CU vs. CSU at a glance
What went right: Just about everything. CU was dominant from the start, racing to a 21-0 first quarter lead and never looking back. The offense rolled, the defense dominated.
What went wrong: The Buffs did have a few dropped passes and quarterback Sefo Liufau misfired on some passes.
Turning point: After forcing CSU to put on its first possession, the Buffs went on an 11-play, 73-yard touchdown march. It was only 7-0 at that point, but the tone had been set.
CU player of the game: Liufau. While he wasn't perfect, he was impressive in his return from a foot injury that ended his 2015 season early. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown and also ran 14 times for 66 yards.
Bottom line: The Buffs needed a performance like this in a big way. It's just one game, but they could not have asked for a better start to the season.
DENVER — Yeah, it's just one game, but it's been a long time since the Colorado football team had one like this.
The Buffaloes' defense was dominant, the high-octane offense was efficient and CU turned the Rocky Mountain Showdown into the Rocky Mountain Beatdown, crushing rival Colorado State, 44-7, at Sports Authority Field at Mile High on Friday night.
"It's a surreal feeling to be able to put one of those games out there like that," said quarterback Sefo Liufau, who became CU's all-time leading passer.
Even when the Buffs did a mistake, it didn't seem to matter. For the first time in a long time, they didn't let one mistake become a series of them.
The biggest challenge for the Buffs seemed to be figuring out how to handle being the team delivering a beating. They led 31-0 at the half, their biggest halftime lead since taking a 37-0 advantage into the locker room against Iowa State in 2003.
"It's the first time we've been in that situation against a good football team," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "You're telling them, No. 1, keep playing like it's 0-0. The other thing is to find a way to finish the game; go ahead and put them away."
While the Buffs did sputter a bit in the second half, they found a way to finish the game in dominating fashion. It was arguably the most complete and most impressive performance by CU during MacIntyre's four-year tenure.
After an offseason of promoting "The Rise" of the Buffaloes and touting their experience and maturity, the Buffs didn't disappoint, winning their opener for the first time in three years.
"It means a lot, to be able to go out there and put a performance up like that," Liufau said. "You can do all the talking that you want as a team ... but once the real bullets start flying, it's really put up or shut up. I think for the most part tonight we did a really good job of going out there and putting our best foot forward and taking what the defense gave us and playing a really great game overall."
Liufau returned to the field for the first time since injuring his foot on Nov. 13 last season. He missed the final two games of the 2015 season and all of spring ball, but was solid on Friday. He completed 23 of 33 passes for 318 yards and a touchdown.
Coming in needing just 13 yards to become the program's all-time passing leader, he got that on his third pass of the night. He now has 7,715 yards in his career, topping the 7,409 from Cody Hawkins (2007-10).
Liufau also ran the read-option well, gaining 66 yards on 14 carries. He did fumble twice, however, losing one in the fourth quarter. On that play, Liufau was hit hard and took longer than usual to get up. He said he felt fine, however.
"I was just (mad)," he said. "I'm not used to fumbling. I just laid there and was like, 'Man, I really fumbled again?'"
Considering CU was leading by 30 points at the time, it was questionable to have Liufau even in the game, but MacIntyre said, "We were moving the football and we haven't been in that situation a lot. There's still the whole fourth quarter."
With Liufau leading the way, the Buffs jumped on the Rams quickly and never took their foot off the gas.
CU's first offensive possession was an 11-play, 73-yard march. On the final play, Liufau fumbled at the goal line, but center Alex Kelley fell on the ball for a touchdown.
Liufau led the Buffs to touchdowns on three of their first four drives to claim a 21-0 lead in the first quarter.
Overall, the Buffs had 578 yards in total offense, including 260 on the ground. Phillip Lindsay had 95 yards and two touchdowns on the ground, while Devin Ross (eight catches, 97 yards, one TD) and Bryce Bobo (five catches, 99 yards) had great nights catching the ball.
As good as the offense was, however, the defense was dominant, holding CSU to just 225 total yards.
CSU went three-and-out on its first six possessions. It was a 24-0 CU lead before the Rams got their initial first down.
CSU didn't get on the board until the first play of the fourth quarter, but by then, CU already had a 37-point lead.
Seniors Chidobe Awuzie and Tedric Thompson both intercepted CSU passes, while Kenneth Olugbode and Jimmie Gilbert had sacks.
While it wasn't a perfect performance, it was one that CU desperately needed entering MacIntyre's fourth season at the helm.
"I see it every day and I've seen it change, there's no doubt," said MacIntyre, who improved to 11-27 at CU. "But we have to keep stepping in the right direction. Now we've got to see how we handle having a little bit of success really early."
Brian Howell: firstname.lastname@example.org, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.
Colorado 44 Colorado State 7Colorado St. 0 0 0 7— 7
Colorado 21 10 6 7—44
CU — Kelley fumble recovery 0 yds (Gonzalez kick), 10:45.
CU — Ross 17 pass from Liufau (Gonzalez kick), 07:42.
CU — Lindsay 1 run (Gonzalez kick), 01:42.Second Quarter
CU — FG Gonzalez 30, 14:04.
CU — Lindsay 1 run (Gonzalez kick), 02:57.Third Quarter
CU —FG Gonzalez 29, 10:47.
CU — FG Gonzalez 22, 04:09.Fourth Quarter
CSU — Wilson 5 pass from Bauta (Bryan kick), 15:00.
CU — Evans 1 run (Gonzalez kick), 04:27.CSU CU
First downs 12 29
Rushes-yards 35-158 56-260
Passing 63 318
Comp-Att-Int 12-29-2 23-33-0
Return Yards 0 53
Punts-Avg. 6-40.16 2-45.0
Fumbles-Lost 2-2 3-2
Penalties-Yards 2-15 4-35
Time of Possession 25:24 34:36
RUSHING — Colorado St., Dawkins 14-88, Bauta 4-39, Hawkins 1-13, Kinsey 5-13, Matthews 7-13, Gallup 1-12, Clark 1-4, Stevens 2-(minus 24). Colorado, Lindsay 20-95, Liufau 14-66, Evans 8-41, Lee 10-41, Bisharat 4-17, Kelley 0-0.
PASSING — Colorado St., Stevens 6-20-2-31, Bauta 6-9-0-32. Colorado, Liufau 23-33-0-318.
RECEIVING — Colorado St., Gallup 4-38, Dawkins 3-9, Peralta 2-11, Wilson 2-7, Long 1-(minus 2). Colorado, Ross 8-97, Bobo 5-99, Fields 3-79, Lindsay 3-23, Lee 2-12, MacIntyre 2-8.