September 1, 2013 Updated: September 1, 2013 at 8:20 pm
DENVER - Greg Henderson scored on a 53-yard fumble return in the fourth quarter and Connor Wood threw three touchdown passes - two to speedster Paul Richardson - to help Colorado beat Colorado State 41-27 on Sunday in Mike MacIntyre's coaching debut for the Buffaloes.
Wood 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 sealed it with a 75-yard grab late in the fourth.
The Buffs have had four 200-yard receiving games in school history, two by Richardson. He had a school-record 284 yards receiving against California in 2011.
Wood was steady in the pocket all day, throwing for 400 yards.
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.
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.
Rams coach Jim McElwain waited until game time to announce Garrett Grayson as the starting quarterback. He finished with 201 yards passing as the offense largely sputtered.
But the special teams picked up the slack, with Hansley's score in the third quarter energizing the Rams. Hansley received the work returning punts when Charles Lovett was ruled out with a knee injury prior to the game.
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.
Sidelined all of last year, Richardson didn't take long to get back into the action, slipping behind the defense undetected and hauling in an 82-yard pass from Wood. So energized was Richardson after the score that he danced his way back to the bench.
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.
In the first half alone, Wood threw for 217 yards. He had 265 yards passing in seven appearances all of last season.
Maybe it was to keep Colorado guessing or perhaps he just couldn't decide, but McElwain waited until the last possible moment to reveal his starting quarterback. Grayson finally trotted out on the Rams' first possession as he earned the job over sophomore Conner Smith and freshman Nick Stevens.