Early in his career, Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau was often criticized for throwing too many interceptions, especially at inopportune times.
Now a senior, Liufau has been one of the best in the country at avoiding back-breaking mistakes. In fact, he has yet to throw an interception this season, in 135 passes. He’s the only player in the country with at least 80 passes and no interceptions.
“There’s a couple things in my mind (to explain the improvement),” Liufau said. “I think experience being one of them, knowing when and where to go with the football; knowing when to pull it down and run and knowing when to throw it away.
“I think another big thing too is the O-line up front. Being able to sit back in the pocket and deliver more balls to our playmakers allows you to be more comfortable and you don’t have to rush as much. So, if there’s a tight window, you can wait for the next (receiver to get open) and it makes it a lot easier on yourself. It comes down to decision making, but it helps with the O-line up.”
The turnaround has been remarkable for Liufau, who threw 23 interceptions during his first two seasons, averaging one for every 32.6 throws. Since the start of the 2015 season, however, Liufau has just six interceptions, throwing one every 79.8 passes.
In CU history, quarterbacks have put together eight streaks of at least 100 passes without an interception, and Liufau has three of them – all since the start of last season.
As the Buffs (6-2, 4-1 Pac-12) prepare to face UCLA (3-5, 1-4) on Thursday night, Liufau is currently riding a school-record streak of 148 throws without a pick.
“He understands what the defense is trying to do to him, he understands the concepts that we’re running and when to force it and when not,” CU co-offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Brian Lindgren said.
Lindgren said that when quarterbacks practice routes that are open all the time in practice, it’s often difficult for a younger player to know how to handle that same route being covered in a game. Liufau’s experience allows him to know what to do.
Liufau has made it a priority to avoid the mistakes, but Lindgren said, “Sometimes we have to tell him to not be so cautious and let it rip a little bit.”
That’s a minor criticism, however, given the success Liufau’s had with protecting the ball.
“I do like the fact that’s taking care of the football,” Lindgren said. “That’s been huge for us.”
- When Liufau was a high school senior and committed to Colorado in 2012, the Buffaloes’ quarterbacks coach was Rip Scherer. Liufau never worked with Scherer, of course, because after the 2012 season, CU fired head coach Jon Embree and his staff. Scherer will be in Boulder on Thursday, as he’s now in his first season as the tight ends coach at UCLA.
- Under coach Jim Mora, UCLA is 13-9 against ranked opponents. The Bruins are 0-2 this year, however.
- The Bruins’ Takkarist McKinley leads the country with 2.0 tackles for loss per game.
- This season, UCLA is 3-0 against teams with losing records (combined mark of 9-16), and 0-5 against teams with winning records (combined record of 30-12).
- A year ago, CU receiver Nelson Spruce – now with the NFL’s Los Angeles Rams – established a new Pac-12 record for career receptions, with 294. His record may not last long. Washington State’s Gabe Marks needs just 11 catches to tie the records. Marks is averaging 5.2 catches per game, which puts him on pace to break Spruce’s record on Nov. 19 when the Cougars visit Boulder.
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at firstname.lastname@example.org or twitter.com/BrianHowell33.