Freshmen Omarion Miller, Cormani McClain step up for CU Buffs

Freshmen Omarion Miller, Cormani McClain step up for CU Buffs

Colorado’s Omarion Miller celebrates a touchdown against USC on Saturday at Folsom Field. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

When the Colorado Buffaloes needed a playmaker to step up on Saturday afternoon, Omarion Miller wasn’t the likely choice.

Not that the true freshman receiver can’t play, but CU head coach Deion Sanders said, “I didn’t think we was gonna get there from Omarion. I ain’t seen it yet. I mean, he hadn’t practiced well. That’s why he hadn’t played.”

CU needed him Saturday, though, and he was spectacular in helping CU rally before falling to No. 8 USC, 48-41, at Folsom Field.

A four-star recruit from North Caddo (La.) High School this year, Miller had not played much in the first four games and didn’t have a catch until midway through the third quarter on Saturday.

CU was down 41-14 when Shedeur Sanders found Miller for a 65-yard gain. The next drive Sanders found Miller for a 44-yard gain.

In the end, Miller had seven catches for 196 yards and a touchdown. It’s the eighth-most receiving yards in a game in CU history and the most ever by a freshman.

“It was crazy,” he said. “Honestly, last night, I dreamed about playing like this.”

30:Colorado’s Cormani McClain knocks a pass from USC’s Brenden Rice during Pac-12 football on September 30, 2023.

The opportunity had not been there before, but the Buffs were shorthanded. Travis Hunter missed his second game in a row. Xavier Weaver was hobbled a bit early in the game. Others weren’t coming through when their number was called.

“I told him, I said, ‘Bro you could be a big part of the offense, or you could just have a freshman year and just wait … so it’s up to you,’” Shedeur Sanders said. “I’m glad he finally came to understanding who he is as a player. He understands the level. Everybody’s human. Everybody can be beat and he has what it takes to be able to go out there and dominate so I’m happy he was able, in one of the biggest games of the season,  to go out there and do that.”

Miller wasn’t the only true freshman to step up. Cornerback Cormani McClain got his first real opportunity and ran with it, too.

Earlier this last week, Coach Prime said McClain, a five-star recruit, hadn’t been doing what he’s supposed to do in order to earn playing time. But, the Buffs were thin at cornerback. Hunter was out, as was Kydrich Breedlove and Carter Stoutmire. Travis Jay struggled last week. Jahquez Robinson struggled early on Saturday.

McClain had a nice pass breakup against USC star Brendon Rice and played well in coverage during his time on the field.

“Cormani came in and contributed tremendously,” Coach Prime said. “From the naked eye, I think he played well. I’m gonna have to watch the film to make sure it is what it is. … But, I’m proud of him for just even stepping up to the challenge to get his butt in there and make a difference. I’m proud of him. I really am.”

For Miller and McClain it may have been a turning point early in their college careers.

“Those two young men today, what they did they stepped out and kind of separated themselves from their yesterday,” Coach Prime said referring to their first few months at CU. “Their yesterday was terrible, but today they came out and established themselves. We just want them to build on it because now we will establish this expectation of the expectation that we already had for them. I’m proud of them.”

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