MIKE BURKE

Allegany Radio Corporation Sports

At no time have I watched three straight Colorado University football games as I have now done, including when our friend Steve Trimble was on the coaching staff. Truth is, Colorado football games have rarely been as available in the East as they are now, and we all understand why they are now.

Thus, late last Saturday night, I began to watch the Colorado-Colorado State game, thinking I’d keep an eye on it until I began to get sleepy or until Noir Alley came on Turner Classic Movies at midnight. Clearly, I wasn’t alone, as ESPN said on Tuesday the game drew 9.3 million viewers to make it the network’s fifth most-watched college football game on record.

Well, the Rocky Mountain Showdown played up to its audience, and so did the Buffaloes of head coach Deion Sanders, as they took the Rams, 43-35, in double overtime, highlighted by a game-tying 98-yard scoring drive in the final two minutes of regulation, engineered by quarterback Shedeur Sanders, the son of the head coach.

In essence, the Rams lost an 11-point fourth-quarter lead at rocking Folsom Field and saw a would-be historic upset over the 24-point favorite Buffs evaporate into the wee hours of the morning.

CSU had a 99.4%-win probability when CU got the ball back with 2:06 left, down eight points and needing to drive 98 yards for the tying touchdown and two-point conversion, which is exactly what happened before the Buffs went on to win in double overtime.

That Colorado fans stormed the field for a win over a 24-point underdog is the clearest indication of the hope Deion Sanders has brought to the fan base that hasn’t won or had the type of spotlight it has now in a very long time. In fact, for the first time in its 100 years of football at Folsom Field, Colorado has sold out every home game for the entire season.

Saturday night was real and it was wired as Deion Sanders had announced the match-up to have become “personal” after CSU head coach Jay Norvell made some comments earlier in the week that Sanders said he did not take kindly to. And both teams played as though it were personal, as Colorado had 10 penalties for 87 yards and Colorado State 17 for 187 yards.

It was chippy and there were cheap shots taken through the night, most of them by Colorado State, as you’ve likely heard by now. One of them was administered by CSU defensive back Henry Blackburn, who laid a controversial hit on Colorado receiver Travis Hunter, leading to Hunter being taken from the field and now being out of action for at least three weeks.

Blackburn was flagged for the hit and ejected from the game, but, sadly, and not surprisingly anymore, it didn’t end there, as Colorado State police have worked with Fort Collins authorities to look into threats, including death threats, against Blackburn and his family.

By the time the game had ended on Saturday, both Blackburn’s and his mother’s cell phone numbers and addresses had been published on the Internet and they’ve both been inundated with threatening calls and text messages.

“We’re very concerned about our player’s safety, as Henry and his family have continued to receive these threats,” CSU athletic director Joe Parker told ESPN. “Henry never intended to put anyone in harm’s way on the football field. It’s not what we teach or coach. We hope that the irrational vitriol directed at Henry stops immediately.”

At his press conference on Tuesday, Deion said, “Henry Blackburn is a good player who played a phenomenal game … This is a still young man trying to make it in life … He does not deserve a death threat over a game.

“I forgive him. Our team forgives him. Travis Hunter has forgiven him. Let’s move on. That kid does not deserve that.”

As for Hunter, the receiver who was taken out on the play, he was the first to come to Blackburn’s defense, even defending the hit.

“It’s football at the end of the day,” Hunter said. “Stuff like that is gonna happen. He did what he was supposed to do. It’s football.”

It’s not clear that it was what Blackburn was supposed to do, but Hunter is correct to say that it is football, and it was football being played in an absolutely juiced environment, juiced by a Colorado team that has turned college football on its ear with its famous, and clearly capable, head coach, and a team that is talented and deep with a vibe as electric as the old Miami Hurricanes.

But more and more often, very sadly (again, not surprisingly), there are so-called fans out there who are unable to draw the line between a game (that they’re not even playing in) and real life.

When it comes to big-time sports under the bright lights, too many of us have lost any sense for reality as, tragically, we saw Sunday night during the Miami Dolphins-New England Patriots game in Foxboro, as a 53-year-old man rooting for the Patriots died after he was punched by a Miami Dolphins fan, hitting his head on his fall to the ground.

The man, a 30-year season-ticket holder, had been sitting with his son before he died.

At a game.

Mike Burke writes about sports and other stuff for Allegany Communications. He began covering sports for the Prince George’s Sentinel in 1981 and joined the Cumberland Times-News sports staff in 1984, serving as sports editor for over 30 years. Contact him at [email protected] and [email protected]. Follow him on Twitter @MikeBurkeMDT