Spruce leads Colorado past Hawaii 21-12
BOULDER, Colo. (AP) Junior Nelson Spruce caught a school record 13 passes for a career-best 172 yards, including a 71-yard touchdown in Colorado's 21-12 win over scrappy Hawaii on Saturday.
It marked the first time in 51 games that Colorado didn't allow a touchdown, since a 24-3 win over Colorado State in the 2010 opener.
Spruce's 13 receptions broke the mark of 11 accomplished nine times, including four times by Paul Richardson.
The Buffaloes (2-2) held the Rainbow Warriors (1-3) to field goals on four trips inside the 20-yard line and improved to 5-1 in their last six non-league games, matching their best two-year mark ever.
Hawaii switched quarterbacks at halftime with senior lefty Jeremy Higgins replacing an ineffective Ikaika Woolsey, but Higgins went to the locker room late in the fourth quarter with an ice wrap on his left hand. Senior Taylor Graham came in and threw the game-sealing interception to Tedric Thompson at midfield.
Spruce's day didn't start off well but it sure finished with a flourish.
Sefo Liufau threw into triple coverage on the game's first snap - just as he had against Arizona State a week earlier - and Ne'Quan Phillips picked off the deep pass intended for Spruce. Liufau said he thought Spruce was interfered with, but no flag was thrown.
The Rainbow Warriors reached the Colorado 21 but cornerback Greg Henderson got the trifecta: a sack, strip and fumble recovery to keep the turnover from costing the Buffs.
Spruce lined up on the left side the next time he went deep and hauled in a 71-yard touchdown pass when defensive back Dee Maggitt tumbled to the turf at the 30 after flailing at the throw. Spruce trotted into the end zone, giving Colorado a 7-3 lead after one quarter.
Woolsey drove Hawaii 68 yards in 14 plays but the Rainbow Warriors stalled after reaching the 1-yard line and settled for Tyler Hadden's second chip-shot field goal, this one from 25 yards. That pulled Hawaii to 7-6, but that's as close as the Rainbow Warriors would get.
Receiver Shay Fields scored on a 13-yard run and fullback George Frazier caught a 9-yard TD pass, putting the Buffaloes on top 21-6 at halftime.
Right after scoring his TD, Frazier lined up at defensive end and had a quarterback hurry.
Colorado's 15-point cushion at halftime was the Buffaloes' largest since their infamous meltdown at Kansas on Nov. 16, 2010, that led to then-coach Dan Hawkins' departure. That day, they led the Jayhawks 35-10 at the break before losing 52-45.
This time the lead held up even though the Buffaloes' seven possessions in the second half prior to their kneel-down resulted in six punts and an interception.
With starting running back Joey Iosefa (ankle) sidelined, Steven Lakalaka ran 19 times for 123 yards for Hawaii.
Woolsey was 10 for 24 for 64 yards. Higgins, who completed a 32-yard pass to Marcus Kemp on his first snap, was 4 for 17 for 66 yards and Graham was 3 for 5 for 25 yards.
Together, they were 17 for 46 for 155 yards, whereas Liufau finished 29 of 45 for 287 yards.
The Rainbow Warriors blew a golden chance to make it a tight game after linebacker T.J. Taimatuia's 34-yard interception return put Hawaii on the Colorado 6. A 2-yard run and two incompletions led to Harden's fourth field goal, from 24 yards.
Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: http://twitter.com/arniestapleton