Colorado entered the 2023-24 college football season with questions and almost no answers. On Saturday, they may not have left with definitive answers but they did gain the attention of everyone around the country. They beat no. 17 TCU 45-42 on the road. This win comes a few weeks after the Buffs announced they would return to the Big 12. How convenient is it, then, that they found themselves tangled in an old-fashioned Big 12 shootout! It was also the first game with Deion Sanders at the helm as well. It was a back-and-forth affair that saw six lead changes in the second half alone.
Photo Cred: Buff Zone
The Buffs kicked off the third quarter in style, with Shadeur Sanders hitting true freshman running back Dylan Edwards on a screen. It went for a 75-yard touchdown and gave CU a 24-14 lead. The Horned Frogs responded with two Chandler Morris touchdown passes, though. This gave them a 28-24 lead towards the end of the quarter. The teams traded rushing touchdowns, and then TCU got the Buffs to third-and-16. TCU still held onto a four-point lead. Sanders found Travis Hunter up the seam for 43 yards to convert the third down. He then followed it up with a 26-yard touchdown strike to South Florida transfer Jimmy Horn Jr.
Photo Cred: USA Today
A massive kickoff return followed by a Trey Sanders touchdown run put TCU back in front, but the Buffs’ new signal-caller was far from done. He hit Edwards out in the flat on 4th and 2, and the speedy freshman did the rest, making two defenders miss and taking it 46 yards for the decisive score. The Buff’s defense was shaky throughout, giving up far too many big plays, but when the time came to buckle down and get a stop, they did. On 4th and 9 with under a minute to play, Arkansas transfer Myles Slusher made an excellent open-field tackle to seal the deal and give the Buffs their first win under Coach Prime.
Much was made of the number of fresh faces brought into Boulder this offseason, but there’s no denying they showed up in week one. Sanders lit up the Horned Frog defense to the tune of a school-record 510 yards and four touchdowns in his Colorado debut and was excellent throughout, displaying everything you want in a Power Five quarterback. He was decisive and on time but didn’t force anything that wasn’t there. His accuracy and arm talent were on display with multiple beautiful deep balls on the outside. Sanders also displayed great poise in the pocket and escapability, making quite a few plays after the initial play broke down.
Photo Cred: Colorado Athletics
Not to be outdone by his Jackson State counterpart, Hunter (the two-way star) put on a scintillating show on both sides of the ball. He finished the day with 11 catches for 119 yards on offense. On defense, he consistently played lockdown coverage and even produced a crucial red zone interception on defense. Hunter played over 120 snaps at the end of the game. His day was modest considering what he left out on the field. Over the course of the game, a few key things happened. He let a long touchdown pass slip out of his hands as he came to the ground. He was even interfered with on another near-touchdown. Lastly, he nearly had a second interception on a slant that he jumped and batted away.
While not as highly touted as Sanders and Hunter, Edwards also showed off his explosive ability in the receiving game on Saturday. He finished the game with five catches for 135 yards and tallied four total touchdowns (one rushing, three receiving). Running back Emani Bailey notched an efficient 164 yards on 14 carries. His counterpart, Trey Sanders, scored three times on the ground. On the TCU side, new quarterback Chandler Morris got off to a rocky start but settled in over the course of the afternoon, finishing 24-for-42 with 279 yards, two touchdowns, and two picks.
Photo Cred: Sporting News
Shilo Sanders and Marvin Ham II led the team with ten tackles. Safety Trevor Woods also excelled with nine tackles and a critical first-half interception. He was the lone holdover from the 2022 Buffs defense. There’s still obviously a lot of football left. However, the Buffs could not have asked for a better start to the Deion Sanders era! They were exciting and explosive throughout. Just enough was done on defense to pull out a road win against last year’s national runner-up. The Buffs will try to keep the momentum going next weekend. They take on rival Nebraska in their home opener with kickoff in Boulder at 10 A.M. MST.