Story by Neill Woelk, Contributing Editor for

BOULDER — Colorado’s defense set the tone early and the Buffaloes’ offense caught fire later to give No. 22 CU a 36-14 win Saturday over Nebraska in front of a sold-out Folsom Field crowd.

Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders’ Buffs improved to 2-0 as CU won its third straight over their old rival to open the 100th season at Folsom. Nebraska dropped to 0-2 in its first year under Matt Rhule.

CU coordinator Charles Kelly‘s defense produced four takeaways in the game that led to 16 points. The Buffs converted two of those turnovers into 10 points in the final 4:20 of the first half as CU broke a scoreless tie with 13 points down the stretch.

Following a Nebraska touchdown early in the second half that momentarily cut CU’s lead to 13-7, the Buffaloes offense then found its groove for good. The Buffs produced two touchdowns sandwiched around a field goal on their next three possessions to take a 29-7 lead with 10:45 to play, then put the finishing touches on the rout with another touchdown and 36-7 lead with 4:54 to play.

Colorado ended up scoring on eight of its ensuing nine possessions after opening the game with four punts. The Buffs’ offense finished with 468 yards, led by a  31-for-42, 393-yard, two-touchdown passing performance from quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who also scored a rushing touchdown. Xavier Weaver led Colorado in receiving with 10 catches for 170 yards and a touchdown.

In his first two games, Sanders is 69-for-89 (78 percent completion rate) for 903 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions.

But the tone of the game early came from a CU defense that forced four turnovers, produced six tackles for loss and held the Huskers to 341 yards total offense. Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig had an interception for CU and Jordan Domineck, Arden Walker and Bishop Thomas all recovered fumbles.

“Great win,” Coach Prime said after the game. “We started off slow,  played like a lot of garbage in the first half. But we started picking it up quite a bit and doing what we’re capable of doing. Hats off to the defense and how they were steadfast today. They atoned for the disappointment that we were last week defensively (in a 45-42 win over TCU). To just think that we played like we played and we won by that margin, that’s a pretty good feeling for any coach, and I think  you all can see what we’re capable of doing.”

HOW IT HAPPENED: While Colorado’s offense struggled to find its rhythm early against a solid Nebraska defense, CU’s defense kept the Buffaloes in the game.

CU’s first four possessions ended in punts, with Sanders sacked four times on those drives.

But coordinator Charles Kelly‘s CU defense kept the Huskers at bay. Colorado forced a fumble, recovered by Arden Walker, on NU’s first possession and the Huskers were forced to try a long field goal on their fourth possession after another fumble. The 45-yard try bounced off the upright and kept the game scoreless with 6:54 to play in the half.

Finally, following CU’s fourth punt of the day, the Buffs started their late second quarter run to take control.

Defensive end Domineck recovered an NU fumble deep in CU territory and four plays later, the Buffs cashed in a 31-yard Jace Feely field goal for a 3-0 lead.

Nebraska’s self-inflicted wounds then continued when CU’s Cam’Ron Silmon-Craig picked off a Jeff Sims pass at the CU 30-yard line and it took the Buffs just one play to convert the turnover into a touchdown. Sanders found a wide-open Tar’Varish Dawson for a 30-yard touchdown and 10-0 lead with 2:35 still to play in the quarter.

Colorado’s defense rose to the occasion once more, forcing another Nebraska punt to give CU possession with 49 seconds still left in the half. That was enough time for Sanders to drive the Buffs into position for a 32-yard Feely field goal and 13-0 lead at intermission.

Nebraska momentarily cut into CU’s lead with a 57-yard touchdown run from Sims early in the third quarter, narrowing the Buffs’ edge to 13-7.

But the Buffs offense finally found its zone against a tiring Nebraska defense. CU put up three touchdowns and another field goal on its next four possessions to turn what had been a close game into a rout.

Sanders led the Buffs on a 75-yard scoring drive after NU’s score as CU regained control. The Colorado quarterback, who was sacked seven times, completed a 41-yard pass to Weaver on third-and-10 to keep the drive alive, then found Weaver for a 12-yard scoring pass five plays later for a 20-7 CU lead.

The Buffs defense then forced a Nebraska punt and CU went 55 yards before settling for Feely’s third field goal of the day.

Then came Nebraska’s fourth turnover of the game, a fumble recovered by CU defensive lineman Bishop Thomas. Nine plays later, Dawson scored on an 8-yard reverse. Although the two-point try failed, CU still had firm control with a 29-7 lead.

“In the first half, we weren’t dominant,” Sanders said. “Second half we got it together. And we began to dominate but we wanted to really impose our will because the whole theme of the week was this is personal.”

The Buffs then completed their scoring with a 55-yard touchdown drive after the defense held Nebraska on downs. Sanders wrapped up the march with his first rushing touchdown of the year, a 6-yard scamper that gave Colorado a 36-7 lead after the PAT.

Nebraska finally reached the end zone again late in the game after CU backup QB Ryan Staub was sacked and fumbled, CU’s only turnover of the game.

“We’re resilient, we’re tough,” Sanders said. “We weren’t as disciplined as we normally are early in the game. But we played a smart game. And we just got to start quicker. We got to start quick. But I’m happy that we had the ball in the second half. … But this team hasn’t scratched the surface of what it’s capable of doing.”

TURNING POINT: After a scoreless first quarter that saw Colorado punt on its first four possessions, Domineck’s fumble recovery led to a CU field goal. Three plays later, Silmon-Craig’s interception of Sims gave the Buffs the ball at the Nebraska 30-yard line and Colorado needed just one play to find the end zone on a Sanders-to-Dawson completion for a 10-0 lead.

KEY STATISTIC: Colorado converted four NU turnovers into 16 points … The Buffs put up 318 yards offense and 23 points in the second half and had just one meaningless turnover late in the game.

WHAT IT MEANS: The 22nd-ranked Buffs will likely move up in the polls and have set themselves up for a 3-0 start with Colorado State set to visit next Saturday.

NEXT UP: The Buffs continue their “rivalry run” next Saturday with their first night game of the year, an 8 p.m. game against Colorado State at Folsom Field (ESPN).


Content courtesy of the University of Colorado at Boulder.