Buffs may have blown shot at Rose Bowl
Did a Rose Bowl dream wilt and die? Quarterback Sefo Liufau was battered and the CU Buffaloes were beaten, 41-10, here Friday night in the Pacific-12 championship game.
And know what hurts the most? The Buffs wrote the most unlikely, beautiful comeback story of the 2016 college football season. They called it “The Rise.” And this story deserves a better ending and a sweeter reward than the Alamo Bowl.
But now Colorado must sweat the bowl selection show on Sunday, and pray that this blowout loss does not drop them behind Southern California in the College Football Playoff rankings. That would allow the Trojans to stay home in nearby Pasadena as the Pac-12 representative in a bowl revered as the Grand Daddy of Them All, while the Buffs are forced to settle for a pity party on the Riverwalk in San Antonio, where the Alamo seems like a poor consolation for the CU program’s first bowl trip since 2007.
In the most recent CFP rankings, Colorado was No. 8. USC, which has won eight straight, including a victory over the Buffaloes, lurked only three slots behind CU. The Trojans have tradition. The Trojans have Adoree’ Jackson, who has mounted a late-season campaign for the Heisman Trophy. The Trojans have television appeal and that annoying fight song. If the committee goes for the glitz, the closest the Buffs will get to the Rose Bowl parade is a television back home.
On the biggest stage of their remark-
able season, with playoff committee members and the country watching, the Buffs came undone. To be blunt, Colorado did not look ready for prime time.
It started badly for CU. And then it got worse. Much worse.
Washington punched the Buffs in the gut on the opening drive on the game, with a bone-crushing attack that sent the CU defense reeling. The 1-yard touchdown by running back Lavon Coleman was the first time all year Colorado had yielded points to a foe on its first possession.
Any realistic chance Colorado had of winning the game disappeared less than two minutes later, when Washington linebacker Psalm Wooching sacked Liufau on a blitz, and the right ankle and leg of the CU quarterback crumbled under him.
In obvious pain, Liufau kneeled, his face planted in the grass near midfield of Levi’s Stadium. It was obvious from the body language of running back Phillip Lindsay what CU teammates were thinking: Get up. Please get up.
“Sefo Liufau, that’s my guy. And he will be my guy until the end,” Lindsay confided to me earlier this season.
“I never like to see Sefo just sit there on the field. I’m always thinking, ‘Get up, man. Just get up. Please get up.’ It makes me mad when I see him on the ground. Because Sefo Liufau should never be on the ground. He’s my quarterback. He will always be my quarterback.”
After being encircled by CU coach Mike MacIntyre and team trainers, Liufau made a determined effort to walk to the team bench, but had to stop twice in his slow, painful 25-yard journey to find the resolve to finish the trek.
Backup quarterback Steven Montez replaced Liufau. The Buffs hung tough, trailing 14-7 at halftime.
When CU players returned to the field from the locker room, Liufau warmed up on the sideline. He took the field for his William Wallace moment. But this is not the movies. The senior quarterback’s heart was brave, but his body was broken.
Liufau’s first pass was intercepted and returned 35 yards for a touchdown by Washington’s Taylor Rapp. His second pass of the third quarter was also intercepted by Rapp. And the rout was on.
“I really messed up, to say the least,” Liufau said.
It stunk, smelling nothing like a Rose.