CSU Rams’ Henry Blackburn owes CU Buffs’ Travis Hunter an apology

BOULDER — It was the Andy Warhol of cheap shots, a work of art so stunning and brazen that Henry Blackburn could’ve had it signed, framed in poison ivy, and propped up next to Travis Hunter’s hospital bed.

“I mean, I don’t know, he hit him on the sideline,” CSU football coach Jay Norvell said of his safety’s barge into Hunter’s blindside early in a 43-35 double-overtime loss to the CU Buffs. “It was hard for me to see over there. I can’t answer that very well.”

I can, coach.

You done him dirty, Henry.

Even if you blur lines for a blood feud, what Blackburn pulled midway though the first half at Folsom Field late Saturday smacked as much of malice as it did cowardice.

And the only bigger scaredy cats in the moment were the officials at the Rocky Mountain Showdown, who docked Hurricane Henry 15 yards, shielded him from a raging Shedeur Sanders, then walked away.

Did the zebras not hear about the intermural shoving 90 minutes before the game? Or the chirping?

See no evil, hear no evil, flag no evil.

“The bad thing about losing Travis is, you lose such a crucial piece of our team,” CU safety Shilo Sanders said after his 18th-ranked Buffs huffed and puffed to 3-0 with a massive test at No. 13 Oregon (3-0) up next Saturday.

It’s a test they’ll now have to cram for sans Hunter, who left the Showdown at halftime and got shipped to a local hospital for treatment. Buffs coach Deion Sanders said he expects his two-way star and Heisman Trophy candidate will be out “a few weeks.”

The next fortnight’s fight card: at Eugene, then home to No. 5 USC. Piece of cake.

“It’s like you’re losing two players in one,” Shilo continued. “So that was pretty rough.”

And yeah, yeah, yeah, we get it. Boys will be boys, especially when state bragging rights are thrown up for grabs. Yes, Shedeur Sanders pulled a Moe Howard on Rams defensive lineman Mo Kamara, at one point jamming his fingers inside the helmet and toward the eye sockets of the CSU grad student.

Yes, Blackburn, Fairview High’s finest, has a rep for hitting first and asking questions later. But there are a few questions I would’ve loved to have heard his particular takes on, namely:

1. Assuming you were accelerating to make a play on the pass from Shedeur up the left boundary, why did you keep going at almost full-tilt after the ball had already clearly dropped incomplete, on the ground, more than two yards ahead of you? And at least three yards ahead of Hunter, the intended target?

2. Would you have lowered your shoulder, also pretty much at full-speed, if that wasn’t No. 12, CU’s best player, left in a helpless position in front of you?

“You took one of my brothers on offense,” said Shedeur Sanders, who still went out and threw for 348 more yards and four more scores with a freshman — Cherry Creek alum Hank Zilinskas — at center and no Hunter for much of the contest.

“So it really hurt me, knowing the work that he put in, just leading up to the game and knowing you could always count on him in those moments.”

Without TH12 cutting off half the field, CSU diced the heavily-favored Buffs up with crossing route after crossing route.

While Brayden Fowler-Nicolosi looked more athletic and assured than Week 1 starter Clay Millen, CU’s Hunter-free defense allowed the freshman out of Texas to connect on 12 throws on 15 attempts after halftime.

Like Buster Douglas, Norvell led with his jab. Kobe Johnson right, Avery Morrow left. The uppercut was Fowler-Nicolosi finding daylight underneath, patterns that opened like Christmas presents.

The Buffs are halfway to bowl eligibility after just three weeks (3-0), a remarkable turnaround by any metric for a program coming off 1-11 a year ago. But it’s a 3-0 where the stars mask a pretty porous offensive line, a run game that’s feast or famine, and a defensive front seven that’s too often gashed.

That Sanders’ first CU roster is built to win shootouts (cough, TCU, cough) is good, given that in this wild, wooly Pac-12, they oughta stumble into plenty. Although if Fowler-Nicolosi could rack up 367 passing yards and three scores on the Buffs as a 23-point underdog, how much fun are Oregon’s Bo Nix and USC’s Caleb Williams gonna have at Coach Prime’s expense?

“It’s a ‘somebody-needs-to-do-their-job’ thing,” the new Buffs coach said. “Just do your job, and we’re straight.”

You done him dirty, Henry. If it’s about shutting Hunter up, fine. Beat him. The next argument a scoreboard loses will be the first.

“(Blackburn) plays with a lot of emotion,” Rams cornerback Ron Hardie III told reporters in the wee hours of Sunday morning. “I know it’s hard.  But he did go out there and make great plays, just putting his heart into it.”

If only he’d used his head.

And not as a weapon, either.

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