Connections abound in Colorado matchup

UCLA wide receiver Taylor Embree and his father Jon Embree, Colorado’s head coach, aren’t the only ones with a bit of history going into the Rose Bowl for Saturday’s 4:30 p.m. matchup between the 5-5 Bruins and 2-9 Buffaloes.

There’s more family history, with tight end Joseph Fauria’s uncle Christian starring for Embree – then the tight ends coach – at Colorado from 1992-94.

There’s the coaching history, as UCLA head coach Rick Neuheisel went 33-14 at Colorado between 1995-98 and led the Buffaloes to three bowl wins.

And there’s extensive player history, as three have switched sides: Bruins senior center Kai Maiava and senior wide receiver Josh Smith transferred over from Colorado, and Buffaloes wide receiver Paul Richardson enrolled at the school after being dismissed from the UCLA program before his freshman* (corrected, thanks for the tip) season.

The allegiances once ran deep for all those involved, but come Saturday they all know which side they’re on.

“When I first transferred, I was still talking to with the guys back in Colorado, like, ‘Man, I kinda miss you guys,” Maiava said. “But once you start making friends and teammates and realize this is your new family, you realize all that other stuff is out the window. But you still don’t forget about those guys in Colorado.”

In the cases of Smith and Maiava, the fact that both of their transfers were amiable makes the matchup with old friends easier.

Smith even left Colorado with a little help.

“Toney Clemons, one of their best wide receivers, is actually really good friends with me because I’m the one who recruited him there to Colorado,” Smith said. “I told him this would be a good spot because I was going to be leaving, and they were going to need someone to fill in. At least I didn’t leave them empty-handed, you know!? I got someone to rent the apartment I was about to lease. I got someone to fill in the position I was about to leave. They can’t hate me as much as they think they do.”

No, but emotions will run deep on Saturday. The what-could-have-beens will flash for both sides.

Maiava was a nine-game starter as a true freshman for the Buffaloes in 2007 before deciding to transfer to UCLA in 2008. Smith was an All-Big 12 honorable mention pick at kick returner for Colorado in 2008 after totaling the second-most all-purpose yards in a single-season in Buffaloes history as a sophomore, following 23 receptions for 451 yards as a true freshman along with Maiava in 2007. Richardson, meanwhile, has 32 catches for 494 yards this year after a 514-yard, six-touchdown freshman campaign.

Those thoughts won’t matter much on Saturday, though.

“I called a few of them the other day, and we were just talking crap pretty much,” Maiava said. “Just kind of reciting the old days. It’s going to be real fun to play against them. I never thought I would play them again.”

Fate – and money – brought the two schools together during the offseason, when Colorado and Utah joined with the Pac-10 to create the Pac-12.

But even though it’s going to be a family affair, Maiava isn’t opposed to knocking a few heads.

“I definitely want to get (outside linebacker) David Goldberg, that’s my homie, (senior linebacker) Tyler Ahles,” Maiava said. “That’s it on defense, and I have a couple more boys on offense. Two of them play D-line, so I’m sure I’ll run into them sooner or later.
“Hopefully I get the better end.”

News and Notes
Sophomore safety Alex Mascarenas (head) practiced without a non-contact jersey for the first time in more than a month. … The Bruins practiced in just shells – helmets and shoulder pads – as Neuheisel said he wanted to give the players’ legs a rest.