SALT LAKE CITY -- Moments after Sefo Liufau threw an interception on the final offensive play of the season for the Colorado football team, wide receiver Paul Richardson reassured the freshman quarterback.

Richardson said he wanted to make sure that Liufau didn't blame a 24-17 loss to Utah on himself after taking a beating from the Utah defensive line and committing three turnovers.

It didn't work.

Sitting at a table by himself in front of a small group of reporters in a tiny room just off the Colorado locker room, Liufau became teary in his portion of the Buff's post-game media session.

Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau (13) passes the ball in the second half
Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau (13) passes the ball in the second half ( Rick Bowmer )

"Losing, especially for my teammates," Liufau said when asked why he was so emotional on a day when seniors usually shed the tears. "The guys mean a lot to me. So the fact that we're done, you know it hurts. Obviously losing is really upsetting, but there is nothing to come back to next week and the seniors are gone. It hurts because they made a really big impact on my life."

Liufau took over the starting role in early October and led the Buffs to two victories in the second half of the season. He set a new freshman record for passing yards in a season, eclipsing the old mark held by Craig Ochs by one yard.

He also set true freshman passing records for attempts (251), completions (149) and touchdown passes (12) at CU, but the biggest impression he seems to have left on coaches and teammates involves his toughness.

"He has a lot of heart," Richardson said. "That kid was getting knocked down a lot. He showed how tough he was. He showed how mature he was. He never pulled himself out of the game."

Liufau said he plans to take some time off in the coming weeks to heal some of the wounds inflicted by Pac-12 defenders. He said he plans to get bigger and stronger and smarter in the offseason and warned reporters he might not be accessible locked away in a room somewhere in Boulder studying film, if he's not on the field throwing.

Coach Mike MacIntyre said the interception Liufau threw to end the game is one he will learn from and probably not repeat in the future. MacIntyre said he believes Liufau will be in a similar situation early next season and he believes his quarterback will take the Buffs down the field and score.

So does that mean the coach believes Liufau is the starter for 2014?

"I do right now, yeah," MacIntyre said. "Now, we'll battle this spring and see what happens. Now if he goes out in the spring and does terrible and doesn't do what he's supposed to and does things off the field, he won't be our quarterback. Right now, the way I see it and the things he's doing, I think he'll keep improving."

Contact staff writer Kyle Ringo at ringok@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/kyleringo.