BOULDER — “GOD BLESS AMERICAAAAA!”
Dave Ney wasn’t going to let the Buffs ruin his afternoon. Not this time. As CU defender Niko Reed ran an interception back to the Utah 1-yard line, Ney screamed to the heavens and signaled for a touchdown, right hand still clutching what was left of a Coors can.
“I like a football team that’s competitive,” explained Ney, whose family had driven up from Golden and were the only souls left in Section 203 coming out of halftime, where a 42-0 Utah lead dared CU faithful to stick around.
“Don’t know a whole lot about the coaching part of football, but I can tell you that making an effort is what it’s all about.”
Ney’s not an expert, but after watching Utes tailback Ja’Quinden Jackson and Micah Bernard rush for a combined 208 yards on 22 carries during Saturday’s 63-21 laugher at Folsom Field, he’s fairly sure the Buffs are bad at this whole football thing.
Can Bronco Mendenhall, the old Virginia and BYU coach, clean up the mess?
Tom Herman, formerly of Texas and Houston?
Troy Walters, the hotshot Illinois defensive coordinator?
“I have no idea,” Ney replied, “who they are.”
Dave’s face brightened.
“Now I know THAT guy!” he replied.
And that’s the point, isn’t it?
CU needs Coach Prime more than Coach Prime needs CU. Since 2011, the Buffs have put up four seasons of double-digit losses — including 2022’s 1-11 dumpster fire — and just one non-pandemic season of nine or more wins. CU has become to the Pac-12 what pre-Leipold Kansas was to the Big 12.
The league’s coaching graveyard. Where careers go to die. Where hope is inevitably drowned by either history or institutional gravy.
FOX Sports’ Bruce Feldman gave the CU community a jolt Saturday morning when he went on-air and declared that the Buffs had offered its football job to Sanders, the 55-year-old NFL legend who’s posted a 26-5 record at Jackson State and has made no secret that Prime is ready for a Power Five ride of his own.
CU’s current roster responded by getting blown off the field, at home, in what will most assuredly be interim coach Mike Sanford’s last tilt in charge.
“At the end of the day,” offered the likeable Sanford, who went 1-6 over the season’s final seven weeks. “We won the second half.”
Groovy. Except you lost the first half, 42-0.
The Utes punted once, then scored on three straight drives to make it academic. The Buffs didn’t record a first down until 2:42 into the second quarter. With 10:08 to go before the half, on a fourth-and-1 at CU 45, Utah defenders stood up before the snap and waved at their own fans, signaling for more noise. In Boulder.
The Buffs took a timeout, then came back, lined up and … plunged straight into the line. For no gain.
“They need somebody that can bring in some excitement, both on the field as well off,” said Pat Girard of Lakewood, CU class of ’90, who hung in there from 42-0 all the way to 52-7. “It all starts with recruiting. So if they can bring someone in with some excitement, I’d be all for that kind of a coach.”
Coach Prime convinced the top prospect in the country last year, Travis Hunter, to flip from Deion’s alma mater, Florida State, to Sanders’ current employers, Jackson State.
Since 2018, per 247Sports.com, Utah’s last five recruiting classes have included at least 17 different four-star prospects. Over that same stretch, the Buffs have nabbed six.
Throw in the coaching continuity and the strength staff and the infrastructure, and is it any wonder why we get scores of 63-21? Why the Utes have won six straight in the series? And 10 of the last 11?
“We want pity points!” Ney’s son Josh shouted as the stands continued to empty.
Josh, CU class of ’20, would love some Coach Prime in Boulder. But he’s not counting on it.
“I’d be excited,” the younger Ney said, “(But) I think it’s unlikely because I think (South) Florida can pay more money.”
His freshman year, the Buffs landed in the Pac-12 championship game. The last two seasons, he’s witnessed five home wins. Five. Total.
“We need good recruitment,” Josh said.
As if on cue, Jackson broke free for a 66-yard touchdown run to make it Utes 48, CU 7.
“And tackling people would help,” Josh interjected.
Yeah, a little.
“I don’t think CU is that insane about football,” he continued. “The school is focused on other things. I think that football is there, but I think there are things that are important as well.”
Should football be more important?
“That’s what’s hard,” he continued. “Because I think the side that really cares a lot about it gets that a lot (of money) comes in if we have a good football team. But the side that doesn’t, it doesn’t understand what that money brings in. And how that improves the rest of the school.”
Until CU lands some Jimmies and the Joes, it won’t matter who’s drawing up the Xs and the Os.
“I mean, it’s all about recruiting,” Girard added. “It’s all about the transfer portal now as well. So a name like that brings so much recognition that gives the program half a chance. But it’s still definitely an uphill battle.
“Shoot, let’s face it, when you’re in (FBS) sports, and programs that do well, it brings a lot of other stuff to the university.”
“I mean, it’s all about recruiting,” Girard added. “It’s all about the transfer portal now as well. So a name like that brings so much recognition that gives the program half a chance.”
With that, CU’s Anthony Hankerson turned a draw into a 23-yard touchdown, the Buffs’ second on the day. Girard leapt from his bleacher seat and applauded, then sat down with shoulders slumped.
“56-14,” he sighed with mock toughness. “Got ‘em right where we want ‘em.”
You want this, Coach Prime? Come get it. But bring friends. Preferably, the ones who can tackle.