Since the start of the 2015 season, the running ability of quarterback Sefo Liufau has been important to the Colorado offense.
Liufau rushed for 266 yards and five touchdowns in 2015. Take away the 150 yards he lost in sacks, and he was over 400 yards on designed running plays (and scrambles).
This year, Liufau already has 124 rushing yards (144 when adjusting for sacks) and one touchdown.
Of course, the downside to Liufau running is that he becomes more vulnerable to getting hit. Last year, he was banged up throughout the year, and his status is unknown for Saturday’s game at Oregon because of a sprained ankle he suffered on a run against Michigan last week.
Head coach Mike MacIntyre said the Buffs will do what they can to protect Liufau when he does return to the field, but they also realize his running is a major weapon.
“(Part) of the effectiveness of our offense is being able to run the quarterback some when they spread all over the field,” MacIntyre said. “You have those big gaps. If you don’t take advantage of that, then your quick game doesn’t make big plays either. So, you kind of have to (run the quarterback) some. But, we definitely would like to protect him a little bit more at times. Hopefully he can stay healthy.”
A big part of that is on Liufau, who has too often acted like a running back and tried to lower his shoulder to brace for hits rather than sliding to end a run and avoiding contact.
Stout up front
CU’s defensive line has had a nice start to the season. Although the Buffs gave up 168 rushing yards to Michigan, much of that damage was to the outside and not the fault of the interior line.
Starters Jordan Carrell, Samson Kafovalu and Josh Tupou have done the bulk of the heavy lifting up front. Kafovalu said the return of the 6-foot-3, 325-pound Tupou from a year-long suspension has been beneficial.
“I think (the defensive line) is a lot better than last year, even though (Justin) Solis was a great factor in some of our wins and stops on the defensive front,” Kafovalu said. “Just having Tupou there is a big presence.”
Oregon quarterback Dakota Prukop, a graduate transfer from Montana State, has been exceptional for the Ducks to this point. He has completed 66.7 percent of his passes for 748 yards and six touchdowns and rushed for 152 yards and another score.
Kafovalu and the Buffs have been impressed.
“He’s a very fast guy,” Kafovalu said. “He’s very athletic. He can make a lot of people miss. Once he gets outside, he’s not afraid to go hit somebody. He’s a very mobile quarterback, very athletic.”
• This is the first time in program history that CU will have played in the Eastern time zone one week and the Pacific time zone the next.
• The Buffs are 79-41-2 all-time in conference openers, including 1-4 since joining the Pac-12.
• CU receiver Shay Fields is third in the country in yards per catch, averaging 28.44 yards. He has nine catches for 256 yards.
• Defensively, CU has given up an equal amount on the run and pass – 359 rushing yards and 359 passing yards.
• So far this season, CU has 56 points and 612 yards in the first quarter of games. Third-ranked Louisville is the only team that’s been more prolific, with 70 points and 793 yards in the opening quarter.
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.