Throughout the summer, Colorado sophomore Nelson Spruce heard the same thing over and over again from head coach Mike MacIntyre.
"Every day I would say, 'Tuck the ball away and turn your body up field,'" MacIntyre said. "Finally, he got tired of hearing it, and I was on him all the time, and now you are starting to see him do that."
Spruce had the best day of his college career in Saturday's 41-24 win against California. He caught eight passes for a career-high 140 yards, including a career-long 62-yarder. On that pass, he did exactly what MacIntyre had implored him to do. He tucked the ball, turned his body and sprinted down the field.
"(Quarterback Sefo Liufau) did a good job of putting it on me," Spruce said. "We were getting a lot of one-on-one coverage on the outside, so if we could make one guy miss, we'd have a long way to run. I wish I could have made it to the end zone."
He did finally get to the end zone in the fourth quarter, although it came in unconventional fashion. After Cal scored late in the fourth quarter to pull within 34-17, the Bears tried an onside kick. It went right to Spruce, who had daylight in front of him and took it 46 yards for a touchdown.
"I was extremely surprised," Spruce said. "I caught it and normally you would fall on it, but I kind of froze up and then I saw the sideline, so I just took off and it worked out."
It certainly did, and few people were happier than MacIntyre.
"He put on a show, didn't he?" MacIntyre said.
Powell powers run game
His final numbers weren't spectacular, but sophomore running back Christian Powell picked up 60 tough yards on 18 carries to lead an efficient run game for the Buffs.
"He's a warrior," MacIntyre said.
Powell, Michael Adkins and Tony Jones combined to rack up 121 yards on 33 carries. Powell scored on a 2-yard run that gave the Buffs a 24-10 lead going into halftime.
"It always feels good to get in the end zone," Powell said. "It wouldn't have happened if the line wouldn't have opened up the gigantic hole for me. I basically walked in, so all the credit goes to them."
Powell said the coaches emphasized the offensive linemen getting surge against Cal's front seven.
"Surge was the word of the week," Powell said. "(MacIntyre) told them it would all be on them this game and they responded well. That's them making holes for me and giving time for the quarterback and we came out with a win."
Senior safety Parker Orms, who had started each of the first nine games, sat out because of a stinger in his neck.
"It just wasn't feeling right," said Orms, who went through warm-ups before deciding he couldn't play. "(Coaches) didn't think I could protect myself out there, and that's the most important thing. Hopefully I can get that strength back for next week."
In his place, freshman Tedric Thompson got the start. It was the second career start for Thompson, who was also in the lineup against Oregon on Oct. 5.
CU kicker Will Oliver scored 11 points (two field goals, five extra points) on Saturday, giving him 181 points for his career. He passed CU legend Byron White (177 points from 1935-37) for eighth place on CU's all-time scoring list. ... Punter Darragh O'Neill punted with his left and right legs on Saturday. His third quarter punt was the second time all year he has used his left leg. ... Liufau (1,350 yards) and Connor Wood (1,103) are the sixth pair of quarterbacks to throw for 1,000 yards in the same season in CU history.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell