The University of Colorado Boulder Buffaloes lost 48-41 against the No. 8 University of Southern California Trojans at Folsom Field on Saturday afternoon. Despite a late comeback, CU Boulder fell short and is now 3-2 on the 2023 season.
A theme all year, Colorado started off slow and allowed Southern California to score early and were once again down multiple scores in the first quarter. Led by quarterback and Heisman Award front-runner Caleb Williams, USC was on the front foot all game, creating an early lead and holding onto it. Regardless of almost doubling the scoring and statistics in the second half, the Buffs didn’t have enough to pull out the win, losing by a touchdown.
“Wonderful game, we played our hearts out,” Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders said after the game. “They were resilient. They didn’t give up when they had multiple opportunities. They fought to the end.”
After going down 14-0 in the first quarter, the Buffaloes could have easily given up like they seemingly did last week against Oregon. Even with an onslaught of scoring by Lincoln Riley’s Trojan offense, Colorado never seemed to accept defeat, going into the locker room at halftime down 34-14.
Coming out in the second half, the Buffs, led by quarterback Shedeur Sanders, looked like a much different and improved team than before. Colorado was able to move the ball down the field and score quickly, with multiple touchdown drives in under two minutes.
After touchdown passes to receivers Jimmy Horn Jr. and freshman Omarion Miller, CU Boulder was only down by seven points with less than two minutes left in the game. Colorado tried an onside kick, but it was recovered by USC, who was able to run out the clock and leave Folsom Field with a win.
“We gotta just fix the little issues we’re having,” Sanders said. “But overall, I’m really proud of not only the young men, the coaches, the fanbase, the student body — I’m truly proud of the way we represented Boulder today.”
Despite USC’s Caleb Williams’ 403 yards and a record-tying six touchdown passes, Colorado proved that their loss last week wasn’t a common occurrence, and showed they can hang around with the best teams in college football.
Though falling short, CU Boulder’s Shedeur Sanders showed why he belongs in the group of top players in the country. The transfer from Jackson State had 371 yards, four passing touchdowns and an interception while also running for 50 yards and a rushing touchdown. Even though he was sacked three times on Saturday, Shedeur Sanders once again showed that no moment is too big, and no target is too small, as all game he was able to find open receivers downfield.
“There’s things we can always go back and do better,” Shedeur Sanders said. “We just had to lock in and understand that this isn’t going to be a recap of what happened last week. Whatever it takes we’ll do it and put everything on the line.”
In his coming-out game for Colorado, Omarion Miller made a name for himself on Saturday afternoon. The freshman was the favored target for Shedeur Sanders, and he finished with nine catches for a freshman-record 196 yards and a touchdown.
“We go over those plays every day, and we’re just building confidence with each other,” Miller said post game. “They believe I can make those plays, so it’s just about trusting your teammates.”
Transfer receiver Jimmy Horn Jr. also had a great game for Colorado, with seven catches for 84 yards and two touchdowns. Tight end Michael Harrison was also very efficient, with six catches for 44 yards and a touchdown in his third consecutive game.
“These are the same plays we’ve been running forever,” Sheduer Sanders said. “So I feel like today we had a better mindset and understanding that we need to execute these plays together for them to be able to work.”
The Buffaloes switched things up on Saturday in regards to their running scheme on offense. Against USC, Anthony Hankerson was the leading rusher with 74 yards and a touchdown on 16 attempts. Dylan Edwards has been the main running back for Colorado through the first four games, but this week, the freshman was still an effective backup, finishing with 12 rushes for 44 yards. CU Boulder had their best running attack all season on Saturday with a season-high 193 rushing yards, and a key part of the 41 points they scored.
“We try to let everyone touch it and see how they’re going,” Coach Sanders said. “But Hankerson stood out. He’s been doing a good job. All these guys came and tried to force him out and relinquish his position, so I’m proud of him.”
It was a tale of two halves for Colorado on defense on Saturday. In the first half, CU Boulder gave up 34 points and 333 yards but only 14 points and 165 yards in the second. Early on, the Buffaloes struggled to make early tackles and limit big plays, but as the game went on, the defense gained confidence and was able to slowly hold off the Trojans from putting more points on the board.
Graduate transfer Rodrick Ward was the leading tackler for Colorado in the loss, finishing with nine total. CU Boulder safety Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig was able to come up with an interception, which was the first of the year for USC and Caleb Williams. Freshman five-star recruit Cormani McClain saw minutes at Colorado on Saturday, matched up against ex-Buff Brenden Rice. In his second collegiate game, McClain had one pass breakup and almost had an interception before a penalty was called on Colorado.
“It’s a dream to play against the Heisman quarterback from last year,” Ward said. “I fought out there and gave everything I had. There’s still some stuff we have to correct as a defense, but overall it was a dream come true.”
Colorado has now given up 90 points in their last two games against Oregon and USC, as well as the 35 points they gave up in their double overtime win against CSU. There clearly are no issues with the offense finding scoring success, but with the troubles the CU Boulder defense faces, the team keeps finding themselves in situations like Saturday’s where they are forced to come back from a big deficit.
With their past two weeks of games against two of the top 10 teams in the country, Colorado now comes out of their toughest stretch of the season. After the loss, the Buffs are now 3-2 on the season as they head into the rest of their Pac-12 schedule. The Colorado Buffaloes will return to action Saturday as they head to Tempe to play Arizona State University. The game will be on Oct. 7 at 4:30 p.m. MST at the Mountain America Stadium and will stream on the Pac-12 Network.
Contact CU Independent Assistant Sports Editor Eli Gregorski at firstname.lastname@example.org.