Reliability Earned McBride Punt Return Spot

One of the biggest plays in Saturday's win over Colorado State came from the team's smallest player. Chase McBride displayed why he won the starting punt returner job when he raced to catch a short kick in the fourth quarter. McBride then ran 43 yards to set up CU's game-tying kick.

At 5-7, 160 pounds, senior Chase McBride is the lightest player on the Colorado team this season. His punt return in the fourth quarter was anything but lightweight, though.

Special teams coach Kent Riddle said it's an example of why McBride beat out fellow senior Stephone Robinson — who has two career punt returns for touchdowns — for the starting return job in August.

But it wasn't the 43-yard return that is the example of what Riddle wants in a returner. It's the fact McBride even caught the ball.

CU coaches figured out that when a punt returner fails to field a punt — instead, lets it bounce — it costs his team an average of 17 yards in field position. McBride didn't let one ball hit the field during camp.

"He did a good job of catching every ball," Riddle said of McBride. "He used great technique and great fundamentals. He really took it to heart and worked on it all summer. He spent a lot of time on it."

Indeed, catching every ball was set down as a crucial criteria for the CU punt returners.

"Coach Hawk had told us if you want to be a starting punt returner, don't ever let one hit the ground," McBride said. "That was the point of the whole thing, don't ever let one hit the ground. So far, I've been successful at it."

The big punt return in the fourth quarter on Saturday came on a ball that sharply veered to McBride's right once it left the foot of the CSU punter. Riddle said it was a ball many returners would have let bounce.

"That's one that's not an easy catch, but he went sprinting and got it," Riddle said. "That gave him a head start on the return."

McBride said Tuesday he didn't realize how far he had to run to field that particular punt until he watched the replay on tape.

McBride, a walk-on who prepped at nearby Broomfield High, redshirted at Wyoming in 2003, then transferred to CU in 2004, wove his way up the sideline during the fourth-quarter punt return, avoiding two tacklers along the way. The return wasn't perfect. McBride was forced out of bounds by the CSU punter — always a no-no among returners.

"We'd love for him to turn those into touchdowns, and he would've loved it more than I would've," Riddle said. "But he did a great job."

While the punt return unit had a good day Saturday — McBride averaged 20.7 yards on three returns — Riddle said there's lots of room to improve going forward.

"We still have a lot of improvement to make," Riddle said. "It's not just the returner, it's a lot of different guys. That was a lot better performance (than 2006), but we're nowhere near where we want to be."

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