LOS ANGELES — Senior quarterback Sefo Liufau was healthy enough to take over the Colorado offense in a pinch on Saturday.
Once again, however, it was redshirt freshman Steven Montez who got the call to start during the Buffaloes’ 21-17 loss to Southern California at the Los Angeles Coliseum.
“Sefo was still not able to really run like we wanted him to run, so we felt like our best opportunity was Steven,” CU head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “If Steven went down, we felt Sefo could do some things. As you saw, he did.”
A fourth-year starter, Liufau sprained his right ankle on Sept. 17 at Michigan and had not played since. Saturday was Montez’s third consecutive start.
Late in the first half, though, Montez was hit hard when making a throw and went to the ground for several minutes.
“I got the air knocked out of me and couldn’t really breathe,” he said. “I was just trying to get some air.”
While he did, Liufau entered the game, with about two minutes to play in the second quarter. He directed seven plays, going 2-for-3 for 11 yards on passes and running three times for two yards. His one incompletion ended CU’s final drive of the first half.
Liufau looked healthy when in the game, but the coaching staff believes he’s limited as a runner because of the ankle injury.
“I still don’t believe Sefo is 100 percent healthy,” co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach Brian Lindgren said. “(Montez) had taken the starters reps towards the end of the week of practice and we felt like he gave us the best chance given Sefo’s health status.”
Montez played sensational in his first two starts, against Oregon and Oregon State, but the Buffs sputtered throughout the day against USC. Yet, even as they went scoreless during the first half, MacIntyre said the Buffs never really considered pulling Montez for Liufau.
“No, because he still wasn’t 100 percent to be able to run on that,” MacIntyre said. “They were blitzing us all the time. If he went in, I think they would have blitzed us every snap trying to see how well he could move.
“Hopefully after another week, next week, he’ll be 100 percent and ready to d o all he can do.”