Clemons busts loose for CU

Colorado's Toney Clemons had his best game of the year Saturday against Colorado State.

Denver -- Through the first two weeks of the season, Toney Clemons struggled, to say the least.

A dropped pass and mental mistake caused the Colorado receiver to be benched in the opener at Hawaii. That led to a one-on-one meeting with head coach Jon Embree.

In Week 2 against Cal, Clemons was chewed out by special teams coach J.D. Brookhart -- and temporarily taken off the kick return team -- for fielding a kickoff deep in the end zone and running it out.

Projected as a playmaker for the Buffs, Clemons was anything but that through two weeks. He had one catch for nine yards and one kickoff return for 14.

During Saturday's 28-14 win over Colorado State, however, Clemons proved he's still got the ability to make an impact for the Buffs.

"I needed it," Clemons said. "I've been having real good weeks of practices and just trying to work my way out of the hole I put myself in. The coaches gave me an opportunity to go out there and perform and play loose and have fun. I feel like I went out there and did that."

Clemons caught three passes for 65 yards, including a 44-yard touchdown that gave CU a 21-7 third-quarter lead.

"We really needed that," said quarterback Tyler Hansen, who nearly hit Clemons on another long touchdown pass earlier in the game. "He's really talented. He's had a rough couple of weeks and he needed the confidence boost, for sure."

Clemons also was back on the kickoff return team, and gained 33 yards on his one return -- the longest return of the season for the Buffs.

"It was good to be out there and (Brookhart) having faith in me to put me back there and make plays," Clemons said.

A transfer from Michigan, Clemons had a big impact in his first season as a Buff in 2010. He caught 43 passes for 482 yards and three touchdowns.

For whatever reason, Clemons did not get off to a good start with the new coaching staff. But, Saturday was a step in the right direction.

"I called him out during spring camp because I felt like he was under-performing and then we had some issues in Hawaii," Embree said. "He was man enough to come in and talk and discuss what my expectations were and what his expectations were.

"It is important for him to be a player and contribute. Big plays or not, it is important for him to be a contributor for us."

CU receivers coach Bobby Kennedy -- who is Clemons' fifth position coach in five years -- said Clemons was never in the dog house. But, Kennedy added, "Toney is working his way back into it and he did a great job (against CSU). He caught a big pass and helped us get over the hump.

"It's great. He's a guy that keeps working hard every day. As long as he does that, good things will happen."

Of course, typical of Clemons' season, on his biggest play of the year, the 44-yard touchdown, he was flagged for excessive celebration, costing the Buffs 15 yards.

"I just can't catch a break," he joked. "No penalty is a good penalty. We got the points, but I've got to be smarter than that and learn from that, as well. They're cracking down on all of that stuff, and I knew that and I was aware of that and it was something I shouldn't have done, but emotions take over you sometimes whenever you're in games like that."

At least it came after Clemons made a big play, which is something he's been waiting to do.

"I needed it for myself," he said of his big day. "It just gives me a little bit of confidence, a little bit of a boost to get back to where I was last year."

Don't think Clemons will ease up, though. One good game could just be the start.

"I don't feel like I took a monkey off my back," he said. "I still feel like I'm pressured and I want to go out there this week and keep working hard."

For one week, at least, it was good for Clemons make the right kind of noise.

"That's what I want to do is be a catalyst and not a cancer," he said.

NOTES: In addition to playing for five position coaches, Clemons had has four head coaches and played in three conferences during his college career. ... CU's top receiver, Paul Richardson, had just four catches for 27 yards. He dropped at least two passes. "Paul could have had a number of catches," Kennedy said. "When our number is called, we just have to execute better." ... Richardson already has 360 yards -- just 154 less than he had in 12 games last season.

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