Last weekend, the Colorado Buffaloes mounted yet another comeback behind quarterback Shedeur Sanders, who all but dragged his team over the finish line in a 27-24 road victory over Arizona State. For the fourth straight game, the now 4-2 Buffaloes started slowly, and on Tuesday, head coach Deion Sanders has enough of it. When asked if he ’embraced’ the challenge of spurring his team on to faster starts, ‘Coach Prime’ didn’t mince any words. “It’s not becoming of us. It’s ridiculous. I don’t embrace it, I hate it. ‘Embrace’ means something that you’re endeared to. That’s not the definition of ’embrace’ to me; if I embrace something, I’m welcoming it.” Colorado’s new coach made it clear that he expected far better from his charges on Friday night against visiting Stanford. “This isn’t a challenge; it’s something that we’ve got to do much better; we’re better than that. We’re better than what we’re showing — and we’re going to prove it.”

   After dropping games in Oregon and to USC in Boulder, the Buffs bounced back against ASU behind Shedeur’s (and kicker Alejandro Mata’s) clutch performance. They’ll look to even their conference record at 2-2 with a win over the Cardinals; one that’s widely expected given their standing as an 11.5-point favorite. A victory would leave them only a single win short of bowl eligibility; something even the most ardent supporter would have thought impossible following a 1-11 campaign last fall.

   Of course, that was before Deion Sanders arrived — and he’s already thinking bigger.

   “We want to win. I don’t care about no bowl right now; we want to win. If that’s part of the package at the conclusion of the season — of winning — I’m all for it… but one of my least concerns is a bowl,” Deion explained. He pointed to Stanford and to their head coach, Troy Taylor, as less of an opponent than a kindred spirit; both undertaking rebuilds at proud universities that have seen better days on the football field. “We have a daunting task; not only defeating one another, but building our programs. I had an opportunity to meet all those coaches at the Pac-12 program, and to me, they were all above board; they were cool. They were straight. I don’t think any of these guys have any animosity, because they understand the challenges that we’re up against; all collectively.”

   ‘Prime’ praised Taylor’s Cardinals specifically, noting that “they’re playing hard. They have fight in them; they won’t give up. They have some specialists that are pretty darn good. I love what they’re putting on the field.”

   Perhaps the Buffaloes’ unanticipated challenges against the Sun Devils has given their coach more reasons to fear Stanford, but prior to that game, Deion said that he wanted injured cornerback/wide receiver Travis Hunter to wait until after next week’s bye to attempt a return from the lacerated liver he suffered against Colorado State. “There’s a tremendous chance he could play; it goes by how he looks, how he performs in practice, how his wind is — he has to be in shape.” If Hunter, who was injured on a cheap shot that was penalized on Sep. 16, returns on Friday, it’ll be only three days short of a month that he’ll have missed. Deion suggested that Hunter’s availability might be a game-time decision. “I don’t want him to be a liability; I want him to always be a tremendous asset. Travis came to me yesterday morning, saying, ‘what more can I do to help us get to the point that we need to get to?’ So, I love the team aspect of Travis — 100 percent — I hope he can play. He’s cleared; he wouldn’t be practicing if he wasn’t cleared. He’s cleared, and he has protection on to secure those areas, but the game is the game; the game is a violent game, it’s a vicious game, it’s a very physical game. But Travis is also physical.”

   Were Hunter to play, it makes sense to have him play only cornerback, where he can hit instead of getting hit. That said, as the team’s best wide receiver as well, it would help to have him on that side of the ball, too, but Shedeur’s been more than making do without him.

   “Shedeur is who he is,” Deion said. “The things that he does, he’s done before — you’re just now seeing it… we’re on a bigger stage.”

   Sanders the Younger leads all of FBS football in passing yards with 2,020 yards on the season, to go along with 16 touchdowns and only a pair of interceptions. He’s undoubtedly been clutch, but according to his coach and father, not only are his performances unsurprising, they’re expected. “Shedeur has always played quarterback. I started Shedeur off, really [teaching] him the defenses; we’d get it up on the board and write up all the defenses, because he also played both ways [when he was] young. In youth [football], he always played strong safety or defensive end, so he understood the intricate details of all the defenses,” Deion explained. Reading defenses, then? Check. Avoiding sacks? Not so much; Shedeur’s 30 sacks also lead all of FBS football. While the growth of that number has to slow, Deion’s insistent that his junior quarterback can handle the pounding, and still thrive.

   “Mental toughness and physical toughness? Shoot, he’s a darn Sanders — that was understood around the crib… More than that, he’s always understood the moment; the timing of the moment. He’s always been to maximize, and I’m proud of him on that aspect,” Deion said. Shedeur’s cold-blooded consistency on the field has gotten the Buffs wins, but his consistent attitude off it is what’s made him a leader on a team that was quickly cobbled together through the transfer portal. “Shedeur [doesn’t] complain; it’s easy for him for come up here and say, ‘I’m getting hit; left, right, in-between.’ He’s sore right now, but he’s in the hot tub, and he’s doing things to make sure his body is straight. He does not complain; he’s not going to throw his linemen under the bus, or do any of that — that’s just who he is.”

   While, by any measurement, Colorado’s season has already been a success, Friday’s game will go a long way to determining whether the national infatuation with the Buffs will continue into December. Whether his team is the underdog or favorite doesn’t matter much to ‘Coach Prime’. “There’s lofty expectations for every game for me. And I’m not going to change my standard,” Deion Sanders explained. “My standard is my standard: the way we practice, the way we prepare, the way we perform. I have a lofty standard; that’s why I’m here.”