Prime Time Performance: Colorado wins 45-42 thriller at TCU

Prime Time Performance: Colorado wins 45-42 thriller at TCU

Originally published on 9/3/23 at 5:18 p.m. Eastern.
Updated on 9/4/23 at 2:40 p.m. Eastern.

Colorado started the Coach Prime Era by winning a 45-42 thriller at TCU as a 21-point road underdog, hooking up money-line backers with a +800 payout at DraftKings.

Shedeur Sanders, Shilo Sanders, Travis Hunter and true freshman RB Dylan Edwards were spectacular in their FBS debuts. Shedeur Sanders completed 38-of-47 passes for 510 yards and four touchdowns without an interception, while Hunter had 11 receptions for 119 yards with seven of his catches converting first downs.

The versatile cornerback played 144 total snaps on both sides of the ball, producing three tackles, three passes broken up and an interception. Hunter was targeted nine times and gave up three receptions. With TCU deep in the red zone trailing 24-21 midway through the third quarter, Hunter was in man coverage and had his receiver covered on a slant route, but he left his man when Chandler Morris threw to his RB in the flat. The throw was right on target for a touchdown, but Hunter fully extended and made a terrific diving catch for the pick.

According to Pro Football Focus, Hunter earned the highest grade (86.3) among Power Five CBs in Week 1. He had a 75.4 grade for his 64 snaps at WR.

TCU didn’t take its first lead until Morris found Jared Wiley for a 21-yard TD pass with 2:32 left in the third quarter. Colorado answered with a five-play, 75-yard drive that was capped by Edwards, who scored his third of four TDs on a seven-yard run to paydirt with 27 ticks remaining in the third quarter.

Then with 10:49 left in the final stanza, Morris put the Horned Frogs back ahead with a 19-yard TD run. The Buffaloes responded with a six-play, 75-yard drive that ended when Shadeur Sanders found Jimmy Horn for a 26-yard scoring strike.

However, Sonny Dykes’s sqaud got an 86-yard return on the ensuing kickoff, and TCU went ahead 42-38 two plays later when Trey Sanders scored on a one-yard TD run.

On Colorado’s next drive, the Buffaloes got a first down on a 12-yard pass from Shedeur Sanders to Hunter. Then on the next play, former Florida CB Avery Helm was flagged 15 yards for pass interference on a pass to Hunter.

Three plays later, Colorado went for it on fourth and 2 from TCU’s 46. Shedeur Sanders found Edwards slipping out of the backfield after a play-action fake. Edwards ran around the linebacker and then beat the safety down the sidelines for a 46-yard TD catch with 4:25 remaining.

TCU advanced to Colorado’s 43 before Trey Sanders was stuffed for no gain on a 2nd-and-nine play. On third and 9, Morris threw an incomplete pass to set up a crucial fourth down. Morris found Wiley short of the sticks for a seven-yard gain that was two yards short.

From there, the Buffaloes converted one first down before getting into Victory Formation.

Edwards had five receptions for 135 yards and three TDs, including a 75-yard TD catch on the first play from scrimmage to start the second half. He had 24 rushing yards and one TD on six carries.

Horn had 11 catches for 117 yards and one TD, while Xavier Weaver had six receptions for 118 yards. Shilo Sanders and Marvin Ham had a team-high 10 tackles apiece, while safety Trevor Woods, one of only 10 players left from Colorado’s 2022 roster, contributed nine tackles, one interception (in the end zone), one PBU and one forced fumble.

Colorado had a 30-27 edge over TCU in first downs, a 565-541 advantage in total yards and had more time of possession (34:33 compared to 25:27). The Buffaloes punted only three times, had a field goal blocked and went to halftime with a 17-14 lead after Jace Feeley buried a 49-yard field goal on the final play of the second quarter.

It was crystal clear from the opening kick that Coach Prime has hired a fantastic staff. Sean Lewis, who left his job as the head coach at Kent St. to become CU’s offensive coordinator, called a brilliant game. If his offense continues to look like that, Lewis will be a Power-Five HC at this time next year.

Lewis clearly made an excellent career decision in leaving the MAC to come to Boulder. His coaching skills will be under the spotlight all season long.

Dykes was honored as National Coach of the Year in 2022 when he took TCU to the College Football Playoffs in his first year on the job. But it was the Horned Frogs that racked up 78 yards of damage on 10 penalties. CU was flagged six times for only 35 yards.

“A lot of you didn’t believe in us,” Shedeur Sanders said. “It’s crazy because you just got to understand our coach, Coach Prime, my dad, everywhere he went, he was a winner. Every game, every opportunity, he took advantage of.”

Shedeur Sanders had 150/1 odds to win the Heisman Trophy at FanDuel coming into the season. His number has been adjusted from 150/1 to 100/1.

Hunter had 100/1 Heisman odds yesterday morning, but that number has been reduced to 60/1 at FanDuel.

Circa opened Colorado as a five-point favorite with a total of 65.5 for Saturday’s home opener vs. Nebraska. However, the Buffaloes were quickly adjusted to -2.5. As of 4:40 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, most books had CU at -2.5 but DraftKings was at -3.

Circa went from 65.5 all the way down to 55 before settling at 58.5. I like Colorado as long as the number is -3 or less, and I like the ‘over’ more than I like the Buffs.

UPDATE: As of Monday afternoon, most books were using Colorado at -3 with the total at 57 or 57.5. 

If Coach Prime’s team can beat Nebraska, which has two extra days of preparation after losing 13-10 at Minnesota on a walk-off field goal Thursday night, it will probably be 3-0 (Colorado St. comes to Boulder in Week 3) going to Eugene to take on Oregon in the Pac-12 opener for both schools on Sept. 23.

The Cornhuskers are 8-0-1 against the spread in their last nine games as road underdogs.

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