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Grading CU: Buffs Pass After Mediocre Win

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Greg Henderson and Colorado's defense came up big against Central Arkansas on Saturday at Folsom Field. The Buffs' defense forced four turnovers, helping CU improve to 2-0 for the first time since the 2008 season. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.
Greg Henderson and Colorado's defense came up big against Central Arkansas on Saturday at Folsom Field. The Buffs' defense forced four turnovers, helping CU improve to 2-0 for the first time since the 2008 season. Photo by Doug Pensinger/Getty Images.

Colorado’s players and coaches reportedly studied hard for Saturday evening’s test, but they came up well short of earning that elusive “A.”

Did the Buffs pass? Sure, but each and every one of them knows that plenty of work still needs to be done, especially with a slew of tougher exams now looming.

Here are the Buffs’ grades, category by category, after their come-from-behind, 38-24 win over FCS power Central Arkansas in front of 35,168 fans at Folsom Field.

Offense: C+

After scoring 41 points against in-state rival Colorado State last week, CU came close to matching that number against the No. 5 FCS team.

That means, two games into their 2013 campaign, the Buffs already have produced 37 percent of the points that they manufactured through all of last season’s 12 games.

Paul Richardson is one of the Pac-12’s — and quite possibly one of the nation’s — best receivers. He had another huge game against the Bears, pulling down 11 passes for 209 yards and two touchdowns. Those are good things.

Junior quarterback Connor Wood being responsible for four turnovers, the offensive line surrendering four sacks and CU’s running game yielding 84 yards on 34 carries? Those are bad things. As the Buffs prepare to knock heads with the likes of Oregon and UCLA and Washington, there will be no room for those types of errors or that type of inefficiency.

Defense: A

The Buffs’ defense kept them in the game and ultimately propelled them to victory over UCA.

Who could’ve said that last year? Survey says: Nobody.

When it looked like the Bears would take a two-score lead in the fourth quarter, CU’s Jered Bell stepped in front of Wynrick Smothers’ pass, picked it off and returned it 79 yards to the end zone to tie things up. On UCA’s ensuing possession, the Buffs’ Chidobe Awuzie ripped the ball away from Jatavious Wilson to set up the go-ahead touchdown.

Those two turnovers occurred after Greg Henderson’s pick-six in the second quarter and before Kenneth Crawley’s interception in the end zone with less than two minutes to play.

Four forced turnovers. In one game. Not bad for a team that had three interceptions and three fumble recoveries all of last season.

Special Teams: C-

In addition to the running game, this is an area that CU really needs to shore up.

The Buffs’ kickoff-coverage group surrendered yet another long return that led to points — this time, an 88-yarder by Wilson.

Against CSU, the Buffs ceded a 74-yard punt return for a touchdown and an 83-yard kickoff return that set up the Rams at CU’s 16-yard line.

The Buffs aren’t good enough to be handing out those types of freebies, especially to the more-talented Pac-12 teams they’ll soon face.

Hey, Ralphie’s big and fast and kind of intimidating. Maybe Coach Mac should solicit her services on special teams.