For the second straight week, Colorado fell behind in the third quarter, only to finish strong, as the Buffs topped Central Arkansas, 38-24.
"These young men keep fighting," said Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre, who earned his second win at CU. "They never get down. It wasn't pretty, but I'll take a win any day."
Colorado began their home opener slowly, stalling on their first two drives. The Buffs kicked into gear with just under five minutes left in the first quarter, as Connor Wood found Paul Richardson in stride along the right sideline for a 55-yard touchdown.
"I was holding my head like ‘I overthrew it,'" said Wood, on Richardson's speed. "But then he caught it."
After Richardson's touchdown, both offenses struggled to find a groove. However, Colorado didn't need their offense to find the endzone, as Greg Henderson returned a Wynrick Smothers pass 46 yards for a touchdown. The pick six marked Colorado's first interception returned for a touchdown since Ben Burney returned a Blaine Gabbert pass 78 yards in 2009 against Missouri.
From Henderson's interception until the end of the half, CU managed to hand Central Arkansas all the momentum. A Wood fumble led to a 23-yard touchdown pass from Smothers to Dezmin Lewis.
In their following possession, CU would turn the ball over again, as Wood's pass to D.D. Goodson took a high deflection and landed in the hands of UCA's Bobby Watkins. The Bears would go on to score, as Smothers found tight end Chase Dixon in the left corner of the endzone to tie the game right before halftime.
Much like last Sunday against CSU, the Buffs started the second half poorly. Central Arkansas' Dillon Winfrey took the opening kickoff 88 yards to the Colorado 12, where the CU defense would hold the Bears to three points.
"We've got to correct that," said MacIntyre on his team's kickoff coverage woes. "I think we will - cause they'll come back on you."
Suddenly down by three, having given up the game's last 17 points, the Buffs drove 55 yards and settled for a 31-yard field goal from Will Oliver, tying the game at 17.
Both teams would struggle offensively until the Bears forced another turnover. Markeith Gaines forced another Wood fumble, which Jonathan Woodard recovered, giving UCA excellent field position at the CU 24. The Bears would go on to score, as they battled through a quality goal line stand, scoring on a quarterback sneak on fourth-and-goal from the one, giving Central Arkansas a 24-17 lead.
After another CU turnover - this time on a poorly thrown ball by Wood that was easily intercepted by UCA's Marvin Mitchell - the Buffs faced the prospect of going behind by two scores to an FCS team in the fourth quarter. The Bears were driving inside the CU 30, when Jered Bell made the play of the game.
Bell snagged a deflected Smothers pass and returned it 79 yards along the right sideline, giving the defense its third touchdown of the season, and tying the game at 24
"It was a big turning point for the game," said Bell. "We needed the momentum."
Another standout member of the secondary, freshman Chidobe Awuzie, gave the Buffs the ball back with the chance to take the lead. Awuzie wrapped up Jatavious Wilson after a short completion, and stripped the ball, picked it up, and ran three yards out to the UCA 30.
Thirty seconds later, Wood found Richardson wide open down the middle for a touchdown after a member of the UCA secondary fell down. The grab put Richardson over 200 yards for the second straight game. In under one minute and thirty second, Colorado had gone from down 24-17, to ahead 31-24.
"Last year's team would have crumbled," said Wood, regarding the adversity his time faced. "But we stuck together."
Spruce would provide the final blow to the Bears, as a smart screen route freed him up for a 39-yard catch-and-run touchdown.
"I'm just happy for them," said MacIntyre. "You only get so many times to play; you only get so many times to coach. They're starting to see the fruits of their labor."