At the beginning of the 4th quarter on Saturday, Colorado led 28-24. Washington State was driving for the go ahead score. Buffaloes fans had seen this type of heartbreak for years, wondering if the bubble was finally going to pop on this Cinderella story that is the 2016 Colorado Buffaloes. Luke Falk and the Cougars offense had a 4th and 4 from the Colorado 18 yard line and in typical Mike Leach fashion; he left the offense on the field, to go for it. Falk threw an out route short of the sticks, and Buffaloes safety Nick Fisher shot out of a cannon, and knocked Kyle Sweet down one yard before the 1st down marker. Colorado Ball. This is what makes this Buffaloes team so special, as Nick Fisher was forced into action because of a questionable targeting call that knocked starting safety Afolabi Laguda out of the game in the 1st quarter.
After the turnover on downs, Colorado drove right down the field, and Chris Graham made a 45-yard field goal to extend the lead to 31-24. From there, the Buffaloes defense forced a 3 and out, and a punt. Again the Colorado offense answered the bell, driving 63 yards in 9 plays capped off by a Phillip Lindsay 13 yard touchdown run to give the Buffaloes a 38-24 lead, and essentially ice the game.
Quarterback Sefo Liufau, who has taken the brunt of the blame for Colorado’s struggles in the past couple of years was magnificent, going 27/41 for 345 yards and rushed 23 times for 108 yards and 3 touchdowns en route to a PAC-12 Offensive Player of the Week award, the second he’s earned this year. The Buffaloes ran all over the best rush defense in the PAC-12, combining for 258 yards on 59 carries and 5 total rushing touchdowns. Jay McIntyre stepped up in the absence of injured receiver Bryce Bobo, and made big catch after big catch in front of a raucous Folsom Field crowd.
Defensively, the Buffaloes weathered the storm, gave up 14 points in the 1st quarter, and only 10 the entire rest of the game. The PAC-12’s highest scoring offense in the 4th quarter managed no points, as the defense made play after play to keep the Cougars off the scoreboard. Luke Falk was magnificent in the losing effort though, going 26/53 for 325 yards and 3 touchdowns. He did throw 1 interception, but it was late in the game when he had to start to force the ball.
Colorado plays Utah in the Rumble in the Rockies on Saturday night at Folsom Field. A trip to the PAC-12 title game hangs in the balance for the Buffaloes. They’ll be playing in front of a rowdy, sold out crowd, and I expect them to be ready to play. Utah can run the ball, and Colorado’s goal has to be to make them one-dimensional. If the Buffaloes can stop Joe Williams, and force Utah to beat them through the air, they’ll be in good shape. Mike McIntyre told this team in May that they had a PAC-12 Championship team in the room. Everyone outside of that locker room laughed. On Saturday, the Buffaloes are going to be the ones laughing, laughing all the way to Santa Clara. Colorado 28-17.