Deion Sanders knew his Colorado team was about to shock the world before he even stepped on the plane.
He believed the Buffaloes would beat No. 17 TCU — defending national runner-up — in his Power 5 coaching debut, and he wasn’t shy about it.
“Before we left Boulder, we knew we were going to win,” Sanders said when asked by “Undisputed” host Skip Bayless. “There was no thinking. We prepare for this stuff. This is not just a figment of my imagination.”
But there are still some things that no team can fully prepare for before getting into a game, and the man now known as “Coach Prime” was surprised by Colorado’s resilience after TCU rallied against the Buffaloes and matched them score-for-score in the second half.
“Nobody flinched,” Sanders said. “We knew were going to go right down and get it done. That’s the attitude we have. … We love what we do, and we do what we love. We love this game. I’ve got a bunch of like-minded young men who love the game, who are passionate about the game of football.”
“I look for not just ballers, not just for four- or five-stars, I look for passion and love in these young men.”
New “Undisputed” co-star Michael Irvin, a close friend of Sanders who visited Colorado and spoke to the Buffaloes in the offseason, agreed with the coach’s assessment.
“I’m surprised at how that team kept fighting back,” Irvin said. “[With] 58 transfers coming in, that kind of union you have, that’s what surprised me the most. Every time TCU came back and scored, they came back and scored again. That says that even though [Sanders] just got there, they are together.”
Richard Sherman agreed, also pointing out that doing so on the road provides extra challenges.
“There’s a certain belief and a certain faith you’ve got to have in your coach to win a shootout against the national runner-ups in a hostile environment in the first game of the season,” Sherman said. You don’t know what you’ve got. You don’t know how to trust and believe in the guys next to you. But Deion had those boys believing they could get anything done.”
That belief came through a lot of preparation not just for Colorado’s opponent but for the near-triple-digit heat on the field at Amon G. Carter Stadium on Saturday.
“We were conditioned well,” Sanders said. “We were prepared for this. I changed practice for several days, we stopped in the middle of practice and ran seven gassers, then we continued to practice. Because I wanted to know who was going to get fatigued, who was going to cry, who was going to say ‘Poor little old me.’”
Colorado’s players were also just as ready mentally as they were physically. Keyshawn Johnson pointed out that the Buffaloes only had six penalties against TCU.
“You talk about the discipline of a head coach instilling certain things into his team and his program, his coaching staff might be the best coaching staff in football,” Johnson said. “They certainly put it on display. We could talk about the players, there’s no question about it, but I’m more focused in on what Deion was able to accomplish. … A team that went 1-11 a year ago went in and unleashed on TCU.”
And not only did Colorado’s players hold up well in the literal and metaphorical heat of a tense game, but so did its coach when all eyes were on him.
“We wanted to see how these guys transmute their gifts and talents to this big stage, but we also want to see how Deion handles this big stage,” Irvin said. “Six penalties in that atmosphere, in that heat, on that stage, to have his team only give him six penalties [and make] all the right decisions down the stretch — and this was a close game. Those decisions could have weighed one way or the other and could have lost the game for him. But he made all the right decisions.”
Sanders himself highlighted the low number of penalties, saying it was one of the things he was most proud of in his team’s performance Saturday.
“That was phenomenal,” Sanders said. “Discipline is something we preach. It’s something we teach consistently. To have six penalties on a stage like that, I love my youngsters for that.
“But those six guys, they’re gonna run tomorrow for those [penalties]. Believe that.”
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