CU vs. Washington State, at a glance
What went right: Colorado played arguably the best fourth quarter it has played in years. They shut out the Washington State offense and forced two turnovers in the process. Offensively they scored the last 17 points of the game to pull away.
What went wrong: Through much of the first three quarters, the Buffs had trouble stopping the Cougars' offense. WSU quarterback Luke Falk threw three touchdown passes and the running backs gashed the Buffs with big plays.
Turning point: After Washington State took a 24-21 lead with 3:18 to play in the third quarter, the Buffs responded with a 75-yard scoring drive, capped by Sefo Liufau's 11-yard touchdown run. The defense shut down the Cougars on the next possession, and from there, CU took off.
CU player of the game: Sefo Liufau. Several players could have been picked for this, but Liufau was sensational. The senior quarterback threw for 345 yards and ran for a career-high 113 yards and three touchdowns.
Bottom line: Colorado came through with its biggest victory in more than a decade. With the win, the Buffs are in position to win the Pac-12 South title if they can beat Utah next Saturday.
The significance of the moment wasn't lost on senior center Alex Kelley.
A leader for the Colorado Buffaloes who has been here longer than anybody, he couldn't help but stand back and watch a sea of fans run onto the field to celebrate the program's biggest victory in over a decade.
"Everyone was rushing the field and I just kind of had to take a step back and let it all sink in," Kelley said.
On Saturday, the 12th-ranked Buffaloes knocked off No.
"We've accomplished a lot of stuff during this season, but one thing we haven't done is beat a ranked opponent," senior cornerback Chidobe Awuzie said. "That was a real big personal goal, a defensive goal. Now we have a gold brick on the wall."
That could be just the beginning for the Buffs (9-2, 7-1 Pac-12 South).
Ranked 12th in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches' polls, CU could make a move in the race for the College Football Playoff. The Buffs came into the week at No. 10 in the CFP rankings and one team ahead of them - No. 5 Louisville - lost this week.
The first priority for the Buffs, however, is winning the South division, and after Saturday's results, there's only one way to do that: Beat Utah next Saturday in Boulder.
The Utes (8-3, 5-3) fell out of contention with a stunning 30-28 loss to Oregon on Saturday, but CU needs to beat them in order to hold off USC (8-3, 7-2). The Trojans wrapped up Pac-12 play with a 36-14 win against UCLA and they hold the tie-breaker against the Buffs if the two teams finished tied.
Given how they handled Saturday's big stage, the Buffs like their chances.
"Ecstatic," quarterback Sefo Liufau said of his emotions after the win. "Very happy to be in the position that we're in; very happy to be able to go out there and grind one out and get a good win.
"We'll play again next week. (The Utes) are going to come out reared up and ready to go. It'll be another good game."
Saturday was better than good. This was a great win, led by a sensational performance from Liufau and a dominating finish by the defense.
This was a game that tested the character of the Buffs, as they faced their toughest test of the season against the North-leading Cougars (8-3, 7-1) and played perhaps their finest half of football after intermission.
"The thing that team our team kept doing, they had such great character and fortitude," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "They just kept fighting.
"We do not blink. That means you keep looking and you keep fighting and you keep swinging and you don't worry about anything else."
Liufau certainly did not. The senior, who has battled through more aches and pains over the years than anyone even knows, played one of the best games of his career. He threw for 345 yards and rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns.
"He played excellent," MacIntyre said. "He's such a battler, he's such a warrior. He played like I figured Sefo would."
Liufau became just the second player in CU history to throw for 300 yards and run for 100 in the same game, accomplishing that feat eight weeks after his backup, Steven Montez, did it first.
Liufau did some of his best work after aggravating a hip injury he suffered a week earlier. He missed a couple of plays after taking a shot to the hip, but returned midway through the fourth quarter to spark a 63-yard touchdown drive that more or less sealed the game.
"It was pretty painful, but quick little patchwork from the trainers, who do so much for me," Liufau said. "To be able to come back out is lucky, thankful, blessed.
"It means the world to be able to go out there and win and keep our hopes alive."
Liufau and running back Phillip Lindsay (144 yards, two TDs) were the stars of the offense. Lindsay put an exclamation point on the game with his 11-yard touchdown run to cap the 63-yard drive.
While the offense was doing its work, the defense rose to its own challenge.
Washington State came in with one of the best passing offenses in the country, and quarterback Luke Falk finished the day with 325 yards and three touchdowns.
Led by Falk, the Cougars took a 17-14 lead into halftime, and his third touchdown gave them a 24-21 lead with 3:18 to play in the third quarter.
From that point, the Buffs outscored the Cougars 17-0, thanks in large part to the defense coming up with four consecutive stops down the stretch.
"We were feeding off of them," safety Nick Fisher said, referring to the offense. "They get their touchdowns and that makes the defense energetic and we don't want to let them down. We were playing our hearts out too."
That's what the Buffs have been doing all season, and it has put them in position to achieve their goals.
"I asked them today for the five hours when we left the hotel to the time the game ended, everybody be all in. Everybody," MacIntyre said.
"The thing they've done is they've united as a bunch of guys, believing that they can accomplish anything. It's really special to see."
COL — Lindsay 9 run (Price kick), 10:34
WST — R.Lewis 14 pass from Falk (E.Powell kick), 7:27
WST — Morrow 46 pass from Falk (E.Powell kick), 2:30Second Quarter
COL — Liufau 3 run (Price kick), 7:35
WST — FG E.Powell 28, 4:23Third Quarter
COL — Liufau 7 run (Price kick), 11:06
WST — Jo.Thompson 7 pass from Falk (E.Powell kick), 3:18
COL — Liufau 11 run (Price kick), :30Fourth Quarter
COL — FG Graham 46, 9:09
COL — Lindsay 13 run (Price kick), 4:18WST COL
First downs 22 31
Rushes-yards 22-137 59-258
Passing 325 345
Comp-Att-Int 26-53-1 27-41-0
Return Yards 58 43
Punts-Avg. 4-29.25 2-34.5
Fumbles-Lost 1-1 2-1
Penalties-Yards 5-35 9-75
Time of Possession 26:19 33:41
RUSHING — Washington St., Morrow 7-87, Wicks 7-38, Williams 4-16, Falk 4-(minus 4). Colorado, Lindsay 31-144, Liufau 23-108, Evans 3-8, Montez 1-0, (Team) 1-(minus 2).
PASSING — Washington St., Falk 26-53-1-325. Colorado, Liufau 27-41-0-345.
RECEIVING —Washington St., Marks 6-46, Sweet 5-54, Martin 3-84, R.Lewis 3-29, Morrow 2-48, Dimry 2-27, Jo.Thompson 2-10, Johnson-Mack 1-18, Wicks 1-7, Williams 1-2. Colorado, Ross 8-121, MacIntyre 7-90, Lindsay 5-50, Fields 3-31, Ento 2-21, Bobo 1-29, Evans 1-3.
MISSED FIELD GOALS — Washington St., E.Powell 51. Colorado, Price 38.