BOULDER, Colo. – The cold and snowy day at Folsom Field began with Deion “Coach Prime” Sanders taking off his white cowboy hat near midfield and taking a bow.
It ended in virtually the same spot, with the Buffaloes huddled around their new coach and the crowd cheering.
Sanders and the Buffaloes certainly staged quite a show Saturday with the stands full of fans eager to catch a glimpse of what could be in store come fall.
In more of a glorified practice than a spring game due to the snowy conditions, the Buffaloes showed something they haven't in a hot minute — promise.
“I’m amazed and just stoked,” said Sanders, who's overhauling a squad that went 1-11 last season. “Today was phenomenal. I’m really happy, appreciative and thankful.”
All of it was quite a spectacle. There was the kickoff by Peggy Coppom, a big Buffaloes fan in her 90s who Sanders enticed to boot the ball to begin the action.
“Her kickoff was phenomenal. Went through the uprights and everything,” joked Sanders, who called her the MVP.
The announced attendance was 47,277 fans, which was more than the last nine versions of the spring game combined.
Standers stood out in his cowboy hat, puffy vest with “Prime” stenciled on it and the gold whistle dangling from his neck. He had his play-calling sheet clipped to his side, but he was more motivator than play-caller as he stood behind the line of scrimmage.
It was like one big Colorado reunion, with Buffaloes football royalty showing up to watch. Names like Jeremy Bloom, Michael Westbrook, Kordell Stewart, Mason Crosby and Alfred Williams were there to show support.
Even the national championship trophy was in attendance, giving fans a chance to dream.
“I’ve never seen this type of energy. This is the spring game, remember, a scrimmage,” Bloom said with a laugh. “It’s unbelievable. Coach Prime has exceeded everybody’s expectations. I think a lot of people knew, including me, that if we could get him here, the buzz would be back. I don’t think anybody imagined this — even in your wildest expectations.”
The stars on the field were quarterback Shedeur Sanders and receiver/cornerback Travis Hunter, the two transfers who followed Coach Prime to Boulder from Jackson State.
“We're heading in a great direction,” said Shedeur Sanders, who wore gold-colored cleats. “Everybody had a great time.”
Under his winter coat, Coach Prime wore a shirt that read, “I ain't hard 2 find,” a slogan he's adopted to attract top-level players. His assistant coaches donned sweatshirts with “We Coming" — another of Sanders' slogans. They're definitely starting to arrive, too, with numerous recruits on hand for the game.
The elder Sanders was hoping for a 55-degree day and sun. Instead, he got 32 degrees and snow, which made it so that Ralphie, the school's live buffalo mascot, couldn’t run the field.
This was really the first thing that didn't go according to Sanders' plan since he signed on in December.
The Buffaloes energized the fans right away with Shedeur Sanders connecting with Hunter for an early 14-yard score.
Get used to that combination.
“We just try to be in sync," Hunter said.
The snow, which had to be plowed off the field, caught Hunter off guard.
"I was like, ‘I don’t know about this, Coach. We might have to move this indoors,'” Hunter said. “I hope the pictures came out well.”
Coach Prime makes his players earn their jersey numbers through their play on the field. Hunter has earned his (No. 12). Receiver Montana Lemonious-Craig — a holdover from last season — may be next in line after coming up with several big catches, including a 98-yard touchdown.
And while Shedeur Sanders technically hasn't earned his number yet, he was wearing No. 2 — the number he wore while compiling big numbers at Jackson State.
“I was looking for certain people to do certain things," said Deion Sanders, whose team opens the season at TCU on Sept. 2. “And the certain people that I was looking for to do certain things, they did those things really, really well.”
There were wrinkles to work out, of course. Especially on special teams, where the Buffaloes had an extra point and long field goal blocked.
“Hot garbage,” Sanders said. “I don’t want to see that anymore.”
Before the game, several big names in Buffaloes history showed up to mingle with fans, sign autographs and see what could be in store. Although optimistic about the prospects of a turnaround, former NFL player Alfred Williams — a member of Colorado's 1990 national title team — is tempering his immediate expectations.
“Overnight is probably not realistic,” Williams said of success. “But I would think that if we can get in the conversation to be bowl eligible, that would be fantastic.”
AP Freelance Writer Monica Costello contributed to this report.
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