If the last 11 months constituted a full circle, so did the game itself. Two plays into the game, Wood scrambled, lobbed it 47 yards down the field to a wide open Richardson, who took it the remaining 35 yards for the game’s first points. Fast-forward to the fourth quarter, and the two connected for the dagger, a 75-yard strike and run that put the game away.
"It was like Christmas in September, having him back," Wood said. "It’s nice to have him back."
"He has furthered my game tremendously and gave me confidence," Wood said.
In front of a paid crowd of 59,601, junior quarterback Connor Wood emerged from a pseudo quarterback competition in fall camp to throw for 400 yards and three touchdowns. Paul Richardson picked up from when he was healthy in 2011 with 10 catches for 208 yards and two long touchdowns. And the defense, the worst in school history a year ago, bottled up Colorado State's offense.
"I dreamed about this game, and I dreamed that I was double-covered all night," he said. "When I saw that safety drop, I prayed to God that the ball was in the air. I looked back and Connor put it on the money. ... I couldn't believe that I was open, but Connor's a smart kid and he put it out there."
"He’s a player, I’ve always known he was a player since he was a junior in high school," said MacIntyre. "He was up in the hills of California, nobody looked at him but us (San Jose State staff) and I’m glad he’s here. He’s a really good player and I was excited about what he did (Sunday)."
His one sack came early in the first quarter after a bobbled snap to Rams quarterback Garrett Grayson. As Grayson scrambled to save the play, Gillam was there to push him out of bounds for a 17-yard loss. But Gillam's biggest play of the game came in the fourth quarter when CSU went for it on fourth-and-2. Grayson connected with Rams wide receiver Joe Hansley, but Gillam was there to make the stop.
Instead, the Buffs bought in. More commitment was asked of them, and finally on Thursday night in the Dal Ward Athletic Center auditorium, MacIntyre asked each player to put their personal commitment for Sunday’s opener against Colorado State in writing. It didn’t stop there. When they were done writing, MacIntyre had each player stand and read their commitment to the team. Then, one-by-one after reading, they filed to the front of the auditorium and dropped their sheets of paper in a black metal tool box.
"He's just ready to go. Determination. There's a different look when it comes to before football games. Eighteen years of living with a coach, you learn about game day."
Under the guidance of MacIntyre, quarterback Connor Wood handled the passing game with composure and made wise choices that suggested his lessons in practice have stuck. The CU secondary, which a year ago looked about as composed in coverage as four guys who were five minutes late for a flight on Concourse B, played solid assignment football.
I can't promise you the Buffaloes will finish the season with a winning record. But I've got a hunch CU has hired a coach who's a keeper.
It wasn't just the final result -- and the subsequent celebrations -- that made this one different, though. From start to finish, everything about Sunday's win signaled that this is a much different team than the one that took the field in 2012.
"I give the credit to our coaching staff," quarterback Connor Wood said.
"To see what they can do with a 1-11 football team from last year and in eight months transform it to a team that you saw today -- it wasn't all perfect and we have a lot of stuff to clean up, but I tell you, we were organized."
The biggest was a 53-yard fumble return for a TD from cornerback Greg Henderson. At the time, Colorado had just taken a 26-24 lead, so things were tight. Defensive end Chidera Uzo-Diribe forced the fumble, coming up behind Joe Hansley and slapping the ball loose. It was a heady play. How often did we accuse a Buff of being "heady" last year?
Mike MacIntyre, Colorado : What a huge victory for the Colorado program. Wide receiver Paul Richardson led a group of inspired Buffs in a 41-27 victory over Colorado State, recording a career-high 208 receiving yards in the win. MacIntyre dedicated the game to the seniors; a group playing for their third head coach in four years. With Central Arkansas up next, it's definitely possible the Buffs to double their win total from 2012 in the near future.
CU quarterback Connor Wood, making just his second career start, threw for 400 yards and three touchdowns, the first an 82-yarder to a wide-open Richardson for an early 7-0 lead and the last a 75-yarder to Richardson to turn a 33-27 edge into the final 14-point margin of victory.
"We just busted those coverages," CSU safety Trent Matthews said. "Those are critical errors."
When they walk into Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Sunday, all CU fans must consider what role they play in the success of the Colorado Football Program. As a community we must vow to bring the energy and excitement to the games and restore the Pride of the once Mighty Herd. Coach Mac is has brought back the fun on the field, it is up to us to do the same in the stands.