Colorado and Colorado State has been as chippy as advertised, but the bad blood reached a new level late in the first quarter Saturday when Buffaloes star Travis Hunter went down with a dirty hit.
The hit came in the first quarter of Colorado's eventual 43-35 double overtime win when Colorado quarterback Shedeur Sanders threw incomplete to a tightly covered Hunter. The play seemingly ended with Hunter failing to come down with the ball, but then Colorado State safety (and captain) Henry Blackburn came in with an extremely late hit that leveled the former five-star recruit.
Blackburn was flagged for unnecessary roughness, while cornerback Ayden Hector was called for pass interference on Hunter.
Henry Blackburn was assessed a personal foul after this late hit on Travis Hunter. pic.twitter.com/0avKi1erLU
— ESPN (@espn) September 17, 2023
Hunter was left lying down on the sideline and missed the rest of the drive, but made it back as a cornerback at the end of the Rams' ensuing offensive drive.
However, ESPN reported in the third quarter that Hunter was done for the night and taken to a local hospital for evaluation, costing the Buffaloes their two-way star for the remainder of a tight game. After the game, Colorado coach Deion Sanders said he had been told that Hunter could be out "a few weeks" but didn't provide any specifics on his injury.
“First thing I heard that he would be an out a few weeks," Sanders said in his postgame news conference. "I heard that for sure, but we’re gonna do what we gotta do to take care of him.”
A dirty hit between Colorado and Colorado State wouldn't have received much attention last year, but things have obviously changed with the arrival of Deion Sanders. This year, Blackburn's hit was noticed by many of Colorado's celebrity guests such as Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson and Offset, while LeBron James chimed in with his outrage from home:
Like I don’t understand the difference between targeting and what I just witnessed. I’ve seen others get thrown out for far less. That was blatant and uncalled for IMO!
— LeBron James (@KingJames) September 17, 2023
The penalty was preceded by plenty of jawing between the two sides in the in-state rivalry, in both the week leading up to the game and in warm-ups.
Colorado State head coach Jay Norvell grabbed Sanders' attention with some pointed comments Wednesday, saying he was "tired" of the attention Colorado was receiving and "When I talk to grownups, I take my hat and my glasses off."
Sanders responded by saying Norvell made the matchup "personal." His son Shedeur and Hunter both seemed to take that to heart before the game when they got into a pregame scrum with Colorado State players after a Rams player allegedly swatted a ball from Hunter.