BOULDER,CO SEPTEMBER 16: Colorado’s Trevor Woods, second from left, makes an interception to end the game in double overtime against Colorado State in Boulder on September 16, 2023.(Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)
ESPN, Fox, 60 Minutes and just about every else in the sports world showered the Colorado football team with attention this past week.
After a week of hype, the 18th-ranked Buffaloes nearly let Colorado State steal the show.
CU quarterback Shedeur Sanders led a furious rally late in the fourth quarter and then threw the game-winning touchdown pass to Michael Harrison in the second overtime, lifting the Buffs to a 43-35 double overtime victory over their in-state rivals.
The Buffs (3-0) trailed 28-17 in the fourth quarter before rallying to tie the game in the final minute of regulation. Sanders then threw two touchdowns to Harrison in overtime to steal the win.
Sanders finished 38-of-47 for 348 yards and four touchdowns, as the Buffs avoided their first loss under head coach Deion Sanders.
Playing CSU for the first time since 2019, the Buffs have now won six in a row against their in-state rivals.
Despite coming in as a 23.5-point underdog, CSU (0-2) dominated for much of the night. Quarterback Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi, getting his first start, shook off two early interceptions and completed 34-of-47 passes for 367 yards and three touchdowns. CSU outgained the Buffs 499-418.
A recap of the Buffs’ victory:
First quarter: It was a wild opening quarter, with some scuffling by both teams and a defensive touchdown on both sides. CSU appeared to get on the board first with a field goal, but a penalty by the Buffs gave the Rams a first down. Two plays later, the Buffs’ Shilo Sanders picked off Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi and returned it 80 yards for a touchdown. Just three plays later, the Rams scored on a trick play, with receiver Tory Horton hitting tight end Dallin Holker for a 25-yard touchdown pass. Three plays after that, CU’s Travis Hunter caught a pass from Shedeur Sanders, but fumbled. The Rams’ Ron Hardge III scooped up the fumble and returned it 45 yards for a 14-7 CSU lead. The Buffs answered a couple of minutes later when Sanders threw a dart to Xavier Weaver for a 24-yard touchdown. CSU had eight penalties for 88 yards in the quarter, while the Buffs had three for 25 and that didn’t include offsetting unsportsmanlike conduct penalties late in the quarter. Score: Tied 14-14.
Second quarter: After a furious start, CSU settled in and dominated the second quarter. After the two teams traded punts, Fowler-Nicolosi led the Rams on a 14-play, 89-yard touchdown drive that took 7 minutes, 27 seconds off the clock. He completed the march with a 15-yard pass to Louis Brown IV in the end zone for a 21-14 Rams lead. Defensively, the Rams were all over the Buffs, who ran just seven plays for three yards in the quarter. Sanders was sacked twice on those seven plays, including on the last play of the half. Score: CSU 21, Colorado 14.
Third quarter: Offensive struggled continued for the Buffs after halftime, as they went three-and-out on their first possession and four-and-out on their second. The CU defense kept the Buffs in the game, however. CSU drove to the CU 14-yard line, but Holker lost a fumble that the Buffs’ Derrick McLendon recovered. On the Rams’ next possession, they settled for a 52-yard field goal attempt that was blocked by the Buffs’ Leonard Payne. Another CSU possession ended with Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig intercepting a Fowler-Nicolosi pass. The quarter also included a missed 39-yard field goal attempt by the Buffs’ Jace Feely. Score: CSU 21, Colorado 14.
Fourth quarter: After driving inside the CSU 5-yard line toward the end of the third quarter, the Buffs were unable to punch the ball into the end zone. They settled for a 20-yard field goal from Alejandro Mata to pull within 21-17 with 14:24 to go. CSU quickly responded, though, with Fowler-Nicolosi finding Holker for a 35-yard touchdown pass that gave the Rams their first two-score lead of the game, 28-17. CU put together another solid drive in response, but again stalled. After getting to the CSU 15-yard line, they settled for a 41-yard field goal by Mata to pull within 28-20 with 7:33 to go. On its next possession, CSU took 5:27 off the clock, with Paddy Turner’s punt pinning the Buffs at their own 2 with 2:06 to play. Sanders need just 90 seconds to cover the 98 yards, though, connecting with Jimmy Horn Jr. for a 45-yard touchdown pass with 36 seconds left. Sanders then hit Michael Harrison for the game-tying two-point conversion. Score: Tied 28-28.
First overtime: CU won the coin toss and took the ball to start the extra session. A facemask penalty and a targeting penalty on the Rams set the Buffs up with first-and-goal at the 6-yard line. Two plays later, Sanders connected with Harrison for a 3-yard touchdown pass. CSU answered with Fowler-Nicolosi throwing an 8-yard touchdown pass to Tory Horton to tie the game. Score: Tied 35-35.
Second overtime: CU started with the ball again and it was Sanders-to-Harrison once again. This time the two connected for an 18-yard touchdown pass. By rule, the Buffs had to go for two and Sanders found Xavier Weaver to put the Buffs ahead 43-35. CSU was unable to answer, though, as CU’s Trevor Woods picked off Fowler-Nicolosi’s final pass on fourth-and-goal from the 23. Final score: Colorado 43, CSU 35.