As the University of Colorado football team rides a two-game losing streak into this Saturday’s homecoming game against Arizona, CUI Sports Editors Jared Funk-Breay and Sam Routhier discuss whether the Buffaloes’ embattled quarterback Sefo Liufau should still be the man under center.
Jared Funk-Breay: I fully stand behind Mr. Sefo Liufau. No man in CU athletics has had to deal with more crap in recent memory. Colorado football’s failure during his tenure is undeniably partially on his shoulders, but not more so than any other part of this program. So many times I hear, “If only the Buffs would have a better quarterback, they could finally get somewhere.” But in reality, it’s more like Liufau would finally get somewhere if he was surrounded by a decent team.
Simply put, last year Liufau set school records in many statistical categories. What more can CU ask for? Sure, he threw too many interceptions, but without his performances, Colorado wouldn’t even have been in many games last year.
This season, there’s two reasons why the Buffs shouldn’t even think about benching Liufau. The first is pretty simple. He’s the best they got. It’s not close. Junior Jordan Gehrke has shown no sign of accuracy.
The second point is the offensive line. Liufau is the only person who has a chance to get anything done with it. A major reason for his regression is because of the five guys pass-blocking for him. He’s been able to avoid looking terrible despite the circumstances.
If the idea of replacing Liufau is to develop a new quarterback, the struggle will be real with an offensive line that allowed eight sacks Saturday night at Arizona State. Putting in redshirt freshman Cade Aspay would ruin any hope of him improving in the future. He would get destroyed, even more than Liufau.
If the Colorado has any hope of being prolific on the offensive end, it will come behind the arm of Liufau. Anything else will result in failure and signal the team giving up on the season.
Sam Routhier: I think there is more that Colorado can ask for, Jared, and that is victory.
I like to think that these past two years I’ve been a Liufau advocate as much as anybody. Leading the Pac-12 in interceptions last season? Growing pains. Missing wide open receivers? Unavoidable. Through thick and thin, through a 7-19 record with Loofa Liufau at the helm, there has not been a game where I’ve watched the Buffaloes and desired another quarterback for this team.
If you can sense a “but” coming, I’m going to do you one better…
However, I think Liufau needs to take a seat. The past two losses to Oregon and Arizona State have shown me one thing about Liufau: The man can take a beating. Monster hits both inside and outside the pocket have been a consistent issue every time Liufau sets foot on the field. Before the Buffaloes even began Pac-12 play, Liufau was banged up after the Colorado State game, and I think it is impossible that after all the hits he has taken in the weeks since then that he could look you in the eye and honestly say that his physical condition hasn’t worsened in October.
This is all just a lengthy introduction to what I think is the biggest knock against Mr. Liufau remaining Colorado’s quarterback: He isn’t anywhere close to being 100 percent healthy, and he isn’t going to get there between now and the end of the season. Personally, I feel for the guy and the mental state he must be in knowing what kind of a beating he’s going to take every Saturday. But as someone who wants to see Colorado succeed, I’ll take a green but healthy Apsay who has a healthy shoulder and a body that is going to be capable of bouncing back from a lot more hits than Liufau.
Liufau may be Colorado’s most experienced quarterback by a fair margin, but in my opinion he is also a ticking time-bomb on the verge of potentially serious injury.
Funk-Breay: I just don’t believe you can use Liufau’s injury as an excuse to bench him. Anyone you send out there is going to get blown up a few times with this offensive line. Bottom line is, CU has to send out its best player at quarterback unless there is an extremely compelling reason not to.
And I don’t see any compelling reason. This is football. There’s always a risk for injury. Maybe, if the Buffs’ season progresses and there’s no hope of reaching a bowl, then I would consider it. But while there’s still hope to win significant games in the Pac-12, Colorado will be cheating its fans by not sending out the best product available.
The Arizona State game this past Saturday was ugly, but if this team plays up to its potential it can win some games down the line. I don’t want to miss out on wins because the Buffs have Aspay or Gehrke in at quarterback. CU needs all the wins it can get.
And I believe this offensive line will improve, and so will Liufau. He got sacked eight times Saturday, but the Sun Devils have quite the aggressive defense. Even then, he still threw for 389 yards. Upcoming games against Arizona and Oregon State present opportunities for improvement on the line and for this team to get some wins.
Keep Liufau in there. Don’t give up on the season.
Routhier: Jared, I don’t want to give up on the season either, and I’m not sure that we have to necessarily do that by making a change at quarterback.
In addition to grit and determination, Liufau has showcased a lot of poor throwing and downright bad decision-making these past two games. I acknowledge some of this has always been a part of his game, but ever since I watched him throw a half-dozen balls into the stands against Nicholls last month, he just hasn’t shown the accuracy that I think other options at Colorado could provide.
Against Nicholls, Liufau played the worst I’ve ever seen a winning quarterback play in a 40+ point victory. It was more of the same against Oregon in a game in which the Buffs kept up for a half despite a Liufau interception — a game that many believe ended when Liufau was strip-sacked in the second half. And despite the gaudy numbers you mention for Liufau against the Sun Devils last Saturday, the man just continued to get hammered by defenders and lacked the ability to make quick decisions or fend for himself.
I’m sure as much as wide receivers like senior Nelson Spruce and sophomore Shay Fields have enjoyed playing with Liufau these past couple years, they wouldn’t mind someone taking over who can hit them in the numbers when they’re open. Personally I feel like that might just be Apsay, whom Pac-12 analyst Yogi Roth referred to as “the best pure passer on this team” just this past weekend.
You’re right that it isn’t Liufau’s fault that the offensive line is a sieve. But overall, I feel like we’ve seen the end of the line with the Liufau experiment, and while there have been some happy days and feel-good moments, it’s time to put him on the mend and let the next man in line step in.
Colorado hosts the Arizona Wildcats this Saturday at Folsom Field. Kickoff is at 7 p.m. and the game will be broadcast nationally on FS1 and on the radio on KOA 850 A.M.
Contact CU Independent Sports Editors Sam Routhier and Jared Funk-Breay at Samuel.Routhier@colorado.edu and Jared.Funkbreay@colorado.edu