November 8th – at Arizona          No. 19 Arizona 38, Colorado 20

The history books for the 2014 season will record that Colorado gave up 38 points to No. 19 Arizona, right at its season average, while scoring only 20 points on offense.

The record will also reflect that the Colorado defense surrendered almost 500 yards of total offense, including 306 yards rushing, falling to 2-8, 0-7 on the season.

What the 38-20 final score does not adequately reflect the effort of the Colorado defense, or the team as a whole. The Buffs were ahead, or within one score, until midway through the fourth quarter … despite four turnovers which led to four Arizona touchdowns. Two interceptions and two fumbles – all by sophomore quarterback Sefo Liufau – conspired to keep the Buffs from victory.

The Buffs were held to a season-low 353 total yards, even though Phillip Lindsay went for 117 yards on 14 carries, and Nelson Spruce added to his record-setting season with 89 yards on nine catches. Ten penalties for 103 yards – half of them for pass interference – also contributed to the loss.

Colorado had not had an offensive play go for over 50 yards since September. That changed on the play from scrimmage, as Sefo Liufau hit Shay Fields for a 75-yard touchdown. Just 11 seconds into the game, the Buffs had a 7-0 lead.

The Arizona offense, averaging over 500 yards per game coming in, was not fazed by the early surprise. The Wildcats, aided by a 48-yard run by quarterback Anu Solomon on a broken play, quickly found themselves deep in Buff territory. The drive was then kept alive when, on third-and-five at the CU nine yard line, cornerback Kenneth Crawley was called for pass interference. With a first-and-goal at the Colorado two yard line, a Wildcat touchdown seemed inevitable.

Except that it wasn’t.

Two runs by Terris Jones-Grigsby netted one yard. Then, on third-and-goal at the one, Anu Solomon was thrown for a one yard loss. Eschewing the field goal, the Wildcats went for the touchdown on fourth down from the two. Instead of scoring, though, Jones-Grigsby was thrown for a loss, giving the ball back to the Colorado offense.

The Buff offense was able to push the ball out from the shadow of its endzone, with a 45-yard punt by Darragh O’Neill pushing the Wildcats back to their 11 yard line. Arizona made it out to mid-field, with a sack of Solomon by junior defensive tackle Josh Tupou putting an end to the threat. A 28-yard punt return by Nelson Spruce, the longest by a Buff since 2010, gave CU the ball at their 43-yard line.

Unable to move the ball, Colorado punted the ball back to Arizona. Two pass completions got the ball out to midfield, but there the Buff defense forced three straight incompletions. A short punt of 20 yards gave Colorado the ball at their 30 yard line late in the first quarter.

Rather than take advantage of three straight stops by the Buff defense, the Buff offense allowed the Wildcats back into the game. On third-and-11, Sefo Liufau was sacked, fumbling the ball away. The ball was quickly scooped up by safety Tra’Mayne Bondurant, who took the turnover in from 22 yards out.

Just like that, it was a 7-7 game, with just over a minute remaining in the first quarter.

On the Buffs’ next possession, the CU offense … gave the all right back. Again, Sefo Liufau was sacked. Again, Arizona recovered, this time at the Buff 31-yard line. Five plays later, Arizona had its first lead of the game. An eight yard touchdown pass from Anu Solomon to Tyrell Johnson made it 14-7 early in the second quarter.

While many neutral observers would have expected the Buffs to fold at this point, the Buff Nation knew better. The 2014 Buffs wasn’t posting Pac-12 victories, but they weren’t going quietly, either. The Colorado offense responded with a six-play, 75-yard touchdown drive of their own. A 13-yard completion from Liufau to Nelson Spruce was followed by a 13-yard run by Phillip Lindsay. A 36-yard run by Lindsay – a run which finally got CU into positive numbers rushing for the game – gave the Buffs a first-and-goal at the Arizona seven yard line. On the next play, the Liufau-to-Spruce connection worked again … just in reverse. On a reverse, Nelson Spruce took a pitch from Phillip Lindsay, then lofted the ball to a wide open Liufau in the Wildcat endzone.

The score was tied again, at 14-14, with 10:19 to play before halftime.

After the Buff defense forced a quick punt, Colorado took over at their 40-yard line. The Buffs then pieced together a smart drive, consuming 13 plays and over five minutes of clock. Runs by Phillip Lindsay and Christian Powell were complemented by completions of 11 yards to Nelson Spruce and nine to Tony Jones to keep the drive alive. The drive stalled, however, inside the Arizona ten yard line. Stopped at the UA one yard line, the Buffs opted for a 19-yard field goal attempt. Will Oliver connected, giving Colorado a 17-14 lead with four minutes left before the break.

Arizona then took the ball as far as the Colorado 41-yard line on its next drive, deciding to go for a first down on fourth-and-three. An incompletion, though, gave the ball back to the CU offense.

Up 17-14, with the ball near midfield, and possessing all of the momentum, the Buffs … turned the ball over again.

Sefo Liufau’s third turnover of the first half, this time his 13th interception of the season, quickly gave Arizona new life. A 35-yard completion from Solomon to Austin Hill quickly put the Wildcats in the redzone. but there the Buff defense stiffened. Arizona twice faced third downs, but twice converted. The second came on a third-and-goal at the two. A pass interference penalty call on senior cornerback Greg Henderson gave Arizona new life and a fresh set of downs. Two plays later, with 11 seconds left before halftime, Anu Solomon hit David Richards for a one yard score.

Halftime score: No. 19 Arizona 21, Colorado 17

The Wildcats took the second half kickoff, and attempted to reassert their dominance. Aided by not one – not two – but three pass interference penalties, Arizona drove 55 yards in eight plays. The drive stalled in the CU red zone, however, with Casey Skowron hitting a 37-yard field goal to up the Wildcat lead to a touchdown, 24-17, two minutes into the third quarter.

The 100th Homecoming crowd sat in anticipation that the 2-7 Buffs would now fold. Instead. the Colorado offense put together a long drive of its own. A pair of 14-yard completions from Liufau to Spruce got the ball into Arizona territory, with a pair of Phillip Lindsay runs netting 21 more yards. The Buffs had a second-and-goal at the Arizona four yard line when another pass interference penalty was called … again on the Buffs. Pushed back, Colorado had to settle for a field goal of its own. Will Oliver hit from 33 yards out, making it a 24-20 game midway through the third quarter.

The Buff defense then, for the first time all night, forced a three-and-out from the Wildcat defense. Two completions from Liufau to Spruce, totaling 18 yards, pushed the ball out near midfield. There, however, the Buffs’ drive stalled, with a 34-yard punt by Darragh O’Neill again pinning the Wildcats deep in their own territory.

A pair of Nick Wilson runs, totaling 51 yards, quickly put Arizona on CU’s side of midfield. From there, however, the Buff defense stiffened. On fourth-and-six at the CU 33-yard line, an Anu Solomon pass attempt fell incomplete, turning the ball back over to the Buffs on downs.

The Buff offense made no progress, though, kicking the ball back to Arizona as the fourth quarter opened. Again, the Buff defense bent, but did not break, forcing another punt near midfield.

Taking over at their own 25-yard line, down four with 12:32 to play, the Buffs again had the chance at a victory late with the ball in their hands. Again, the Buffs squandered the opportunity. After gaining one first down, quarterback Sefo Liufau threw his second interception of the night (and fourth turnover overall), with this pick returned by Devin Holiday to the CU 31-yard line.

Three plays later, Arizona turned Liufau’s fourth turnover of the game into its fourth touchdown. A 27-yard pass from Solomon to Samajie Grant gave the Wildcats their first two score lead of the game, at 31-20, with 9:50 to play.

Jordan Gehrke was then called upon to rally the Buffs, but the sophomore promptly threw two incompletions and was sacked, giving the ball right back to the Arizona offense.

The Colorado defense, which had fought nobly all night, was all in. A 39-yard run by Nick Wilson set the Wildcats up at the Buff 20, with Solomon connecting with Samajie Grant for the second time in four drives. Arizona 38, Colorado 20, with under six minutes to play.

The Buffs’ final possession consisted of an eight yard run by Phillip Lindsay, followed by three more incompletions from Jordan Gehrke, giving the sophomore an 0-for-5 night as Liufau’s replacement.

Final score: No. 19 Arizona 38, Colorado 20

“I thought our kids played extremely hard again; they always will”, said CU head coach Mike MacIntyre. “They’ve got a never give up attitude. We can’t turn the ball over in the Pac-12 and expect to win. We did have three fourth down stops that I consider like turnovers. We’ve got to find a way to quit shooting ourselves in the foot. It’s very difficult to beat a good football team if we do that. But I thought we played extremely hard. I thought we played hard enough and well enough at times to have a chance to win the football game, but the turnovers hurt us again. We’ve got to find a way to fix that.”

Colorado was held to a season-low 353 total yards, the first game since the opener against Colorado State in which the Buffs were held under 400. Sefo Liufau had 252 yards passing, but also had two interceptions and two fumbles. Liufau had a touchdown pass for the 18th straight game to open his CU career, but his nation’s best streak of 12 straight games with at least two touchdowns came to an end.

Red-shirt freshman Phillip Lindsay had the best day of his ten-game old CU career, going over the 100-yard mark for the first time, with 17 carries for 114 yards. Shay Fields, who collected the 75-yarder on the first play from scrimmage, led the receivers with five catches for 94 yards, with Nelson Spruce collecting nine catches for 89 yards.

It was another good day on the field for Spruce, but, in the end, it was yet another CU loss. When asked what the coaches had said after the game, Spruce was blunt. “Not too much, it is the same thing over and over”, lamented Spruce. “The theme is we’re just making those penalties and turnovers that continually cost us the game. I think physically we are standing toe-to-toe with these teams but we’re just making mistakes.”

– Game Notes –

– The 11-second score to open the game was the quickest in Colorado history. Even Cliff Branch, who took an opening kickoff back for a score against Kansas in 1970, took 12 seconds. The previous best for a play from scrimmage came against Texas A&M in 1996. After Ryan Sutter recovered a fumble on the opening kickoff, Rae Carruth scored on a 28-yard reverse … 13 seconds into the game.

– The Buff offense was held to 19 first downs by the Wildcats, the first game under 20 all season. The Buffs did, however, set a new single season record, with 264 first downs for the year. The previous best was 261, set in 2001.

– Fourth-year junior Richard Yates, a former walk-on, saw his first plays from scrimmage, coming in at safety after Evan White left with an injury.

– After a shaky start to the season (five-of-nine), Will Oliver ran his consecutive made field goal string to nine, tied for second on the all-time list (Mason Crosby once hit ten straight; Jeromy Aldrich also hit nine in a row).

– Nelson Spruce’s 28-yard punt return was the longest by a Buff since Travon Patterson had a 45-yarder in 2010. The yardage also pushed the Buffs over 100 yards in punt returns for the season – a minor achievement, but also one which had eluded the Buffs since the 2010 season.

– Senior captain Terrel Smith, relegated to special teams duty for much of the season, was pressed into action due to injuries in the defensive backfield. Smith responded with a team-high nine tackles (six solo).

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8 Replies to “No. 19 Arizona 38, Colorado 20”

  1. I hope we are recruiting a quarterback. I am just not sold on Sefo. He makes at least one major mistake every game. I know he is young but we should be seeing improvement. I am interested in the opinions of others. He should be able to go a game without throwing an interception.

    1. Doug, I would have to agree with you. Sefo also locks onto one receiver… gee can the defensive backs know which receiver to cover in hopes of getting an INT.?

      Gerke hasn’t had that much action under fire…. when he comes in he’s up-tight. I think he should have been given rotations earlier…perhaps 1-2 series per game, and who knows, he may have been able to come in more relaxed. He threw a good ball on a tightrope on 3rd down that was just finger tips in front of the receiver….. and, remember his running TD ? Cat can turn it on for sure. I don’t think he had a pass-run-option down at AZ. Don’t the coaches know his strengths by now.

      I think he deserves a chance, more time. Next year. Does Sefo learn to go through reads ? Does Gerke, Apsay, Montez or Awini provide more versatility?
      Time will tell.

  2. Sefo is pushing way too hard and needs to sit a game and get his head around ball security. He may have been the Wildcats Player of the Game last night. 4 turnovers is 4 too many, as has been his play all year. This team deserves better ball security from him, esp after the defense held UofA to 4 and out at the goal line.

  3. I’ve read this book before. What can Coach Mac do to get these guys to play 4 qtrs. of Football? In my opinion this one is on Sefo. Without his interceptions we win this game.

  4. Mr turnover Sefo , Mr Pass Interference Crowley and Mr couldn’t hit the side of barn Gehrke.

    I hope Sefo is alright and I enjoyed the first half. But as usual we tank in the second half.

    Oh well on ward and up ward.

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