November 13th – Boulder          USC 27, Colorado 24

Colorado jumped out to a 17-6 halftime lead over heavily favored USC, but could not hold on, as the Trojans ran their all-time record over the Buffs to 10-0 with a 27-24 victory in Boulder.

Red-shirt freshman quarterback Cade Apsay, playing the final three quarters for an injured Sefo Liufau, went 18-for-23 for 128 yards and two touchdowns, but six sacks left the Buffs with a grand total of 59 rushing yards for the game.

USC took the opening kickoff, and it appeared that Friday the 13th would be anything but lucky for Colorado. Starting at their own 38, the Trojans went for a 14-yard completion on their first play from scrimmage, followed by a 29-yard run to the CU 19-yard line on their second play.

Visions of the 2014 game in Los Angeles went through the minds of the Buff Nation, when the Trojans raced out to a 28-0 first quarter lead on their way to a 56-28 rout.

But then something happened in the red zone … the Colorado defense stiffened.

The Buffs forced a fourth-and-one at the ten (which the Trojans converted) then a fumble (which the Trojans recovered). Instead of taking advantage, however, the USC offense was unable to push the ball into the end zone, settling for a 22-yard Alex Wood field goal.

A week earlier, the Colorado offense had matched the Stanford offense and the Cardinal’s opening touchdown with a touchdown of its own (before failing to score another touchdown the remainder of the game in a 42-10 rout). The Buffs were unable to match the Trojans field goal on their first drive, giving USC the ball with the lead.

Instead of surrendering another scoring drive, however, the Buff defense forced a three-and-out from the Trojans, with the CU offense taking over at its 39 yard line.

A quick strike from Sefo Liufau to Nelson Spruce for 12 yards put the ball inside USC territory. Three plays later, Liufau hit a wide open Patrick Carr, who fell down untouched at the Trojan 13-yard line. A nine yard completion to Devin Ross set the Buffs up at the four yard line, with Phillip Lindsay taking it up the middle for a score on the very next play. Colorado 7, USC 3, with just over five minutes remaining in the first quarter.

The Trojans looked to restore order on their next possession, but held the ball for only four plays before punting it back to the Buffs.

A 35-yard completion from Liufau to Nelson Spruce had the Buffs back in business, with a first down at the USC 29-yard line. Two plays later, though, on the final play of the first quarter, CU quarterback Sefo Liufau was sacked, injuring his ankle on the play.

Red-shirt freshman Cade Apsay, who had only mop up duty in the fourth quarter of the Stanford game on his resume, came in to replace Liufau. On third-and-13 at the USC 32, Apsay was sacked on his first snap of the game, taking the Buffs out of field goal range.

The missed scoring opportunity was quickly forgiven a few moments later when USC quarterback Cody Kessler was intercepted by sixth-year senior safety Jered Bell, who returned the pick 19 yards to the Trojan 26-yard line.

Staying strictly on the ground, the Buffs were aided when, on third-and-one at the 17, USC was called for having too many men on the field. Two plays later, on third-and-eight at the USC nine yard line, Cade Apsay threw his first pass of the game, a strike to Nelson Spruce for a touchdown. With just under ten minutes remaining in the first half, Colorado had a 14-3 lead.

The improbable seemed just a little more likely a few moments later, when the USC offense went three-and-out for the second time in the first half.

The Buffs then, methodically enough, moved down the field. A 20-yard completion from Apsay to tight end Sean Irwin, followed by an 11-yard completion to Spruce, put the Buffs, once again, on the Trojan side of the field. Three Donovan Lee runs, the last going for 12 yards, set up the Buffs in the red zone.

There, however, the CU offense stalled, with Diego Gonzalez called upon for a 28-yard field goal. The kick was good, giving the Buffs a 17-3 lead with 3:14 to play before halftime.

The USC offense then finally woke up, and pieced together a drive of its own.

The Trojans, though, were not able to get any closer than the CU 15-yard line, where Trojan quarterback Cody Kessler was sacked by Buff linebacker Kenneth Olugbode. USC was forced to settle for a field goal, with Alex Wood hitting a 41-yarder as the first half clock expired.

Halftime score: Colorado 17, USC 6

The score was no fluke, even with the Jered Bell interception. The Buffs had a 198-168 advantage in total yards, a 13-8 edge in first downs, and held the Trojans to 1-of-7 third down attempts (while the CU offense was good on three-of-six third downs).

Taking the ball to start the second half, the Buffs drove near midfield, but two sacks of Cade Apsay were too much to overcome forcing a Alex Kinney punt.

The Trojans then set off on a 13-play, 82-yard drive for their first touchdown of the game.

The Buffs appeared to have the Trojans stopped, with defensive lineman Derek McCartney sacking Kessler for a seven yard loss on third-and-goal from the eight, but the Buffs were called for being offside. On the next play, Kessler hit Jahleel Pinner for a four-yard touchdown. Colorado 17, USC 13, with 5:34 to play in the third quarter.

The Buffs’ situation went from bad to worse two plays later, when senior running back Christian Powell fumbled, giving the ball back to the Trojans at the CU 34-yard line.

Seven plays later, USC had its first lead since 3-0, with Cody Kessler hitting Taylor McNamara for a two-yard touchdown. In the span of less than four minutes of third quarter game clock, the Buffs had gone from a 17-6 lead to a 20-17 deficit.

Rather than fold, the Colorado offense put together a drive of its own. A nine-yard completion to Nelson Spruce on a third-and-six kept the drive alive, with a 17-yard run by Patrick Carr putting the Buffs – again – in USC territory.

The fourth quarter opened, though, in the exact same manner has had the second, with a sack of Cade Apsay. Two plays later, Diego Gonzalez was called upon to tie the game, but his 51-yard attempt was blocked. The ball was scooped up by Trojan Adoree’ Jackson, who returned the ball to the Colorado 36-yard line.

On the very next play, Kessler hit his third touchdown pass of the second half, connecting with JuJu Smith-Schuster for a 36-yard touchdown, and a 27-17 USC lead.

The Buffs’ offense next went on a nine-play drive which consumed over five minutes of the fourth quarter clock, but netted only 23 yards, with the Buffs forced to punt the ball away after the Trojan defense posted its sixth sack of the night.

It was then up to CU punter Alex Kinney, who did his job, with a 49-yarder pinning the USC offense at its five yard line.

It was then up to the CU defense, which forced a three-and-out.

It was then up to the CU special teams again, with Nelson Spruce coming up with the longest punt return of his career, a 45-yarder which set the Buffs up at the USC two yard line. There, on second down at the one, Apsay hit tight end George Frazier for a touchdown, making it a 27-24 game with 6:13 still left to play in the game.

The Colorado defense, after giving up a pass interference penalty, stopped the USC offense cold on its next three plays, forcing a punt. The Colorado offense then took over at its own 21-yard line with 4:33 to play … and the chance for an upset.

A clutch completion from Apsay to Shay Fields for 11 yards on third-and-ten kept the drive alive, but the Buffs were unable to get past their own 43, where a fourth-and-five pass to Devin Ross fell incomplete.

The Trojans took over with 1:56 left to play, and were able to convert a third-and-six for a first down, allowing the USC offense to run out the clock.

Final score: USC 27, Colorado 24

The Buffs had more first down than did the Trojans (21-19), and were close on total yards (333 for USC; 281 for Colorado), but a fumble which led to one touchdown, and a fumble which led to another, was too much for the Colorado defense to overcome.

“They’ve been a resilient bunch”, said CU head coach Mike MacIntyre when asked what he told his team after the game. “Our coaches do a great job of not ‘brow-beating’ them; they (the players) do a good job of taking it (the coaching). They were hurting, which is a great sign, and they should be. They’re like me, they are getting tired of hearing, ‘You’re so close.’ I walked in here and I just looked at my phone and I got all these texts, but you have to win those games. And we will, we will.”

Game Notes –

– The victory gave USC a 10-0 record all-time against Colorado (5-0 in Pac-12 play), the best record of any Buff opponent;

– Nelson Spruce picked up touchdown reception No. 22, tying him with Scotty McKnight for the all-time record in that department;

– Following the game, Nelson Spruce was presented with the Buffalo Heart Award “by the fans behind the bench.”  The 17th annual award is coordinated by the same group of fans that initiated it in 1998; they select the player they feel best represents what it means to be a CU Buffalo;

– Sefo Liufau, before leaving the game with a foot injury on the final play of the first quarter, became CU’s all-time leader in total offense (7,842 yards; he did move into second place in career passing yards (7,397, as he passed Joel Klatt (7,375), and is just 13 yards shy of the besting the top mark (7,409 by Cody Hawkins).

– Liufau, who wears No. 13, was injured on Friday the 13th… 13 yards shy of becoming the school’s all-time passing leader.



19 Replies to “USC 27, Colorado 24”

  1. I wasn’t shocked that we lost. I wasn’t shocked the we lost a lead. I was shocked that our guys showed the fortitude to fight back in the 4th quarter (no disrespect just following our trends)but what really shocked me was throwing the deep ball on fourth and five. Really we don’t ten plays that are in the five yard realm of reality.

    I really like Apsays throwing motion. Mechanically he looked fairly sound to me. He needs more reps against the A team.

    1. The fourth-and-five was supposed to be a shovel pass (which had worked earlier, and was a safe call for the red-shirt freshman), but the Trojans sniffed it out.
      Apsay was left with the choices of trying to make a run for it, or throw the deep ball. It didn’t work out, but the deep ball was not the first option.

      1. Thanks Stuart. I’m glad you clarified that. It makes sense but I think I would have sent all eligible receivers 6 to 8 yards deep and that may be why I watch from home and don’t coach.

  2. RE: The blocked 51 yard field goal attempt by CU:

    I watched the game on TV, so I’m not sure I saw everything, but it looked like CU’s # 51 Conner Center had the man in front of him to block and Adoree Jackson uncovered to his right. Center starts to block his man and then sticks out his hand (!) to stop Jackson. Jackson runs in blocks the kick and gets the ball.

    I’m not sure what to make of this? Did Conner Center get his assignment confused? Adoree Jackson is not exactly unknown. Or, did USC see the rookie Center’s problem and jump on it?

    Special Teams coach might want to go over this to avoid future problems.

    1. thanks Chuck as I said I didn`t get to see the game but all it takes is one mistake or assignment .talk about Oregon State being young we have the same problem but the youth getting experence at this stage should really help in the future which i think looks good .

  3. didn`t get to watch the game but sounds like the young gun did goood and the O line follewed his leadership skills ,hopefully Sefo will better but sounds like Apsay just might be able to lead the team . without watching the games i cant say much about the play calling but it sounds like the coach in charge of the calling plays needs to get more in touch with what the team can do and do better and that can take time . plus it sounds like alot of the players are lost on the feild ,or just not knowing what to do .we are doing better and getting closer just need the new recruits to be bigger and better so they can step in and help.

  4. The coaches won’t admit it, but the offensive and defensive lines still need better athletes.

    On a few sacks, Apsay had no time.

    On the 4th and 4, throwing the bomb? You’re a hero if it works, a chump if it doesn’t.

  5. I am with you Mike I thought it should have been a first and 3 but i dont understand the rules ,Stuart can you tell us if we are right or wrong on that call even if it doesn`t matter now ?

    1. I was equally confused, but I guess the officials and the coaches on the field would know the rule better than we do.
      I thought defensive holding came with a automatic first down, which certainly would have made a difference … first down instead of third-and-three.
      One of about 15 plays which could have made the difference in the game …

      1. thanks for your opinon . still makes you wonder in a game that just one play can make a differnce . damn 15 plays wow some one should be making noise to pac 12 head office if this is the case that ref`s are making that maney goof`s

  6. Apsay was fun to watch and did well in his first major chunk of playing time. What a refreshing change: quick throws, powerful arm. Other than that, same old story: a game CU should have won but did not. Mistakes and poor offensive play calling. Let’s have a refreshing change for next year: new O coordinator. If we have even marginally better coaching on that side of the ball, the team would now be closing the gap in these close games.

  7. Lindgren’s inability to adjust his offense to the players he has remains to be the chain we have around our neck. The zone read offense requires a quarterback with a specific set of skills of hich Sefo nor Apsay have. Sefo would be a great pro style roll out passer. Apsay looks like he could be a great pocket passer. Instead we keep with the zone read offense which just does not suit our talent level.

  8. Im not saying the PAC 12 refs cost us the game, but they proved again last night that they have a minimum of one huge mistake a game. Example, first drive second half, USC gets a d holding call on 3 and 13 and the refs award us 10 yards to make it 3 and 3. Since when is a defensive holding call not an automatic first down? With the momentum on our side at the time we probably at least get a field goal out of the drive. Like I said I’m not saying we lost the game because of the call, but to me that was just another “little thing” that bites us in the backside every game. Anyways, love the way Apsay plays and can’t wait to watch him the rest of the year.

    1. Very good point. PAC 12 officials are notoriously bad and have been for years. And it is not just in football, the basketball refs are poor as well. Living in the Seattle Metropolitan area for over 10 years I’ve watched my fair share of conference football and basketball games and can’t think of a whole lot games where there wasn’t at least one big blown call. The general consensus among fans of other schools in the conference is the conference officials do a poor job.

  9. Another CU shoulda won that game kind of game. I have to admit I was happy to watch Apsay play, too bad it couldn’t come under better circumstances. I was at the game and being able to see the entire field it was really interesting to watch Liufau play and then Apsay. Once Apsay got warmed up, his delivery is quick and he has a rocket for an arm. He also makes throws into coverage that I haven’t seen a CU QB make in a long time. Yes he is a bit inconsistent. Yes he needs to learn how to see the blitz and get rid of the ball. But even with the loss I walked away thinking how I’m going to enjoy watching this kid play ball.

  10. This is a game CU should have won. The offside penalty against the Buffs in the 3rd Quarter on the 3rd & Goal play when McCartney got the sack which would have put usc in a long 4th & Goal (and obvious field goal situation) was the point when it all fell apart. If usc is forced to attempt a field goal at that point, I think the momentum doesn’t shift the way it did, the Buffs are more pumped up and focused, Powell most likely doesn’t fumble the next possession, CU maybe gets some points out of the drive, and thus usc maybe gets at the very least just 3 points instead of the 14 they actually did. The offsides is/should be easily fixed with coaching in practice…during spring ball and fall camp, not in the middle of the season. That penalty should have never have happened. I would even contend you could point to one single play last week vs. Stanford early in the game on the Cardinal’s 2nd possession there was a penalty gave Stanford a 1st down when if it had not happened, Stanford would have punted. The result of that possession? Touchdown Stanford. Then, as if to say “no no, we can’t possibly have a chance to win this late in the game so how can we mess this up to fix that…”, and when the defense has been playing very well, you decided to go for a 50+yd field with a kicker that hasn’t bee consistent from week to week instead of punting and making them drive a long field? Yet, still with a chance to win the game you see play calls for passes where, and if you were listening to the game on the radio, was being described as “check downs” but what you saw in real time seemed like the number 1 or 2 options for the quarterback, were a bunch of passes that went for a yard or two. Third and 4(+) and you throw a pass to a receiver who catches the ball at the line of scrimmage with defenders all around him? And you expect to get a 1st Down? I hardly saw a single pass in the last couple minutes were the Buffs tried to throw deeper than 5 yards. I am one of the people that voted on the survey of this homepage that a major coaching change needs to happen. I said it last week, and tonight reaffirmed my opinion – the OC needs to go. The special teams coordinator needs to be on a very short leash or needs to go as well. These same, seemingly simple problems should not continue to haunt us week to week. Some of them should not haunt us at all.

    1. I think one thing that for me puts the nail in Lindgren’s coffin is the constant delay of game penalties in key drives followed up by time outs because Lindgren cannot get the play to his offense in time to get them lined up. When they wee all freshman and sophomores on the field that was acceptable. This season has been a travesty. The young men could have won 3 more games with better leadership on the OC side. The one highlight I am taking from this game is that those kids put on an audition for the OC’s out there. Our prospective coaches don’t need to be afraid that we don’t have any talent, we have tal;ent, we need leadership. I love Mac and regardless of how the future goes I will always be grateful for what he has done to revitalize the program. But he has to make a change at OC. With the last twpo games I might let Walters call the game and see how that goes.

  11. Same mistakes over and over. I think Lingren wrote his pink slip tonight. Brutal play calling in key situations. I said it last week, our situational football is horrible. Also, how does our D not know they were going to go deep after the block? I was yelling it. Situational football, until we fix it, we’re going to be stuck in neutral.

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