The last thing the Colorado football team needs right now is another injury.
Losing quarterback Sefo Liufau to a season-ending foot injury during Friday's 27-24 loss to Southern California was the latest set-back for a team with a growing injury list. The Buffaloes did avoid another scare that night, though.
A few minutes before Liufau went down, CU cornerback Ahkello Witherspoon took a helmet-to-helmet shot when trying to tackle USC's Steven Mitchell Jr. Initially, Witherspoon got up like normal, but then quickly knelt down and took his helmet off.
Trainers helped him off the field and he didn't play the rest of the game.
On Wednesday, however, CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said the junior is doing well and on target to play Saturday at No. 24 Washington State.
"He passed all of his concussion protocol," MacIntyre said. "Unless something sets him back today, but he practiced today and everything went smooth. If he goes good again tomorrow, he should be able to play.
"Right now, we're expecting him to be able to play."
That's good news for the Buffs, as they prepare to face the nation's second-leading passer. Washington State's Luke Falk has thrown for 4,067 yards this season, so the Buffs need all the secondary help they can get.
Witherspoon has played in all 11 games, with eight starts this season. He has 38 tackles, including seven third-down stops, and two interceptions this season.
Quarterback Cade Apsay is set to make his first start this week in place of Liufau.
Apsay doesn't have as much experience working with center Alex Kelley as Liufau does, and said that's been a bit of an adjustment this week.
"My voice is obviously different," Apsay said. "I've got to be more vocal. I need to be more loud on the line of the scrimmage. (Kelley) has to get used to my voice instead of Sefo's."
Apsay also said that compared to other centers he's worked with at CU, Kelley's snap is "faster and more firm."
Receiver Shay Fields continues to deal with an injury to his left ankle. He said earlier this week he's feeling great, but that he won't be fully healthy until the season is over.
"It's going to continue to hurt for the rest of these two games," he said. "I just have to push through it, keep going to treatment and try to get better."
Fields was injured while scoring a touchdown late in CU's 38-31 loss to Arizona on Oct. 17. He missed the next game at Oregon State and was limited in the next two. He caught three passes for 24 yards against USC.
Fields is second on the team in catches (39) and receiving yards (567) and leads the team in touchdown receptions (four). He has just seven catches for 63 yards in the last three games combined.
Left tackle Stephane Nembot beamed when telling about a text message he received from offensive line coach Gary Bernardi this past week.
"I don't usually get a text message from coach Bernardi telling me that I did a good job in pass protection," Nembot said. "For him to actually take the time to text me that I did good job in pass protection, it means a lot. I guess I'm improving."
Nembot is in just his fourth season of playing offensive line, and he struggled mightily with pass protection early in his career. This year, he's been up and down, but has allowed just three sacks in a team-high 824 snaps.
CU's offense has struggled converting third downs, ranking 10th in the Pac-12 at 36.9 percent. However, Washington State's defense ranks last in the Pac-12 in third-down defense, giving up a first down 47.6 percent of the time. ... The Cougars have had four onside kicks attempted against them this year. The rest of the Pac-12 combined has had eight attempted against them. CU has yet to have an opponent try one.
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.