November 16th – Boulder           Colorado 41, California 24

Sefo Liufau threw for a career-high 364 yards and Paul Richardson set a team record for receiving yards in a season to help Colorado snap a 14-game conference losing streak by beating slumping California 41-24 on a windy Saturday in Boulder.

Wind gusts of up to 43 mph buffeted the two team struggling to post their first Pac-12 conference victory of the season. In the end, Colorado had 485 yards of total offense, with Liufau finding Richardson and Nelson Spruce for 140 receiving yards apiece. Christian Powell added 60 rushing yards and a touchdown as the Buffs were able to defeat a conference foe at home for the first time in two full years.

With two of the worst defenses in the nation set to take the field (CU was 115th in total defense coming into the game; Cal 121st), the coin toss took on new meaning. Colorado won the toss for only the second time all season, and defied conventional wisdom by taking the ball instead of deferring to the second half.

The choice seemed like a good one to start, with the Buffs marching smartly down the field to open the game. Cal was giving CU the short pass, and Sefo Liufau took advantage, hitting Paul Richardson for completions of five, eight, ten and seven yards to push the ball into Cal territory. The drive stalled, however, once CU got near the Cal red zone. A 40-yard field goal attempt by Will Oliver was missed wide right, and the Buff offense came off the field with nothing to show for its efforts.

The Cal offense was also successful in its first possession, but the Bears also ultimately were stopped short of scoring, punting the ball back to the Buffs after reaching the CU 39-yard line.

The Buffs’ second possession of the game got CU on the scoreboard. A 21-yard run by Christian Powell was followed by a 39-yard completion from Liufau to Richardson, setting the Buffs up at the Cal 13 yard line. The next three plays, however, netted only four yards, with the Buffs settling for a 27-yard field goal attempt. This time, Will Oliver was true, giving the Buffs a 3-0 lead with 3:02 to play in the first quarter.

Cal responded with another drive into CU territory, but again, the Bears were stopped short of scoring range, punting the ball back to the Buffs after reaching the CU 46-yard line.

On the second play of the Buffs’ next drive, Sefo Liufau hit Nelson Spruce in the right flat. Evading a defender, Spruce turned a short pass into a 62-yard gain and a first down at the Cal 25 yard line. A 13-yard completion to Richardson and a two yard run by Powell got the ball to the Cal 10-yard line, where, on the first play of the second quarter, Liufau hit a wide open Kyle Slavin for a ten yard touchdown.

Colorado 10, Cal 0, with 3:02 to play in the first quarter.

The week before, Cal had fallen behind USC 21-0 early, only to battle back to make the score 21-14 in the second quarter.

Against the Buffs, the Bears battled back as well.

California, playing with the wind in the second quarter, gained yardage in an exchange of punts. Darragh O’Neill’s punt for the Buffs only went 20 yards, giving Cal the ball at the CU 47-yard line. Eight plays netted 22 yards for the Bears, with Vincent D’Amato hitting a 42-yard field goal to cut the lead to 10-3 midway through the second period.

A three-and-out by the Colorado offense was followed by the first major momentum swing of the game. On Cal’s first play from scrimmage after the punt, Khalfani Muhammad scampered 55 yards around left end for a touchdown. What had been a 10-0 CU lead was now, suddenly a 10-10 tie.

Instead of folding, the Buffs put together a ten-play, 75-yard touchdown drive. Highlighted by completions to Spruce for 25 yards and to Richardson for 15, the drive was capped off by a ten yard touchdown pass from Liufau to Tony Jones. The junior running back scored his first receiving touchdown of the year by taking the ball in the left flat, then cutting back against two Cal defenders to give CU a 17-10 lead with 2:36 to play before halftime.

On the ensuing kickoff, Will Oliver kicked a line drive, trying to keep the ball out of the wind. Instead of skipping down the middle of the field, the ball bounced off of a Cal defender, with reserve sophomore linebacker Isaac Archuleta wrestling the ball away from the Bears. Quite unexpectedly, the Buffs were back in business with a recovered fumble at the Cal 49 yard line.

A 14-yard run by Michael Adkins got the drive off to a good start, but the Buffs later faced a third-and-12 at the Cal 23. Liufau’s pass fell incomplete, but the Bears were called for roughing the passer. Given new life, the Buffs scored two plays later on a two-yard run by Christian Powell, and the Buffs had a two score lead at the break.

Halftime score: Colorado 24, California 10

The third quarter saw little by way of scoring, but a great deal in terms of action.

With the wind behind them, Cal looked to mount a comeback. But in successive drives, the Colorado defense held. While the Buff offense was stuck in neutral – interception, three-and-out, four-and-out to start the second half – Cal was unable to capitalize. On four possessions, including one started at the CU 38-yard line after Liufau’s lone interception of the contest, Cal posted a grand total of one first down.

Taking over with 5:55 to play in the third, and still nursing a 24-10 lead, the Colorado offense got its act together. Piecing together a 12-play, 70-yard drive which included completions from Liufau to Spruce for 12 and 23 yards, and completions from Liufau to Richardson of 11 and 13 yards, the Buffs chewed up yardage and clock. The Buffs settled for a 24-yard field goal by Will Oliver, but now it was a three score game, at 27-10, with the third quarter all but gone.

Cal’s last best chance at a comeback ended early in the fourth quarter, when the Bears’ drive ended with an incomplete pass by Jared Goff on fourth-and-four at the Colorado 33 yard line.

On the second play of the Buffs’ next possession, Sefo Liufau hit Michael Adkins on a short swing pass. The play looked liked it might go for ten yards, but Adkins turned it into a 63-yard touchdown, and those remaining from the initial crowd of 38,252 could finally relax.

Colorado 34, California 10.

The final six minutes saw some drama, but only due to special team mistakes by both teams. Cal scored on a one yard run with 6:14 to play to cut the CU lead to 34-17. The Bears tried an onside kick, but the ball bounced right to Nelson Spruce, who then evaded Bear defenders, taking the ball back 46 yards for a touchdown and a 41-17 Colorado lead. “I was extremely surprised,” said Spruce. “I caught it, and normally you would fall on it, but I kind of froze up and then I saw the sideline and just took off. It was really fun for me; it was something I was not expecting”.

The Bears did score on their next possession to make the new score 41-24, but now only 1:23 remained in the game.

Another onside kick … but a different result.

The Bear kicker nudged the ball straight ahead, where there was only one Buff defender waiting. Instead of falling on the ball, the Buff tried to block the kicker away from the ball, allowing a second Cal player to pounce on the loose ball.

Cal’s final drive, though, was ended when Kenneth Crawley picked off a long Jared Goff offering in the CU endzone with 51 seconds to play.

Final score: Colorado 41, Cal 24.

Colorado’s 485 yards of total offense were the most for the Buffs since opening the season with 509 yards against Colorado State. Freshman quarterback Sefo Liufau, whose previous best had been 247 yards passing against UCLA, went 23-for-36 for 364 yards and three touchdowns. The Colorado defense, facing Cal’s quarterback Jared Goff – who had 3,141 yards passing coming into the game – held the Bears’ freshman to 173 yards passing and no touchdowns.

Junior wide receiver Paul Richardson had 11 catches for 140 yards, giving him 1,201 for the season, setting a new school single season record (Charles E. Johnson, 1,149 in 1992). Richardson had to share the spotlight for the evening, though, with Nelson Spruce, who had 140 receiving yards as well, not to mention a 46-yard kickoff return for a touchdown on a failed onside kick attempt by the Bears.

“First of all, I would like to start by congratulating our team, those players in the locker room, I was so happy for them,” said coach MacIntyre, who won his first Pac-12 game in his seventh attempt. “Our coaching staff has worked tirelessly and really hard together keeping those young men together, and focused. And then, I would like to thank our fans, I thought it was an exciting atmosphere. That’s a stepping block for us going into the future”.

The Buffs, at 4-6, were still technically alive for a bowl berth in Mike MacIntyre’s first season. It would take a win at home against USC – 8-3 and on a four game winning streak after knocking off No. 4 Stanford – and then on the road against a Utah team which also had a win over Stanford on its resume.

“Some people thought I was crazy when I said that a while back, and I thought we could win some games here (in November), and I still do,” said MacIntyre. “I still think we can win some more left; they’re going to be real tough, against real good football teams. But, now there is a little bit more to play for. Senior day is awesome for the seniors, but now the seniors actually have a little bit more to play for”.

Game Notes –

– With the win over Cal, the Buffs broke a school record 14-game conference losing streak. The previous record was eight games.

– The win was the 300th for Colorado at Folsom Field. The win gave CU a 300-159-10 all-time record at the stadium first opened in 1924 (and 391-181-16 all-time in home games)

Paul Richardson … As noted, the junior set the new single season record for reception yardage, with 1,201 (previous record: 1,149, by Charles E. Johnson in 1992) … His 11 catches tied a school record for receptions in a game (By several players, with Richardson doing it for the third time) … His new total for the season hit 71 receptions, just seven shy of the single season record in that category (78 by D.J. Hackett in 2003 … His sixth 100-yard game in a season tied the school record in that category … His eight first downs receiving in one game also tied a school record.

– Nelson Spruce’s onside kick return for a touchdown was the first such score for any Buff in CU history. It was also the first in any CU game since Kansas State returned an onside kick for a score in 1982.

– Richardson (11) and Spruce (8) combined for 19 catches on the night, tying a school record for a pair of receivers in one game.

– The kickoff return for a touchdown was the first for Colorado since Marques Mosley had a 100-yard return against Utah in the 2012 season finale.

– Richardson and Spruce had 140 yards receiving each against Cal. It marked the first 100-double for receiving yards for the Buffs since 2009, when Markques Simas and Scotty McKnight each had over 100 yards receiving against Nebraska.

– With his 364 yards passing, Sefo Liufau went over 1,000 yards for the season (1,103). Combined with Connor Wood’s 1,350, the 2013 season marked the sixth time in CU history (and the first since 2009) in which CU had two 1,000 yard passers in the same season.

– Darragh O’Neill had his 65th punt inside the 20 in his career, tying the school record set by John Torp (2002-05).

– Tight end Kyle Slavin scored his second career touchdown, with the first coming in 2012 against Sacramento State.

– Tight end Sean Irwin made his first career start.

Injury Report

– Safety Parker Orms did not play against Cal, having suffered a neck injury in practice on Friday. “It just wasn’t feeling right,” said Orms. “The coaches didn’t think I could protect myself out there and that is the most important thing. Hopefully I can get that strength back for next week. I think I am going to be out there no matter what”.

– Linebacker Woodson Greer remains “day-to-day” with a “stinger”.

– No other significant injuries were reported.

 

 

One Reply to “Colorado 41, California 24”

  1. We are still alive for a 6-win season and a bowl bid, but must be able to upset a heavily -favored USC next week. It’s unlikely that we will be successful in that game.

    There is a bigger problem up ahead when the season is completed. Will Richardson stay for a senior year or opt for the NFL. We can win 6 next year if he remains in school. If he is gone, a bowl game may have to wait until 2015.

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