I imagine there are plenty of CU fans and alumni who came away from this weekend confused. They’ve won four of their first six games and the coaching staff is … mad? Because the Buffs’ wins aren’t impressive enough?
It’s trite to point out that the Buffs are in a new era, but press conferences like the one Deion Sanders held after their 27-24 win really do hammer that point home. It’s only been two-and-a-half months and road wins are already underwhelming simply because the style points weren’t totally there. What a world.
Still, barely squeaking past the worst team in the Pac-12 probably won’t be much of a contender for Best Win of The Year. The Buffs get plenty of credit for already being a team that’s expected to handle easy road games, but should they get less credit for not entirely handling it cleanly? So what did we learn about them after four quarters in the desert?
1. The team goes as Shedeur Sanders goes
We didn’t just learn this on Saturday but we were certainly reminded. At his best, Sanders is a legitimate Heisman candidate – he currently leads all of FBS in passing yards – and maybe the most exciting player in the sport. But it felt like Saturday’s game showcased just how much the team’s energy and performance flows from him
Whether it was sitting alone on the bench after another stalled drive, or hyping up the sideline after running over a DB on a first down run, Sanders’ play felt emblematic of the Buffs’ as a whole. Leading the offense to points on three of the final four drives of the game will help people forgive the (relatively) modest box score numbers, but whatever.
After the game, Sanders admitted some mistakes – he thinks he’s still holding onto the ball too long, for example – and that those final drives were just a product of them ‘going legendary mode’. It sounds ridiculous to say Shedeur still needs to put it all together, but that’s the kind of talent he is.
2. The wide receiver room is more chaotic than expected
More often than not, having your position unit get called a committee is just the polite way of saying no one’s That Guy. And what’s so weird about CU’s wide receiver room is that it sort of feels committee-like, but not for lack of talent. The receiving yard leaders in each of CU’s games have put up some big numbers:
- TCU – Dylan Edwards (135 yards)
- Nebraska – Xavier Weaver (170)
- CSU – Xavier Weaver (98)
- Oregon – Xavier Weaver (75)
- USC – Omarion Miller (196)
- ASU – Javon Antonio (81)
So while it looks like Weaver’s close to being That Guy, the game-by-game yardage breakdown of everyone in the group is kinda all over the place. One week it’ll be a big Weaver game while Jimmy Horn catches one ball for -4 yards, and the next Horn will have eight catches to Weaver’s three. Michael Harrison appears when he’s needed most.
Throw in the recent emergence from Miller with Saturday’s clutch grabs from Antonio and you start to see a fun Too Many Cooks scenario forming. Depth is never ever a bad thing, but it’ll be interesting to see if roles become a little more defined over the second half of the season. And we haven’t even mentioned Travis Hunter once!
3. They’ve somehow figured out how to have a quiet kicker controversy
I’m only being half facetious when I say how impressed I am that the Buffs’ kicker issues are being handled so nonchalantly. Barely a month into the season, their starting kicker – once heavily recruited by Power 5 schools and oh yeah also the son of a famous NFL kicker – was benched in favor of Alejandro Mata, a sophomore transfer from Jackson State.
Here’s what Sanders had to say about Mata after the game:
“I believe in Mata … Why do you think I brought him here? Mata don’t miss. You call a timeout and freeze him all you want. That don’t mean nothing to Mata. That’s who he is and that’s what he always says to me when I walk over to him and give him a hug. He says, ‘I don’t miss’, and I love it. So I told him to do your thing. Do your thing. Get your shine on. It’s your moment, baby, live it. That’s what I told him.”
It makes things even more awkward when you realize that Jace Feely went to Arizona State before transferring. Kicking controversies get real messy real quick, so the fact that the Buffs have been able to deal with one somewhat-painlessly deserves some kudos.