(Jack Dempsey / The Associated Press)
DENVER — After winning a prolonged competition for the job, Garrett Grayson's season debut as Colorado State's quarterback fell flat.
The Rams got a couple of big plays on special teams but their offense sputtered much of the day, failing to keep up in a 41-27 loss to Colorado on Sunday night in the opener for both teams.
"I'm a little upset," said Grayson, a Heritage High grad who earned the job over sophomore Conner Smith and freshman Nick Stevens. "I think things would be different if I would've gone out there and executed differently. I'm going to take the blame for it. I'm willing to do that for the team."
Grayson was 22 of 39 passing, for 201 yards. He missed on some throws, was victimized by several drops and saw a completed pass go awry in the fourth quarter when Colorado's Greg Henderson scooped up a fumble and scored on a 53-yard return.
"We've just got to make plays," Grayson said. "That really is all there is to it. We had guys open. I was missing them. We were dropping balls. But there's a lot of passes I threw that weren't the best of balls so I've just got to be more accurate and make plays."
His Colorado counterpart, Connor Wood, threw three touchdown passes — two to speedster Paul Richardson — to help the Buffaloes pull away late in Mike MacIntyre's coaching debut for the Buffaloes.
"We got beat by a team today that was opportunistic," Colorado State coach Jim McElwain said.
Wood threw for 400 yards and often connected with Richardson, who was back on the field after missing last season because of a 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 helped seal it with a 75-yard grab late in the fourth.
Joe Hansley highlighted a strong showing on special teams for the Rams 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.
“Obviously, containing and busting a couple coverages on (Richardson), you can’t do that,” McElwain said. “It’s not a good deal, let some guy that runs that fast just run down the sideline on you. The fumble actually they were opportunistic. They had a good strip and took it down in and sealed it.”
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.
Not that it was easy.
With Colorado leading 26-24 early in the fourth and Colorado State driving, defensive lineman Chidera Uzo-Diribe stripped the ball from Bibbs. Henderson quickly scooped it up and raced down the sideline for a score.
The Buffs defense held the Rams to a field goal, before Richardson broke free for a TD to seal the win.
Later, Coffman returned a kickoff 84 yards to set up Bibbs’ second TD to give Colorado State its first lead, 24-23.
That didn’t last long as Will Oliver hit a 52-yard field goal, tying a career long. It was one of four he had on the afternoon.
Wood was just heating up as he ran an efficient and methodical offense, directing scoring drives on 4 of 7 first half possessions. Wood also found a wide open D.D. Goodson for an 18-yard score and set up two field goals by Will Oliver.