BUFFS NO MATCH FOR THE HUSKIES
Colorado gives up 24 straight points as Washington cruises Buffs struggle to move ball; Liufau picked off three times
Washington denies the Colorado football team’s dream of a Pac-12 championship, pounding the Buffaloes in Santa Clara, Calif. Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau was picked off three times. Colorado will take a 10-3 record into its bowl game.
SANTA CLARA, CALIF.» Sefo Liufau jogged up and down the sideline. He slowly churned his legs on the stationary bike at the end of the bench. He retreated to the locker room, trying to stay warm and give himself one more chance to leave a legacy.
Colorado’s senior quarterback had been knocked out of the game on the Buffaloes’ first drive of the Pac-12 championship game against Washington on Friday night at Levi’s Stadium with an apparent injury to his right leg. His first attempt to rise from a crushing sack on CU’s first drive ended with him back on his knees, crumpled in pain.
Liufau finally walked off the field and then, an hour later, mustered the grit to return to the field to start the third quarter, his Buffaloes trailing by a touchdown and in need of a spark.
Then the magic ran out. “The Rise” hit a wall.
Liufau’s pick-six interception thrown into the hands of Taylor Rapp on the first play of the third quarter opened the floodgates for Washington as the Huskies ran past CU 41-10 to claim the Pac-12 championship.
The No. 4 Huskies now await what they believe will be a berth in the College Football Playoff and a matchup with No. 1 Alabama.
The Buffs will just wait. Maybe they will still slide into the Rose Bowl as the Pac-12 South Division champions, but they may just as easily fall behind USC in the rankings and drop into an Alamo Bowl slot.
“We’ve got a good team,” Washington coach Chris Petersen said of his players. “They play hard and continually get better every game. We’re just proud of them.”
The Buffs may have some of their hurt eased with the news of a favorable postseason destination Sunday morning, but that wait will be coated in pain after CU
watched its ultimate goal of winning a Pac-12 championship game slip away in its worst performance of the season.
“We’re obviously pretty upset. We didn’t put out a very good performance tonight,” said Liufau, who was intercepted three times. “I didn’t do a good job of preparing us and being able to get us quality drives. We really left our defense and everybody else out to dry tonight . ... We’re going to bounce back. We’ve always been able to overcame adversity. It just cuts a little deeper this time.”
The Buffs were still staring their dream in the face when the third quarter began. Washington had built a 14-7 lead behind 148 firsthalf rushing yards, 12 more than CU’s average yield per game this season. But backup quarterback Steven Montez led the Buffs on a game-tying scoring drive in relief, and the Buffs’ defense kept victory within reach.
Then Liufau dropped back to pass on his third play back in the third quarter and spotted Jay MacIntyre over the middle. The pass sailed high. As MacIntyre leaped and contorted his body, the ball bounced off his fingers and into the hands of Rapp, the Pac12’s defensive freshman of the year. Rapp coasted 35 yards into the end zone for a 21-7 lead.
Rapp added to Liufau’s nightmare on CU’s next drive, stepping in front of another pass intended for MacIntyre and returning the ball deep into CU territory. The Huskies settled for a field goal, but the 24-7 lead it produced may as well have been a 100-point edge.
The Buffs were out of juice. The pages were being quickly ripped out of their storybook.
When the Huskies’ star quarter- back, Jake Browning, scrambled away from a sure sack midway through the third quarter and found electric wide receiver John Ross for a 19-yard touchdown after a one-handed grab, the foghorn that Washington sounds when it scores may as well have been a call to the Crimson Tide.
Asked whether Washington should be in the College Football Playoff, Petersen said: “No doubt about that.”
CU’s offense simply wasn’t able to keep up with Washington’s.
Montez had gone 5-of-12 for 60 yards in the first half in relief. Liufau couldn’t find any rhythm, and with an injured leg wasn’t called on to run. He threw his third interception early in the fourth quarter from his end zone, putting a demoralizing stamp on his worst game of the season.
Liufau said his injury wasn’t a factor in the Buffs’ performance.
“We just didn’t execute. That’s the frustrating part,” he said. “We had really good game plan going in. We just didn’t execute.”
Said CU’s Tedric Thompson: “Every week it’s our goal to stop the run game. We didn’t do that.”
Even when CU had a rare bounce fall its way, the Buffs couldn’t capitalize. Trailing 31-7 late in the third quarter, Anthony Julmisse returned the ball past midfield. Washington knocked the ball loose from the freshman returner, but it bounced straight into the hands of Phillip Lindsay, who returned it all the way to the Washington 2-yard line.
The Buffs couldn’t punch the ball into the end zone, left to settle for a field goal that put but a tiny dent in their massive deficit.
There will still be a big bowl game left for the Buffs. In several weeks will come the chance to punctuate what has been a remarkable turnaround season.
But as the seconds clicked off the scoreboard late Friday night, the championship dreams born months ago ticking away, all that was left was hurt.
CU wide receivers Shay Fields, left, and Devin Ross sit dejectedly on the bench late in the fourth quarter during the Buffs’ loss in the Pac-12 title game.
Colorado senior quarterback Sefo Liufau suffered an ankle injury during the first quarter of the Pac-12 championship game Friday night against Washington at Levi’s Stadium in Santa Clara, Calif. The Buffaloes will take a 10-3 record into their season-ending bowl game.