While the Colorado football team continues to find ways to win, its leader is striving to find a way out of a personal slump.
Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau, who was among the nation's most efficient passers early in the season, has struggled in back-to-back games and knows he has to be better to lead the 16th-ranked Buffaloes (7-2, 5-1 Pac-12) down the stretch.
"I just have to go back out there again and play and have fun," Liufau said on Tuesday, as the Buffs prepare to visit Arizona (2-7, 0-6). "That's kind of what I expect myself to do."
Liufau, who is 5-1 as a starter this season, misfired on several throws in a 10-5 win against Stanford on Oct. 22. He finished 12-for-25 for 135 yards and a touchdown.
During a 20-10 win against UCLA on Thursday, Liufau had his toughest outing of the season, going 19-for-30 for 143 yards and two interceptions — his first two of the season.
With three games to play in the regular season, and a Pac-12 championship within grasp, Liufau said he needs to get back to playing loose like he was early in the season.
"I always strive for perfection and sometimes that can really get in the way of you just going out there and playing," he said. "I know the reads, I know where the ball is supposed to go and everything, but to try to play perfect and not make any mistakes in the past two weeks has really hurt me."
Prior to the Stanford game, Liufau was 79-for-110 (71.8 percent) for 1,044 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions. Struggling against the Cardinal bothered the senior.
"I was just really upset with my performance," he said.
Because of that, he admits he was maybe "a little more uptight" against UCLA.
"I want to play perfect, I want to get the ball in the right spot for my guys and let them go out there and make plays," he said. "The UCLA game, I was just striving too much for perfection instead of just out there and throwing the ball."
In past years, had Liufau struggled like that, the Buffs likely would have lost. So, the good news is that they were able to find a way to win.
Liufau and the Buffs hope he returns to his early-season form, however.
"I think it turns into a big motivation for him," head coach Mike MacIntyre said. "He takes full responsibility if the offense doesn't execute or score like it should. Sometimes it wasn't his fault on different things.
"He sees where we want to go and he wants to make sure we get there. He's mature enough to understand a win is awesome, but also 'I can learn from this. I've got to do this better, our team has to do this better for us to reach the ultimate goal.' To me, that's a true, mature champion."
Sophomore cornerback/punt returner Isaiah Oliver has some motivation this week, too.
Oliver grew up in the Phoenix area and graduated from Brophy Prep in Goodyear, Ariz. Despite a stellar prep career, however, he was not offered a scholarship by either of his hometown schools, Arizona and Arizona State.
"It's not something that I necessarily think about, but it's something that's always in the back of my mind when we play ASU or U of A," Oliver said. "I looked for those schools to offer me coming out of Arizona and they didn't, so it's always a little extra motivation to show them, 'Ok this is where I'm at now.'"
Oliver is coming off his best game as a Buff, earning Pac-12 special teams player of the week honors after his 68-yard punt return for touchdown sealed CU's win over UCLA.
GameDay in Boulder?
CU fans are hoping that ESPN's College GameDay crew will come to Boulder for the Buffs' Nov. 19 home game against No. 23 Washington State, which is currently co-leading the North Division.
MacIntyre said he's not lobbying for GameDay in Boulder, but knows it could be great for the program.
"Of course that would be fun for our university, it would be fun for our team," he said. "If we just keep winning, things like that happen."
ESPN will decide its destination for Nov. 19 after this Saturday's games.
MacIntyre said freshman kicker Davis Price, who missed two games with mononucleosis, will be healthy and ready to go Saturday. He also said kicker Chris Graham, who went 2-for-3 on field goals against UCLA, has kicked well in practice this week. ... Right tackle Sam Kronshage has a sore AC joint in his shoulder, but the Buffs are hoping he'll be able to play against Arizona.