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CU football: Buffs break Pac-12 losing streak with win over Oregon State

Timothy J. Gonzalez / Associated Press
Colorado running back Donovan Lee, right, tries to break free from Oregon State defenders on Saturday in Corvallis, Ore.

Game rewind

What went right: The offense came up with a critical touchdown when it needed one most, and the defense was stellar for most of the night..

What went wrong: CU’s offense was shut down during long stretches, including the final 9 minutes.

Turning point: With 12:31 to play in the fourth quarter, quarterback Sefo Liufau scored on a 4-yard run to give the Buffs a 17-10 lead. Although it was a struggle on offense the rest of the way, that touchdown gave CU breathing room.

CU player of the game: Liufau. Nothing flashy, but he did throw for 140 yards and a touchdown and run for 44 yards and a score.

Bottom line: The Buffs snapped a three-game losing streak, snapped a 14-game conference losing streak and left Corvallis feeling pretty good for once.

CORVALLIS, Ore. – Sefo Liufau couldn’t remember if the Colorado football team has a tradition of singing the fight song on the plane after a road win.

“I don’t know that we’ve won an away game,” the Buffaloes quarterback said with a smile.

Senior Nelson Spruce is well aware of the tradition, though, and after a 17-13 win against Oregon State on Saturday at Reser Stadium, he planned to keep it going, despite the fact that the Buffs were scheduled to land in Denver around 4 a.m.

“I’m going to wake everyone up, run down the aisle and sing it,” Spruce said.

Surely, nobody would mind.

Nickel back Chidobe Awuzie picked off an OSU pass in the closing seconds to secure the win and snap CU’s overall 14-game losing streak in Pac-12 play. The Buffs had lost 13 consecutive Pac-12 road games.

“The first thing I was saying (after the interception) was, ‘Get down,'” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “After that it was a total relief. I think it was just joy from my toes to the top of my head for our kids for our coaches, for our fans, for my family, for everybody.”

CU’s last Pac-12 win had come on Nov. 16, 2013, at home against California. Its last Pac-12 road win came on Sept. 22, 2012, at Washington State.

“It’s been a while, so that’s what made it so special and the way we did it and hung on and kept battling and fighting was exciting, too,” MacIntyre said.

It certainly was a battle, and not a pretty one. Not that a pretty game was expected between the Pac-12’s two last place teams. Colorado (4-4, 1-3 Pac-12) came in holding down the South Division cellar, while Oregon State (2-5, 0-4) sits at the bottom of the North Division.

The game certainly looked like a matchup of cellar dwellers, with 17 penalties, nine punts and only 30 points between the teams. Colorado was more than happy to take the win, though.

“Sometimes you have to take a win how you can,” Liufau said. “It wasn’t pretty. We didn’t play a perfect game by any stretch of the imagination, but we grinded it out and we got the win which is the most important thing.”

Liufau threw for 140 yards and a touchdown and also ran for 44 yards and another score to pace an offense that spent far too much of the night running on fumes.

“If you had told us we were only going to score 17, I think it would be tough to win,” said receiver Nelson Spruce, who caught a touchdown pass in the second quarter. “But, the defense made stop after stop and kept getting us the ball.”

The CU defense held Oregon State to just three points on its final eight possessions and, unlike a week earlier in a 38-31 loss to Arizona, didn’t cough up a fourth quarter lead.

With CU leading 17-13, Oregon State had three possessions in the last eight minutes. The Beavers turned the ball over on downs after a failed fourth-down try, punted on their next possession, and then got picked off by Awuzie with just 24 seconds to play.

Four plays before his interception, Awuzie was flagged for pass interference, setting the Beavers up in CU territory.

“I was just going crazy,” safety Tedric Thompson said of Awuzie’s interception. “He deserves it. He’s one of the hardest working DBs and he’s probably our best coverage DB. He had that pass interference one or two plays before that, so it just shows how mature he is to not get down on himself and come back and win a the game for us.”

On offense, the Buffs closed the game with three consecutive three-and-out possessions. Trying to build on a 17-13 lead, they could muster only 22 yards on nine plays in the final 9:08.

“If you get a two-score lead it puts a lot of doubt in the other team’s mind and it also gives our defense some more breathing room to work with,” Liufau said. “We have to go out there and keep pushing till the end, keep fighting to the last minute, the last second of a game.”

Credit Liufau and his offense for generating a game-winning drive early in the fourth quarter, though.

With the game knotted at 10-10, Liufau engineered a 13-play, 85-yard drive, capping it with his 4-yard touchdown run with 12:31 to play.

“To finally go down there, and especially on a long drive, it gives our defense a break,” Liufau said. “And to go down there and get some points was a big momentum swing and a great mental boost for our guys at the end of the game.”

At the end, CU got the only big play it truly wanted, which was a kneel down to run out the clock.

“Just really happy,” Liufau said. “I’m at a loss for words right now. It’s great to finally get a win and it’s a really big boost of confidence for the team. We’ll see the things we did wrong (on film), but for right now we’ll enjoy this on the way back.”

Contact staff writer Brian Howell at howellb@dailycamera.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.