FORGET THE ALAMO BOWL
OKLAHOMA STATE 38, COLORADO 8
Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau dives for a short gain against Oklahoma State in the second quarter of Thursday night’s Alamo Bowl in San Antonio. Liufau got injured on the play and came out the game. The Buffaloes lost 38-8. Andy Cross, The Denver Post » denverpost.com,
san antonio» The round balloons, hundreds of them in a dozen different colors, were suspended high above the 50-yard line at the Alamodome on Thursday night, ready to accent a celebration. Below all of that restrained helium, Colorado was playing for validation.
The Buffaloes piled up 10 wins and then fell on their collective face in the Pac-12 championship game against Washington, losing 41-10 nearly a month ago. They insisted they were motivated to give a turnaround season the ending it deserved at the Alamo Bowl.
But the balloons that dropped after CU walked off the artificial turf late Thursday became the first reminder for the Buffs that The Rise ended in a plunge.
CU was lifeless, unfocused and unprepared in its first bowl game in nine seasons, unable to muster any of the magic that produced a Pac-12 South Division championship in a 38-8 loss to Oklahoma State (10-3).
“It’s frustrating the way things happened,” said CU senior quarterback Sefo Liufau. “We didn’t come out firing. We got outexecuted. I enjoyed this season a lot. We didn’t end with an exclamation point. The wheels on the bus kind of fell off, but I wouldn’t trade this season for anything.”
The Buffs, who finished 10-4, had been no match for the national playoff-bound Huskies back on Dec. 2. A top-15 matchup against a former Big 12 opponent after nearly a month layoff was a consolation prize many Buffs fans couldn’t have imagined.
Somehow CU appeared even less prepared for this prime-time TV appearance. The Buffs couldn’t muster any traction on offense, narrowly avoiding their first-ever bowl shutout only on a Liufau touchdown run with 5:28 left. Oklahoma State entered the game
allowing more than 200 rushing yards per game. The Buffs gained only 47 yards on the ground in the first half, by which time they trailed 17-0.
CU had fewer than 200 total yards through three quarters, by which time Oklahoma State had its victory all but wrapped up.
“It comes down to playing football,” CU running back Phillip Lindsay said. “It’s about who is going to be more physical. You could see the experience of them being in a bowl game. We just didn’t execute. We have to get into a groove. That’s what our offense is based on. When you can’t be balanced, it’s tough.”
Liufau injured his right ankle near the end of the first half. He returned late in the third quarter but was ineffective for most of the game. He had 1 yard on nine carries through three quarters, and was consistently stonewalled by the Oklahoma State defense on third- and fourth-and-short situations.
A CU defense that had to deal with the loss of coordinator Jim Leavitt, who left three weeks ago to take the same job at Oregon, looked confused against Oklahoma State’s vaunted passing attack. Before he left in the third quarter with a hand injury, Cowboys wide receiver James Washington had already caught nine passes for 171 yards and one touchdown.
The Buffs entered Thursday having allowed only 182.5 passing yards per game.
But Oklahoma State quarterback Mason Rudolph had an easy time carving up a CU secondary that was hobbled, throwing for 314 yards and three touchdowns. CU’s top cornerback, senior Chidobe Awuzie, was slowed by an apparent toe injury and couldn’t keep pace with Washington. CU’s other senior corner, Ahkello Witherspoon, didn’t start and played only sparingly. Safety Ryan Moeller also missed time after absorbing a crushing block in the first half.
By the time Rudolph threw his third touchdown pass of the game at the end of the third quarter, a 23-yard throw to Jhajuan Seales that put Oklahoma State ahead 31-0, he had already completed 20-of-29 passes for 294 yards.
Typical special-teams woes — a missed field goal, short punts — also added to the long list of woes for CU.
“Any time you lose a game, it hurts,” Lindsay said. “When you win 10 games, it isn’t a fluke. We just didn’t go out and do it.”
Lindsay was a rare bright spot for the Buffs. The junior ran hard, and his 38-yard catch-and-run play near the end of the second quarter put CU into Oklahoma State territory. But freshman quarterback Steven Montez, who replaced Liufau in the second quarter, threw an interception on a fleaflicker on the next play.
“It was my fault,” Montez said at halftime. “I underthrew it.”
It may not have mattered much, the way things went for the Buffs deep in the heart of Texas.
Oklahoma State’s James Washington celebrates Thursday after scoring against CU’s Chidobe Awuzie, left, and Tedric Thompson.
Oklahoma State wide receiver James Washington makes an acrobatic catch against Colorado defensive back Chidobe Awuzie during the second quarter of the Alamo Bowl in San Antonio on Thursday night. Andy Cross, The Denver Post
Colorado linemen show their disappointment late in the fourth quarter of the Alamo Bowl on Thursday night. Oklahoma State pounded the Buffaloes 38-8 in San Antonio.