If you’ve been paying attention to this media outlet in the last month (and if you have, thank you), you’ll have noticed that I’m in complete agreement with the Deion Sanders experiment in Colorado.
It’s fun to watch. It sparked a lot of interest. And Deion is exactly the kind of coach a struggling NFL team should bring to the sidelines with a blank check, even if Deion is fully committed to college football in general and Colorado University in particular.
But it’s not fair to get so caught up in the hype and fanfare that real football issues take a backseat to the sprawling and boundless lovefest for Coach Prime.
I watched the entire game on Saturday. Even when there was a bust, I thought Colorado had a chance. And after quarterback Shedeur Sanders threw an NFL-quality seeing-eye laser to freshman receiver Omarion Miller and reduced the score to 48:34 at 11:55 minutes, it already looked like overtime.
Next, the two teams exchanged possessions. USC drove within field goal range. A missed 38-yard kick gave Colorado the ball with 5:58 to play on first-and-10 at their own 22. Although Colorado had no timeouts, enough ticks remained to allow the Buffaloes to get down the field, to score, kick off, try to get a stop and then hope to force overtime before the end of the quarter.
That’s when things got strange. Colorado offensive coordinator Sean Lewis called an inside run out of shotgun. It didn’t go anywhere. The clock kept running.
There was a lack of urgency throughout the journey. The clock kept running. A total of five runs. The clock kept running. Five passes in total. The clock kept running. There was never any real indication that Lewis even realized it was the fourth quarter and not the third.
When Colorado scored to make it 48-41, the Buffaloes had no choice but to attempt an onside kick. USC rebounded. Game over.
When they made contact with Deion Sanders, the reporters covering the game hit rock bottom and fell at their feet. I found the full press conference. I looked at everything. (Twice, just to be sure.) In more than 19 minutes of back and forth, there wasn’t a single question about clock control on the drive, cutting the lead to seven.
It was the damnedest thing. Not one person asked the most obvious question.
And even if Coach Prime’s (deserved) praise sparked the subtle beginnings of a cult of personality in Boulder, it would have been very easy for someone to turn to the broader question of whether Sanders would have done anything differently in the last scoring drive.
Colorado had nothing to be ashamed of. They played well. They terrified a top 10 team. When they fell behind by 27 points, they came back strong. But the mood in the press room was almost celebratory, as if no one wanted to thwart the parade, which was narrow but no cigar, by pointing out that the potential victory had blown up in the team’s face because of the bad decisions made at that moment by the offensive coordinator .
These questions are asked all the time. They are more than fair. Maybe no one wanted to be the one to piss off Coach Prime. Maybe everyone thought someone else would ask such a basic, obvious question.
In the end, no one did. So it remains to be seen what Deion thinks about the way his chance to pull off a massive upset in dramatic fashion was ruined by some of the silliest playcalling and time management a team at any level can display Football.