Defensive back Nick Fisher had played a total of just 39 defensive snaps during his true sophomore campaign entering Saturday. But after Afolabi Laguda was ejected for a targeting call and Ryan Moeller was sidelined with a concussion in the first half, the Southern California native had his number called.
“Our coach always talks about starring in your role and tonight my team needed me," he said.
Fisher admitted he was nervous “getting thrown right in there” but senior safety Tedric Thompson and some of the Buffs' other veterans helped calm him down.
It sure was an impressive night for Fisher, but it wasn't a perfect performance.
“After I let a run go up the sideline because I wasn't in the B-gap, I said to myself, 'I don't want to be the reason we lose tonight.' So I just tried to step it up,” he said. “I love my teammates. There is just so much love in our locker room, you don't want to let anyone down.”
Fisher finished with six solo tackles, and his four stops on third or fourth down tied the most by any Buff this season. His tackle of Kyle Sweet on fourth-and-four at the Colorado 18 yard line forced a turnover on downs and was the “turning point of the game,” according to head coach Mike MacIntyre.
“I was looking at the quarterback and I see a guy coming underneath and no one was covering him so my first instinct was just to go shoot right now and he threw the ball and I made sure I wrapped up because our coaches are always saying, 'Don't miss a lay-up,'” Fisher recapped. “[After the tackle] the crowd roared and it was a great feeling; all the hairs on my body just stood up."
Three of the starters in Colorado's defensive backfield are set to graduate at the end of this season. Fisher will undoubtedly have a big role for the Buffaloes as an upperclassman.
“Fisher has so much potential that he doesn't even know about, so when he is out there making those plays, it doesn't surprise me,” said senior defensive back Chidobe Awuzie. “It shouldn't surprise him, either, because he can do so much more. … Hopefully down the road he keeps making these plays and really reaches his potential.”
Additional notes -
*** Sefo Liufau threw for 345 yards, and rushed for 108 yards and three touchdowns, without turning the ball over once. His 453 yards of total offense was the sixth-most for a single-game in school history. He owns the record of 527.
“He just has that willpower right now,” MacIntyre said of Liufau. “He has that 'it' factor. Every once in a while you see that with a quarterback in a certain time. I am just so happy he is getting to do it, I really am, with all he has overcome.”
*** Liufau was sidelined for a brief period of time in the second half with a hip-pointer. Liufau admitted it is “pretty painful” and credited the training staff for “quick patchwork” to allow him to return to the game.
“He is such a warrior,” MacIntyre said. “He played like I figured Sefo would. He'll probably come in and say he missed a couple throws here and there but that happens. He played really well.”
*** Washington State quarterback Luke Falk also had a strong performance, despite a number of dropped passes by the Cougar receivers. He threw for 325 yards and three scores.
“It seems like when Luke Falk throws the ball on the sidelines, the sidelines expand because they are always right perfect and they are always like an inch in-bounds,” MacIntyre said. “He did that on film, too.”
*** Junior tailback Phillip Lindsay had his sixth-career 100-yard rushing game against the Cougars and he became the Buffs' first 1,000 yard rusher since Rodney Stewart had 1,318 in 2010.
“Our offensive line is doing a great job,” Lindsay said. “And [running backs] coach [Darian] Hagan has a lot to do with it. That man has put a lot of work into our running back crew. He has just taken us to another level and I appreciate that and I want to thank Coach Hagan for that.”
*** Sophomore slot receiver Jay MacIntyre had career highs with seven receptions, 90 yards and five first downs earned.
*** Junior wide receiver Bryce Bobo was knocked out the game early with a lower body injury, the extent of which is unknown at this point.