DENVER — Shay Fields made a habit of catching passes during Colorado's fall camp.

If Friday's season opener is any indication, he's going to make a habit of doing that throughout his career as a Buffalo.

The true freshman caught eight passes for 46 yards in CU's 31-17 loss to Colorado State.

Fields tied the school record, set by Scotty McKnight in 2007 and tied by Nelson Spruce in 2012, for most catches by a Buff in a debut game. He also set a new record for the most receiving yards by a true freshman in his debut game for CU (Josh Smith had 40 in 2007).

"I'm not surprised, honestly," Spruce said. "He's been working all camp, so he was ready for this opportunity."

Fields had six of his catches in the first half, as quarterback Sefo Liufau turned to him several times for short passes. The freshman also had a nice catch for 16 yards.

"It feels good to actually come in and give what the fans want and to play as great as I can and just help the team out," said Fields, a highly touted receiver from Bellflower, Calif.

Big night for Spruce

While Fields led the team in receptions, Spruce finished with seven catches for 104 yards and two touchdowns.

Spruce, who came into the season with 99 career catches, tied Daniel Graham for 10th on CU's career list for catches, at 106. He also passed five former Buffs - including his former head coach, Jon Embree - on the career list for receiving yards.


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Spruce is now 15th on that list, with 1,200 yards.

Spruce also became just the 15th player in school history with at least three 100-yard receiving games.

"It's just the result of the whole offense working well together that first half," Spruce said of his big night. "Me and Sefo built our chemistry this year and I think that kind of showed a little at times."

Nice change

Spruce was busy returning punts, too, which is unusual.

He finished the night with four punt returns for 35 yards, which doesn't sound like much. But, to put that in perspective, he had nine returns for 45 yards all of last season, accounting for all of CU's punt returns in 2013.

In fact, CU hasn't had as many as 90 punt return yards in a season since 2010, when it had 131. The Buffs had 89 punt return yards in 2012 and 56 in 2011.

Last year, the Buffs were very conservative in the punt return game. The Buffs returned just nine of the 59 punts (15.3 percent) kicked to them last year, often opting to fair catch. On Friday, Spruce returned all four punts kicked to him.

McCartney makes impact

It didn't take long for redshirt freshman Derek McCartney to make a big play.

The 6-foot-3, 240-pound defensive end got the start on defense and in the third quarter he sacked CSU quarterback Garrett Grayson, causing a fumble. Buffs defensive tackle Josh Tupou recovered the fumble, ending a CSU drive.

That play helped to set up the Buffs for a touchdown drive of its own. McCartney had CU's only sack of the night.

"It was nice to see him get off the ball and get that sack and strip the ball," CU defensive coordinator Kent Baer said. "It's something we preach all the time."

Injury report

Sophomore running back Michael Adkins sprained his ankle during the third quarter, but returned late in the game. He finished with 68 yards on 16 carries.

"I just went in there taped it up and it was fine," he said.

Safety Marques Mosley did not play after spraining his knee at practice on Wednesday. Offensive lineman Brad Cotner (concussion), defensive linemen Garrett Gregory (knee) and Markeis Reed (groin) and tight end Dylan Keeney (knee) also sat out with injuries.

Penalties costly

Last year, the Buffs were one of the least-penalized teams in the Pac-12, averaging just 38.4 penalty yards per game.

On Friday, they had six penalties for 65 yards. They had two costly 15-yard penalties, both on cornerback Ken Crawley, during CSU's second-quarter touchdown drive.

Notable

Two true freshmen got starting nods on Friday for the Buffs: Fields and defensive end Christian Shaver. Shaver is the first true freshmen defensive end to ever start the season opener at CU. Center Alex Kelley and McCartney also got their first career starts. Of the 86 players who suited up for the Buffs, 44 had never played a game at CU and 41 had never played a college snap. A total of 14 players made their CU debuts. Grayson became just the third quarterback in CSU history to beat the Buffs twice. The other two were Alexander Hutton (1915 and 1916) and Matt Newton (1999 and 2000). CU kicker Will Oliver missed a 41-yard field goal in the first half. He is now just 8-for-14 in his career from 40-49 yards. Before the game, governor John Hickenlooper honored CSU alum Amy Van Dyken, who severed her spine in an ATV accident in June. Van Dyken was on the field with husband and former CU punter Tom Rouen.

Contact BuffZone.com Writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.