Nov 12, 2016; Tucson, AZ, USA; Colorado Buffaloes center Alex Kelley (74) (left) wide receiver Shay Fields (1) and wide receiver Bryce Bobo (4) celebrate after scoring a touchdown against the Arizona Wildcats during the third quarter at Arizona Stadium. Colorado won 49-24. Mandatory Credit: Casey Sapio-USA TODAY Sports
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Now that we’ve had time to sit and stew over the last two games of the season, it’s time to look back at what went well for the Colorado Buffaloes this season.
Colorado won 10 games this season and though it was blown out in back-to-back games in the Pac-12 Championship Game and the Alamo Bowl, no one expected the Buffs to be as good as they were. As a result, fans can hope that the football program can return to the prominence it once had.
“The rise is real”.
That was the mission statement of this year’s team. But for that rise to continue, the Buffs will need to build upon what they accomplished this season. That goes on the field and off the field.
If we look back, it’s tough to decide which were the top plays from this season. However, I have gone back and looked at every game and have pared it down to five.
When making this list, I took into consideration how big the play was, but also what it meant to that particular game. For instance, Bryce Bobo and Phillip Lindsay combined for an excellent trick play against USC that resulted in a long touchdown, but the Buffs lost that game.
That said, not every play on this list came in a game that Colorado won. So, here are the top plays from this season, ranked in order.
Nov 3, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Isaiah Oliver (26) returns a punt for a touchdown for sixty eight yards as UCLA Bruins place kicker Stefan Flintoft (20) defends in the fourth quarter at Folsom Field. The Buffaloes defeated the Bruins 20-10. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Coming into this season, there were several teams in the Pac 12 that Colorado had never beaten. One of those teams was UCLA.
When the two teams met in early November, it was a back and forth contest that featured 25 total penalties, including eight personal fouls against the Buffs.
UCLA struggled this season and Colorado was ranked in the top 25 for the first time in years. However, with under five and a half minutes to play in the game, the Buffs led just 13-10. That’s when Isaiah Oliver caught a punt and cut across the field before going 68 yards for the touchdown. It was the play that broke the game open Colorado.
The Buffs went to 7-2 with the victory and started to be recognized as a team that could contend for the Pac-12 title.
Sep 24, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Colorado Buffaloes wide receiver Bryce Bobo (4) catches the ball in the fourth quarter for a touchdown as Oregon Ducks linebacker Matt Mariota (4) defends at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
Colorado has had its struggles against Oregon historically. And that goes past the time they’ve been in the Pac 12. If you want proof, look up the 2002 Fiesta Bowl.
Colorado had to travel to Oregon in the conference opener this season, knowing a win would start the run that the school eventually had. This was a good, old-fashioned shootout.
Trailing 38-33 with under nine minutes to play in the game, Colorado faced a key 3rd-and-10. Steven Montez (filling in for Sefo Liufau), threw a ball toward the corner of the end zone for Bryce Bobo, who came down with the catch. It was initially ruled incomplete and Colorado fans probably wouldn’t have even argued that because at first glance, because it seemed impossible that he could have caught it.
However, replays showed that Bobo did pull in the nearly impossible catch and get a foot inbounds. The ruling was overturned and on the next play, Montez completed a 2-point conversion by hitting Bobo, putting Colorado up 41-38, which would end up being the final score.
Nov 26, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Utah Utes running back Joe Williams (28) fumbles the ball in the second half against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field. The Buffaloes defeated the Utes 27-22. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
With a spot in the Pac-12 Championship Game, all Colorado had to do was defeat Utah. That would be easier said than done, as Utah had beaten the Buffs five straight times.
This was a hard fought contest by both sides, but with the Buffs clinging to a 20-16 lead, they punted down to the Utah 12-yard line. On the very next play, Colorado linebacker Rick Gamboa put a hit on Utah’s star running back Joe Williams, jarring the ball loose. Kenneth Olugbode then scooped it up for Colorado before taking it 10 yards for a touchdown.
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The score gave Colorado a 27-16 lead with less than 11 minutes to play in a game they would go on to win.
Sep 24, 2016; Eugene, OR, USA; Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Ahkello Witherspoon (23) intercepts the ball against Oregon Ducks wide receiver Darren Carrington II (7) at Autzen Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports
People can scoff and say it was a down year for Oregon, which it was. The Ducks finished 4-8 on the year, but they’re not far removed from being a national power. A road win over this team would be massive for Colorado and fans knew that.
Colorado took a three-point lead after the amazing catch by Bobo, but Oregon had the ball with a chance to win it in the end. With less than three minutes to play, they started the final drive at their own 42-yard line.
Oregon quarterback Dakota Prukop completed a few passes before the Buffs were called for pass interference, giving the Ducks 1st-and-10 at the Colorado 26-yard line with 1:43 to play. Prukop then completed a pass down to the 7-yard line of CU, and the Buffs were in trouble.
But on the very next play, Ahkello Witherspoon made a tremendous play on the ball, intercepting Prukop’s pass in the end zone to preserve the biggest win Colorado had earned to that point since moving into the Pac 12 conference.
Sep 17, 2016; Ann Arbor, MI, USA; Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau (13) passes for a touchdown in the first quarter against the Michigan Wolverines at Michigan Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports
As good as Michigan was this year, the Buffaloes had two separate 14-point leads against them in their September meeting in Ann Arbor.
Colorado led 21-7 before falling behind 28-24 after the Wolverines began to make some big plays. However, my No. 1 play on this list encapsulates Sefo Liufau’s time in Colorado perfectly.
Liufau may not have the tools to be the best quarterback in the NFL, but he’s as tough as it gets. Liufau’s injuries would eventually force him out of this game and hobble him for the rest of the year, but right after getting his ankle rolled up on, Liufau connected with a beautiful deep ball to Shay Fields, who got behind the Michigan for a 70-yard touchdown. Liufau took another hit on the play and was down in pain again, but this was just a great play by a gutsy player.