On an unseasonably warm October evening in Boulder the Buffaloes proved their head coach’s proclamation, made following the loss in Los Angeles at the hands of the USC Trojans, correct. They have yet to lose in the state of Colorado this season, and they delivered the goods in front of the largest Folsom Field crowd since 2011.
“The atmosphere was great, I’ve never experienced having that many fans in the stadium,” said junior receiver Bryce Bobo. “We feel a lot of love and we love that from the fans.”
“It was loud. That was the loudest I’ve heard Folsom since I’ve been here,” added senior safety Tedric Thompson. “When our crowd is that loud we’re feeding off of it.”
Perhaps feeling the most love at the outset was Sefo Liufau. As far as storybook returns go, tonight’s was about as good as it could have gotten for the senior signal-caller. Liufau orchestrated a complete and precise deconstruction of the Sun Devil defense.
“We’ve been through the good and the bad. Being able to come full circle is great,” said Liufau. “The first time my class played ASU we got destroyed. Senior year, to beat these guys and put a good win on the board is great.”
Facing the team he made his first appearance against three years ago, and a program that Colorado had never beaten, Liufau and his unit came out and charged down the field on their first possession, moving as fast as they have at any point this year going 81 yards in just under three minutes and scoring on a 16-yard Kyle Evans touchdown run.
“Sefo, on or off the field, he’s always been the leader of the team. When he’s out there, it’s just a comfort level thing. We know what we’re supposed to do because he knows what he’s supposed to do,” said Evans. “If we’re doing the wrong thing he puts us in the right place.”
Liufau completed his first nine pass attempts, the most impressive of which came on a scrambling toss to Bobo down the right sideline for 66 yards. The threat through the air helped enable a devastatingly effective rushing attack that proved overwhelming for Arizona State’s defense. The Buffaloes rushing for 315 yards on the night against the conference's top-ranked rushing defense wasn’t the way this game figured to go down on paper.
“We had some schemes going into the game with what we wanted to do but you have to go with the flow of the game. We saw that some things were working so we kept burning the same or similar plays,” said Liufau. “The running backs made a lot of plays today.”
The biggest offensive stars were indeed tailback Phillip Lindsay and his offensive line. Lindsay racked up a career-best 219 yards on 26 carries, highlighted by his 75-yard touchdown run on the first play of the second half that effectively put the game out of reach for Arizona State. It was the breakaway score that he and his teammates, and Colorado fans, have been waiting for.
“When you can get through the line five yards before you get touched, that’s a running back’s dream and our offensive line made it happen for us,” said Lindsay. “All I had to do was run. They were so happy to see me finally break. They have been giving me the hardest time out of everybody about breaking scores.”
While the dazzling offense has lit up the highlight reel and received much of the recognition, Colorado’s defense has quietly been just as impressive, if not more so.
Jim Leavitt’s unit held ASU under 200 yards and allowed only one Sun Devil touchdown. Leading the defense was outside linebacker Jimmie Gilbert, who notched the third multi-sack game of his career bringing his season sack total to six.
He and fellow linebacker Addison Gillam were in on ASU quarterback Manny Wilkins Jr. throughout the night, handcuffing a potentially explosive Sun Devil offense.
“We have to thank the front four guys for allowing us to do that. They played stout,” said Gilbert. “They do their jobs which clears it up to us to come off the edge and come up the middle free.”
Colorado’s defense increased its streak of consecutive games with a turnover forced, moving to 20, thanks to Afolabi Laguda’s first career interception in the third quarter. As a whole, the unit is playing opportunistically and fast, and deserves just as much credit in this program’s rise.
“Our defense is playing excitedly and we’re having fun. We want to play our best,” said Gillam. “We’re not playing with worries or anything and I think that’s the biggest thing.”
Gillam hit on the piece that’s been most transformative in Colorado’s renaissance year. The mentality has shifted. The Buffaloes aren’t thinking, they’re playing with poise, confidence, and clarity. The experience of the past four years is finally paying dividends, and they’re being realized on both sides of the ball.
Colorado is now in a position to control their own destiny in the Pac-12 South. Each successive week has served to prove to this team and the rest of the conference that they are fully capable of winning their division.
“I kept telling them they built the water up in the dam and the dam had cracks in it. I said you got to punch it one more time, and now the water’s going to flow,” said head coach Mike MacIntyre. “Now we need to keep marching on. Tonight was a way of making a point in their minds. I’m excited about where we are and now we need to go back to work tomorrow.”
Additional notes -
*** Tonight’s win marked Colorado’s 398th all-time at Folsom Field. It was witnessed by 48,588 fans.
*** ASU’s 199 total yards marks the second-fewest by an opponent this season and the lowest for a conference foe since October 6th, 2001 in a 16-6 win at Kansas State where the Wildcats gained 196.
*** The Buffaloes have now gained over 500 yards in five games this season. CU is now 53-9 when rushing (315 today) and passing (265) for over 200 yards.
*** Chidobe Awuzie recorded his seventh career sack this evening, moving past Michael Lewis for the most ever by a Colorado defensive back.
*** Bryce Bobo recorded his first 100-yard receiving game, finishing with 6 catches for 110 yards.