BOULDER, Colo. — For the first time since 2005, the Colorado Buffaloes are favored to beat a conference opponent by double digits.
They can thank senior defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon for that.
When Witherspoon pulled in the game winning interception in the end-zone in Eugene last Saturday, the Buffs’ world was turned on it’s head.
No longer is Colorado the laughing stock of the Pac-12. No longer are they the basement dwellers they’ve been since their last bowl appearance nearly a decade ago.
With that single play, the Buffaloes of Boulder proved their worth, showing once and for all that this team has the potential to be not just a ho-hum six win participant in some low-level bowl game. They proved they have the talent and the experience to compete in any game, with any opponent.
They’ll come into Saturday’s contest hosting the lowly Oregon State Beavers as a nearly 18-point favorite, largely because of their win last week. It’s a new, strange place for this football program to be and winning this game by something close to the spread will be critical to proving they are here to stay.
However, the Buffs’ players and coaches don’t take that attitude. Just like every single footballer in the history of the sport, they’re taking it one game at a time.
“We worry about Colorado. That’s it,” running back Phillip Lindsay said. “Everybody is still talking about Oregon. That’s done. We’re on to Oregon State. Oregon State is a good team and if we don’t go in there with the right attitude against any Pac-12 team, you’re not going to come out with the win. We’re just worrying about ourselves and we’re going out there and playing Colorado football.”
Saying all the right things doesn’t mean this team isn’t happy to be where they are. The Buffs have played well in every single game they have stepped on the field for this season. Even in the loss to No. 4 Michigan, Colorado played dominant football for the first quarter.
“We used to be a welterweight,” head coach Mike MacIntyre said. “I think we’ve stepped up into at least being able to spar with the heavyweights. The more games we win, we’ll see if we’re a heavyaweight.”
To win this one by the margin Vegas is predicting, the Buffs will have to solve their current quarterback conundrum. Senior Sefo Liufau sat out last week with a high ankle sprain. Red-shirt freshman Steven Montez lit it up in his stead, becoming the first quarterback in the long history of CU football to throw for more than 300-yards and rush for 100-yards in the same game.
Montez’s performance presents a good, but difficult problem for MacIntyre and the coaching staff.
Liufau is unquestionably the heartbeat of this football team. The leadership he brings to the locker room and the huddle can’t be questioned. However, in his three years as a starter, he never quite showed the physical skill and natural ability Montez displayed versus Oregon.
The younger Montez was already attracting serious attention from NFL teams before he even took the field for Colorado. Now, he’s shown he’s fully capable of playing up to that high standard, even at such a young age.
Liufau’s ankle is healing, but it could be one more week before he’s ready to play.
“Sefo worked out there today,” MacIntyre said Tuesday. “He’s still not 100 percent, so we’ll just kind of see how the week progresses along and go from there.”
If Montez does wind up suiting up against Oregon State, Liufau said he’s confident in the young gunslinger’s abilities.
“If I’m not 100 percent, Montez is more than capable of leading this team, as we saw last week,” Liufau said. “If it’s me or Montez, either way, we have the game plan down and we’ll be ready to go this weekend.”
Oregon State is currently outside the top 50 in total defense. Assuming Montez plays and is able to take advantage of the Beaver’s porous unit, fans could see a full-fledged quarterback controversy in Boulder.
“I think we have two good quarterbacks,” MacIntyre said. “However it works out, I think we have two good quarterbacks and I also think we have two really tough quarterbacks, which is impressive. We’ll make sure Sefo is 100 percent. He’s got to be able to go and move.”
For now, though, the Buffs focus is right where it should be—beating Oregon State, led by head coach Gary Andersen, and advancing to 4-1 for the first time since 2005.
“Oregon State—Gary Andersen, the head coach there, I’ve known for awhile because he was in the WAC at Utah State. He did a phenomenal job there and did a great job at Wisconsin,” MacIntyre said. “I really respect him. His teams are always extremely tough and he’s doing a good job of getting Oregon State going. He is a heck of football coach and it’s gonna be a heck of a battle Saturday.”
Featured image is courtesy of the University of Colorado Athletic department and can be found by visiting: http://www.cubuffs.com/news/2016/9/26/football-buffs-qb-montez-earns-bevy-of-honors-liufaus-ankle-continues-to-improve.aspx