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Buffaloed! Why TCU was upset by Colorado, Coach Prime and Shedeur Sanders

It’s rare that the hype lives up to reality, but all the hype around Deion Sanders and Colorado proved to be well deserved as the Buffaloes shocked TCU 45-42 in the season opener.

Coach Prime’s Buffaloes were the more disciplined team and came out with a near perfect offensive game plan to attack the Horned Frogs’ 3-3-5 defense. TCU’s defense had multiple chances to put the game away including forcing Colorado into a third-and-16 and fourth-and-2 late in the game.

The Buffaloes converted on both drives and turned those conversions into touchdowns including the final 46-yard touchdown to Dylan Edwards.

The Horned Frogs had one chance to tie or retake the lead, but on the final drive Chandler Morris threw it behind Savion Williams for an incompletion on third down and then Jared Wiley came up short on fourth down to end the game.

Briles and Morris first impression

It was the ultimate mixed bag in the first start for Chandler Morris and the debut of new offensive coordinator Kendal Briles. On paper, TCU’s raw numbers were more than adequate, but the stat sheet only tells a partial story. On three separate occasions, the Horned Frogs got to the redzone and here’s how it went: Interception, missed field goal, interception.

A lack of run plays was the common thread in those disaster situations and the Horned Frogs also had a number of procedural penalties before the snap that made it difficult for TCU to find a rhythm at times offensively. With that being said, there were also some moments of good including a breakout performance by Emani Bailey, who had 164 yards on 14 carries.

But the passing game was uneven all afternoon with Morris struggling with his ball placement, especially on vertical routes. Morris threw two backbreaking interceptions and only completed 57% of his 42 passes.

Defense disappoints

After a strong spring and preseason training camp, the TCU defense had high expectations for itself, but Colorado showed that the unit still has a long way to go. Shedeur Sanders picked apart an experienced secondary with ease, simply dumping it down to his receivers and letting them work. Like on Colorado’s first drive of the second half when Sanders completed a screen to Dylan Edwards for a 75-yard touchdown that made it 24-14.

After TCU finally took its first lead of the game late in the third quarter, Sanders completed a 44-yard strike to Xavier Weaver on a streak to set up another Edwards touchdown that made it 31-28. Aside from Rick D’Abreu, there weren’t many bright spots as the unit struggled with missed tackles and there were penalties by defensive leaders like Jamoi Hodge and Josh Newton.

With a chance to seize control of the game after the offense retook a 35-31 lead, the defense allowed Colorado to convert a third-and-16. A few plays later the Buffaloes were back in front after a wide open touchdown pass from Sanders to Jimmy Horn Jr.

Shaky first half

At the start of the game it was TCU that looked like the team that had over 60 new players on its roster instead of Colorado. The Horned Frogs were sloppy and undisciplined with seven penalties compared to just two for Colorado. There was a bad interception by Chandler Morris in the endzone and missed kick by Griffin Kell. All those plays contributed to TCU trailing for most of the first half in front of a shocked Amon G. Carter Stadium.

Colorado safety Trevor Woods (43) celebrates with his teammates after intercepting a pass in the end zone in the first quarter of a college football game between the TCU Horned Frogs and the <a class="link " href="https://sports.yahoo.com/ncaaw/teams/colorado/" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Colorado Buffaloes;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Colorado Buffaloes</a> at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2023. Chris Torres/ctorres@star-telegram.com

The other big thing that stood out was how clear Colorado’s identity was on offense. The Buffaloes knew they wouldn’t be able to run the ball much, so instead they used their passing game as an extension of the run game. Sanders was 22-of-28 for 182 yards in the first half, that’s better than some quarterbacks do in a full game.

TCU made things easy for him though as TCU constantly gave Buffaloes receivers a lot of cushion. Sanders fed the TCU defense a steady diet of stop routes and underneath swings. Simple plays, but the Horned Frogs’ struggles to tackle in the open field allowed Colorado to turn three yards into six-yard gains. Were it not for a forced fumble and a blocked kick by Namdi Obiazor, the first half margin could’ve been even worse.

TCU linebacker Namdi Obiazor (4) recovers a blocked Colorado kick in the first half of a NCAA football game at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth,Texas, Saturday Sept. 02, 2023. Colorado led 17-14 at the half. (Special to the Star-Telegram Bob Booth) Bob Booth/Bob Booth
TCU linebacker Namdi Obiazor (4) recovers a blocked Colorado kick in the first half of a NCAA football game at Amon G. Carter Stadium in Fort Worth,Texas, Saturday Sept. 02, 2023. Colorado led 17-14 at the half. (Special to the Star-Telegram Bob Booth) Bob Booth/Bob Booth