Mother Nature tried to steal the show on Saturday, but she was no match for the Prime Effect.
A blanket of snow and a 32-degree temperature didn’t prevent a sellout crowd of 47,277 fans packing into Folsom Field to watch first-year head coach Deion Sanders and the new-look Colorado Buffaloes for the first time.
After the grounds crew cleared snow from the turf just in time for kickoff, Sanders led the team on the field, dancing and bowing in front of the record crowd and a national audience on ESPN.
“I was amazed,” said Sanders, the Pro Football Hall of Famer with a larger-than-life personality. “I didn’t know that it would be like that. But the energy, just walking out of the locker room with the team, it was unbelievable. It was a moment. It was one of those moments that you will never forget. It was one of those moments that was something to behold. Like you had to be there. You had to be there.”
This may have been the first time – ever – that the CU spring game was the place to be.
Saturday’s attendance was more than the previous nine CU spring games combined (47,044). A year ago, an estimated 1,950 showed up for the spring game. The previous record was 17,800 in 2008.
Coach Prime is ringing in a new era, however, and Buff Nation didn’t care about the cold and snow. Fans came to see Coach Prime and CU’s new batch of stars, led by quarterback Shedeur Sanders and cornerback/receiver Travis Hunter.
It wasn’t a flawless performance, by any means, but the fans got what they wanted from the stars.
Unofficially, Shedeur Sanders completed 16-of-19 passes for 225 yards and two touchdowns, while also rushing for a 7-yard score. He was 5-for-5 on the first possession, capping it with a 14-yard touchdown pass to Hunter. Later, he threw a 98-yard touchdown pass to Montana Lemonious-Craig, who unofficially finished with six catches for 169 yards.
“We’re playing against us, so it’s kind of hard to measure,” coach Sanders said of his impression of the performance. “I was looking for certain people to do certain things and the people I was looking for to do certain things did those things really, really well.”
Shedeur Sanders, a junior, was a breath of fresh air for CU fans who have watched miserable offenses the past two seasons. He was sharp all afternoon, zipping the ball to Hunter, Lemonious-Craig, Kaleb Mathis and others.
He even briefly conducted the band as he celebrated a touchdown run.
“The band was there and I’m like, ‘OK;’ I started doing that,” he said. “Then they actually started playing and I’m like, ‘Dang, first time controlling a band, for real.’”
It may have been his first time controlling a band, but he was in control of the offense, looking like the veteran that he is after starring at Jackson State the past two years.
“I’m just really proud of just the whole receiver corps stepping up, even when we didn’t have (Jimmy Horn Jr., who was nursing an injury),” Shedeur Sanders said. “I was just excited that everybody stepped up and everybody had a great time.”
Hunter played on both sides of the ball, as expected. He caught four passes for 26 yards, including three catches on the opening possession that culminated in his touchdown.
A sophomore from Suwanee, Ga., Hunter had never played in the snow and was surprised to see the ground covered when he woke up Saturday morning.
“I was like, ‘I don’t know about this, coach. I might have to play in the indoor,’” he joked. “Other than that, it was nice. I hope the pictures came out well. It wasn’t that cold for me.”
Overall, the first team offense scored touchdowns on four of five possessions.
It wasn’t a great day for the depleted defense, however, or the special teams unit, which had two kicks blocked.
Overall, coach Sanders said, “They competed. I was happy. I told them I loved them. I was proud of them. Everybody competed. And everybody got an opportunity.”
But, he reiterated that might have been the last opportunity for some. Sanders and his staff will be very active in the transfer portal in the coming days and weeks.
“You all know that we’re going to move on from some of the team members and we’re going to reload and get some kids that we really identify with,” he said. “This process is going to be quick, it’s going to be fast, but we’re going to get it done.”
For a few hours on Saturday, however, the focus was on celebrating the start of a new era of CU football, and not even a spring storm could put a damper on that.
“I thank all the fans for attending this scrimmage and spring game (despite) the inclement weather,” coach Sanders said. “It was phenomenal. I’m amazed and just stoked, if that’s the proper word, about the attendance and about the energy and electricity, and even all of you (in the media). I’m so thankful that God led me in this direction now. It’s been confirmed, but the day was phenomenal. I’m really happy, appreciative, and thankful all at once.”