"I used to tell them all the time when I was first recruiting this group of seniors and redshirt juniors, ‘Come on with me, but we're getting in a roller coaster.' Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre recalled earlier this year. ‘When you say you're going to come, I'm going to lock it on you quick so you can't get out. I want you to lock in and I want you to stay with me.'"
Saturday in Boulder, that roller coaster filled with 18 of the 22 players from MacIntyre's first recruiting class inched closer to its crest with an impressive 38-24 win over No. 22 Washington State.
MOST VALUABLE BUFF: SEFO LIUFAU, QUARTERBACK
Both Sefo Liufau and Phillip Lindsay were a part of that 2013 recruiting class, but it's the senior signal caller from Tacoma, Washington who edges out the junior tailback for this week's Most Valuable Buff honors.
Liufau threw for 345 and rushed for career-best 108 yards and three touchdowns in the Buffs 14-point win over the Cougars. It's just the second time in program history that a quarterback threw for 300 and rushed for 100 or more yards in a game (Steven Montez accomplished that feat in a 41-38 win at Oregon in September).
TOUCHDOWN | Sefo putting in some serious muscle today and Buffs are up 21-17 #beatWSU #TheRise https://t.co/EbiID1qCmD— Colorado Buffaloes (@cubuffs) November 19, 2016
"He just has that willpower right now; he has that it-factor." MacIntyre said of Liufau. "Every once in a while, you see that with a quarterback at certain times. I'm just so happy he's getting to do it with all he's overcome."
Washington State entered the game with the Pac-12's top-ranked rushing defense, allowing just 116.9 yards per game. Liufau and Lindsay (144 rush yards, 2 touchdowns) accounted for 252 of the Buffs 268 yards on the ground vs the Cougars. This allowed Colorado to dominate the time of possession in the 2nd half and more importantly keep Washington State's potent offense off the field.
MOMENT OF THE GAME: NICK FISHER'S HUGE TACKLE
Early in the 1st quarter the Buffs were dealt a big blow when safety Afolabi Laguda was called for targeting Washington State wide receiver Robert Lewis on the Cougars first touchdown of the game.
Laguda was ejected from the game. And after another Buffs safety (Ryan Moeller) had to leave the game with an injury, Nick Fisher, who had played in just 39 snaps prior to Saturday was pressed into action. The sophomore from Temecula, California played exceptional filling in for Laguda and Moeller, finishing with a pass breakup and 6 tackles, including this week's moment of the game.
Early in the 4th Quarter with the Buffs clinging to a 4-point lead, Washington State was faced with a 4th down and 4 from the Buffs 18-yard line. Cougars quarterback Luke Falk found wide receiver Kyle Sweet in the flat and immediately after he turned towards the first down marker, Sweet was met by Fisher.
"When he threw the ball I just made sure to wrap up because coach is always saying to make sure we don't miss a layup." Fisher executed the layup to perfection, pulling Sweet down 1-yard shy of the 1st down marker and giving Colorado the ball back. Washington State failed to score the rest of the game.
"Then the crowd roared and I was feeling great. All the hairs on my back of my neck stood up and I felt energetic." Fisher said of his big play. Even Laguda gave props to his teammate from the locker room.
NICK FISHER BABY!!!!!!!! I see you shawty!— Afolabi Laguda (@FizzyFo1) November 19, 2016
"Fisher has so much potential that he doesn't even know about it so when he's out there making those plays it doesn't surprise me" Chidobe Awuzie said of his teammate. "It shouldn't surprise him either, because he can do some much more and those are the kind of plays we come to expect from Fisher."
BIGGEST CHALLENGE FOR THE BUFFS: REMAIN FOCUSED
Late November/early December is arguably the most exciting time in College Football. Rivalry games, conferences coming down to the wire and constant discussion on what teams ‘should' be in and out of the College Football Playoff. Speculation, predictions and a lot of ‘what if's' are being tossed around, so it's easy to see how a team can get wrapped up in all the talk.
Colorado (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12) hasn't been relevant during this time of year in quite some time, so it would be easy to see the Buffs succumb to these distractions. However, I don't see it happening. Perhaps the one thing I like about this Mike MacIntyre led team is that they don't get ahead of themselves. The old cliché ‘one game at a time' truly means ‘one game at a time' for these Buffs. Pac-12 Championship? Rose Bowl? College Football Playoff? Forget all that talk and I believe the Buffs will.
"It was great to see the fans get excited," Awuzie said following Saturday's win. "we just try to stay level-headed on our team, because we know that our dreams could be gone in a second if we don't beat Utah."
NEXT UP: NOVEMBER 26 vs UTAH (Pac-12), 5:30PM MT, FOX
Look for this one to be close. Since Colorado and Utah joined the Pac-12 in 2011, this game has been decided by a total of 27 points. After losing to Oregon on Saturday on a late touchdown, the Utes (8-3, 5-3 Pac-12) fell out of the Pac-12 South race and will be looking to play to role of spoiler against the Buffs.
Colorado's front 7 should have their hands full with the Utes ground game led by senior Joe Williams (149 rush yards, TD vs Oregon). Since coming back from a month-long retirement earlier this season, Williams has rushed for 1,013 yards in Utah's last 5 games.
If Colorado can contain Williams, that roller coaster will be carrying the Buffs all the way the Levi's Stadium, site of next month's Pac-12 Championship game.