Everyone who wore white, black, and gold came in motivated and with fire in their eyes inside Amon G. Carter Stadium on the Texas Christian University campus Saturday.
But out of all the Colorado Buffaloes representatives — and this includes the gold chain wearing and unapologetic “Coach Prime” and the two-way dynamic known as Travis Hunter — it was a certain player who wore “L” for leader who arrived remembering what happened during his recruiting period involving a certain coach…and couldn’t wait to unleash Colorado hell on the national title game runner ups.
It was Shedeur Sanders.
How Efficient Can Shedeur Sanders Be At Colorado?
The same Sanders who shattered a school record in passing yards and became the newest revered college football passer in the process. But how did Sanders get to his uncanny 510 yards? Two things: Efficiency during a certain down and remembering one member of the TCU staff his renowned coaching dad brought up on Labor Day.
Deep Dive at Sanders’ Third Down Dominance
It’s easy and complacent to look at the total yards and touchdown production and say it was a dominating afternoon for Sanders. But his dominance during third downs helped elevate Sanders’ final tally.
Long story short…Sanders only had one sack and one pass short of the first down during 11 third downs that involved a pass.
It began on 3rd-and-8 (the first third-down scenario for CU). Sanders immediately noticed how far off the slot cornerback was playing Michael Harrison. Sanders lasers it right away to the big 6’3′, 215-pound option, and his power after the catch does the rest.
Then came his second, third down situation, this one inside the TCU 5. The Horned Frog defenders are clearly more fixated on who’s lined up as receivers but fail to account for the fifth receiving option: Dylan Edwards, who goes unaccounted for. Lined up in the backfield with the appearance of someone about to pick up a blitz, Edwards sneaks out, and Sanders takes advantage of the bad eye focus for the game’s first touchdown.
Next, on a 3rd-and-3, Sanders is facing three down linemen but six in the box. TCU ends up crowding all six at the line, thinking inside run. Sanders swiftly pulls the ball back in and hits Xavier Weaver…who had a 9-yard cushion between himself and his defender plus already had his feet across the first down marker. Twelve-yard gain.
Sanders would go on to add three more first downs on a 9-yard, defensive pass interference, and 11-yarder. But his biggest third-down conversion? One that saw his longest distance to hit with the play called a pass.
With an empty set and five wide receivers, Sanders faced a lineman twist and a delayed fourth rusher. Sanders stays in the pocket for nearly five seconds, finds Hunter one-on-one in the slot, and the completion eats up 43 yards. And that pass came with Colorado inside its own 20 and down 35-31 in the fourth. An incompletion would’ve really deflated CU’s aspirations of beating the No. 17 team in the nation. Three plays after that long reception, Sanders hit Jimmy Horn for a 26-yard touchdown.
Sanders ended his day 9-of-11, 88 yards, one touchdown, one sack, and zero interceptions when the down marker read “3.” While his 510 yards deservingly earned praise, 88 of those came during the most crucial down for QBs.
But Sanders’ breakout debut would’ve never been made possible if it weren’t for being provoked by a Horned Frogs assistant before Sanders’ CFB career began.
Kendal Briles “Remembered” by Sanders, “Coach Prime” Says
Kendal Briles is revered across the CFB landscape as a bright offensive mind at every stop he’s been in, including his past posts at Arkansas, Florida State, and Florida Atlantic.
But he got on the bad side of the Sanders’ family, particularly Shedeur, during one summer football camp.
Deion Sanders made the revelation on The Pat McAfee Show on Monday, claiming Briles wasn’t interested in watching his son during a time Briles had ended up at Deion Sanders’ alma mater FSU.
“When we went to a camp of the offensive coordinator that we just played against, he didn’t pay Shedeur any attention,” Sanders told McAfee. “He remembered that and he wanted to beat that guy so bad that he just went to work on Saturday.”
Sanders told his father 20 minutes after the camp: “Dad, we’re never coming back here again.”
Sanders used Briles as his fuel to deliver his epic upset performance. And while TCU gained 541 total yards of offense, Briles’ air attack only mustered 279 passing yards with two touchdowns and two interceptions from Chandler Morris.
Will Sanders Continue Third Down Magic in 2023?
If Sanders needs any more motivation, this time, fans will likely be wearing his jersey or decorating signs of him in Boulder come Saturday.
But what kind of matchup will Nebraska bring?
Like the Buffaloes, the Cornhuskers are enduring their own coaching change by going with Matt Rhule. They ended up in a defensive battle with Minnesota but lost a late 10-3 lead and fell 13-10 to the Golden Gophers.
Defensively, Nebraska held Minnesota to 196 total yards. And on third downs, the Gophers hit on eight of 17 attempts — giving them a 47% efficiency rate when facing a punt situation.
Sanders, though, already presents the ‘Huskers with their biggest QB test yet. And with CU coming home, Sanders and company are already likely anticipating the loudest home-opening crowd in years in Boulder.