BOULDER, Colo. (AP) – Paul Richardson isn’t wasting any time making up for lost time.
Six days after his 10-catch, 208-yard performance against Colorado State, Richardson topped that by catching 11 passes for 209 yards and two more long scores in helping the Buffaloes outlast FCS power Central Arkansas 38-24.
That’s 417 yards and four TDs for the junior who missed all of last season with a torn left ACL.
So eager was he to play at Folsom Field again that Richardson led the Buffaloes onto the field before their real, live buffalo mascot, “Ralphie V,” could race around the field in one of college football’s coolest pregame traditions.
With smoke billowing out of the players’ tunnel, things got confusing and Ralphie got spooked. Richardson broke free down the sideline, his teammates trailing in a frenzy while the big beast’s handlers calmed her down and corralled her back to her trailer to wait for her halftime romp instead.
“I was so caught up in the moment,” Richardson said. “I wanted to race Ralphie. We were standing under our tunnel and I’m like, ‘Let’s go! Let’s go! I see the fans going crazy, I’m like, ‘Where’s Ralphie?’ I thought Ralphie went already, Ralphie hadn’t gone yet.
“I think Ralphie is good with the outcome, though.”
Under new coach Mike MacIntyre, Colorado has already doubled last year’s win total even though this victory was witnessed by the smallest crowd at Folsom Field in 25 years – 35,168.
“You couldn’t tell it was the smallest,” said Richardson, whose exploits had the place rocking like it was as sellout.
In their first game against a Pac-12 school, the Bears (1-1) of the Southland Conference were in line for their second win over a FCS opponent to go with their victory against Western Kentucky in 2009 when things fell apart in the fourth quarter.
The Bears were leading 24-17 and driving deep into Buffs territory when Jered Bell picked off Wynrick Smothers’ pass and returned it 79 yards, diving over the goal line just as Smothers was bringing him down, tying the game and snatching momentum.
“What a run,” MacIntyre said. “What a run to the end zone. To me, that’s when it turned.”
After Colorado freshman cornerback Chidobe Awuzie ripped the ball from Jatavious Wilson’s arms, Connor Wood overcame a four-turnover night by finding Richardson weaving free over the middle for a 30-yard go-ahead touchdown with 9:16 left.
Nelson Spruce capped the comeback when he turned Wood’s short screen pass into a 39-yard TD that made it 38-24 and Kenneth Crawley sealed it with an interception in the end zone at the two-minute mark.
“We played with those guys the whole game but we shot ourselves in the foot,” said Smothers, who finished 33 of 55 for 280 yards, two TDs and three interceptions, two of which were returned for scores.
The Buffs matched the Bears’ four turnovers.
“We’re pretty fun to watch, either way,” MacIntyre said after the Buffaloes snapped a six-game skid at Folsom Field and improved to 2-2 against lower-tier schools with their first 2-0 start since 2008.
Richardson also had a 55-yard catch to start the scoring on a pass that Wood was sure the speedy receiver would never reach.
“I was holding my helmet, saying ‘Oh, I overthrew him,'” Wood said. “And he just – whoosh! – got it.”
“Just flat out ran by us,” Bears coach Clint Conque said.
The Buffs have had five 200-yard receiving games in school history, three now by Richardson, the junior who had a school record 284 yards against Cal in 2011 before missing all of last year.
Wood finished 23 of 36 for 341 yards and three TDs. He threw two interceptions and fumbled twice on sack-strips by Markeith Gaines, both of which led to Bears touchdowns.
Gaines’ first sack-strip was recovered by Derek Floyd and Smothers capitalized with a 22-yard TD toss to Dezmin Lewis to get the Bears on the board. His second sack-strip came at the Colorado 16 and Smothers’ sneak on fourth-and-1 put the Bears on top 24-17 on the first play of the fourth quarter.
Colorado cornerback Greg Henderson stepped in front of Courtney Whitehead to intercept Smothers’ pass and then raced 46 yards for the TD that put Colorado on top 14-0. It was the Buffs’ first interception since Sept. 22, 2012, ending a streak of 267 pass attempts by opponents without a pick-off.
“When you play a Pac-12 school that’s deeper, you can’t turn the ball over four times. That ultimately did us in,” Conque said.
Notes: The Bears lost defender Aum’Arie Wallace to a dislocated left ankle in the second half.
– By Arnie Stapleton, AP Sports Writer
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