Initial observations from the CU Buffs’ 43-35 double-overtime win over the CSU Rams in the first Rocky Mountain Showdown between Deion Sanders and Jay Norvell at Folsom Field on Saturday night.
This was personal… for everyone: Let’s see… 11 penalties, multiple personal fouls, four unsportsmanlike flags and enough after-the-whistle scuffles and trash talk to fill a Stanley Cup playoff run (not to mention a pregame dust-up). And that was just the first quarter! In the days after CSU coach Jay Norvell caused a stir with his sunglasses-and-hat comment, Coach Prime and the CU Buffs couldn’t stop declaring how this game had become personal. Clearly, they were not alone. The Rams have spent months in CU’s shadow as Deion Sanders and the Buffs sucked up all the oxygen in the Centennial State — and pretty much everywhere else. Given a chance to share the same stage, the Rams made this their Super Bowl. And it showed.
Oh, Henry?!?!: Will Henry Blackburn ever be allowed back in Boulder? After the late hit the Fairview High School grad leveled on Heisman Trophy hopeful Travis Hunter — and, oh boy, was it late — that’s a toss-up. Pretty much all of social media lit up like a Fourth of July fireworks show as Hunter writhed in pain on the turf and the CSU safety stomped off the other way. Even Lakers star LeBron James felt the need to chime in: “I don’t understand the difference between targeting and what I just witnessed. I’ve seen others get thrown out for far less. That was blatant and uncalled for IMO!” As much as it might pain us to say it, King James has a point. There was obvious intention behind Blackburn’s shot. And it might have sent Hunter to the hospital. If that isn’t worthy of ejection, what is?
The other, other Sanders: Shedeur Sanders and Pops stole the headlines through the first two weeks of CU’s improbable rise to national phenomenon. But on Saturday night, it was Shilo Sanders who kept the Buffs afloat. First, it came on a pick-six that turned the tables on CSU as it threated to take an early lead in the first quarter. The senior defensive back read CSU quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi’s eyes and jumped a short curl route, snatching the ball and flying 80 yards the other way for a touchdown. Then, with CSU at the Buffs 14-yard line with a chance to take a two-score lead early in the third quarter, Sanders came up big again, delivering a hit on tight end Dallin Holker that jarred the ball loose and wound up in the Buffs’ hands. CU does not win this game without either of those plays.
Rams find their QB: That sound you hear? That’s quarterback Clay Millen running as fast as he possibly can into the transfer portal. The explosive passing game Jay Norvell promised in his introductory news conference and hadn’t delivered through 13 games finally showed up Saturday night in Boulder. And he has Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi to thank for that. Sure, there were mistakes — just as there had been in previous stints for the redshirt freshman — but there was also no fear. Fowler-Nicolosi didn’t hesitate to try and squeeze the ball into tight spots, but also took advantage of the Buffs’ soft coverage, shredding them with shallow crossing routes again and again. The final line for the redshirt freshman: 34 of 47, 367 yards, three touchdowns and three interceptions. And with that, the Rams have found their quarterback.
Buffs survive: The hype hit a fever pitch sometime between the end of the Nebraska game and The Rock arriving in Boulder alongside an army of ESPN and Fox Sports talking heads. The Buffs were on top of the college football world. Then the Rams showed up ready for a fight. The Buffs offensive line struggled. Shedeur Sanders was running for his life. And two-way star Travis Hunter was taken away in one of the worst ways possible. The Rams didn’t relent. Then tight end Dallin Holker snatched a ball seemingly an inch off the turf and ran 35 yards for a touchdown and 28-17 Rams lead. Gut check time. And Shedeur met the moment — most notably on a seven-play, 98-yard drive with two minutes left that ended with a 45-yard TD pass to Jimmy Horn Jr. and two-point pass to Michael Harrison to send the game to overtime, and then with a pair of TD passes to Harrison in the two OTs. Shedeur’s line over the final regulation drive and the two overtimes: 9 of 12 for 152 yards and three touchdowns. This kid is special — if you didn’t know that already.
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