November 29th – Boulder          No. 25 Utah 38, Colorado 34

Buff quarterback Sefo Liufau’s performance against Utah was a microcosm of the 2014 season overall at Colorado.

Liufau set the new record for passing yards in a season, with his 317 yards giving him 3,200 for the year, passing the 3,156 yards Koy Detmer passed for in 1996.

But Liufau also threw his 15th interception of the season, with Dominique Hatfield returning the pick for the game winning touchdown in a 38-34 Utah victory.

Colorado, a ten-point underdog to the 7-4 Utes, took the lead on the opening drive of the game, led most of the game, and had several opportunities in the final ten minutes to pull out a victory, but, as was the case in many games in 2014, could not make the play at the end when it mattered. The loss left Colorado with a 2-10 record, 0-9 in Pac-12 play, leaving the Buffs with a winless conference record for the first time since 1915.

For the third time in four games, Colorado opened a game with a touchdown on its first possession.

Taking the opening kickoff, the Buffs were on the brink of a three-and-out to start before Liufau hit Shay Fields for a six yard gain on third-and-five to keep the drive alive. A 19-yard completion to senior Tyler McCulloch two plays later put the Buffs near midfield. Three plays later, the Buffs faced a third-and-three at the Utah 40, with senior Tony Jones picking up seven yards to give the Buffs a new set of downs. Liufau then connected with McCulloch for 28 yards to give the Buffs a first-and-goal at the Ute two yard line. On the next play, Christian Powell took it in for a touchdown and a 7-0 lead, capping a 12-play, 75-yard drive.

Utah quickly responded, pushing the ball into CU territory in just three plays. There, however, the Buff defense held, forcing a punt from the CU 43 yard line.

The Buffs were not able to take advantage of the momentum, however, going three-and-out, with a short punt by senior Darragh O’Neill giving the Utes the ball back at their 47-yard line. The Buff defense forced a third-and-nine to open the drive, but Utah quarterback Travis Wilson was able to scramble for ten yards and a first down to maintain possession. The Buffs then forced a fourth-and-five, but the Utes again converted. Utah, though, was finally stymied at the CU 24, with Utah kicker Andy Phillips hitting a 41-yarder for the Utes first points.

Another three-and-out by the CU offense, followed by a 19-yard punt return, gave Utah the ball near midfield as the first quarter came to a close. On the first play of the second quarter, the lead changed. Travis Wilson hit Kaelin Clay for a 34-yard score and a 10-7 lead for the Utes.

Now it was time for the Colorado offense to respond. After Sefo Liufau kept the drive alive with a three yard run on third-and-one, Liufau hit Shay Fields on a 52-yard completion down to the Utah one-yard line. There, Christian Powell was called upon again, and, less than two minutes after giving up the lead, the Buffs were back on top. Colorado 14, Utah 10, with 13 minutes to play before halftime.

Utah then turned around and gave Colorado a taste of its own medicine. A 55-yard completion from Wilson to Delshawn McClellon put the ball at the CU seven yard line, with the Utes retaking the lead on a two-yard pass from Wilson to Kaelin Clay for their second touchdown of the second quarter. The extra point was missed, but Utah had the lead, 16-14.

Undaunted, the Colorado offense took its turn with the ball. A ten-play, 75-yard drive ensued, with the Buffs working for yardage all the way. On a third-and-ten at the 25, Liufau hit Phillip Lindsay for a 20-yard gain. Then, on third-and-one at the Utah 46, Christian Powell carried for two yards. Two plays later, the Buffs faced a third-and-five at the 39, Liufau hit Nelson Spruce for six yards and another first down. On the very next play, Christian Powell went off the left side for 33 yards and a touchdown. With 5:20 to play in the first half, Powell had his third touchdown, and Colorado had a 21-16 lead.

The Colorado defense then posted its first three-and-out of the game, with Addison Gillam picking up a sack of Wilson along the way. The Buffs were then able to put together an eight-play, 73-yard drive, using up most of the remaining first half clock. A 36-yard completion from Liufau to Tyler McCulloch set the Buffs up at the Ute 13, but there the drive stalled, with Will Oliver hitting a 29-yard field goal with 16 seconds remaining.

Halftime score: Colorado 24, No. 25 Utah 16

The second half opened with a sequence of plays which Buff fans were still talking about well after the game. On third-and-nine on the opening possession of the third quarter. Travis Wilson launched a pass deep into Colorado territory, where it was intercepted by senior safety Terrel Smith. The pick, the first for the Buffs in seven games, was overturned by official review. Still, it was now fourth-and-nine, and the Buffs were set to get the ball back. Instead, punter Tom Hackett faked the punt, taking the ball 24 yards to midfield. A 42- yard completion on the next play set the Utes up with a first-and-goal at the eight, with running back Devontae Booker scoring from the one two plays later. A two-point conversion attempt failed, leaving CU with a 24-22 lead.

The Utes again had momentum, but again the CU offense responded. Taking over after a 35-yard kickoff return by Phillip Lindsay, the Buffs’ first drive of the second half opened with three straight Christian Powell runs. The junior ripped off runs of 17, three, and 14 yards, taking the ball to the Utah 31 yard line. There, however, the drive stalled, with Will Oliver called upon for a 46-yard field goal. The senior was good, giving the Buffs a 27-22 lead five minutes into the third quarter.

Then it was Utah’s turn to put together a drive. The Utes went 75 yards in nine plays, with a 28-yard touchdown pass from Wilson to Westlee Tonga completing the drive. Wilson was intercepted on the two-point conversion attempt, but Utah had its first lead of the second half, at 28-27, midway through the third quarter.

The see-saw battle continued, with the Buffs taking the lead back three plays later. On third-and-one at the 34, Liufau hit Nelson Spruce on a crossing pattern, with the junior receiver scoring his school-record 12th receiving touchdown after out-racing the Utah secondary to the end zone. Colorado 34, Utah 28.

The string of scoring drives remained unbroken after Utah went 57 yards on 11 plays on its next possession. The Utes made it into the Buff redzone before stalling, with kicker Andy Phillips hitting a 34-yarder to make it a three-point game late in the third quarter.

A three-and-out from the CU offense followed, with Darragh O’Neill’s punt the first of the second half for either team coming in the final minute of the third quarter. It was then up to the Colorado defense to make a stand. Utah drove as far as the CU 45, but punted the ball back to the Buffs.

Then, with 10:39 to play, the Colorado offense, with the ball and the lead, made a fatal mistake. On the second play of the drive, Sefo Liufau attempted to hit Christian Powell on a screen pass. Instead, he hit Dominique Hatfield, with the Ute defensive back going 20 yards untouched to give Utah a 38-34 lead.

The Buffs were down, but ten minutes still remained on the game clock. In each instance previously, when the Utes had scored to take the lead, the Buffs had responded with a scoring drive of their own.

A 46-yard kickoff return by Donovan Lee gave the Buffs great field position, but the CU offense could not take advantage. A seven yard scramble by Sefo Liufau on second-and-nine gave the Buffs a manageable third-and-two at the Utah 46 yard line. A Tony Jones run on the next play went nowhere, leaving the Buffs with a fourth-and-two. Instead of going for the first down, the Buffs punted, with Darragh O’Neill’s kick being downed at the Utah four yard line.

The strategy seemed to work, as the CU defense forced a three-and-out. On the ensuing punt, though, despite having two returners back, the Buffs failed to field the punt, with the roll giving Utah punter Tom Hackett a 70-yard punt.

An 18-yard completion from Liufau to Tyler McCulloch got the Buffs out to midfield, with five minutes still remaining. After a two yard completion to Nelson Spruce, the Buffs were in Utah territory, with a chance at a game-winning drive. The next two plays, though, netted a loss of three yards, with the Buffs punting the ball back to the Utes.

Taking over at their 14 yard line with 3:48 to play, the Utes were able to convert two third downs, the second being a third-and-eight with 1:18 to play, allowing Utah to run out the remaining clock.

Final score: No 25 Utah 38, Colorado 34

“We’re getting closer and eventually we’ll pop through and keep climbing that mountain, get through the clouds and it’ll roll like dominoes” said CU head coach Mike MacInytre, who fell to 2-16 in two seasons of Pac-12 play.

On becoming the first team in 99 seasons to lose all of its conference games, MacIntyre said, “All that it means to me is that we went 0-9 in conference. We played our a—s off, excuse my language, in a lot of games. We were a lot closer in our Pac-12 games this year than last year. We’ll punch through and start winning a lot of games.”

As to another “close, but no cigar” game, MacIntyre opined, “I think that the word I’d use is ‘gut-wrenching.’ When you look in the eyes of those young men and see how down they are, but they keep fighting and pushing. I believe to turn anything around in anything that you do takes hope, passion and endurance, and endurance is the biggest thing. If you can endure, then you’ll keep your hope and passion alive. There are a lot of gut-wrenching things that happen along the way. It takes a little of iron-sharpens-iron in a way. I believe that we’re getting there. I believe in those young men and I believe in that coaching staff.”

The final statistics were as close as the final score. Utah finished with 439 yards of total offense, to 433 for Colorado. Sefo Liufau had the edge in passing, with his 317 yards just six yards better than the 311 posted by Travis Wilson. CU converted 9-of-16 third down conversions; Utah 10-of-18. The Buffs had the lead after the first (7-3), second (24-16), and third (34-31) quarters … just not the final score.

Christian Powell led the Buffs with 75 yards on ten carries, with three of those carries going for touchdowns. Tyler McCulloch had four catches for 101 yards on the afternoon, while Nelson Spruce had 91 yards on five catches.

Game Notes –

– Colorado finished with an 0-9 record in Pac-12 play, marking the first time in 99 seasons in which the Buffs did not win at least one conference game. The 1915 Buffs finished with an 0-5 record in Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference play (1-6 overall);

– Temperature at kickoff was 66-degrees, five degrees higher than the home opener in September against Arizona State;

– The Buffalo Heart Award was presented to senior cornerback Greg Henderson, who set a new school record for starts by a defensive back (45), breaking the old record of 43 set by Victor Scott (1980-83);

– Christian Powell entered the finale third on the team in rushing, but his 75 yards gave him 448 for the season, the third straight season he led the team in rushing (the ninth Buff to do so);

– Colorado finished the season with the most plays on offense in school history (996; old record was 906 in 2002). Other new school records set were for first downs (159), passing first downs (159), pass attempts (545), completions (348), yards, (3,415) and touchdown passes (29);

– The Buffs had four losses in Pac-12 play by a combined 15 points, the first time CU endured that many close losses since 1964;

– Attendance for the game (including hundreds, if not thousands, of tickets given away) was 39,155, giving CU an average attendance of 37,778, the lowest since 1985 (36,789);

– Sefo Liufau finished the season with numerous records, including completions (325), attempts (498), yards (3,200), touchdowns (28), and completion percentage (65.3). He also set single season records for total offense (3,336) and most three hundred yard passing games (five);

– Nelson Spruce set the single season record for receptions (106) and touchdowns (12), with the latter record passed against Utah (having been tied with the 11 touchdown receptions by D.J. Hackett in 2003). Spruce became just the seventh player in Pac-12 history with over 100 receptions in a season;

– The Liufau-to-Spruce touchdown was the 16th for the pair, snapping a tie shared with Cody Hawkins and Scotty McKnight;

– Senior kicker Will Oliver finished his career with 102 consecutive extra points (the old record was 66). His 279 career points came in second behind Mason Crosby’s 307. He also finished second in career field goals (with 50) and field goal attempts (69), and first in PAT kicks made (129) and attempted (131);

– Freshman wide receiver Shay Fields finished the season with 50 catches, breaking the freshman record of 34 catches set by Paul Richardson in 2010. Fields’ 486 yards was second behind the 514 posted by Richardson;

– Senior wide receiver Tyler McCulloch (four catches for 101 yards), had the first 100-yard game of his career. He finished his career with 88 receptions (20th on the all-time list) and 1,089 yards (21st). McCulloch became the 25th player in school history to post over 1,000 yards receiving in his career.

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7 Replies to “No. 25 Utah 38, Colorado 34”

  1. I feel bad. All game long we leading, leading, leading and all the time I am wondering how are we going to find a way to lose this one.
    The mantra is “we are getting better” but it is still a kick in the gut to give this one away.
    Stand tall Buffs help is on the way…. Right? Help is on the way?
    Maybe Aspay can light he competitive fire under Sefo. The fire that tells Sefo “understand what is in front of you before you throw the ball”.
    I would dearly love to see Sefo blossom because of the teams he has had to play with. But he needs t understand he is part of the teams he is playing with.

  2. Liufau will be the downfall of Mcintyre. Someone is pulling the strings here. Its too obvious. You dont keep playing a QB that leads FBS in turnovers and cost much needed winnable games. Mcintyre just named him team offensive MVP. What kind of message is that to the team? Its OK to throw pick sixes to lose games we have a lead on late and get an award? Disgusting. After his smart comment to the female reporter on press conference I have lost all respect for this coach. He will soon lose the respect of players and his coaches. I bet some jump ship on this sinking vessel. The captain is not righting the ship, he is sinking it.

  3. #1 Priority is D linemen. They don’t contain and they don’t put any pressure on the QB. That’s why we only had 3 interceptions all year

  4. Well it was a long tough season and i want to say a big thank you to all of the players and especially the seniors !!! I thought the team was capable of going 6-6 this year and had that opportunity and could have one more but unfortunately that did not happen. I give Sefo i ton of credit for hanging in there all year. Seemed like he was taking a beating on every other play but kept getting back up. Broke a number of school records was a great leader kept the Buffs in games and never quite. Unfortunately his continued bad decisions horribly timed interceptions and starring down receivers kept them from winning games. The numerous injuries to the defense aside they still had chances to win so many games!!! It wasn’t that Sefo played horrible throughout games it was really just a few plays in every game. You would have thought he would grow and learn but he never did ? Sefo and the whole team got better from year one to year two in Mike McIntyre’s first two seasons but cant’ get over the hump. I along with a lot of you i am sure are not very impressed with this coaching staff. Poor clock management to many bad decisions overall extremely disappointed all year long. This coaching staff needs to step up there game and maybe a new special teams coach wouldn’t hurt. Cant understand leaving that side wide open on the fake punt and not having someone to field two of the punts that got behind them. The defense as i said before went through plenty of injuries but still played good enough if it weren’t for the play of Sefo. Now i am sure he was the best they had this year but the answer for next year better not be Sefo. I fear if that is the case then we will see basically see the same results. If that is the case i think Rick George needs to make that tough decision and replace coach Mac. Don’t know the names of the following but maybe the OHIO STATE,BAYLOR,TEXAS CHRISTIAN or AUBURN O.C.to take over? From the looks of it the successful teams in the PAC-12 are mostly lead by offensive minded coaches. I have been a fan of this program from my youth and will continue to support them to the the end!!!!!! I love the BUFFS and hope for nothing but the best for them while they are here and after they graduate!!! Go get em in 2015 GO BUFFS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    1. In my opinion the coaching staff has done a pretty fair job of recruiting and developing the players on this team. (A big nod to our WR coach, of course.) In-state recruiting has been improved. This is all a HUGE part of the equation.

      Unfortunately, I don’t think Mac or either of his coordinators are great ‘X and O’ guys.

      On offense the play calling is generic (with small flashes of forward thinking) and repetitive. How many times did we see the screen to Fields this season?

      The defense started out the season refusing/failing to adjust to the Colorado State offense. Even before being ravaged by injuries the DB’s were a mess. There are some athletes at safety but they all seem to be lacking (football?) intelligence or any real guidance. (see Crawley, K.)

      I don’t see any harm in keeping this staff together for another year (or two) as long as they continue to bring in and develop talented players. HOWEVER, in order to move forward and compete with the rest of the PAC 12 (at least) one of Mac’s coordinators need to be replaced with a solid GAME TIME coach.

      Thank you Buffs. Thank you seniors.

      1. Correct me if i am wrong but i believe coach Mac honored all of the scholarship offers Embo’s staff had already issued before being let go. So I think it is a bit early to comment on the recruiting classes.Lets hope this staff has another 2-3 years and then well see how well they have done. I was commenting more on the coaches poor in game decisions more than overall. There has got to be a better special teams coach available?

  5. From cjbuff:

    That game was simply a microcosm of the entire Buffs season. CU could have won by 2 TDs. I was impressed with the effort of the decimated defense, which did enough to win the game. Liufau throws another dagger through the heart of Buff fans with his signature game-losing interception. I’m excited for 2015 though and think the team will be bigger, stronger, more talented, and much improved…

    Dang it I’m sorry but I just can’t get over the interception. Liufau has 15 interceptions. He has been rushed, hit, and sacked quite a bit this season because of poor offensive line play. I could forgive him throwing an interception every once in a while under stress. But the thing is, many were like the one he threw today. Telegraphed, unforced, poorly thrown passes right into the defenders hands. I don’t see CU getting a 6-win bowl game season until either Liufau fixes these mental mistakes, or another QB emerges.

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