The future is now for the Colorado football team, or at least, it’s visible.
The decision to burn freshman Sefo Liufau’s redshirt in the middle of the season will usher the Buffaloes toward 2014 while dedicating this season to getting the young quarterback out of Bellarmine Prep some experience.
In the first quarter against Arizona State on Saturday, he led a 64-yard drive that culminated with a 10-yard touchdown pass. The score only momentarily cooled the Sun Devils, whose 54-13 win was yet another volley fired against CU’s sinking season.
But while the grisly result was practically banal in this predictably bad season for the Buffaloes (2-3 overall, 0-3 Pac-12), the play at quarterback was assuredly not. While Liufau threw a pair of interceptions in his first collegiate game, he also was 18-for-26 passing while hinting at the athleticism that has his coach comparing him to the ultimate standard.
“He’s more like – and I’m not saying he’s this guy – but he’s more like an Andrew Luck, who can throw it but he surprises you how well he can run, if that makes sense,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said.
“I wouldn’t say he’s a dual-threat guy, I wouldn’t say he’s a pocket guy. But he can run, he has that capability and he’s a big kid.”
The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Liufau will make the first start of his career this weekend against undefeated Charleston Southern (7-0). While Charleston Southern won’t have the talent of ASU, they’ll certainly be able to capitalize on rookie mistakes, even if they aren’t necessarily Liufau’s fault.
“He had a tipped pass (against ASU) that led to the first interception, and on the other interception a receiver busted a route ... So I think both interceptions really, truly, weren’t his fault,” MacIntyre said. “But they still fall on the quarterback.”
If Liufau excels against Charleston Southern, it will give Colorado fans a glimpse into a potentially brighter future, one that can’t come soon enough.
THE KICKER WAS A SKIER
Hitting a crucial field goal with 300-pound behemoths crashing towards him isn’t going to faze Utah’s Andy Phillips. After all, no football player measures up to the mountains he has conquered.
The freshman, who never played organized football before this season, is a former U.S. Alpine Skier. And he was pretty good at it, earning a pair of third-place finishes in the Nor-Am Cup races, and placing fifth in the slalom at the 2007 world junior championships.
Still, his best sport may be football. The freshman played like an All-American in the first half of the season, making all 11 of his field goal attempts, and all 27 of his extra points. The mental fortitude and self confidence that enabled him to race down mountains at breakneck speed has translated well to the pressures of making a kick in front of thousands of fans. In the Utes’ 27-21 upset over Stanford last weekend, Phillips made field goals of 23 and 48 yards to provide Utah with just enough cushion to hold off the Cardinal.
“It was kind of a novelty early in the season. Great story and made for good copy,” coach Kyle Whittingham said. “But through the first half the season, all he’s done is make every kick ... just tough as nails. And I think one of the things that really separates him, makes him such a great kicker, is his mental toughness. And I think a lot of that is derived from his time on the slopes.”
UCLA-STANFORD, PART III?
UCLA hopes for a much better ending than the first two, but in order for that to happen, they must beat a Stanford team smarting from their first loss of the season last week at Utah.
Last year’s back-to-back defeats to the Cardinal to end the season are still fresh in the minds of the Bruins. After losing at home to Stanford, 35-17, UCLA then lost, 27-24, at Palo Alto, Calif., in the Pac-12 championship.
UCLA coach Jim Mora does not want his team to think at all about those games heading into Saturday’s game at The Farm.
“I hope that … deep down in their psyche is payback, payback, payback,” he said. “But if you make that your main motivation, I think you make a mistake. You have to focus on this game, this year, and what it’s going to take to win this game, this year.”
If UCLA linebacker Jordan Zumwalt stuck to his commitment with Stanford in 2010, he would be on the opposite side of Saturday’s game. He decommitted from Stanford just before signing day and switched to UCLA to stay closer to home.
Zumwalt, of Huntington Beach, Calif., has yet to beat the Cardinal, losing four games by an average of 20.5 points. One of his goals will not be met because Utah upset the fifth-ranked Cardinal last week.
“I’m actually bummed Utah beat them,” Zumwalt said. “I wanted that to be us.”