Cliff Grassmick / Staff Photographer
Jeremy Papasso / Staff Photographer
Throughout his career at Colorado, Sefo Liufau has played through a plethora of injuries.
He’s even played when others — including CU coaches and doctors — didn’t know he was hurt. His toughness, determination and stubbornness have sometimes dictated his playing status.
This week, as the senior quarterback continues recovering from a sprained right ankle that caused him to miss Saturday’s 41-38 win at Oregon, Liufau admitted his status will be determined by someone else.
“Probably the trainers, in all honesty,” he said.
CU’s all-time leading passer, Liufau has started 32 games during his career, and continues to feel better as he aims to make start No. 33.
“I definitely feel like I’m getting closer,” he said Tuesday. “I did a lot more in practice today, which is great mentally for myself. I feel a lot better. I’m just working my way back.
“If it was (up to) me, I would try to play. I just want to keep seeing how it feels every day and go from there.”
A year ago, the Buffs (3-1, 1-0 Pac-12) likely would have rushed Liufau back into the lineup, but as they prepare to host Oregon State (1-2) on Saturday, they certainly don’t have that same urgency.
Without Liufau on Saturday, the Buffs stunned Oregon on the road behind backup Steven Montez, who turned in one of the greatest single-game performances in CU history, throwing for 333 yards and three touchdowns and rushing for 135 yards and a score.
Because Montez played so well, the Buffs now have confidence in someone other than Liufau to lead the team. Even Liufau has that confidence in his young teammate.
“If I’m not 100 percent, Montez is more than capable of leading this team, as we saw last week,” Liufau said. “If it’s me or Montez, either way, we have the game plan down and we’ll be ready to go this weekend.”
Both quarterbacks have been named Pac-12 player of the week this season — Liufau after the opener and Montez this week — and both rank in the top 20 nationally in total quarterback rating (QBR) — Liufau at No. 17 and Montez at No. 19.
That leads to an interesting situation for CU. Although he holds nearly 80 records and is one of the true leaders on the team, will Liufau regain his starting job when he’s fully healthy?
“That’s a great question,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “It’s all going to depend on how hot our team is at the time. Everybody understands that in sports.
“We need both of them, because somebody is going to get dinged up. It’s the way the game goes. We need both of those guys ready to play and ready to go.”
Following the upset of Oregon, the Buffs find themselves in a new position, sitting as about an 18-point favorite against the Beavers. It’s only the fourth time in 65 Pac-12 games that the Buffs have been favored, and the first time since 2005 that they’ve been a double-digit favorite against a conference foe.
That line is, in part, a product of CU’s big win against Oregon, which was still a hot topic on Tuesday. Junior running back Phillip Lindsay, one of the team captains, said the team has to look forward, though.
“We worry about Colorado. That’s it,” Lindsay said. “Everybody is still talking about Oregon. That’s done. We’re on to Oregon State. Oregon State is a good team and if we don’t go in there with the right attitude against any Pac-12 team, you’re not going to come out with the win. We’re just worrying about ourselves and we’re going out there and playing Colorado football.”
Right now, Colorado is playing a tougher brand of football.
“We used to be a welterweight,” MacIntyre said. “I think we’ve stepped up into at least being able to spar with the heavyweights. The more games we win, we’ll see if we’re a heavyweight.”
Receiver Jay MacIntyre suffered a hyper-extended elbow at Oregon, but coach MacIntyre said he’s hopeful his son will play Saturday. “He’s going to be fine; he’s just got to get all the swelling out of it,” the elder MacIntyre said. … MacIntyre reiterated that he hopes senior Jaleel Awini, who has been out all season with a back injury, will play the final six games. “I don’t know how big his role will be,” MacIntyre said. “I know he’ll play on special teams.”
Brian Howell: email@example.com, on Twitter: @BrianHowell33.