The two interceptions Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau threw in the third quarter Saturday were not the primary reasons his team suffered a 59-7 clobbering at the hands of the Washington Huskies.
Had Liufau resembled the dominant high school quarterback he was in 2012, when the Bellarmine Prep product earned honors as The News Tribune’s All-Area Player of the Year, the Huskies still would have taken advantage of Colorado’s porous defense.
But Liufau, a freshman who wasn’t expected to compete for a starting job — much less win it halfway through his first season — already understands how college football’s chain of accountability works.
“No excuses,” he said outside the CU locker room. “It’s on my shoulders. I’m the quarterback, and I should do a better job orchestrating the game. It’s my fault, 100 percent.”
A year ago this month, Liufau was preparing for Bellarmine Prep’s Class 4A state championship game against Skyline at the Tacoma Dome. The stage Saturday was louder and quite more antagonistic toward starting quarterbacks not named Keith Price.
Gathered in the mist, watching the Huskies control things pretty much from start to finish, was an announced crowd of 66,599, along with a small Colorado contingent that included Liufau’s parents and two younger siblings. (But not Tom Larsen, Liufau’s former high school coach. Larsen’s Lions had a district playoff game Saturday night that required his attention.)
Colorado wasn’t supposed to keep anybody in suspense, and it didn’t. The Buffaloes, who haven’t won a Pac-12 Conference game since the 2012 opener against Washington State, were helpless to stop — or even occasionally stall — a Huskies offense that rolled up 464 yards and 22 first downs
In the first half.
The long-range state of coach Mike MacIntyre’s football program appears as desolate as it was under his predecessor, Jon Embree. And yet, for those Buffs fans inclined to accentuate the positive, Liufau looks like the sort of quarterback a team would be wise to build around.
In his fifth career start, on a night the score got out of hand early, Liufau played with poise uncommon for a freshman. With UW leading 10-0 midway through the first quarter, Liufau hooked up with wide receiver D.D. Goodson on a sideline route for a first down at the Buffs’ 47. A moment later, Liufau found Paul Richardson on a deep slant.
Richardson, who is as talented a pass catcher as anybody in the league, got a step past freshman safety Kevin King, and Liufau delivered a perfect pitch that Richardson caught in stride for a 53-yard score.
Liufau’s fifth touchdown pass of the season enabled him to finish the first half with solid numbers: 7-for-13 passing for 105 yards and a respectable passer rating of 122.
Of course, the salient numbers from a first half dominated by the Huskies were 31 and 7 — the score – and Liufau soon found himself under siege, committing mistakes typical of freshman quarterbacks under siege.
A third-quarter Liufau pass, into double coverage, was tipped by Marcus Peters and retrieved by fellow cornerback Tre Watson, who took the interception back for an 84-yard touchdown.
It was suggested to Liufau that he might have been a victim of bad luck on the tipped pass. He politely disagreed.
“I don’t want to say luck had anything to do with it,” Liufau said. “Their guys made a good play and I made a bad read.”
Colorado’s ensuing possession concluded with another turnover at midfield, after Liufau floated a pass into the hands of Huskies safety Sean Parker.
“Another bad read,” Liufau said.
As for his “homecoming,” Liufau pointed out that “home” isn’t the University of Washington, and it isn’t Seattle.
“I never thought of it as a homecoming because I’m from Tacoma,” he said. “But it’s frustrating to lose, and it’s been frustrating these last couple of weeks. Everyone is frustrated in the locker room. But we’re going to go back to work tomorrow.”
Liufau’s return to his Washington roots might not have been an aesthetic success, but it was impressive nevertheless. Twelve months after he was closing in on the end of his high school football career, he met the press with a stern resolve in his voice. Disappointed, obviously, but he submitted honest answers to tough questions, and he submitted them without a frown.
“This game is already behind me,” said a young man going places.john.mcgrath@ thenewstribune.com