Photo by Dustin Bradford/Getty Images
Deion Sanders has taken over Boulder.
The press conference had already started when Shilo Sanders arrived. Visible chunks of Folsom Field still clung to his pants and his shoulder pads were gone, leaving only bunched up piles of black and gold fabric that glowed under the media center’s fluorescent lighting. Pulling the last empty fold-up chair away from the makeshift table, he sat down and, with a wide grin, took a beat to survey the room.
“We were just out there fighting and battling for hats and sunglasses,” he said. “We did it. We came through. They’ve got to respect us when we wear hats and sunglasses, and when Coach Prime does. Coach Prime was raised right and we just proved that today.”
Fighting is a good way to put it, though battling is probably better. This first Rocky Mountain Showdown in four years was equal parts instant classic and bar fight that spills into the parking lot. For a game with 27 penalties, there was an unrelenting amount of chaotic energy, all the way up until the moment Trevor Woods picked off Braden Fowler-Nicolosi’s 4th-and-23 heave near 1AM.
After a full day of sensory overload and Modelos tall boys, the only thing that flooded the field faster than the waves of white cowboy hats was the tangible relief that the game was over.
“I’m not happy with how we played, but I’m happy with that win,” Coach Prime said in his postgame presser. “You have to be happy with a win no matter how it comes. Truthfully, at one point in the game, I said we can’t let this dude win. There is no way we let this dude win. The press conference is going to be unbearable if we let this dude win with it now. “
The great thing about rivalries like the Rocky Mountain Showdown is that “just winning at all” is reason enough to be the best moment of a season, but from about midway through the second quarter, it just kind of felt like the 50,000+ fans in the room were in for something out of the ordinary. The Buffs have been a lot of different things through the three weeks of the season, but boring isn’t one of them.
It was a game that, after all the theatrics, actually did get personal, and excessively so. Upset ingredients were all there, too: the star two-way player was out, both lines were getting exposed, the house eventually wins, etc. But in every pivotal moment, it seemed like there was a Sanders making a play. To give you a sense of how pivotal both were to the win, consider this: as of right now, Deion doesn’t know how he’d rank them.
“You know what, [Shilo] is moving up,” he said. “He is moving on up like the Jeffersons. But Shedeur was straight out balling … My kids rankings are tough. It’s a serious run right now. It really is a serious run right now.”
Outside of claiming a 6th straight Continental Cup, the best part of Saturday’s win was the acute awareness that the Sanders really have arrived. It probably doesn’t bode well for the ‘WE COMING’ t-shirt sales going forward, but I bet CU’s okay with that. They really are here, going into ‘Brady-mode’ for a game-tying 98-yard drive. They really are here, high-stepping (more or less) into the end zone for a pick six. And they really are here, turning around a program in a way that’s unapologetically their own.
The impact they’re leaving is already abundantly clear, and they haven’t even played a single Pac-12 game yet. Whether it’s watching Ralphie run around the field while the players march out of the tunnel to a live Lil Wayne performance, or watching their Heisman candidate roll out of the pocket to hit Jimmy Horn Jr. for the game-tying score, the gift of this season is that everyone already knows it’s special. Most everyone, at least.
“I don’t think our young men inside the locker room understand the moment,” Prime said. “I told them on the last series guys, this is a moment you will never forget and let’s maximize this moment and they went out and did it. But when you’re that young and you know all of us were young one day some of us are still young and naive. We don’t understand these moments are just slipping by slowly but surely. And we got to grasp them because it’s incredible. What happened, what transpired today was incredible, it really was from the start to the finish of the day.”