Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Sefo Liufau has been one of the best quarterbacks in the country this season, but the Colorado Buffaloes aren’t sure if the senior will be on the field when they open Pac-12 play on Saturday at Oregon.
Liufau sprained his right ankle early in the third quarter of CU’s 45-28 loss at Michigan on Saturday. X-rays done at Michigan Stadium were negative, and Liufau did not practice with the Buffs on Monday in Boulder.
“He was moving around better today than he was (Sunday), and it’ll be day-to-day as the week goes along,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said.
Throughout his career, Liufau has often played through injuries, but MacIntyre said the Buffs will closely monitor his progress this week.
“If he’s moving good enough to play, we’ll play him,” MacIntyre said. “If he’s not moving good enough to play, we won’t play him.”
Liufau ranks seventh nationally and second in the Pac-12 with a passer rating of 182.0. He has completed 54 of 76 passes for 768 yards, six touchdowns and no interceptions this season. He has also rushed for 124 yards and a touchdown.
Dating back to last season, Liufau has thrown 89 consecutive passes without an interception.
Liufau injured his ankle on a 4-yard scramble on the second play of the third quarter on Saturday. Despite being unable to put weight on the foot, he threw a deep, 70-yard touchdown pass to Shay Fields on the next play.
“I think when he got up and his ankle was hurting, he saw the play signaled in and he didn’t want to come out because we knew we had an opportunity because of what they were lined up in,” MacIntyre said. “We had prepared for that and I think he knew, ‘Hey it’s going to be there.'”
If Liufau can’t play, redshirt freshman Steven Montez will get his first start. He went 0-for-7 against Michigan (with a couple of dropped passes) and is 6-for-17 for 117 yards and two touchdowns this season.
“He’ll be ready to roll,” MacIntyre said.
CU’s punt team was a disaster against Michigan, but MacIntyre said the Buffs are in the process of fixing the mistakes that plagued them.
“We work on it every Monday,” MacIntyre said. “We’ve worked on it and made a couple changes and made sure we’re more precise. We didn’t have any issues the first two games whatsoever.”
They made up for that against Michigan. The Wolverines scored 14 points with CU’s punt team on the field — first on a blocked punt returned for touchdown and then on a 54-yard punt return for a touchdown by Jabrill Peppers.
CU punter Alex Kinney also nailed lineman Shane Callahan in the back with a low punt that resulted in a 7-yard loss; the Buffs had two 5-yard false start penalties when lining up to punt; and they had a punt they failed to down deep in Michigan territory, instead letting it roll to the end zone for a touchback.
Using roll-out, rugby-style kicks most of the day, Kinney sent line drive kicks down field that often gave Peppers — one of the top returners in the country — plenty of time to work. In addition to his touchdown, Peppers had returns of 19, 13 and 13 yards.
“That was something we have to work on,” MacIntyre said of the rugby-style kicks. “We’ll do that every once in a while because you can move the pocket so they can’t just rush in there on you, but we need to coach a little bit better.”
Overall, CU finished the day with a net average of just 17.9 yards on 10 punts.
The Pac-12 announced on Monday that Colorado’s Oct. 1 game against Oregon State at Folsom Field is slated for a 12:30 p.m. kickoff. It will be televised on the Pac-12 Network. … MacIntyre said before the season that running back Dino Gordon would serve at least a three-game suspension for an off-the-field incident in the spring. On Monday, MacIntyre said Gordon remains suspended as the Buffs head into game No. 4. … CU has not announced its uniform combination for Saturday’s game, but the Buffs wore white helmets in practice on Monday. They have yet to use the white helmets this season.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.