September 7th – Boulder           Colorado 38, Central Arkansas 24

For the second week in a row, Colorado faced a fourth quarter deficit.

For the second week in a row, Colorado rose to the challenge.

Aided by two defensive touchdowns and yet another 200-yard receiving night from Paul Richardson, the Buffs were able to withstand a strong challenge from Central Arkansas, scoring 21 unanswered points in the fourth quarter to win its home opener, 38-24.

Connor Wood went 23-for-36 for 341 yards and three touchdowns, but also committed four turnovers (two interceptions and two fumbles) which led to 21 of the Bears’ 21 points. Paul Richardson had 11 catches for 209 yards and two touchdowns, giving him 21 catches for 417 yards and four touchdowns in the first two games (Nelson Spruce led the Buffs’ receivers in 2012, with 446 yards receiving in 12 games).

The Colorado defense, which had not posted an interception in over nine games, and only three in all of 2012, had three on the night against the Bears. Greg Henderson had a 46-yard pick six early in the second quarter, and Kenneth Crawley had a game-clinching interception in the end zone with two minutes to play … but it was Jered Bell’s interception and 79-yard return for a touchdown to tie the score in the fourth quarter which was the play of the game.

As well as the Rocky Mountain Showdown began for Colorado, the 2013 home opener began poorly, with CU committing a series of misfires. First, before the game even started, there was miscommunication with the Ralphie handlers. The Buffs, in their first home game under Mike MacIntyre, didn’t get to start the game by running out behind their mascot.

Then, on the Buffs’ first series of the game against the Bears, Colorado seemed out of sync once again. Quarterback Connor Wood overthrew wide receiver Paul Richardson on the first play from scrimmage. Then, after D.D. Goodson had a nice run of nine yards to set up a third-and-one, the Buffs were guilty of having 12 men on the field. The third-and-six play wasn’t snapped before CU had to take a timeout. The subsequent incompletion was almost a foregone conclusion.

Fortunately for the Buffs, the Central Arkansas offense had its own problems. A penalty on first down, and a sack by freshman defensive lineman Jimmie Gilbert led to a three-and-out for the Bears.

The Buffs second drive turned the field for Colorado, with two first downs prior to Darragh O’Neill’s punt being downed by Ryan Iverson at the UCA two-yard line. A three-and-out and a punt set the Buffs up at their 43- yard line for their third drive of the game.

After a Christian Powell two yard run, Wood found Paul Richardson behind the Bear defense, with the junior, as he had against CSU, leading off the scoring, this time with a 55-yard touchdown reception.

7-0, Colorado, with 4:58 to play in the first quarter.

Central Arkansas answered by driving to the CU 33-yard line. There, on fourth-and-four, a pass from quarterback Wynrick Smothers to wide receiver Chase Dixon was broken up by Kenneth Crawley, and the Buffs regained possession.

With momentum in hand, the Buffs drove to the Bears’ 36-yard line, but the drive ended with Will Oliver missing a 53-yard field goal attempt. The Bears could not capitalize, however. On third-and-four from their 42-yard line, Smothers was intercepted when Greg Henderson cut in front of a pass at the UCA 46, returning the interception for a Colorado touchdown and a 14-0 lead. The interception was not only Henderson’s second return touchdown in two games (having returned a fumble for a score against the Rams), it was the first interception for the CU secondary in over nine games.

After a three-and-out for the Bears, the Buffs looked to take control of the game. A 24-yard pass from Wood to Richardson, followed by a 14-yarder from Wood to Tyler McCulloch, set the Buffs up at the Bear 22-yard line. Instead of putting Central Arkansas in a deep hole, however, Connor Wood fumbled on third-and-nine, giving the Bears new life.

Aided by a pass interference penalty which kept the drive alive on a third-and-two incompletion, the Bears capped off a six-play, 69-yard drive with a 23-yard pass from Smothers to Dezmin Lewis. With 4:37 left to play in the first half, it was a new game, at 14-7, Colorado.

After a 34-yard completion from Wood to Richardson brought the smallish Folsom Field crowd (a 25-year low of 35,168) back to life, the Buffs’ offense once again failed to capitalize. On a third-and-six at the Bear 37-yard line, a Connor Wood offering was tipped and intercepted by Bobby Watkins at the Central Arkansas 24-yard line.

Once again, the Bears converted the CU turnover. Central Arkansas pieced together a ten-play, 76-yard drive which included a 20-yard completion on fourth-and-one at the CU 31-yard line. An 11-yard touchdown pass from Smothers to Chase Dixon with just 22 seconds to play before halftime completed the second quarter comeback by the Bears.

Halftime score: Colorado 14, Central Arkansas 14

Memories of CU’s horrid third quarter against the CSU Rams the weekend before (a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown and an 84-yard kickoff return which set up a second touchdown) were fresh on the minds of the Buff Nation as Dillon Winfrey took the second half kickoff back 88 yards to the CU 12-yard line. Tedric Thompson saved a touchdown, but that seemed only a formality as the CU defense took the field.

The Buffs held, though, as the Bears netted only one yard, with UCA kicker Jace Denker connecting from 28 yards out to give Central Arkansas the lead, 17-14, with 14:06 still to play in the third quarter.

Having surrendered 17 straight points, the Colorado offense responded with a drive of its own on its first possession. Two completions from Wood to Richardson, the first for 26 yards, the second for 13, accounted for most of the production in CU’s seven-play, 55-yard drive. Stalled at the UCA 14-yard line, Will Oliver hit a 31-yard field goal with 11:28 left in the quarter to tie the game again at 17-all.

The teams traded punts and field position for much of the remainder of the third quarter, but then CU quarterback Connor Wood, who had no turnovers against Colorado State, committed his third of the game, fumbling the ball away on a sack. The ball bounced all the way back to the CU 16-yard line, where it was recovered by the Bears.

For the second time in the quarter, the CU defense was asked to set up shop inside its own redzone. Three plays gave the Bears a first-and-goal at the CU two-yard line. Three plays later, the Bears had gained only one of those two yards, with the third quarter coming to a close with the ball at the CU one-yard line, and the game still tied at 17-17.

The fourth quarter opened with UCA quarterback Wynrick Smothers sneaking the ball over, giving the Bears their second lead of the game, 24-17.

The Buffs “comeback drive” quickly came to a screeching halt with Connor Wood’s fourth turnover of the day, an interception thrown to Marvin Mitchell at the UCA 40-yard line. The Bears moved smartly down the field, and a two-score lead for the No. 5 team in the FCS seemed imminent.

Then, just when it looked darkest for the Buffs, the play of the game …

A wide receiver screen pass was tipped, with junior defensive back Jered Bell picking the ball off, and taking the ball back 79 yards for a Colorado touchdown. On the brink of facing a deficit from which it might not have recovered, the Buffs found themselves once again tied for the lead.

Colorado 24, Central Arkansas 24, with 10:43 to play.

Three plays later, fans had flashbacks of the Buffs’ comeback against Eastern Washington in 2008, when Colorado needed two touchdowns in the last three minutes to overcome its only other FCS victim, Eastern Washington, 31-24. On third-and-eight at their 27-yard line, Wynrick Smothers completed a pass to Jatavious Wilson. It appeared that Wilson was going to be stopped by CU freshman cornerback Chidobe Awuzie – which would have been good enough – but Awuzie stripped the ball from Wilson, recovering the fumble and setting up the Buffs at the Bear 30-yard line.

On second-and-ten from the 30, Connor Wood found an inexplicably wide open Paul Richardson at the Bear 15 yard line. Richardson, going over 200 yards for the second consecutive game (and for the third time in his career), jogged in to give Colorado the lead back at 31-24, with 9:16 left to play.

A three-and-out forced by the CU defense gave the CU offense the chance to put the game away. Stalled the entire game, the Buff rushing attack finally strung together a few decent runs. Tony Jones became the first running back to post a carry of over ten yards, going for 11 yards, followed by back-to-back eight yard runs.

A four yard loss set the Buffs back, but completions from Wood to Tyler McCulloch for six yards and eight yards to Paul Richardson gave CU its first third down conversion of the second half. A holding call on Stephane Nembot, who struggled throughout the night, pushed the Buffs back out of field goal range. Looking for perhaps enough yards for a field goal attempt, the Buffs called a wide receiver screen on third-and-20 from the UCA 39. Instead of picking up ten yards, Nelson Spruce went the distance. The 39-yard touchdown gave CU its first two-score lead, at 38-24, since the Buffs had held a 14-0 in the second quarter.

Still, over four minutes remained. Central Arkansas pushed the ball quickly down the field, and was inside the CU ten yard line with over two minutes still to play. On a lob to the corner on third-and-goal, however, Kenneth Crawley collected his first interception of the season to end the threat.

Game over. Colorado was now 2-0 for the first time since 2008.

Final score: Colorado 38, Central Arkansas 24.

“These young men keep fighting, they never get down; they keep playing. Yeah, we made some mistakes but they just keep playing,” said coach Mike MacIntyre. “It wasn’t pretty, but I’ll take a win any day, any day.”

Colorado out-gained Central Arkansas, 425 yards to 340 yards, with Connor Wood connecting on 23-of-36 passes for 341 yards and three touchdowns. Wood did throw his first two interceptions of the season, however, and was sacked four times, with two of those sacks resulting in fumbles. “The thing I like about Connor is that he kept playing,” said MacIntyre. “He didn’t hang his head, he kept playing, he made some great runs, he stayed in the pocket and made some great throws. It’s not gonna always go perfect, so I was happy to see him come back and do that. That’s one of the things I wanted to see. You want to win it, and we did, but that’s one of the things I want to see him do is come back after a couple things go wrong, and he did.”

One player who remained beyond reproach was Paul Richardson. The junior wide receiver continued his dominating play, with his second consecutive 200-yard, two-touchdown game. While Richardson’s numbers moved him from All-Pac-12 to All-American consideration, the Buff captain was anxious to spread the credit around. “All (credit) goes to our offensive line and our quarterback,” said Richardson, who tied a school record with 11 catches, going for 209 yards. “We’re fortunate to notice blown coverages. We’re fortunate for Connor to instead of throwing the ball away or ducking his head and running, every time he scrambles, he looks downfield”.

Up next for the Buffs was Fresno State. The Bulldogs also had a 2-0 record, having taken care of Cal Poly, another ranked FCS team, 41-25 (34-0 at halftime; 41-10 heading into the fourth quarter). Fresh on the minds of the Buff players, and the Buff Nation, was the 69-14 thrashing Fresno State put on the Buffs in 2012.

“We’re 2 ‐0 right now” said senior captain Derrick Webb. “We just want to keep it rolling. We’re going to take every game, one game at a time, and our biggest focus right now is being 3‐0. This is our house.”

Game Notes –

– Attendance for the game was 35,168, the lowest for a Folsom Field game since the 1988 home finale, when 32,617 were on hand to watch the Buffs dismantled Kansas State, 56-14.

– The temperature at kickoff was 90-degrees, tied for the 9th-warmest for any CU game, and the 2nd-warmest for any CU home game (the only warmer temperature at kickoff came in 2000, when the Buffs hosted Washington. For that game, it was 91 degrees at kickoff).

– Ralphie did not lead the Buffs onto the field to start the game. Due to a timing snafu, the smoke which was to enhance the moment was set off early, spooking Ralphie. Rather than risk an issue, Ralphie was kept in her pen. She did make the run in the second half, though …

– Colorado scored over 30 points in back-to-back games for the first time since 2010, and kept an opponent under 30 for the first time in back-to-back games since the same year.

– Central Arkansas was held to 60 yards rushing, marking the first time since 2008 in which the Buffs held its first two opponents under 100 yards rushing (CSU had 94 yards rushing in the opener).

– Colorado has scored nine touchdowns this season, but none by way of the rush (six receiving; three by the defense).

Paul Richardson … What can you say? His 11-catch, 209-yard effort continued to re-write the CU record books. The 11-catch game tied a school record (a mark reached seven times in school history, including twice already by Richardson himself) … His 11 catches moved him from 20th to 14th in career receptons, with 94 … The 200-yard effort was his third of his career, adding to his existing record. Richardson now has 15 career touchdowns, moving up to a tie for 5th on the all-time list (Charles E. Johnson) … Richardson now has 1,486 career receiving yards, moving up to 9th on the all-time list (passing Monte Huber).

– Two players made their debuts against Central Arkansas. Freshman Devin Ross had one catch for seven yards. Senior Alex Turbow, a former walk-on placed on scholarship in August, did not have a reception.

– The Buffs ended their interception drought in style. After not posting an interception since the Washington State game (Jon Major), Greg Henderson’s pick was 267 passes after the last theft. The last time CU had an interception for a touchdown was back in 2009 (Benjamin Burney v. Missouri). Combined with Jared Bell’s pick six, the game against the Bears marked the first time CU had two interceptions for touchdowns in the same game since 1999 (when Jashon Sykes and Rashidi Barnes had interceptions for scores against Boston College in the Insight.com Bowl.

Injury update … Defensive tackle Nate Bonsu suffered a sprained ankle, but returned to the game … Running back Christian Powell, who suffered a thigh injury against Colorado State, was limited against Central Arkansas, but is expected to be available for the Fresno State game … Wide receiver Tyler McCulloch wore a protective boot throughout the week, but played the entire game, collecting five catches for 50 yards.

 

5 Replies to “Colorado 38, Central Arkansas 24”

  1. Stuart:

    Thanks to you I proudly wore my CU shirt through the Denver airport. An additional benefit of wearing the shirt on sunday was meeting the grandfather of Conner Wood and the father of Nelson Spruce. It is great to see the positive energy surrounding the team.

    The third down screen pass to Spruce to seal the game was a tremendous call and my friend pointed also observed Coach Mac running down the sideline to reposition Crowley on the play that resulted in his interception of the fade pattern in the endzone. I think we have the coaching staff in place that properly prepares the team before a game and makes necessary adjustments during the game.

  2. Stuart good job on the write up as usual. This is my go to website for Buff coverage. 2-0 is huge with a tough Fresno State team coming to town.

    One correction, I believe Nelson Spruce took the screen for the touchdown. Minor deal. Go Buffs!

  3. Nice write-up Stuart,

    These Buffs are SOOOOOO up and down, especially Connor Wood. I pointed out in my “Cheese-free” post that Connor was getting into the bad habit of arming the ball while moving backwards, giving the ball very little zip. That came back to haunt him tonight. He better fix that or some of the better teams are going to pick 6 him. He also has to work on holding onto the ball when taking a hit.

    Paul Richardson is proving weekly that he may very well be of All-American caliber.

    I can’t believe the turnaround that our secondary has made. Three interceptions all of last year, and three tonight alone! Two taken back to the house for pick 6 and one in the end zone to end a scoring threat! Wow. Even when CA did manage to score touchdown passes, the Bears needed highlight reel catches to do so.

    I think MacIntyre and Neinas need to re-evaluate using starters on kickoff returns. It makes them tired and it obviously is not working. We need to get some of those backups on the sideline a chance to get on the field and do some damage. They certainly could not do any worse than the guys they have out there now.

    I’ll take the win. After last season, any win will do. However, the Buffs are really going to need to step it up from here on in. We cannot allow our opponents to use kick returns as a consistently reliable form of offense.

    Nice to see that our OC Lindgren finally figured out that you can hurt a big rush by calling a screen. Too bad he waited until the end of the game to do so.

    Much bigger test next week against Fresno State.

  4. Stuart,

    I was at the game with my youngest Lil’ Buff and I have to say that I was not overly impressed at first. After watching the Buffs at the Showdown Sunday, I felt like they came out a little flat. Got it that this is not a rival but after last week’s results for the FCS I thought the Buffs might be a little more up for this than they initially appeared.

    I don’t care what anyone else says. So far what we have seen from the new Coach and his staff is that these Buffs don’t seem to quit. That is impressive given where we have been the last few years. Last week you could feel the nervousness in the crowd when the Rams took the lead. Again tonight. But so far they seem to believe in what Coach Mac is preaching.

    I am no idiot and I can see lots that needs some cleaning up but for years so of us have posted here that if they believe, the Buffs could overcome a lot. Lets hope that we really are the making of something here.

    BTW, where are you located before the games? I would love to stop by and say hi, shake your hand and meet you face to face.

    LET’S GO BUFFS!!! BEAT them ‘Dogs!!!

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