Deion Sanders changed staff but Colorado lost to Oregon State

Deion Sanders changed staff but Colorado lost to Oregon State

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BOULDER, Colo. — Colorado football coach Deion Sanders did what he thought was necessary this week even if it seemed a little desperate. After losing four of his previous five games, he reorganized his coaching staff and promoted a former NFL coach to call-calling duties in an effort to bring out the best in his star son at quarterback.

But it didn’t work. In fact, the Buffaloes got worse Saturday against No. 19 Oregon State until the end, when they scored just two goals in the game before falling short 26-19.

Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders needed another injection of a pain reliever to finish the game as the Buffs fell to 4-5 on the season after capturing the nation’s attention with a 3-0 start.

“This is tough,” Deion Sanders said afterward. “The reason it’s hard is because you know you’re capable of doing better — playing better, performing better, calling better games, coaching better for me. And you’ll fall short when you have enough to get the job done. And that hurts. It hurts me, The team, all the coaches and the fans.”

As it turned out, a coaching blunder before halftime ended up making the difference in the game. Deion Sanders blamed himself for this. But the Buffs still struggled to protect their quarterback in the first three quarters before he went to the locker room for a painkiller shot. Afterward, he said he “felt crazy” and nearly brought his team back from a 23-5 deficit in the fourth quarter in front of a sold-out Homecoming crowd at Folsom Field (52,725).

What else did Deion Sanders say?

He explained why he promoted former New York Giants and Cleveland Browns coach Pat Shurmur to call offensive plays instead of offensive coordinator Sean Lewis.

Shurmur was paid a $50,000 annual salary as a Colorado analyst behind the scenes, according to a copy of his hiring letter obtained by USA TODAY Sports. But after that big change, he is now one of the team’s 10 full-time assistant coaches and holds the title of co-offensive coordinator with Lewis, who gave up his head coaching job at Kent State last year to run Colorado’s offense for himself. $850,000 this year.

“We’re not going to disparage Sean Lewis,” Deion Sanders said when asked about making Shurmur the play-caller instead of Lewis. “We’re not going to do that. We’re not going to take that tone. Sean’s a good guy. I think he’s a good player. We just needed a change at the time. We just needed to try something else at the time, and that’s what we did. I’m not looking back.” So I don’t second guess myself at all, because there’s more to it than you might know.

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Deion Sanders said the play-calling system “is still a team effort” and that both Lewis and Shurmur are “really talented.”

“There is not one person who does good, or one person who does evil,” he said.

Before Saturday, the Buffs ranked second in the nation with the most sacks allowed with 42, a year after they had just 23 sacks during a season in which they finished 1-11. They also had the third-worst rushing attack in the country with just 78.6 yards per game.

On Saturday, Shedeur Sanders was sacked four more times and his team gained -7 rushing yards on 19 carries.

What happened in the game?

Despite the changes to the coaching staff, the offensive linemen on the field remained the same and acted as such with more porous protection for Shedor Sanders.

The Buffs gained just 52 yards of total offense on 30 plays before halftime, when they trailed 14-3. They also punted five times on their first seven possessions, fumbled the ball away on another punt and got a 32-yard field goal for their only score. The latter occurred only after Colorado safety Shilo Sanders forced a fumble to give the Buffs offensive possession on Oregon State’s 19-yard line.

By the time the team entered the locker room at halftime, Shedor Sanders appeared to be walking with a limp and Deion Sanders was blaming himself for a strategic mistake that led to an Oregon State touchdown with 16 seconds left in the second quarter.

“That’s on me,” Deion Sanders told ESPN at halftime.

what is wrong?

Colorado got the ball on the 4-yard line with 49 seconds left in the first half with a lead of just 7-3. If the Buffs ran the ball and ran out the clock, this would have been the score at halftime.

Instead, Shedeur Sanders set up the ball as if he was going to try to drive the length of the field to score. He attempted two incomplete passes on first and second before turning the ball over for no gain on third down — forcing the Beavers to finally burn a timeout with 36 seconds left.

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Colorado then scored in the fourth, netting a quick goal by the Beavers just before halftime.

Why didn’t the Buffs run the clock and avoid giving the Beavers the ball to score?

“We wanted to get out of there because we knew we were getting the ball in the second half,” Deion Sanders said. “So the plan was either we get down first and try to get off, or if we don’t, if we don’t make it down first, well, let’s hit the clock.”

This is not how things worked. Oregon State got the ball on Colorado’s 20-yard line with 21 seconds left after a 28-yard punt return.

One play later, Oregon State quarterback DJ Uiagalelei threw the ball down the right sideline to running back Deshaun Fenwick for a 20-yard touchdown with 16 seconds left in the half.

The touchdown ended up being the difference in the game. Instead of falling behind by just 7-3 at halftime, the Buffs were down 14-3.

“You know that was huge in a lot of ways,” Oregon State head coach Jonathan Smith said.

Deion Sanders knew it too.

“They were able to hit her, which is crazy,” he added. “This is very painful.”

Oregon State’s momentum then continued in the second half, when the Beavers went 85 yards in 12 plays on their first drive to take a 20-3 lead on a 1-yard rush by Uiagalelei.

What happened at the end of the match?

Shedeur Sanders went to the locker room to get a painkiller shot with about three minutes left in the third quarter. He didn’t miss any action on the field and returned to lead his team in touchdown drives on the Buffs’ final possessions of the game. Their first touchdown was a 15-yard pass from Shedeur Sanders to two-way star Travis Hunter, which helped cut Oregon State’s lead to 23-12 with 10:41 remaining.

It didn’t come until 11 in Coloradoy Possession of the game after seven balls and a lost fumble before that.

“I just felt crazy,” Shedor Sanders said. “That’s it.”

He said he never thought about quitting the game because “the pain of not being there for them outweighs the pain” he felt in his body. On their next possession, he again drove the Buffs down the field to score in nine plays, capped by a 12-yard touchdown pass to running back Anthony Hankerson with 1:42 remaining. But it was too little, too late.

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Afterward, he downplayed the change in callers, but said “overall, I liked it.”

The Beavers (7-2) outgained the Buffs in yardage 418-238. Of its 238 total yards, 160 for Colorado came in the fourth quarter. Shedeur Sanders finished 24-of-39 passing for 245 yards and two touchdowns.

Uiagalelei was 12 of 24 for 223 yards and one touchdown.

What’s next for Deion Sanders and Colorado?

Deion Sanders said his team lacks the “passion” it had at the beginning of the season. But he found a silver lining as his team enters the final three games of the regular season, starting next week with the finale at home against Arizona. They need to win two to be eligible for the postseason.

“Our kids fought hard,” he said. They really did. And I love the fact that they didn’t have any give up, that they rallied at the end and gave it a huge effort. We just hope we can do it in the middle of the game.

No matter who is leading the plays, he still has the same offensive line. On the other hand, he still has Chidiur at quarterback. On Saturday, he showed once again that he can carry the team on his back, at least as long as he can.

“The kid is tough,” his father said. “It’s tough. He’s fighting through it, and he doesn’t make any excuses. He wasn’t raised like that. We don’t make any excuses. We don’t.”

What else did Deion Sanders do to his employees?

To make room for Shurmur on a coaching staff limited to 10 people by NCAA rules, Sanders was asked to remove the current assistant coach and demote him to analyst. Colorado tight ends coach Tim Brewster is making the move down, though Sanders said he doesn’t consider it a demotion “because everyone makes the same amount of money.” Brewster, a former head coach at Minnesota, is making $400,000 this year in Colorado.

Colorado was only employing one tight end, which made Brewster a logical candidate to move to analyst.

“It’s a move we had to make,” Deion Sanders said.

Follow reporter Brent Schrotenbauer @schrotenboer. Email: [email protected]

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