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Buffs clinch Pac-12 South in rumble for the ages

Andre Simone Avatar
November 27, 2016

 

BOULDER – It was another game of the week in college football at Folsom Field and Ralphie and the Buffs rumbled to a Pac-12 south division title in a heart pounding, hard fought, and eventually joyous Rumble in the Rockies.

“I can’t put it into words, the best word I have for now is joy. Joy from my toes to the top of my head,” explained head coach Mike MacIntyre.

The Colorado Buffaloes topped the Utah Utes 27-22 in a game that won’t soon be forgotten around Colorado.

Nervous moments were how the game started the Colorado faithful in their huge matchup against the Utah Utes. An early Sefo Liufau fumble on the Buffs opening drive put the home team on their back heels.

While the defense was up to the task stifling the Utah backfield combination of Williams’ (quarterback Troy and running back Joe), the punt team proved (again) to be CU’s Achilles heel. On a line drive kick by punter Alex Kelly, returner Boobie Hobbs faked Chidobe Awuzie out, found some daylight and exploded 55-yards for the early 7-0 lead.

Despite not finding any success offensively the Utes were up a touchdown just like that and began to move the chains with their attack. Williams attempted a deep pass to star receiver Tim Patrick on a rope in the end zone but Isaiah Oliver was in perfect coverage to force the incompletion, leading to a third down stop and forced a field goal that the Utes would miss. What could have been 14-0 Utes remained 7-0.

The offense had to get on the board after the missed opportunity and that’s when Sefo Liufau stepped up. The senior QB in his last game at Folsom bombed it deep to David Ross for a 42 yard gain, shortly afterward Sefo would finish off the drive himself muscling in for the tieing score.

Colorado took over from there but was never able to take full control of the game. Two different drives could have ended with touchdown scores but Ross first and George Frazier afterward would both drop passes in the end zone forcing CU to settle for six points. What could have been 21-7 at the half ended only 13-7 with the Colorado faithful quietly confident despite being up only six points.

As the action resumed in the third quarter the tension that was felt throughout the opening half continued, as Utah drove down to find a field goal closing the gap to down only three points. Soon afterwards the Utes offense seemed poised to take the lead as they were at the doorstep after a 35-yard catch by Tim Patrick. But the Buffaloes defense wasn’t going to allow anyone in their end zone, not tonight and not on their seniors last time out at Folsom.

As Joe Williams took the ball on 1st-and-10 Ryan Moeller yanked it out leading to an Awuzie recovery. A theme throughout as every time Utah seemed poised to breakthrough with a TD the Buffs shut the door. But a costly second Liufau fumble on a quarterback keeper would return the ball to the Utes in good field position.

“I let my emotions go after that fumble,” said the Buffaloes QB. “So it was very important to get back down there on the next drive [and score a touchdown.]”

Utah would find a field goal to tie it all up at 13 a piece, but that wouldn’t last for long. When it was needed most CU and their quarterback stepped up. Sefo after taking a big hit got back up and found Jay MacIntyre for a 37-yard gainer on a beautiful spiral down the left sideline. Two plays later Liufau connected with Shay Fields on a marvelous touch pass over Fields shoulders for the crucial touchdown. Putting CU back up at the end of the third quarter, 20-13.

Disaster almost ensued again with a lethal kick return by the visitors who almost found a touchdown on a 93-yard return by Kyle Fulks who was chased down and pushed out of bounds by Awuzie. That push would prove to be crucial as the defense pressured Williams into poor throws and Witherspoon – who seemed determined to knock down any pass in his zip code – deflected a one on one opportunity in the end zone. The defense showed a relentless determination to keep Utah out the end zone and there was little the visitors could do.

“It’s a good team win to grind one out. It’s not going to be pretty, but ultimately we accomplished our goal,” said Liufau.

At 20-16 nerves tensed up with both teams exchanging punts, with Utah peskily hanging around and CU unable to take the commanding lead to end it. But again the Buffs defense took matters into their own hands. With 10:56 left in the fourth quarter Moeller (again) yanked the ball out of Joe Williams’ hands. As the ball rolled out into the flats Kenneth Olugbode picked it up and ran it in for the defensive touchdown. 27-16 Colorado and incredulous joy exploded out of the stands in Folsom.

“Our front seven was the key in the game,” explained a proud coach MacIntyre post game. “Along with the corners making those plays one on one.”

A dream that seemed so distant and unrealistic only a few months ago was in their grasp, Colorado is Pac-12 south division champions.

“Some of these seniors should be CU legends for what they’ve done for this football program.” said their coach moments after fans rushed the field to celebrate this heroic feat.

Utah’s offense would finally find the touchdown that so alluded them the whole game. But with only 1:34 remaining the 13 play drive took too long to make a difference. Though the game would end up 27-22 a Utes poor onside kick would put the Buffs through to the championship game Friday in Santa Clara.

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