DENVER — Paul Richardson and Connor Wood would frequently meet on the practice field last season, just to work on their timing in case they ever needed it.
Back then, Wood wasn’t playing much and didn’t know if he ever would be the starter. Richardson was coming off a torn ACL and wasn’t sure if he would ever return to his electric form.
“He had the time and I had the time,” Richardson said, shrugging.
And now, their timing is perfect.
Wood threw three touchdown passes — two deep ones to Richardson — and Colorado beat Colorado State 41-27 on Sunday in Mike MacIntyre’s coaching debut for the Buffaloes.
Woods and Richardson were in sync all day. For that, Richardson credited all those impromptu workout sessions.
“We took advantage of that opportunity,” Richardson said. “We’ve been working through winter, through spring, through the summer, in fall camp. Today, it came full circle.”
Wood often searched for and found Richardson, who was back on the field after missing last season as he recovered from the torn left ACL. Richardson finished with 10 catches for 208 yards. He had an 82-yard TD catch on Colorado’s first pass play and sealed the contest with a 75-yard grab late in the fourth.
The Buffs have had four 200-yard receiving games in school history, two now by Richardson. He had a school-record 284 yards receiving against California in 2011.
Asked what it was like throwing to Richardson, Wood, who threw for 400 yards, just grinned and responded: “Christmas in September.”
Colorado State coach Jim McElwain waited until game time to announce Garrett Grayson as the starting quarterback. He finished with 201 yards passing as the Rams sputtered on offense in their opener.
“Obviously, it bothered us,” Grayson said. “We kind of wanted to go out there and set the tone.”
The special teams certainly picked up the slack for the Rams as Joe Hansley highlighted a strong showing by scoring on a 74-yard punt return. Kapri Bibbs added two TDs, including one set up by Thomas Coffman’s 84-yard kickoff return.
“As a team we’ve got some stuff to work on,” said Hansley, who also had eight catches for 91 yards. “It’s just some execution issues.”
After finishing a program-worst 1-11 last season, Colorado fired Jon Embree and brought in MacIntyre to turn things around, just as he did at San Jose State. With the victory, he joined Rick Neuheisel as the only Buffs coaches since the 1930s to open on a high note.
MacIntyre took the win in stride.
“It’s just one game,” he said. “They did great and we have to keep doing it.
“If you come and stay and practice you know what we do — we practice really hard, we don’t have picnics. So I appreciate what our kids do.”
With Colorado leading 26-24 early in the fourth and Colorado State driving, defensive lineman Chidera Uzo-Diribe stripped the ball from Bibbs. Greg Henderson quickly scooped it up and raced down the sideline for a 53-yard score.
The Buffaloes defense held the Rams to a field goal, before Richardson broke free for a TD to wrap up the victory.
“Coach joked a couple of weeks ago, that when the going gets tough, some don’t want the play to come their way. My soul was burning for the ball to come my way,” Richardson said. “I wanted to be the guy who helped us pull away from that team.
“I was sore. I was tired. But I ran hard through the goal line and embraced all of my teammates.”
Sidelined all of last year, Richardson didn’t take long to get back into the action, slipping behind the defense undetected and hauling in an 82-yard pass from Wood. So energized was Richardson after the score that he danced his way back to the bench.
Wood was only heating up as he ran an efficient and methodical offense. The junior from Houston played sparingly last season and threw for 265 total yards. He nearly matched that number by halftime.
“I was really impressed with Connor today — that’s what we’ve been seeing,” MacIntyre said. “I knew he had the ability to do that. Now he has to regroup and do that again. I think we’ll have a really good quarterback, but for today he was excellent.”
McElwain couldn’t agree more.
“I thought their quarterback played one heck of a game,” he said. “He was accurate, got the ball out of his hand.
“We didn’t get it done. That’s on us.”