September 6th – at Foxboro, Massachusetts           Colorado 41, Massachusetts 38

Sefo Liufau threw for 318 yards and three touchdowns as Colorado overcame an 11-point third-quarter deficit to beat Massachusetts 41-38 in a game played in Gillette Stadium in Foxboro, Massachusetts.

UMass had turned a 20-14 deficit into a 31-20 lead by scoring 17 points in a span of 2:54 late in the second quarter and early in the third. Then Colorado scored on its next three possessions on a 14-yard run by Christian Powell, and touchdown passes of 70 and 3 yards from Liufau to Nelson Spruce.

The Buffs out-gained the Minutemen, 474 yards to 371, but sloppy special teams play and 12 plays for 124 yards kept the Buffs from asserting any semblance of dominance over a team which had two wins in the past two seasons coming into the game.

The game opened as Buff fans hoped it would, with a sustained drive on offense. A 25-yard pass from Sefo Liufau to freshman wide receiver Shay Fields was the highlight of a nine-play, 48-yard drive which stalled (as has been the Buffs’ custom) once CU had gotten inside the red zone. Will Oliver was called upon to put the Buffs on the board, and the senior was successful, connecting on a 35-yard field goal four minutes into the contest.

After the teams traded punts, it was the Minutemen’s turn to put together a long drive. UMass patched together a 12-play, 85-yard drive, culminated in a 14-yard touchdown pass from Blake Frohnapfel to Rodney Mills, giving the UMass faithful (out-numbered by the CU fans by about a 65-35 ratio) something to cheer about.

Then it was time for the CU offense to take its turn. With a seven-play, 65-yard drive which stretched into the early portion of the second quarter, the Buffs scored when Liufau hit Fields for a 19-yard touchdown and a 10-7 Buff lead.

The Colorado defense then stepped up, forcing a pair of three-and-outs from the UMass offense. The Buff offense, though, failed to capitalize on the opportunity to seize control of the game. Colorado took over at the UMass 45-yard line after forcing a punt, but was only able to post one first down before settling for a Will Oliver 47-yard field goal. Colorado 13, UMass 7, midway through the second quarter.

UMass, apparently unaware that they were supposed to fold at this point, instead roared back. A 17-yard run, aided by a 15-yard facemask penalty, set the Minutemen up at the Buff 12-yard line, with Frohnapfel hitting a wide open Jean Sifrin for a 14-13 UMass advantage.

The see-saw battle continued, as the Buff offense then put together perhaps its best drive of the game. Starting at their own 15-yard line (after yet another penalty on the kickoff return), Sefo Liufau got hot, hitting Nelson Spruce for 22 yards before connecting with Shay Fields for 14 yards and 18 yards. After a pair of Christian Powell runs gave the Buffs a third-and-one at the UMass five yard line, Tony Jones scored on a nifty five yard run to make it a 20-14 advantage for the Buffs.

The Colorado then forced a punt on the Minutemen’s next possession, with the CU offense taking over with just 1:11 to play before the break. Then CU did what it tends to do late in the second quarter of almost every game … the Buffs got stupid. Three incompletions took all of 23 seconds off the clock, forcing the Buffs to give the ball back to UMass. Then, with only seconds left to play, the Colorado secondary somehow allowed Marken Michel to get behind them for a 36-yard gain. Three plays later, on third-and-goal from the Buff 14 yard line, Frohnapfel hit Sifrin on a circus catch, giving UMass momentum to take into the second half.

Halftime score: UMass 21, Colorado 20

Colorado and UMass shared an interesting coincidence from Week One of the 2014 season … both were outscored 24-7 in the second half of their openers. UMass was behind Boston College 6-0, eventually falling 30-7. Colorado, meanwhile, had a 10-7 halftime lead, turning that into a 34-17 defeat.

The first few minutes of the third quarter of the CU/UMass game gave those in attendance (a “partial sellout” of 10,277) every reason to believe that the hometown team would be on the good end of a 24-7 second half in Week Two.

UMass took the short second half kickoff back 13 yards to their 39-yard line. Five plays later, the Minutemen were in field goal position, with Blake Lucas hitting a 34-yarder to give UMass a 24-20 lead.

Less than a minute later, it was 31-20. Colorado, on its second play of the second half, turned the ball over, with a Sefo Liufau pass intended for Shay Fields wrestled away by Randall Jette, who returned the ball 29 yards to the Buff two yard line. One play later, it was 31-20.

The only good thing about the sudden ten-point burst, from a Colorado standpoint, was that it took place early in the third quarter, with plenty of game time remaining. Starting in a hole (after a personal foul penalty on offensive lineman Daniel Munyer), the Buffs marched from their own 12 yard line down the field for a score. A Tony Jones ten-yard run and a 15-yard completion to Nelson Spruce got the Buffs out of their first jam, with a Phillip Lindsay run of 27 yards bailing the Buffs out of a first-and-20 jam after a holding penalty on Stephane Nembot. Once the Buffs got to the Minutemen 20-yard line, Christian Powell took over, with his third run covering 14 yards to pull the Buffs to within four, at 31-27, with eight minutes to play in the third quarter.

On its next possession, the UMass offense got – perhaps – a bit too cocky. Facing a fourth-and-two at the CU 30-yard line, the Minutemen tried to catch the Buff defense off-guard with a quick play. Instead of picking up the first down, however, the play was stopped for a one yard gain, giving the Buffs the ball back at their 29-yard line.

Three plays later, the Buffs took the lead for good. Facing a third-and-11 at the CU 30, quarterback Sefo Liufau was flushed from the pocket. Running to his right, he heaved the ball down field, where Nelson Spruce had gotten behind the UMass secondary. Spruce collected the ball in around the UMass 25, outrunning his pursuers for a 70-yard touchdown and a 34-31 Colorado lead.

After a short kickoff (there were a lot of those in this game by the Buffs), UMass took over at their 30 yard line. The Minutemen got to midfield, but were stopped there, in part thanks to a sack of Frohnapfel by freshman defensive lineman Timothy Coleman.

The Buffs then seemingly took control of the game, with a drive which was aided by not one, not two, but three first downs by penalty (including a pass interference call on third-and-21). The nine-play, 81-yard drive was capped by a two-yard touchdown pass from Liufau to Nelson Spruce.

When Frohnapfel was intercepted by Tedric Thompson on the Minutemen’s next possession, the game seemed well in hand for Colorado. The Buffs were up by two scores, 41-31, and had the ball with ten minutes remaining.

The teams then exchanged punts, with UMass taking over with just 4:24 to play. Instead of dominating, the Buff defense helped out the Minutemen offense all it could, racking up three personal fouls, allowing UMass to score on a Marken Michel six yard run with 2:55 still to play.

Trying to run out the clock, the Buffs picked up a crucial first down when Liufau hit Nelson Spruce for a six yard gain on third-and-five. Needing only to milk the clock to run out the game, the Buff offense almost made a fatal error (which would have merited national attention). Stepping back in order to buy extra time, Sefo Liufau yielded 18 yards on two plays, setting up a fourth-and-28 at the CU 18 yard line with three seconds to play. Liufau took the next snap and ran away from defenders, being tackled as time expired. If he had been tackled with a second remaining, UMass would have been given the ball at the CU eight yard line, down three points, with the opportunity to send the game into overtime, or try to win the game outright with a final snap.

The play was reviewed, with the officials determining that Liufau had, in fact, run out the clock before being tackled, and Colorado escaped with win No. 1 of the 2014 season.

Final score: Colorado 41, Massachusetts 38

“Finishing” was the word of choice in the CU locker room after the game.

“Our focus today was to finish”, said Coach Mike MacIntyre. “We just wanted to go out there and play a whole game to the end and finish strong. I told my players that they needed to each go out and just do their job. We have the heart, the fight, and the attitude.”

“Coach told us to finish every game, every play, and that’s what we did this week,” said quarterback Sefo Liufau, who completed 26-of-42 passes for 318 yards, with three touchdowns and an interception.

“Something that coach has been talking about all week: finishing… and it’s something we talked about at half time”, said wide receiver Nelson Spruce, who finished with ten catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. “We were down by ten at that point… something just kind of turned and we were able to finish and get the win.”

The Buffs “finished” the game with 474 yards of total offense, to 371 for UMass. A net of 156 yards rushing wasn’t too bad, considering the Buffs surrendered 28 yards in the final three plays of the game trying to run out the clock. Christian Powell led the Buffs, with 80 yards in 19 carries, while Tony Jones chipped in 47 and Phillip Lindsay 41 (on seven carries apiece). Michael Adkins, who was thought to be the feature back of the future for Colorado, had only five yards in five carries.

Both teams had five first downs by penalty, with Colorado giving up 124 yards of real estate on 12 miscues. What saved the Buffs was winning time of possession. The Buffs had a healthy 35:15-24:45 advantage overall, but it was the 11:48-3:12 dominance in the fourth quarter which allowed the Buffs to “Finish” with a victory.

– Game Notes –

– The win was the first for Colorado since the Buffs defeated Army in a 1977 game. The victory was the first in the eastern time zone for the Buffs since the “Hail Mary” victory over Michigan in 1994.

– Nelson Spruce had a career-high 145 yards receiving against UMass (topping the 140 he had against Cal in 2013). Spruce moved from 15th into 11th in career receiving yards (1,345) and from 10th into ninth in career catches (116); he is now tied for 10th in career TD catches (11).

– Sefo Liufau’s 318 yards passing were the second most in his career and he tied his career high eight three TD passes. Liufau’s career passing total moved up to 2,338 yards, jumping from 20th into 14th place, with his 17 touchdown passes already seventh all-time.

Senior kicker Will Oliver pushed his streak of consecutive PAT’s to 67, breaking the school record of 66 set by Ken Culbertson during the 1989 season. Oliver scored 11 points against UMass, giving him 205 for his career, becoming the sixth Colorado Buffalo to reach the 200-point mark in scoring.

Injury report … Only freshman defensive end Christian Shaver, listed as day-to-day with a sprained ankle.

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3 Replies to “Colorado 41, UMass 38”

  1. Stuart-
    What ever happened to A. Witherspoon? He was so dominating in the spring game. Is he even on the team anymore?
    Good to so Bobo and Fields out there. A very strong WR Corp for yrs to come.

  2. It gives me great comfort that the Buffs were one of many teams today who escaped with a W. At least it was against an FBS squad!
    Go Buffs!

  3. BUFF NATION: We owe a huge “THANKS” to Mr. Terrence Crowder! He personally got the crowd going and in several instances fired up individual players. Made the trip well worth it and put an end to one hell of a road losing streak. GO BUFFS!

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