Game at a Glance
Matchup: No. 23 Arizona Wildcats at Colorado Buffaloes
Kickoff: Noon MT
Where: Folsom Field in Boulder
Capacity: 50,183. Playing surface: Grass.
TV: Pac-12 Network
Radio: KOA (850 AM)
Odds: Arizona by 10.5
Series: Colorado lead 16-9
Deion Sanders came to Boulder in December with a sense of urgency to turn the Colorado football program around.
The first-year head coach of the Buffaloes flipped the roster during the offseason and never wavered in his belief that the team would win immediately.
Nine games into his tenure at CU, he’s learned something about himself.
“Patience. Patience. That’s it,” he said this week. “Patience. I’ve learned patience.”
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Coach Prime focused on positives as CU Buffs aim to snap losing skid
In many ways, Sanders has transformed the CU program and the team is dramatically better than it was a year ago, but heading into Saturday’s home finale against No. 23 Arizona on a three-game losing streak, the Buffs (4-5, 1-5 Pac-12) aren’t where they want to be.
“You gotta understand, man, coming from where we came from I don’t think we lost a regular season game in two years,” he said. “In high school, shoot, maybe one in the last four years or three years.”
Prior to coming to CU, Sanders was 27-6 as the head coach at Jackson State, including 23-3 the last two years (with one regular season loss). Before that, he and a few people on the staff coached at Trinity Christian High School in Texas. With Shedeur Sanders at quarterback, Trinity Christian went 48-5 in four seasons.
Even with Shedeur having a great season at quarterback for the Buffs, this year has been much different as they took over a program that went 1-11 a year ago.
“That’s tough to be patient in understanding that this formula of winning, you’ve got to get pieces, everyone has to be all in,” Coach Prime said. “You’ve got to paint the picture and they’ve got to understand the portrait that was painted. You got to all be on one accord.”
Arizona might be the perfect model for that patience.
Third-year Wildcats head coach Jedd Fisch took over a team that had lost 12 straight games. In 2021, the losing streak reached 20 before Fisch got his first win. After a 1-11 season in 2021, the Wildcats went 5-7 last year. They now come to Boulder on a three-game winning streak and sporting their first national top 25 ranking since 2017.
“I like him as a person, as a coach, as a man,” Coach Prime said of Fisch. “What he’s doing with that program is phenomenal and I love everything he’s doing. And his kids are playing hard. They’re not being penalized much and they’re playing hard and they’re making the plays that they need to make.”
CU appears to be on the same path as Arizona, just a year behind. But, Sanders said he doesn’t look at the Wildcats as the model. Instead, he’s talking to several mentors as he tries to get CU going.
“I have so many people I can lean on,” he said. “I mean, just having wonderful talks with guys who have been in these situations. I think a couple of weeks ago, talking to coach Jimmy Johnson, he was phenomenal. I talk to coach (Mike) Zimmer all the time. Barry Switzer. It’s so many guys that I could pull from and I do. I do gravitate to them, even guys that weren’t head coaches, but they had positions not just in the NFL. but in college football that I leaned on that you may not even know of but they’ve been there and done that.
“I have a database of some lofty people that I could glean from. But (Fisch) is definitely a guy that I admire and respect the heck out of what he’s doing with their program.”
In the meantime, Sanders practices patience but hopes the Buffs can turn the tide soon.
“I feel like most teams they’ll be disconnected at this time,” linebacker LaVonta Bentley said. “All of us came in for a reason. We’re trying to win and get stats up and stuff like that because most of the players that’s here are trying to get to the NFL. So, we’ve got to show up each and every day, give our best effort.”
That effort has impressed Coach Prime, as the Buffs are aiming to finish the season on a high note.
“We’ve got to seize the moments,” he said. “We’ve got to take advantage of the opportunities presented and we can’t faint in the midst of adversity. We’ve got to stand tall in the midst of adversity and we’re learning that.”