For all of Sefo Liufau’s tough runs, this one may be the most impressive: His sprint from the locker room back to the field.
A hip pointer wasn’t going to sideline him in the fourth quarter. Especially not in a game of this magnitude.
Liufau threw for 345 yards, rushed for 108 more and scored three touchdowns as No. 12 Colorado beat No. 20 Washington State, 38-24, on Saturday afternoon in a matchup of unlikely Pac-12 division leaders.
Phillip Lindsay added 144 yards rushing and two TDs for the Buffaloes.
“It means the world to go out there and win, keep our hopes alive,” said Liufau, who starred at Tacoma’s Bellarmine Prep. “It’s more fun than anything. We’ve been in close games for a long time now. We’ve gotten a little older and a little better at being consistent and executing.”
Liufau briefly left in the fourth quarter only to return and pick up a crucial third-and-short that led to a game-sealing TD run by Lindsay.
Liufau became the second Colorado QB to throw for 300 yards and rush for 100 in a game, joining Steven Montez, who accomplished the feat at Oregon in September while filling in for a banged-up Liufau.
“Sefo got hit on the hip and was hurting,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “He played really well. He played like I figured Sefo would.”
Luke Falk threw for 325 yards and three scores for Washington State, which had won eight in a row. The Cougars can still win the North Division with a victory against No. 7 Washington on Friday.
“I just thought we were incohesive as far as doing our jobs,” Cougars coach Mike Leach said.
Leach’s gambling mentality cost the Cougars a possible field goal when he went for it on fourth-and-4 in the fourth quarter. Colorado’s Nick Fisher tackled receiver Kyle Sweet short of the first down.
Earlier, Leach rolled the dice on fourth-and-1 at his own 41 and Jamal Morrow rewarded his faith by gaining 30 yards. John Thompson later hauled in a 7-yard TD pass to give the Cougars a 24-21 lead.
The Cougars finished 2 of 4 on fourth-down attempts.
“We were close on two of those,” Leach said. “One of them I probably should have kicked a field goal. In the end, it probably wouldn’t have mattered.”
Falk topped the 300-yard mark for the 23rd time in his career.
“We had a couple miscues, a couple miscommunications, and who knows how it would be?” Falk said. “But it didn’t happen.”
Standout WSU receiver River Cracraft didn’t play because of what’s been reported as a torn ACL suffered last weekend. The Cougars made up for his absence by spreading the wealth around. Ten players caught at least one pass.
Colorado’s defense stepped up after the Buffaloes fell behind 24-21 late in the third quarter. The next four Washington State drives went like this: Turned the ball over on downs, punt, fumble and interception.
Washington State (8-3, 7-1 Pac-12, No. 22 CFP) and Colorado (9-2, 7-1, No. 10 CFP) weren’t really expected to be in position for a possible division title this late into November. The Cougars were picked to finish fourth in the North and the Buffaloes last in the South in the preseason poll.
The Colorado defense came up big in the fourth quarter with the only two sacks of Falk. This after being dealt a big blow in the first quarter when safety Afolabi Laguda was ejected in the first quarter for targeting.
Lindsay went over the 1,000-yard mark for the season, becoming the first Colorado running back to accomplish the feat since 2010.