It's been a long time since it felt as good to be a part of the Colorado football program as it did Sunday when the Buffs beat Colorado State 41-27 in the Rocky Mountain Showdown.
Coach Mike MacIntyre, who obviously didn't experience any of the hurt of recent years, seemed to feel the elation as much as anyone. He teared up briefly in an emotional postgame interview on the field just moments after he celebrated stopping the Rams on fourth down as if he had spent a decade working toward the moment.
The victory ended Colorado's eight-game losing streak dating back to last season and MacIntyre became only the second CU head coach to win his debut in the past 81 years.
Maybe most sweet of all, the Buffs overcame major special teams mistakes and moments of doubt that would surely have derailed them last season to claim a win they've salivated over for a year.
"They just kept fighting and playing through it," MacIntyre said. "I was really, really impressed with what theydid and their resilience. That's the first time I've been on the field with them and they definitely could have let their head down there and not fought and they fought tremendously."
Settle in for an interesting college football season Colorado fans. These are not the same old Buffaloes.
It was the most entertaining edition of the showdown in years and Wood and Richardson led the way combining for 208 yards through the air and two long touchdown passes covering 82 and 75 yards respectively.
Wood finished the game with exactly 400 yards passing and three touchdowns in his true debut as the Buffs starter. He started one game last year as an injury replacement. He completed 33 of 46 passes and became just the third CU player to throw
"To do what we did was good for us because we talked a lot in the offseason but now we backed it up with a win," Wood said.
Richardson produced 10 catches for 208 yards. He now has two of the four 200-yard receiving games in Colorado's history to his credit. It was a nice way to return after missing a season with a knee injury.
It didn't take long for the Buffs to put points on the board in their new offense. On CU's second offensive play from scrimmage, Wood showed poise he didn't have last season, buying time with his feet and found Richardson wide open deep behind the CSU defense for an 82-yard touchdown pass. It was the 10th longest touchdown pass in CU history and a play Wood described as "Christmas in September."
"I was happy he threw it," Richardson said. "When I peeked back, and I wasn't supposed to peek, I saw that he had to step forward. When I saw him step forward, I thought he was going to run. He picked his head up and made a real mature move and looked down field and made a play."
There were other bright spots for the Buffs, including an offensive line that didn't get much time together in fall camp, wide receivers D.D. Goodson and Nelson Spruce and a defense that played better in the season opener than it did at any time last year with many of the same players. That defense was led by true freshman middle linebacker Addison Gillam making 14 total tackles and playing with an uncommon maturity.
The defense actually made the key play of the game. More on that in a minute.
It wasn't all smiles for the Buffs.
Special teams coach Toby Neinas spent his 42nd birthday watching his punt return and kickoff return units each give up a long return that helped the Rams claim the lead in the second half.
The Buffs took the lead back on a 52-yard field goal by Will Oliver and then defensive end and senior captain Chidera Uzo-Diribe stripped the ball from CSU running back Kapri Bibbs and cornerback Greg Henderson scooped it up and sprinted 53 yards for a touchdown that gave CU breathing room.
"We knew that their running backs like to carry the ball loose, so coming into this game I felt like I was going to have some opportunities," Uzo-Diribe said. "He dunked it to the running back, he didn't see from behind, so I just went for it.
"We practice stabbing the ball, scooping it high and tight, running and scoring. That was our drills right there."
Richardson capped the scoring later when he once again blew by the CSU defense and hauled in a 75-yard pass from Wood.
The Buffs will host Central Arkansas in the home opener on Saturday (6 p.m.) already with as many wins as they had all of last season.
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Colorado 41, Colorado St. 27
Colorado 10 10 3 18--41
Colorado St. 0 10 14 3--27
Col -- Richardson 82 pass from C.Wood (Oliver kick), 12:41.
Col -- FG Oliver 22, :32.
CSU -- FG Roberts 39, 14:17.
Col -- Goodson 18 pass from C.Wood (Oliver kick), 3:56.
CSU -- Bibbs 7 run (Roberts kick), 1:13.
Col -- FG Oliver 41, :00.
CSU -- Hansley 74 punt return (Roberts kick), 12:51.
Col -- FG Oliver 44, 4:10.
CSU -- Bibbs 2 run (Roberts kick), 2:51.
Col -- FG Oliver 52, 13:07.
Col -- Henderson 53 fumble return (Oliver kick), 11:12.
CSU -- FG Roberts 30, 3:47.
A -- 59,601.
First downs 24 16
Rushes-yards 35-113 28-94
Passing 400 201
Comp-Att-Int 33-46-0 22-39-0
Return Yards 34 92
Punts-Avg. 8-42.5 7-49.7
Fumbles-Lost 0-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 8-68 4-50
Time of Possession 33:30 26:30
PASSING -- Colorado, C.Wood 33-46-0-400. Colorado St., Grayson 22-39-0-201.
RECEIVING -- Colorado, Richardson 10-208, Spruce 8-99, Goodson 5-44, T.Jones 4-14, McCulloch 2-12, Slavin 2-12, Fernandez 2-11. Colorado St., Hansley 8-91, Higgins 6-57, Vaden 3-16, Cartwright 2-22, Alexander 2-11, Coffman 1-4.