shedeur, at quarterback, but all doubt about the young player’s talent would be put to rest after the game. 

In a Heisman-contender performance, Shedeur put up an impressive 510 yards and four touchdowns on 38 completions. He was supported by Travis Hunter, who caught 11 of those passes for 110 yards and additionally got a tackle and interception taking snaps on the defensive side of the ball. By the end of the day, Hunter had played 152 snaps on offense and defense, single-handedly putting Hunter on watch. Colorado would score a go-ahead touchdown off a pass from Shedeur to running back Dylan Edwards with 4:25 left in the game. Their defense would hold, and Colorado would shock TCU 45-42, kicking off Coach Prime’s era with a bang.

After their upset win against TCU, the Buffaloes were favored in their home opener against long-time rival Nebraska, and they made sure to not disappoint the home fans. Shedeur threw for another 339 yards and two touchdowns on 31 completions, and Hunter would catch another three passes for 73 yards while getting four tackles on defense. Senior receiver Xavier Weaver also showed off with his ten receptions for 110 yards, as well as a touchdown to round out a great performance. Colorado maintained a solid lead the entire game and continued to 2-0 as they beat Nebraska 14-36.

Image via Gerry Melendez for The Undefeated and AndScape

Week three was bound to be intense as Colorado welcomed the Colorado State Rams to their stadium for a classic in-state rivalry match. Colorado was the stronger team by far, and the odds reflected it: they were favored by a wide spread of -23.5 points. During the week leading up to the game, Colorado State head coach Jay Norvell made a comment about Deion Sanders’ lack of maturity in some situations, saying, “When I talk to grown-ups, I take my hat and glasses off,” Sanders’ casual look. Sanders expressed that the comment made the game “personal” for himself.

Both teams came out hot, but then the scoring died down for two whole quarters. By the start of the fourth quarter, the Rams were surprisingly winning 21-14, but two touchdowns by Colorado and another by CSU tied the game at 28, sending the game to OT. Going through one period of overtime, Colorado would eventually score in the second period of overtime, winning the game 35-43 in an instant classic. Shedeur had a third great game, throwing for 348 yards and four touchdowns on 38 completions. Weaver also had another great game, catching nine for 98 yards. Despite Colorado’s success, the celebration was marred slightly as Travis Hunter would be sent to a nearby hospital after lacerating his kidney on a late hit from Colorado State safety Henry Blackburn. Coach Sanders stated he would be out for three weeks.

Image via Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images and Arizona Sports

After three weeks Colorado has not only started undefeated under their new management, but they’ve also managed to capture the hearts of America with Sanders’ youthful enthusiasm and optimism. His popularity among America remains undeniable, with their week three match against Colorado State breaking multiple viewing records; with an estimated 9.3 million viewers it was the fifth-highest-viewed college football game ever recorded and the highest-viewed game in the late-time slot of all time. Being top five in almost every quarterback statistic, Shedeur remains a Heisman contender, and once Travis Hunter is back, he’ll continue to be a threat on both sides of the ball.

Despite their success, the future remains unresolved for the Buffaloes. Colorado’s schedule only gets harder this season with a tough home game on September 30th against #8 USC. Without key players like Travis Hunter, Colorado may struggle. It will be up to every member of the Sanders’ family to step up and boost the team and hopefully we will continue to see Colorado succeed under their new administration.


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About the Contributor
Ryan Brown, Sports Writer