FORT WORTH, Texas — On the first weekend of the 2023 season, hype gave way to history.
Deion Sanders arrived in Texas with 86 new Colorado players — an unprecedented remodel — and took down No. 17 TCU 45-42 in the Horned Frogs’ first game since a College Football Playoff National Championship game appearance.
The Buffaloes were a 21-point underdog, giving Coach Prime the first win by an underdog of more than 20 points in his full-time FBS coaching debut since the 1978 FBS/FCS split.
“We’re going to continuously be questioned because we do things that have never been done,” Deion Sanders said. “We do things that have never been done and that makes people uncomfortable.”
The cornerstone stars of Sanders’ transfer congregation — Shedeur Sanders and Travis Hunter, who both came with him from Jackson State — definitely made the Horned Frogs uncomfortable. Along the way, they erased years of futility for Colorado in just one game:
• Shedeur Sanders completed 38 of 47 passes for 510 yards, the most passing yards by a player in his FBS debut over the past 25 years, while also becoming the first Colorado quarterback ever to top the 500-yard mark. He threw more touchdowns Saturday (4) than Colorado did in six road games last season (3). Over the past three years, Colorado had been one of three Power 5 teams without a 300-yard passer.
• Hunter played 129 snaps and became the first Division I player in the past 20 seasons to have 100 receiving yards (he finished with 119 on 11 catches) and an interception in the same game. He also had three tackles and a pass breakup.
“We had some guys that singled themselves out with their playing and their playing ability,” Deion Sanders said. “A lot of guys you doubted — one of them from an HBCU — I think he had 510 yards passing in a Power 5 football game. And he happens to be my son, and I’m proud of him, tremendously.”
Hunter, the former five-star recruit who was one of the first to buy into Sanders’ vision at Jackson State, wore a shirt with a montage of images from his coach’s Hall of Fame playing career. Like Sanders, he took the same opportunity to say that none of this was unexpected.
“Football is football no matter who’s playing. You got to go out there and dominate whoever’s in their way,” Hunter said. “I went out there and dominated. A lot of people doubted me because I rated myself as No. 1 on the Heisman watch list. Now people are praising me. They didn’t know what I could do. They’ve finally seen what I’ve seen, my vision and the coaches’ vision for me.”
Deion Sanders agreed, saying he believes he has to promote his players.
“We had a couple of guys who should be a front-runner for the Heisman right now,” he said. “Who did that? Who did what they did today?”
Dylan Edwards, one of the jewels of Sanders’ first Colorado recruiting class, for one.
The 5-foot-9, 170-pound freshman from Derby, Kansas, finished with 177 all-purpose yards and four touchdowns, becoming the first FBS freshman over the past 20 seasons with three receiving TDs and a rushing TD in his collegiate debut.
Sanders said he coached Edwards in youth football when the freshman was 7 years old, which led to the four-star recruit picking Colorado over offers from schools like Notre Dame, Nebraska, Oklahoma, Wisconsin and Oregon. In fact he decommitted from Notre Dame to sign with Colorado.
“Don’t let the size fool you,” Sanders said. “Dylan looks in the mirror like ‘Shallow Hal.’ When he looks in the mirror he sees a 215-pound man that’s probably about 6-4. That’s the way Dylan addresses life.”
The Buffaloes also had four 100-yard receivers, a first in school history. Hunter and Edwards were two. The other two, Jimmy Horn Jr. (11 catches, 117 yards and a touchdown) and Xavier Weaver (6 catches, 118 yards) are transfers from South Florida.
It wasn’t all so magical. The Buffaloes gave up 541 yards, surrendered an 86-yard kickoff return and had a field goal blocked. Shedeur Sanders missed two deep balls to Hunter by inches, and Hunter just missed what could’ve been another interception.
The grand experiment looked like the shot in the arm Deion Sanders promised when he was hired, snapping a 27-game road losing streak against top-20 opponents in front of 53,294, the largest crowd in TCU history. The hype is gone. The Coach Prime era has already changed the fortunes at Colorado.
“These young men in there right now, they believe,” he said. “Not all of them believed before. But right now, they came up one by one, two by two, and said, ‘Coach, we believe.’ Now they believe. Now Boulder believes, people in the front office, people in the building, the fans, the students, now everybody wants to believe. I’m good with that. We got room.”