BOULDER — Since joining the Pac-12 conference in 2011, the Colorado Buffaloes haven't come close to beating Oregon, losing by an average of more than 43 points per game. But the Buffs never got to play an unranked Oregon team coming off a shattering loss, as they will here Saturday night. The wounded Ducks come to Boulder unranked for the first time since 2009 after falling 62-20 to Utah at home last week. Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau expects to face a "hungry" Oregon team in CU's first appearance on the main ESPN channel since 2012.
Oregon was ranked 13th before the Utah beat-down. "I think they'll want to come out and prove to everyone that they're not the team that got beat last week," Liufau said. "I still think they're a really good team. They've got some playmakers that can make plays against us." Utah quarterback Travis Wilson shredded Oregon's secondary, and the Ducks defense as a whole missed tackles. On offense, Oregon's starting quarterback, Vernon Adams Jr., played poorly and was replaced by Jeff Lockie, who wasn't much better. Television viewers accustomed to the video game type numbers Oregon put up with Marcus Mariota at the controls were shocked, but not Liufau. "I don't think I watched in disbelief," Liufau said. "As the game wore on, you saw where things were going. By no means is Oregon out of anything. Just that night, I think Utah had their number. Oregon will be ready to go this week."
Oregon (2-2) has outscored CU 101-26 in coach Mike MacIntyre's first two seasons. In those games Mariota threw for 678 yards and eight touchdown passes. The last time Oregon came to Boulder, in 2013, coach Mark Helfrich pulled Mariota midway through the third quarter after Mariota threw his fifth touchdown pass. "I think we'll face a mad, hungry Oregon football team coming in here thinking they can beat Colorado like they've beat us in the past," MacIntyre said Tuesday. Oregon's other loss this year was at Michigan State, 31-28. Michigan State is now ranked second in the country, Utah 10th.
"Utah is a very good football team and Oregon is a very good football team," MacIntyre said. "It just happened to be one of those nights when everything was kind of clicking toward Utah's favor. There was two or three plays that happened to them that were kind of crazy that ended up being 14 or 21 points. Their secondary was kind of beat up, so they had some young guys playing in the secondary, and (had) a busted coverage or two.
"They definitely had a chance to beat Michigan State. They're still, to me, a top-10 football team. And I think Utah's a top-10 football team." Colorado (3-1) has won three consecutive games for the first time since 2008. Safety Jered Bell, who had two interceptions last week against Nicholls State, reacted with "shock" to the Utah-Oregon score. "Two ranked opponents, you don't think the score will be that lopsided," Bell said. "If I'm Oregon, I'd be hungry, coming off a loss. You want to prove yourself. I'm expecting them to come here fired up. So will we."
BOULDER — Receiver Nelson Spruce has one more shot at Oregon.
In the four years that Spruce has been playing football at Colorado, he’s lined up against the Ducks three times. None of them have been particularly memorable — at least not for the right reasons — as the Ducks have won handily each season. Last year was particularly forgettable. Spruce entered the game against Oregon as one of the Pac-12’s leading receivers, but left with just two catches for 16 yards, as the Ducks’ defense made him their No. 1 target all day.
Saturday, he’ll get one last chance when Oregon visits Folsom Field for an 8 p.m. nationally televised game (ESPN).“I’m looking at every game I play as the last chance to get after a certain team,” Spruce said. “This year, especially after we’ve built up the momentum that we have in the past three games, and with it being the Pac-12 opener on a Saturday night on ESPN, I think it’s going to be a really special atmosphere. I’m excited for it.” Spruce isn’t the only one with that feeling. The 3-1 Buffs are riding a three-game winning streak while 2-2 Oregon is coming off a shocking 62-20 loss to Utah and has fallen out of the Associated Press Top 25 for the first time since 2009. But while others are writing the Ducks off, Spruce and his teammates aren’t ready to pick up that pencil. “Regardless of what happened (vs. Utah), Oregon is still Oregon,” Spruce said. “They’ve still got great players. If you come out flat, they’re going to run it up on you quick.”
The Buffs, though, haven’t exactly been a juggernaut through the air this season, averaging just 205.5 yards passing per game. They’ve made up for it with an improved running game, and they hope to continue to produce that kind of balance Saturday. More than anything, though, the Buffs enter this game with some legitimate confidence. They’ve won three in a row, including an overtime victory against rival Colorado State. Their defense has been producing takeaways, the offense has been balanced, and each week they’ve reduced the mistakes that were so costly a year ago.
“I think our confidence is the highest it’s been since I’ve been here,” Spruce said. “Even after that stumble against Hawaii (a season-opening loss), we stayed up. We know what we’re capable of. We feel comfortable knowing we can compete with any team we line up against.” “If we handle our business, we can be successful,” Spruce said. “They’ve been the standard of the Pac-12 for the past five or so years. It’s going to be a good test for us to see where we’re at.”
QB Liufau Wants To Find His Passing Rhythm, Offers No Excuses
Boulder - Sefo Liufau doesn’t like excuses. “It’s kind of how I’ve been raised and how I’ve brought myself up,” the University of Colorado quarterback said Tuesday. “I don’t like excuses for anything or any of my actions – not just in football, it’s kind of everything in life. “Pain is temporary; if you go out there you want to win and you might have a couple of bruises, but those wins and losses stick with a lot longer than bruises that you have.” That said, Liufau wouldn’t say – at least not with much conviction – that his bruised right shoulder was affecting his first-half accuracy in last weekend’s 48-0 rout of Nicholls State. But it was “just a little bit,” which Liufau conceded afterward.
This week brings a bigger question for a bigger opponent on a much bigger stage for Buffs football: How’s the shoulder now and how effective can he be in Saturday night’s Pac-12 opener against Oregon (8 p.m., Folsom Field, ESPN)? Obviously, the second part of that two-parter is TBD. As for the first part, Liufau said his shoulder is “feeling a lot better,” then later called the pain, “Immense, (it) more it feels like a bruise I guess. It just really hurts to throw, I’ll tell you that.”
But he and his coach, Mike MacIntyre, said playing Saturday night is a given. MacIntyre said his QB threw much better in Tuesday’s practice than in last week's early work for Nicholls State. He also said that the Buffs’ offensive game plan for the Ducks will include Liufau and won’t be altered because of any real or perceived Liufau limitations. “It won’t change one bit,” MacIntyre said. He claimed his biggest handicap last weekend was more mental than physical. MacIntyre said a few of Liufau’s first-half passes “sailed on him” before he “figured it out” and adjusted his throws.
Finishing 13-of-21 for 168 yards and one touchdown, Liufau was 9-of-17 in the first half and played only two series in the second half. He called perceptions of him struggling to find a rhythm through four games “a fair statement . . . for the most part I have had pretty good games in my estimation, but in terms of throwing the ball it has been hard to get into a rhythm, which is fine. You have to find a way to get the job done.” In Pac-12 QB ratings, Liufau ranks No. 10 in passing yards per game (192.8) but isn’t among the league’s top 12 in passing efficiency. He’s completed 66-of-113 (58.4 percent), with four touchdowns and one interception. His NCAA efficiency rating is 125.6. USC’s Cody Kessler is No. 1 in the Pac-12 at 201.2 (89-of-122, 15 TDs, 1 interception).