Pat Rooney: CU Buffs find a way in epic Rocky Mountain Showdown finish

Sep. 17—Plenty went wrong. Not that it mattered.

The mistakes, of which there were many, can wait until Monday. After the party finally winds down and the glow of victory begins to dim with a huge top-20 battle awaiting on the road next week.

A win is a win. And in special seasons, which is exactly what first-year head coach Deion Sanders and the Buffaloes are trying to put together, there's almost always one game that goes a team's way when all logic says otherwise.

No. 18 CU survived an all-time entry in the history of the Rocky Mountain Showdown, securing a 43-35 victory in double overtime against Colorado State in the wee hours of Sunday morning roughly four hours after the Buffs kicked off against the Rams on Saturday night.

Outside of the early fireworks provided by Shilo Sanders' 80-yard interception return that opened the scoring, little went right for the Buffs through the first three quarters.

Shedeur Sanders, the Colorado quarterback among the way-too-early leaders for the Heisman trophy, had 13 completions for a scant 64 yards at halftime. Take his lone first half highlight, a 24-yard touchdown pass to Xavier Weaver, out of the equation and Sanders' other 12 completions in the first half covered just 40 yards.

Meanwhile, his counterpart making his second career start for CSU, Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi, shook off the early pick-six like a pro and delivered a performance that will be promising for Rams fans, throwing for 367 yards and three touchdowns.

Oh, and CU's most dynamic player, Travis Hunter, went down in the first half thanks to a vicious late hit and finished the night at the hospital. As Shilo Sanders pointed out afterward, losing the receiver/cornerback is like losing two starters at once.

Yet none of it mattered.

Fans in this neck of the woods will think of another legendary quarterback when reviewing Shedeur Sanders' 98-yard drive at the end of regulation that forced overtime, but CU's quarterback called it his "Brady Moment." And because of that moment, the Buffs' attention-grabbing start remains intact, warts and all.

As joyous as the first three weeks have been for Buffs fans that sloughed through two decades of near-constant misery, bottoming out with last year's 1-11 nightmare, now the real fun begins. The Buffs will have another opportunity to make a statement in the Pac-12 Conference opener next week at No. 13 Oregon.

No doubt, there will be chips on the shoulders of these Buffs that have sparked motivation out of every perceived slight, from the lack of respect directed their way going into the opener at TCU to Nebraska coach Matt Rhule welcoming his team to Folsom Field on the midfield buffalo to CSU coach Jay Norvell's inexplicable shot at Coach Prime's hat-and-sunglasses attire just two days after declaring he wouldn't be one to criticize coach Sanders in public.

Oregon coach Dan Lanning already is in that camp. When asked about CU's departure from the Pac-12 for the Big 12 (and prior to Oregon's own departure for the Big Ten), Lanning was asked about CU's move and responded, "Do you remember them winning anything? I don't remember them winning anything."

What the Buffs won on Saturday/Sunday was a game for the ages. And while it was a win for Colorado football, it also was a win for the entire state of Colorado. Boulder was in the spotlight just after dawn, with ESPN's GameDay and Fox's Big Noon pregame shows airing from campus. The state remained in the spotlight as Saturday faded into Sunday, with a large portion of the country forgoing sleep to watch two teams that went a combined 4-20 last year trade blows through two overtimes.

To keep the magic rolling, the Buffs need improvement on defense and to keep pass rushers off Shedeur Sanders. But after an epic Rocky Mountain Showdown, there is little doubt fun has returned to Folsom.