FORT WORTH, Texas — Deion Sanders is not one for letting reporters get their full questions out. He often has one of his own. So, at his postgame news conference following his stunning Colorado debut — a 45-42 upset of 17th-ranked TCU — Sanders cut off a familiar reporter who’d apparently expressed doubt in his coaching abilities.
“Hold on, hold on, hold on! Oh no, no, no,” he said, before pounding the table in front of him. “DO YOU BELIEVE NOW?”
The reporter didn’t want to play along, but I will.
I didn’t before. I absolutely do now.
To paraphrase his own lingo, Deion Sanders is THAT Guy.
Colorado upsets TCU in Deion Sanders’ debut
I can see you rolling your eyes already, dear reader. It was only one game! TCU was overrated! They didn’t play any defense.
TCU reached the national title game last season, while Colorado fielded a non-competitive 1-11 squad. Colorado hadn’t beaten a team ranked as high as TCU since 2009, and it had not beaten a top-20 team on the road in more than 20 years.
Be honest: You thought his team would come out and get embarrassed in “the biggest season opener college football has seen in years.” (Fox’s promo tagline.) I know I did.
Deion — or Coach Prime, as he prefers to be called — showed up at his introductory news conference and matter-of-factly went ahead named his son Shedeur the starting quarterback. Then, on camera (as everything is in his program), he basically told all of last year’s players he was going to run them off and replace them with Louis Vuitton-level transfers. He said over and over and over again, “We coming.”
And then he went out in there in the very first game and backed it all up.
One thing’s for sure: He was right about the quality of his luggage. There was Shedeur, in his FBS debut, eluding pass rushers and dropping dimes all over the field, finishing the day with a school-record 510 yards and four touchdowns, two of them to reclaim the lead in the last 7:36 of the shootout. It was likely the best quarterback performance Buffs fans have enjoyed since the days of Kordell Stewart — 30 years ago.
Deion expressed faux bewilderment when someone mentioned his son’s record afterward.
“For real? Shedeur Sanders? From an HBCU? The one that played at Jackson (State) last year?”
There was 5-foot-9, 170-pound running back Dylan Edwards, the four-star freshman and second-highest rated prospect in Sanders’ first recruiting class, breaking a screen pass 75 yards for a touchdown on the second play after halftime to put the Buffs up 10. Then, after TCU went up 42-38 in the fourth quarter, he took a swing pass, turned the left corner, juked two of the Frogs’ most experienced defenders and raced 46 yards for what proved to be the winning score.
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There were two transfer receivers from noted football power USF, Jimmy Horn Jr. and Xavier Weaver, consistently getting separation from a bunch of veteran Horned Frogs DBs, both en route to 100-yard performances — two of four on the day for Colorado.
And then there was Travis Hunter — lots and lots and lots of Travis Hunter.
The former No. 1-overall recruit who Deion managed to flip from Florida State to Jackson State in 2022 put on a staggering two-way performance in his Power 5 debut. He played more than 100 snaps at receiver and cornerback. He caught 11 passes for 119 yards, not even including two first-half near misses on deep balls that would have padded those numbers even more.
“He gets those two deep balls, the Heisman is at his crib chillin’ right now,” Deion told Fox’s Jenny Taft before running off the field at halftime
Then, in the second half, Hunter made arguably the two most important plays of the game. On a TCU third-and-1 from the Buffs’ 4, he stepped in front of a Chandler Morris pass and picked it off, preventing a go-ahead touchdown at the time. A quarter later, Sanders got sacked, forcing Colorado, down 35-31, into a third-and-16 from its own 19. On the very next play, he found Hunter for a 43-yard completion. The Buffs went back up three plays later.
“Travis is it,” said Deion. “We’ve got a couple guys in here who should be front-runners for the Heisman — that’s how I feel. Who did what they did?”
He said this before most teams in the country had yet played their first game, but, if Shedeur Sanders and Hunter play like that every week, they’re absolutely going to be in the conversation.
Colorado in recent years has had an occasional big-time playmaker buried on bad teams, like former receivers Paul Richardson and Laviska Shenault. But they’ve certainly never had four at the same time.
The Buffs still have plenty of questions to answer as they move on to next week’s home game against Nebraska and dates with ranked foes USC and Oregon later this month. Their offensive line, believed to be a weak spot, did a wonderful job protecting the quarterback Saturday, but time will tell whether TCU’s pass rush was an accurate litmus test. For all we know, the Frogs, who lost a ton of key players from last year’s breakout team, just aren’t very good on defense.
Speaking of which, Colorado’s own defense allowed 6.8 yards per play and rarely got any push up front. The Buffs finished with zero tackles for loss and allowed breakout TCU running back Emani Bailey to go off for 164 yards on 14 carries.
But they got the one stop that mattered most, on fourth-and-9 from their own 43. With the game on the line, Myles Slusher stopped TCU tight end Jared Wiley 2 yards short of a first down. With that, Deion had reason to walk into his postgame news conference shouting, “I got receipts! I got all the receipts!”
He himself called his own shot at a team meeting Thursday night (documented on YouTube, of course).
“I think there will be movies made one day about this team and this coaching staff, because I can see what’s about to transpire,” he told them. “I believe that much in you. We’re about to go do something that they wouldn’t fathom.”
Maybe his team goes on to a fit-for-Hollywood run. Or maybe the Buffs go 4-8. All I know is, anybody who can convince the likes of Edwards and Hunter to come play for a long-dormant program; who can assemble a team built almost entirely with transfers (many of whom had only one preseason camp together); take them on the road in the season opener and put up 45 points and 565 yards against a top-20 team, clearly knows what he’s doing.
“We’re going to continue to be questioned because we do things that have never been done, and that makes people uncomfortable,” said Deion. “When you see a confident Black man sitting up here talking his talk, waking his walk, coaching 75 percent African-Americans on his roster — that’s kind of threatening. Oh, they don’t like that!
“But guess what? We’re going to consistently do what we do, because I’m here, and I ain’t going nowhere. And I’m about to get comfortable.”
You know what? I believe him.
(Photo: Ron Jenkins / Getty Images)