BOULDER, Colo.—The September of Deion in college football reached a suitably eventful conclusion.
The Colorado Buffaloes, who captivated the nation by starting 3-0 in their first season under new coach Deion Sanders, lost for the second straight Saturday to an undefeated Pac-12 opponent. Last week it was Oregon, this week it was No. 8 USC. But after being rocked early, this time Colorado mounted enough of a rally to keep the game interesting well into the fourth quarter.
Reigning Heisman Trophy winner Caleb Williams shredded an injury-depleted Colorado secondary, and the Trojans converted an interception and a blocked punt into first-half touchdowns in a 48-41 boat race at Folsom Field.
The game pitted two explosive offenses against suspect defenses, which resulted in an offensive festival. Williams threw for 403 yards and six touchdowns, while Colorado’s Shedeur Sanders (Deion’s son) passed for 371 yards, ran for 50 more and accounted for four TDs.
The pregame scene was once again a spectacle in its own right, with Fox’s “Big Noon Kickoff” show on campus and an array of celebrities paying their respects to Sanders and the Buffs. Among those spotted on the field: rapper DaBaby, NBA Hall of Famers Kevin Garnett and Paul Pierce and former NFL stars Terrell Owens, DeSean Sanders and Warren Sapp. The rumored guest list also had the likes Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, LeBron James and Will Ferrell scheduled to attend, but their presence was not confirmed during the game. At Colorado’s previous home game, The Rock and Lil Wayne were in attendance.
In terms of celebs and hangers-on, the on-field scene had the feel of a mid-morning version of a marquee Las Vegas boxing match. Then Colorado nearly was dealt an early knockout, with USC rocketing out to a 21-0 lead just 30 seconds into the second quarter. USC maintained a lead of two to four touchdowns throughout most of the rest of the game, keeping the crowd of 54,032 fairly muted much of the time.
But Shedeur Sanders kept slinging—particularly to freshman receiver Omarion Miller, who had a breakout game with 196 receiving yards and a touchdown. Miller had not recorded a catch in his college career prior to the game. The Colorado student section, which thinned out considerably with the Buffs down 28 in the third quarter, began repopulating in the fourth.
A USC sack of Sanders on a fourth-and-five with 9 minutes to play appeared to effectively signal the end of Colorado’s rally. But the Trojans missed a field goal that could have ended the game, Colorado marched for a score, and the game was not over until USC recovered an onside kick with less than two minutes remaining.
The Trojans (5-0) kept their Pac-12 and College Football Playoff hopes very much alive, although they still have a defense that raises concerns.
For Colorado (3-2), the spotlight likely will shine elsewhere in the coming weeks after it set up shop in Boulder. The Buffs’ next two games, at Arizona State and home against Stanford, both are winnable and could aid in their quest to reach six victories for the first time since 2016.