DENVER -- It's a new college football season with oodles of new faces and a no-huddle approach to playing offense for the Colorado Buffaloes. But many of the same old problems doomed coach Jon Embree's team in a disappointing 22-17 loss to Colorado State on Saturday at Sports Authority Field.

Embree won his first matchup with Jim McElwain two years ago when both interviewed for the CU job and CU brass hired the former Buff. McElwain took his revenge with a solid debut on the sideline in green and gold.

The Buffs couldn't run the ball in Game 14 under a coaching staff that promised to make that a staple of their system. And that problem allowed CSU to send waves of blitzes at quarterback Jordan Webb, who was sacked five times, particularly in the second half when the Rams fought back from an early deficit to reclaim the lead.

CU coaches and players had no explanation for why their struggles on the ground in 2011 carried over into 2012. They managed just 58 yards on 29 carries.

"I don't know what it is, and that is a bothersome issue," Embree said. "You have to be able to run the ball. So we need to look at what we are doing and get it figured out."

CU fans have grown accustomed to special teams mistakes in recent years and a muffed punt recovered by Colorado State deep in CU territory late in the first half, gave the Rams life when they had struggled badly to that point.

CSU scored on the next play -- a pass from Garrett Grayson to wide receiver Dominique Vinson and the game suddenly felt different -- more competitive -- than it had to that point.


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"I felt a big shift when the punt was muffed and they scored," CU freshman wide receiver Gerald Thomas said. "We could feel it, the offense, we weren't as into it. We were trying to keep each other up, but I guess with the fans and the scoreboard, I think it really affected us."

The Buffs missed a chance to reclaim the momentum in the third quarter when Webb threw high out of the back of the end zone on fourth-and-goal at the 1-yard line.

 University of Colorado quarterback Jordan Webb avoids a sack during the Rocky Mountain Showdown against Colorado State on Saturday.
University of Colorado quarterback Jordan Webb avoids a sack during the Rocky Mountain Showdown against Colorado State on Saturday. ( JEREMY PAPASSO )
Officials overturned a 99-yard fumble return for a touchdown by CSU on the previous play when instant replayed showed running back Malcolm Creer was down.

"That really hurt," Webb said. "We have to be able to convert there."

Colorado State place-kicker Jared Roberts gave the Rams the lead forgood in the second half with a clutch 48-yard field goal into the north end. He added his third field goal of the day for the final margin with just over 2 minutes left.

Webb, who looked like he had been through a war after the game, completed 22 of 41 passes for 187 yards and touchdown passes to wide receivers Nelson Spruce and Tyler McCulloch in his debut as a Buff.

From the Rams' perspective, maybe the victory will be what it is needed to get CSU fans to buy tickets in years to come and keep the game in Denver. The game was played in front of a half-empty stadium for the second straight year, even though the announced crowd was pinned at 58,607. CU supporters were definitely in the majority.

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