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Colorado’s “Cinderella” Start To Season Ends After Blowout Loss To Oregon

Colorado Buffaloes’ quarterback Shedeur Sanders. Photo courtesy of AP News

The media has hyped up Coach Prime and the Buffaloes 3-0 start to the season, and rightfully so. 

When Coach Prime took over the Colorado football program in December 2022, he made one of the boldest speeches ever said by a head coach. He told the players from last year’s team that he was “bringing his own luggage and to get ready to go ahead and jump in the transfer portal,” signifying that major changes were coming to the program after their 1-11 record last season. After 57 players transferred from Colorado and 51 players transferred to Colorado, they shocked the world by winning their first three games, including their season opener at #17 ranked Texas Christian University, who were in the National Championship game last season. 

Sept. 23 was Colorado’s first real test against the #10 ranked Oregon Ducks at Autzen Stadium in Eugene, Oregon. Colorado was already going to be without star two-way player Travis Hunter after he was diagnosed with a lacerated liver due to the controversial hit he took from Henry Blackburn in the game against Colorado State on Sept. 16. It was going to be really tough for Colorado to win at Oregon, and the game went as bad as it could have.

Oregon defeated Colorado 42-6 in front of 59,889 people, handing Colorado their first loss of the season. Oregon was a 21-point favorite, which was appropriate considering Oregon was the better team in the eyes of sports bettors and analysts. They won their first game against Portland State 81-7, then followed that win by a close 38-30 win over Texas Tech. The week prior to the game against Colorado, Oregon defeated Hawaii 55-10. Besides the Texas Tech victory being close, this Oregon team was serious about being contenders for the College Football Playoff.

There was a bit of animosity days before the game between Ducks head coach Dan Lanning and Coach Prime that dated back to before the season. Back in July, Colorado announced that they were leaving the Pac-12 conference to go back to the Big 12 conference, starting next season. A reporter asked Lanning about Colorado leaving the Pac-12 in a press conference on July 31, to which Lanning responded, “Not a big reaction. I mean I’m trying to remember what they won to affect this conference.” During the week before the game, Lanning was on the College Sports show on SiriusXM radio with Sean O’Connell and Geoff Schwartz, discussing how the Ducks were preparing for the Colorado game. He said plenty, but the one takeaway from the clip posted by the College Sports X – formerly known as Twitter – page, was when Lanning said, “At the end of the day, YouTube videos aren’t going to win football games,” which was a direct shot at Coach Prime. 

Oregon scored two touchdowns before the end of the first quarter, and scored three touchdowns before halftime to take a 35-0 lead. Colorado had no answers for the Ducks on offense or on defense in the first half, as Oregon had 378 total yards and 22 first downs compared to Colorado’s 21 total yards and 4 first downs. At halftime, ESPN reporter Katie George interviewed Lanning and asked him what he was most impressed by through the first half. He responded saying, “Not done yet. We’re not satisfied. I hope all those people that have been watching every week are watching this week.”

The Ducks would score a touchdown in the third quarter to make it 42-0 before Michael Harrison would catch a pass from Shedeur Sanders in the fourth quarter to make the score 42-6. By the end of the third quarter, Oregon had taken their starters out of the game and were playing their backups.

Oregon dominated this game from start to finish, and this was a statement victory to show the Buffaloes why they were one of the top teams in the Pac-12 conference. An hour before the game, Fox College Football’s X account posted a clip of Colorado walking across Oregon’s logo on the field as well as a player stomping on the logo. For those not familiar with sports, a player should never walk across or celebrate on the opposing team’s logo before, during, or after the game. Fights have been started when players have done this sort of act, or a player would take a big hit from the opposing team–as was the case with former Pittsburgh Steelers wide receiver JuJu Smith-Schuster when the Steelers played against the Cincinnati Bengals in 2020. He did a couple of TikTok dances on the Bengals logo before pregame warmups, and he paid the price when Bengals safety Vonn Bell gave him a tough hit towards the end of the first quarter.   

During the second quarter of the game, ESPN played a clip of Lanning talking to his team in the locker room before the game. The clip begins with him saying, “Rooted in substance, not flash. Rooted in substance. Today, we talk with our pads.” The clip then flashes to Lanning saying “You talk with your helmet! Every moment! The Cinderella story is over man. Alright? They’re fighting for clicks, we’re fighting for wins. There’s a difference, right? There’s a difference. This game ain’t going to be played in Hollywood, it’s going to be played on the grass.”

By halftime, social media had already started the memes of Colorado’s performance against Oregon. One user on X tweeted that “Oregon was making Colorado look like Bishop Sycamore,” which included the meme of Charlamagne Tha God and Donnell Rawlings laughing on the floor during an episode of The Breakfast Club. 

After the game, Coach Prime did not mince words during his post game press conference. A reporter asked him if he heard Lanning’s “clicks and wins” comments, to which he responded, “I don’t say stuff for a click, contrary to what some may say. Yeah, I keep receipts, but I am serious. I analyze and I understand what we’re up against and what we have and what we need. One thing I can say honestly, and candidly… You better get me right now. This is the worst we’re going to be. You better get me right now.” Later on during the press conference, a reporter asked him whether Colorado had a target on their back, to which he responded saying, “I don’t think there’s a target on our back… teams are trying to beat me, they’re not trying to beat our team. They keep forgetting I’m not playing.”

At its peak, over 12.6 million viewers tuned in to watch the Colorado-Oregon game, which is the most watched game of the college football season and the most watched Pac-12 conference game of all-time. Colorado has USC in Boulder next week, which features quarterback and reigning Heisman winner Caleb Williams. If Oregon and Colorado broke 12.6 million viewers for peak viewership, then the USC-Colorado game will likely shatter that record, especially if the game turns into a scoring fest. 

George Hamilton

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