Sefo Liufau expects close losses to become wins for Colorado


Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau posted a record-breaking season in 2014, setting school single-season marks for touchdown passes (28) and yardage (3,200) as well as TD passes in a single game (7). So it's not a stretch to say he had one of the best seasons behind center in Buffaloes history.

Yet Colorado finished 2-10 overall and 0-9 in Pac-12 play, so the program suffered through one of its worst seasons. Holy dialectic opposition!

The Buffs, 4-32 in Pac-12 play since joining the conference in 2011, were a lot closer in 2014. Their conference losses came by an average of two touchdowns instead of the four-plus the previous two seasons. Still, as grounds for a potential end-of-season celebration, that's not terribly ambitious.

Liufau wasn't blameless either. His 15 interceptions were the most in the Pac-12 -- only seven FBS QBs threw more -- and more than a few were critical. And avoidable. Liufau knows this as much if not more than anyone, and as the QB, he knows he's got to be the guy out front making sure the execution doesn't falter when the screws tighten in the fourth quarter.

“It's just being able to make plays in tight situations," he said. “There were one or two plays, maybe on third down, maybe in the red zone, we could have turned into seven points or at least a field goal. We didn’t do that last year.”

Think of that that third-down drop late in the fourth against UCLA. Or Liufau's fourth-quarter interception against Arizona. Or failing to score any points in the second overtime against California after earning a first-and-goal at the 2-yard line. Regrets, the Buffs have a few. But so does every team that's not Ohio State.

After throwing seven interceptions in a four-game span, Liufau didn't start at Oregon, the second to last game of the season, interrupting a run of 17 consecutive starts that began his true freshman year. While it wasn't a straight benching -- he'd suffered a concussion late against Arizona that made him miss practices during an off week -- it seemed pretty evident that coach Mike MacIntyre was at least curious to see what backup Jordan Gehrke could do, particularly when Liufau started the second half and returned to the starting job for the season finale.

“You accept whatever decision the coach makes," Liufau said. “I wasn’t mad. Obviously you’re a little upset because you want to play every game, but it’s over and it’s done with and I think people make more out of it than I do.”

The good news for the Buffaloes is Liufau's top target, receiver Nelson Spruce, is back, and the cast of skill players is promising. Further, the offense may not have to score 40 every game for the Buffs to have a chance because the defense will be far more experienced, and new coordinator Jim Leavitt is widely celebrated for his X's and O's and motivation skills.

It's not too naive to project the Buffs closeness in 2014 translating into a few more wins in 2015, even though the South Division will again be the nation's toughest division. At least, that's the way Liufau and his teammates are seeing things this spring.

"We were close last year and we felt like we could have won more," he said, "but I definitely think we are going to be able to take those close games and put them into Ws next year."