(Editor’s Note: Sellout Goes Mile-High is our special coverage of the Colorado vs. USC game. Sellout is sent columnist Jenni Carlson to Boulder to experience the most buzzed-about story in college football and also see what’s new with former OU coach-turned-USC villain Lincoln Riley. Coverage is sponsored by: 988, Oklahoma’s Mental Health Lifeline (https://988oklahoma.com/) |Rose Hill Builders (https://www.rosehill.builders/) |The Oklahoma State Department of Health’s Take Time initiative (https://taketimeok.com/) )
BOULDER, Colorado — The start of the Colorado-Southern Cal game was delayed a minute or two.
Held up on account of too many celebrities.
The group of pro athletes, entertainers and musicians standing on the Buffaloes’ sideline was so big, it was encroaching on the field.
Welcome to Colorado football.
College football now has a marquee attraction. Even though Deion Sanders and his Buffaloes are no world beaters — we got further proof Saturday after a 48-41 loss to Southern Cal — they are a prime ticket. Celebrities who spend their lives dealing with people who want to be close to them now want to be close to the Buffs.
The love reaches far and wide.
“I don’t know if it’s all love,” Deion said after the game.
He smiled a bit.
“But we’re excited,” he said. “Truly. The attention that’s warranted to this wonderful, beautiful university. I’m excited and elated to be the coach here. I’m excited to really talk about the wonderful attributes that we possess.”
Look around Folsom Field on Saturday, though, and you could see that a lot of the love was specifically for Sanders. Many fans wore shirts and hats and hoodies with Deion’s face or name. Others were emblazoned with one of his quotes. Still others had his nickname, Coach Prime.
And those celebrities who flooded into Boulder?
There were so many it was impossible to see them all. There were former pro athletes such as Keyshawn Johnson and C.C. Sabathia, Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce. There were current pros such as LeBron James and DeAndre Jordan. Then, there were the entertainers. Jay-Z. Snoop Dogg. Lil Wayne. DJ Khaled. DaBaby.
DaBaby actually spoke to the Buffs on Friday night and then helped lead the team onto the field. He high-stepped down the sidelines ala Deion in his Prime Time playing days.
Colorado out-Hollywooded USC.
A USC staffer admitted the coaches were actually a bit concerned about how the Trojans would handle all the hubbub.
After the game, USC coach Lincoln Riley called it a tremendous atmosphere.
“We’ll give Colorado, their fans, everybody a lot of credit,” he said. “It was really a tremendous road atmosphere even when we got up.”
And the Trojans got up. Way up. They led by as many as 27 points in the first half, then after the Buffs answered before halftime, the Trojans extended the lead back to 27 midway through the third quarter.
They did it on the arm of Caleb Williams, who absolutely shredded the Buffs. He finished the day 30 of 40 for 403 yards, six touchdowns and one interception.
Several of his scoring throws were masterful, the best of which came late in the first quarter. After dropping back, he rolled left and looked for an open receiver. He waited. And rolled. And waited. And rolled.
Finally, Tahj Washington got open. Throwing across his body while on the move — a tough, tough thing to do — Williams delivered a strike and Washington did the rest, outrunning the Colorado secondary to the end zone.
As Williams headed downfield to celebrate the score, he placed an imaginary crown on his own head.
Yes, the former Sooner can still play.
Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders (2) attempts to elude USC’s Anthony Lucas (6) during the fourth quarter at Folsom Field Saturday, Sept. 30, 2023, in Boulder, Colorado. (John Leyba/USA TODAY Sports)
But Colorado has a transfer quarterback of its own who’s pretty good, too. Shedeur Sanders didn’t have quite as good a day as Williams, going 30 of 45 for 371 yards, four touchdowns and one interception. He also scored on a 25-yard touchdown run.
Most impressively, Sanders made a game out of a blowout. (Though I’m fairly certain Alex Grinch’s defense had something to do with that, too. The former Sooner defensive coordinator can still let teams back into games.) Sanders led Colorado to touchdowns on four of its last five possessions, turning a 27-point deficit into a touchdown game.
“He don’t flinch,” his father said. “He never gets flustered. He’s the most sacked quarterback in college football, and you could never tell by the way he carries himself.”
Indeed, Shedeur is getting sacked at the rate of about five times a game, tops among Power Five Conference quarterbacks entering Saturday.
The only gripe with Shedeur? He didn’t play with urgency in Colorado’s final possession. When the Buffs got the ball with a little less than six minutes remaining, they needed to score twice and had no timeouts. They needed to play fast or get out of bounds as much as possible.
A running play up the middle with less than three minutes remaining actually drew boos.
The play call isn’t on the quarterback necessarily, but the Buffs needed to be better late.
And yet, despite their big early deficits, fans stayed. Colorado is a fanbase notorious for leaving at halftime. That didn’t happen Saturday. Fans in the stands. Celebs on the sidelines. Everyone stayed.
They wanted to see the entire show.
For his part, Deion knows he and his team have captured something special. He recognizes the players may not see it because they’re living in it.
“I didn’t see it either when I was in college or early in my pro career. But I am happy and thankful that we are a voice of hope, desire and want. I think that’s the thing that’s touching souls around the country. That down-and-out person that no one believes in, that person that no one desires, that person who is stepped over, stepped by and stepped through and stepped past, we represent that person.”
Deion might be overplaying the underdog card because it sure looks like a lot of people aren’t stepping over the Buffs. Instead, they’re high-stepping their way to join the circus.