Buffs not taking FCS power lightly
September 6, 2013
BOULDER — The Colorado Buffaloes know better than to take lightly a lower-tier school like FCS power Central Arkansas, their opponent in their home opener Saturday night.
And not just because seven FCS schools beat FBS schools on opening weekend.
The Buffaloes, who beat rival Colorado State last week in coach Mike MacIntyre's debut, are 1-2 against FCS-level opponents.
They lost at home to Montana State in coach Dan Hawkins' debut in 2006 and were beaten in Boulder by Sacramento State last year, one of many low points in a program-worst 1-11 season that got Jon Embree fired. In 2008, they edged Eastern Washington by a touchdown.
So, while the Big Ten debates the risks and rewards of putting FCS opponents on their schedules, the Buffaloes view the Bears (1-0) as opponents worthy of their full attention.
"UCA is a very talented team and we definitely cannot take them lightly," said Colorado QB Connor Wood, who threw for 400 yards against the Rams last week.
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Five things to watch for when the Buffs and Bears square off at Folsom Field:
LESSON LEARNED: MacIntyre will make sure his team doesn't take anybody lightly. Not only are they not to the point of being able to look down on any of their opponents, but he learned a big lesson early in his coaching career about how any team can get the better of a better team. "I've always said this and I learned this from the two years I coached at Temple and we played Virginia Tech. We were a 36½-point underdog. We were 0-7. Virginia Tech was 7-0. We went there to play them and we upset them on homecoming," MacIntyre said. "And I realized right then and there that anybody can beat anybody on any given day. And we outplayed them, out hustled them, out-scraped them, stopped them on a fourth-down goal line stand. From then on I realized anybody can beat anybody on a given day."
PREMIERE PASSER: The Bears rolled over Southand Conference newcomer Incarnate Word 58-7 in their opener last week, rolling up 537 yards of total offense behind dual-threat senior QB Wynrick Smothers, who was a model of efficiency, completing 27 of 31 passes for 267 yards and a TD in limited duty. "Central Arkansas, I'm telling you I'm not blowing smoke, is fifth in the country and has one of the best quarterbacks in the FCS," MacIntyre said. "He's the best in their league and they can run. They're quick and athletic. And they're a spread football team, throwing it and doing running options so they're going to have us in space so we're going to have to leverage the football and tackle really, really well in open space."
RICHARDSON'S REDUX: Colorado junior wide receiver Paul Richardson is back and better than ever, or at least just as good as he ever was. After missing all of last season with a torn left ACL, Richardson had 10 catches for 208 yards against the Rams and his TDs covered 82 and 75 yards, earning him conference offensive player of the week honors. 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.
QB COMEBACK: After transferring from Texas and sitting out a season, Wood threw just 42 passes as a sophomore last season. He was 33 of 46 for 400 yards and three TDs last week. Only Tyler Hansen threw more passes in a game without a pick (49 against Cal in 2011). "I've gotten a lot of texts from friends and family, which has been really, really nice and I think my friends from back home and people that have known me for a while, they know sort of the journey I've had through my college career," Wood said. "It's been a long one and transferring last year and all of that stuff that I've had to deal with."
CULTURE CHANGE: The Buffaloes snapped an eight-game losing streak with their win Sunday and MacIntyre joined Rick Neuheisel as the only two of Colorado's 15 head coaches since 1932 to win their debut. Neuheisel's '95 Buffs blew out Wisconsin 43-7 in Madison. MacIntyre's nurturing coaching style has drawn praise from players who call it a key to their turnaround hopes. "It is completely different," Richardson said. "We used to go through periods with our old coaching staff where we tried to build chemistry and the fact that we weren't being successful at the end of those weeks, it was hard to have genuine team chemistry because guys wanted to point the finger and we didn't have enough guys mature enough to take responsibility. We have guys holding themselves accountable, taking responsibility, and building genuine team chemistry and that is why we were able to play together this last weekend."