Year 1 of the Deion Sanders era at Colorado is officially in the books with a 4-8 record after CU's 23-17 loss at Utah on Saturday. It marked the sixth straight loss for the Buffaloes, but the season-ending losing streak doesn't tell the full story of Coach Prime's arrival on the Power Five stage. Sanders inherited a 1-11 team, turned over the roster to an unprecedented degree and fielded a competitive squad in his first season coaching at the FBS level in any capacity.
While the team's final tally of victories exceeded the preseason win total of 3.5 set by many oddsmakers, the year also featured ample disappointment. After the elation of a 3-0 start, expectations surged through the roof, conjuring ideas that perhaps the Buffaloes would be immediate players in the Pac-12 title race.
It didn't pan out that way, as opponents exploited Colorado's obvious shortcomings on both lines of scrimmage. Amid the elation and adversity, Sanders always entertained. In his coaching arrival on college football's Power Five stage, he helped deliver monster TV ratings for the Buffaloes, generated all sorts of buzz and filled seats at Folsom Field in a historic way.
Here's a look back at the notable moments from Sanders in his first season as Colorado's coach.
Colorado stuns TCU in thrilling opener
Colorado entered its season opener at No. 17 TCU as a 17-point underdog. The Buffs were facing a schedule that featured 11 Power Five opponents and were not expected to compete against the Horned Frogs, who were coming off a College Football Playoff appearance.
They proceeded to shock the college football world with a thrilling 45-42 win behind 510 yards passing and four touchdowns by Shedeur Sanders, his son.
"Shedeur Sanders?" Deion asked rhetorically after the game. "From a HBCU? The one that played at Jackson last year? The one that you asked me why would I give him the starting job? I've got receipts. I know who they are. I've just got to say it."
Also shining was Travis Hunter, who made 11 catches for 119 yards on offense while also making three tackles and a huge interception on defense. His pick came with TCU on the doorstep of a go-ahead touchdown in the third quarter and helped send hype around the two-way start into overdrive. The game finished as the second-most watched of Week 1, behind only Florida State vs. LSU, which occupied a standalone Sunday window prior to the start of the NFL season.
Buffs win 'personal' contest with Nebraska
Leading up to a Week 2 showdown with Nebraska, Deion Sanders and the overhauled Buffaloes leaned into the passion of a rivalry they'd yet to experience. "I've learned the serious nature of this rivalry, and I'm embracing it 100%," Sanders said." This is personal. That's the message of the week. This is personal."
Colorado responded accordingly with a 36-14 victory in its first home game of the season as Shedeur Sanders threw for 393 yards and even did the "Deion Shuffle" touchdown dance. After the game, Shedeur said "the respect level ain't there" between the Buffs and Nebraska because of comments Cornhuskers coach Matt Rhule made during the offseason.
Buffs start 3-0 with storyline-filled rivalry win
Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson offered a pregame speech to Colorado before a highly anticipated rivalry clash with Colorado State. Deion Sanders' mother, Connie Sanders, also offered some words to the team in response to controversial comments from CSU coach Jay Norvell leading up to the game.
"When I talk to grownups, I take my hat and my glasses off," Norvell said in comments that sparked Deion Sanders' ire. "That's what my mother taught me."
The pregame drama was tantalizing, but the game turned out even crazier. Colorado rallied from a 28-17 deficit in the fourth quarter for a 43-35 overtime win behind another huge performance from Shedeur Sanders, who threw for 348 yards and four touchdowns while completing 38 of 47 passes. Despite starting at 10 p.m. ET and ending after 2 a.m., the game registered 9.3 million viewers, which was almost four million more than the day's second-most watched game.
I was honored to be asked by my brother Coach Prime @DeionSanders say a few words to his team @CUBuffsFootball a few— Dwayne Johnson (@TheRock) September 23, 2023
minutes before they took the field against CSU.
My message to these young men was simple:
We control so much of our lives with the hard work and effort we put… pic.twitter.com/en1kNgeC3P
The victory came with a significant cost, however, as two-way star Travis Hunter was taken to the hospital following a devastating late hit from Colorado State safety Henry Blackburn. Later, Sanders took the rarely traveled high road in a rivalry relationship and sought to cool the public heat on Blackburn.
"Henry Blackburn is a good player who played a phenomenal game," Sanders said. "He made a tremendous hit on Travis on the sideline. You can call it 'dirty', you can call it 'he's just playing the game of football'. But whatever it was, he should not be receiving death threats."
Lanning says Colorado 'fighting for clicks'
Before taking on Colorado in a Week 4 matchup between top-20 teams, Oregon coach Dan Lanning told his players that the Buffaloes are "fighting for clicks, we're fighting for wins." As the sports universe grew captivated with Colorado's 3-0 start, Lanning also told his team that "the Cinderella story is over, men."
Luckily for Lanning, his players backed up the pregame talk as the Ducks eviscerated Colorado 42-6 while holding the Buffaloes to just 199 total yards.
Rally vs. USC falls just short
On the heels of a blowout loss to the Ducks, Colorado faced another opponent that was ranked in the top 10 at the time as the Buffs played host to No. 8 USC. Colorado scored 21 unanswered points late in the second half but fell 48-41 as it couldn't complete a rally from 27 points down against Caleb Williams and the Trojans.
"If you can't see what's coming with CU football, you've lost your mind," Sanders said. "You're just a flat out hater. If you can't see what's going on and what's going to transpire over the next several months, something's wrong with you."
The Deion Sanders effect
Colorado announced in September that it told Time that out-of-state student applications were up by 40% amid the uptick in visibility brought by Sanders.every home game for the first time in program history as the Deion Sanders effect began to manifest. On Oct. 6, Front Office Sports reported an of 1,220% in Colorado merchandise sales from September 2022 to September 2023. Colorado chancellor Phillip DiStefano also
Colorado suffers 'pathetic' loss to Stanford
Colorado got two-way star Travis Hunter back for a Friday night home game against Stanford, which entered just 1-4 under first-year coach Troy Taylor. However, the Cardinal were coming off a bye while the Buffaloes were playing on short rest, and CU ran out of gas in the second half. Stanford staged a memorable rally after trailing 29-0 at halftime and knocked off the Buffs 46-43 in overtime.
Deion Sanders blasted his team's effort as "pathetic" in his postgame locker room after the Cardinal gashed the CU defense for 36 points in the second half and another 10 in the two overtime periods.
SNL spoofs Deion Sanders
Oct. 14, 2023
Though Colorado fell to 4-3 with the loss to Stanford, which ended any illusions that the Buffaloes might compete for the Pac-12 title, Deion Sanders still managed to transcend college football. He was the subject of a "Saturday Night Live" Weekend Update segment in which longtime cast member Kenan Thompson impersonated Sanders.
Calling out the line
UCLA sacked Shedeur Sanders seven times as the Bruins beat Colorado 28-16 and dropped the Buffaloes to 4-4. With the CU offensive line struggling yet again to hold up against an opposing pass rush, Sanders didn't mince words about what the program must do to improve.
"The big picture, you go get new linemen," he said. "That's the picture and I'm going to paint it perfectly."
Coordinator switch vs. Oregon State
Leading into a home game against Oregon State, Deion Sanders turned heads with his decision to give play-calling duties to Pat Shurmur over offensive coordinator Sean Lewis. Shurmur, a veteran NFL coordinator and head coach, was originally hired by Sanders as an analyst. The move did not pay any immediate dividends, as Colorado fell 26-19 to the Beavers while mustering just 238 yards of total offense.
"We're not gonna demean Sean Lewis," Sanders said in his postgame press conference. "We're not gonna do that. We're not gonna take that tone. Sean is a good man. I think he's a good play-caller. We just needed change at the time. We just needed to try something else at the time, and that's what we did. I don't look back on it. I don't second-guess myself whatsoever, because it's more to it than what you may know."
Texas A&M speculation
It didn't take long for Deion Sanders to get caught up in college football's silly season talk. Following Texas A&M's firing of Jimbo Fisher, he was asked about his candidacy for the Aggies' job.
"Come on, I'm good," he said. "We've got to win. Let's focus on this week. And we play Friday, so we lose a day of practice. We've got to focus."
Sanders said other schools were trying to use speculation tying him to the Aggies as a recruiting tactic against Colorado.
"I don't talk about any other coaches or teams or staffs. I don't believe in that," he said, according to 247Sports. "I am not going to put you down so I can stand up. I've never been that type of player or person in my life. But all these other schools are telling these young men and their families I am not going to be [at Colorado]."
"They think that we're going to be so successful that I am going to leave," he added. "So they understand what we possess and the potential we possess. But that's not true."
'We're not an ATM'
With Colorado limping down the stretch and Sanders having already made it clear he plans to overhaul the offensive line, he set the record straight about the type of players he'll be seeking for the team's 2024 roster.
"We're not an ATM. That's not going to happen here," NFL and get your degree ... not to come here and be Moneybagg Yo. That's a rapper, right?""If you come to Colorado to play football for me and the Colorado Buffaloes, it's because you really want to play football and receive a wonderful education and all the business stuff will be handled on the back end if that's the case. But we are not an ATM. You're not coming here to get rich unless you're really coming here with a plan to go to the
Turning the page
Colorado closed the season at 4-8 with a sixth straight loss as the Buffaloes fell 23-17 at Utah while playing without Shedeur Sanders. After the game, Deion Sanders was ready to turn the page from his first season and begin looking ahead to what's next for the Buffaloes, dropping strong hints about what he anticipates transpiring in recruiting.
"This is where the scouting department…where they start doing their thing," he said. "We already know what's going to come probably in the next few days to a week and a half. We already know what's going to transpire. You guys are going to be pleased with what's coming. I promise you that. Everything you see that we a have lack of or deficit, we're going to fill that need."