EUGENE, Ore. – He walked off the field in a hurry.
Surrounded by his security team and cameramen, Deion Sanders disappeared into the dark tunnel.
No celebrating this time. No high-fives. No bro hugs. No smiles and waves.
No receipts either.
Do you believe? No such questions.
We comin? Think again.
About 20 minutes after the conclusion of, let’s call it, the Autzen Stadium Massacre — Oregon 42, Colorado 6 — Prime Time himself nicely summed up the sordid affair.
“A good, old fashioned butt-kicking,” he said, leaning back in his chair, more than three dozen reporters before him.
It was a snoozer from the start, a bloodbath of a football game more reminiscent of an FBS-versus-FCS clash, not an inner-conference collision of 3-0 football programs. This was bad, as bad as you’ll ever see from a top-25 affair.
Let the numbers do the talking. Colorado’s offense didn’t crack the 100-yard mark until the fourth quarter, didn’t complete a play of more than 12 yards until 16 minutes were left in the game and allowed seven sacks. The Ducks scored touchdowns on six of their first seven possessions, averaged a whopping 7.2 yards per snap and pulled many of their starters with an entire quarter to play.
It was bad enough to produce a remarkable stat: At halftime, Colorado had 23 yards; Oregon had 22 first downs.
This seemed personal — for the other guy.
In a pregame speech aired on ABC, Oregon coach Dan Lanning fired up his team by targeting the other coach’s glitz and glamor: “Today, we talk with our pads. The Cinderella story is over. They're fighting for clicks, we're fighting for wins. There's a difference. This game ain't gonna be played in Hollywood. It's played on the grass.”
By the time he arrived for his postgame news conference, guess who had already learned about that?
“I got messages [about it],” Sanders said.
He shrugged it off. Lanning can take the shots because he won. God bless him, Sanders said. He’s a great coach, he added.
And then, in typical Prime fashion, Sanders glared through dark shades to deliver what seemed like a message to all of college football: “You better get me right now. This is the worst we’re going to be.”
"I don't say stuff just to say it for a click, contrary to what somebody said. I keep receipts... This is the worst we're going to get beat... They can take their shots, they won."
Deion Sanders responds to Dan Lanning's 'do it for clicks' comments ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/irD80X3FDF
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) September 24, 2023
They were bad. In 34 games as a college head coach, Sanders has never lost in such a fashion. It was the worst beating of a Sanders-coached team since 2016, when he led a Dallas-area high school, Triple A Academy, to a 42-0 loss in the playoffs.
Lanning piled it on, seemingly determined to embarrass the Buffaloes and their high-flying coach. He attempted two 2-point conversions in the first half, faked a punt (successfully) and went for two fourth-down tries in the third quarter while up at least 35 points.
At halftime, with Oregon leading 35-0, Lanning quipped to an ESPN television reporter, “I hope everyone that's been watching [Colorado] every week is still watching.”
Even Puddles, Oregon’s costumed mascot, needled Coach Prime. He entered the stadium donning a white cowboy hat and gold sunglasses.
That’s OK, Sanders said afterward. He asked for this.
“Teams are trying to beat me,” he said. “They aren’t trying to beat our team. That’s what it really is. It is what it is. I signed up for it.”
Oh didn’t he. The smack talk. The cameras. The interviews. The tweets. The brazen. The brash.
In a defense of he and his team’s approach, Sanders said they are not arrogant. They are only confident.
Give Sanders credit. He took the hard questions and he answered them with bullish honesty. When a Colorado official began wrapping up the news conference, Sanders waved it off to take more questions: “I ain’t got nowhere to go.”
He described his team as playing like “hot garbage,” talked of evaluating coaches, re-assessing every position and bemoaned the blocking, or lack thereof, for his quarterback and son, Shedeur Sanders. Entering as one of the country’s most prolific players, Shedeur threw for 159 yards — more than 100 of it with the game out of hand.
Oregon did nothing “magical,” Shedeur said. There were no real surprises. This wasn’t a scheme thing. It wasn’t a talent thing either, Deion said.
So what happened?
“They got to our quarterback,” the coach said. “You get to our quarterback, it’s a wrap.”
That’s because Colorado struggles running the football. It was a bugaboo during a three-win start to the year that came to roost at Autzen Stadium in front of a rocking 59,889.
The Buffs looked discombobulated without their two-way star Travis Hunter, out for at least two more weeks while recovering from a lacerated liver. Shedeur waved off the impact of Hunter’s absence. It’s not why they lost, he said.
Deion thinks differently.
“He’s the best dern football player in the country,” Deion said. “It’s like you writing an article and your pen is missing.”
Maybe Colorado needed this humbling? No, the coach said. “That’s like saying you needed a car wreck,” he said. “It’s like saying you needed that. That stupid.”
But maybe it’s time to quiet the talk? Maybe it’s time to cut off the cameras, to shut down the documentary following Prime’s every move?
Not a chance. One loss doesn’t change a man and maybe it doesn’t need to. In fact, next Saturday in Boulder the stars will maybe be out more than ever.
The Buffaloes host a team with more glitz and glamor than even themselves: the University of Southern California Trojans.
There’s no time for a pity party, Sanders said. No time to sulk. No time to cry. Get your butts up, he said he told the team, and let’s go.
And then, in a flash, out he went from within the trailer that served as the visiting news conference location, out into the chilly Oregon air, out to his many admirers — even Ducks fans straining to get a glimpse of his every move.
“Prime! Prime!” they yelled toward him, a camera crew in tow and a butt-kicking behind him.