Minutes after Saturday's 40-16 homecoming win over Arizona State, as fans spilled out onto Folsom Field, chants of ‘Pac-12 Champs! Pac-12 Champs!' resonated through the air. The Colorado Buffaloes have a long way to go before they can take on that moniker, but the program's first win over Arizona State (1-7 all-time) was certainly a step in the right direction.
"That's a breakthrough game for us," Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre told the Pac-12 Network's Lewis Johnson following the game. The Buffs are now 5-2 overall and 3-1 in conference play, tied atop the Pac-12 South standings with rival Utah. Even more important, Colorado needs just one more win to become bowl eligible for the first time since 2007.
MOST VALUABLE BUFF: PHILLIP LINDSAY, RUNNING BACK
Entering Saturday, Arizona State ranked 5th in the nation in rush defense, allowing just under 90 yards per game. On the flip side, the Sun Devils were dead last in pass defense, giving up over 404 yards through the air. So naturally we all expected Colorado to throw the ball, right?
"...my hat goes off to them because they ran the ball on us unlike anyone has ever run it the whole time I've been at Arizona State," said 5th-year Arizona State head coach Todd Graham.
The Buffaloes rumbled for 315 yards against the Sun Devils, 219 of which came from this week's Most Valuable Buff Phillip Lindsay. The junior from Aurora, Colorado was the first Buff to rush for over 200 yards since Chris Brown did so in 2002 at Missouri. Lindsay's career game included a 75-yard touchdown run on the first play from scrimmage to begin the 3rd quarter.
"As a running back when you can get through the line five yards before you get touched, that's a running backs dream and our offensive line made it happen for us. All I had to do was run. They were so happy to finally see me break." Lindsay said about the longest play of his career.
MOMENT OF THE GAME: SEFO GETS THE START!
Who will start at quarterback: Liufau or Montez? It has been the biggest question each week for the Buffaloes since Liufau sprained his left ankle on September 17th at Michigan. Saturday, in front of over 48,000 fans the senior from Tacoma, Washington made his first start since that Michigan game and did not disappoint.
Liufau finished 23-31 for 265 yards through the air and added 45 yards and a touchdown on the ground versus Arizona State.
"Having Sefo back on the field is having another leader back on the field. He takes charge and does what he needs to do" said junior Bryce Bobo, who had a career high 110 yards receiving.
Honorable mention: Former defensive end Herb Orvis, who played for the Buffs from 1969-71 was honored during the 1st quarter by Colorado and the National Football Foundation. Orvis, who turns 70 on Monday, will become the 7th Colorado player to be inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame this December.
"Herb Orvis caused nightmares for opposing offenses during a Hall of Fame career at Colorado," said NFF President and CEO Steve Hatchell. "His impressive feats earned him First Team All-America honors in 1971. We are thrilled to honor him in front of the Buff faithful at Folsom Field."
NEED FOR IMPROVEMENT: SPECIAL TEAMS
Special teams have plagued the Buffaloes all season long and Saturday was no exception. Two muffed punts by sophomore Jay MacIntyre (son of head coach Mike Macintyre) led to 10 points for the Sun Devils. MacIntyre also suffered a concussion early in the 4th quarter on his 2nd muffed punt of the game. In addition to the return woes, the kicking game is still causing the Buffaloes issues. Walk-on freshman placekicker Davis Price (a combined 3-for-3 on field goals vs Oregon State and USC) missed an extra point in the 2nd quarter and then shanked a 23-yard field goal in the 3rd before being benched in favor of Chris Graham.
"I have confidence in both of them (Price and Graham), they both have good legs, they just haven't played out there in the field goal situation a lot and that's a lot of pressure." MacIntyre said.
The bottom line is the Buffs really miss senior placekicker Diego Gonzalez (out for the season with a torn Achilles) and the experience he brings.
NEXT UP: OCTOBER 22 at STANFORD (4-2, 2-2), 1:00PM MT, PAC-12 NETWORK
No Christian McCaffrey, no problem! After consecutive losses to Washington and Washington State, Stanford bounced back on Saturday with a 17-10 over Notre Dame without their leading rusher who sat out with an undisclosed injury he suffered vs the Cougars.
If McCaffrey suits up on Saturday, he could cause problems for the Buffs defense. The Valor Christian High School star torched Colorado for 220 all-purpose yards and a 28-yard touchdown pass to tight end Austin Hooper in last year's 42-10 win over the Buffs. If McCaffrey doesn't play, Colorado's defense should be able to shut down a Cardinal passing offense that ranks 116th in the nation (158.5 pass yards per game).