PULLMAN, Wash. -- Player after player credited Colorado offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy with changing the atmosphere on the sideline Saturday and helping the Buffs overcome a big lead and win 35-34 at Washington State.
Bieniemy, a fiery personality who always has preferred coaching from the field, consulted with head coach Jon Embree after a devastating loss last week at Fresno State and decided to come down from the press box against the Cougars. It was his first game on the sideline since coaching there in the 2011 season opener at Hawaii.
Wide receiver Tyler McCulloch said Bieniemy's presence made all the difference early Saturday and players took it from there.
"Having EB on the sidelines helps a lot," McCulloch said. "You know he's not going to take any of that moping stuff. The whole week we've been talking about having fun, playing with a swagger and what it means to be a Buff. This is the most intense I've ever seen our team with the offense up cheering on the defense and the defense cheering on the offense. I think I lost my voice in the first quarter."
Bieniemy received some help with play calling suggestions from quarterbacks coach Rip Scherer in the press box. They pushed all the right buttons down the stretch guiding the Buffs back from 17 points down and capping the comeback with a stellar quarterback draw on fourth-down at the 4-yard line with 11 seconds on the game clock.
Bieniemy credited his players, especially quarterback Jordan Webb, for executing the play and downplayed any effect he might have had on the team's temperament.
"I don't know if that is true," Bieniemy said. "These kids, and I'm sorry, excuse my language, but I've got to say it like this, they played their asses off. They have been working very, very hard. Me being on the sideline, that has nothing to do with what they accomplished."
Big day for Kasa
A year ago at this time, Colorado tight end Nick Kasa was still playing defensive line and struggling to help his team on game days. On Saturday, Kasa came through with his best day since switching to tight end.
Kasa caught three passes for 87 yards, including a 70-yard pass down the middle of the field in the fourth quarter to help the Buffs come back and beat the Cougars.
The 70-yard touchdown was the longest for a CU tight end in regular-season history. The previous best was a 68-yard connection in 2008 at Nebraska from Cody Hawkins to Riar Geer.
Former Buffs Joel Klatt and Joe Klopfenstein connected on a 78-yard score in the 2004 Houston Bowl.
Spruce get loose
Wide receiver Nelson Spruce produced his first 100-yard receiving game against the Cougars with seven of his eight passes recording first downs. Spruce finished with 103 yards receiving and a first-quarter touchdown catch.
Sophomore cornerback Greg Henderson returned to play Saturday after missing the previous two games with an ankle injury. Henderson did not start but he played much of the second half.
Freshmen cornerbacks Kenneth Crawley and Yuri Wright struggled at times against the Washington State passing game. Crawley gave up two touchdown passes and Wright gave up another in the first half.
Henderson found himself matched up with WSU receiver Marquess Wilson in the second half and allowed Wilson to get away from him for a 49-yard catch-and-run on a screen pass. It is the second year in row, Henderson surrendered a score to Wilson. Last year, the mistake cost the Buffs the game in the final 70 seconds.
Redshirt freshman tackle Stephane Nembot started his first game at right tackle and split time with senior Ryan Dannewitz.
Nembot will probably always remember his first start for an unsportsmanlike penalty he received for hitting a player after the whistle in the first half. But he wasn't the only new element on the offensive line Saturday.
Starting center Gus Handler missed the game with an injury, forcing guard Daniel Munyer to move to center and make the line calls. Munyer seemed to handle the assignment well. His biggest mistake of the day was a high shotgun snap that went over the head of quarterback Jordan Webb on a third-and-15.
Will Oliver missed a first-quarter, 30-yard field goal attempt wide left. Oliver is now 4-for-7 on attempts of 30-39 yards. ... Jered Bell started at safety for freshman Marques Mosley, who still played in the game. ... Colorado limited WSU to one score on three trips into the redzone, with two interceptions by Bell and Jon Major.
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