- Associated Press - Saturday, September 20, 2014

BOULDER, Colo. (AP) - Nelson Spruce and Greg Henderson square off in practice during the week and share the spotlight on Saturday.

Spruce caught a school record 13 passes for a career-best 172 yards and Henderson led a swarming defense that kept Hawaii out of the end zone in Colorado’s 21-12 win Saturday over the scrappy Rainbow Warriors.

Henderson, a senior cornerback and four-year starter, joked that Spruce, whose big day included a 71-yard TD catch, can’t get open against him during the week.

“Maybe once in a while I let him get open to help his confidence,” Henderson said.

“He said that?” Spruce said with a chuckle. “I’ve always said I think ‘Hendo’ is one of the best corners in the Pac-12. Going against him day after day I think that kind of sharpens both of us. We get after it in practice.

“I can’t believe he said that, I’ll have to get after him in practice this week.”

So, who really gets the better of the other?

“I’d say it’s about 50-50,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre. “They really compete well.”

It paid off Saturday for both of them.

Behind the hard-hitting and tone-setting Henderson, the Buffs (2-2) didn’t allow a touchdown for the first time in 51 games, going back to a 24-3 win over Colorado State in the 2010 opener.

They held the Rainbow Warriors (1-3) to field goals on four trips inside the 20-yard line.

“I consider that 100 percent stops in today’s football, I really do,” MacIntyre said.

Hawaii’s drives stalled on Colorado’s 16, 1, 20 and 5.

“It was very frustrating,” said Hawaii running back Steven Lakalaka, who rumbled 123 yards on 19 carries. “We’ve got to finish in the red zone. That’s all that matters. In the red zone, we have to score.”

Spruce’s 13 catches broke the mark of 11 accomplished nine times, including four times by Paul Richardson. Spruce also set a school record by catching a TD pass in his sixth straight game, breaking the mark of five set by Rae Carruth in 1996.

“I look forward to him breaking every record there ever was at Colorado over the next two years,” MacIntyre said.

Spruce’s day didn’t start off well, however. He was the intended target when Sefo Liufau threw into triple coverage on the game’s first snap and Ne’Quan Phillips picked off the deep pass.

The Rainbow Warriors reached the Colorado 21 but Henderson, a senior cornerback, got the trifecta: a sack, strip and fumble recovery.

Then, it was Spruce’s turn.

He 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. That made it 7-3.

The Buffs took a 21-6 lead into the locker room, but the defense had to make it stand up as Colorado’s offense sputtered despite eight more catches for 74 yards by Spruce in the second half.

Colorado’s seven second-half drives ended in six punts and an interception before the Buffs lined up in victory formation.

“Our defense played lights out in the second half,” Spruce said. “We got the win. Obviously, the win’s the important thing. But we would have liked to finish out the game strong offensively.”

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.

Together, Hawaii’s QBs were 17 for 46 for 155 yards, whereas Liufau finished 29 of 45 for 287 yards.

“I think we’ve had three moral wins already, which we’re tired of,” Hawaii linebacker Julian Gener said of close calls against two other Pac-12 schools, Washington and Oregon State. “We need wins in the win category.”


Follow AP Pro Football Writer Arnie Melendrez Stapleton on Twitter: https://twitter.com/arniestapleton

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