Colorado makes long trek east to face UMass

September 5, 2014

Colorado is venturing east after its season opener went south.

Buffalo quarterback Sefo Liufau insisted the players have put the baggage from a demoralizing 31-17 loss to Colorado State behind them.

Their focus Saturday will be squarely on Massachusetts, a team that has struggled since moving up to the Football Bowl Subdivision in 2012 but stayed with Boston College - for a half, anyway - last weekend.

This will be Colorado's first trip to the northeast since knocking off Army in West Point, New York, nearly 37 years ago. The trek to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Massachusetts - home of the New England Patriots and where this game will be played - marks one of the longest road trips in school history.

It's a good time to get away. The Buffaloes were smarting after their bowl chances - never too early to talk about bowl chances - took a blow with the loss to the Rams. Colorado led in that game, too, before the Rams took control in the fourth quarter.

''Obviously, after the game, everyone was upset and frustrated,'' Liufau said. ''But the guys responded well in practice this week. ... We're just ready to go out there and play again.''

The Buffs face a Massachusetts team that trailed Boston College just 6-0 at halftime, before the Eagles wore the Minutemen down with their ground game in a 30-7 victory.

Colorado enters as a 17-point favorite, which might have had coach Mike MacIntyre a little concerned about overconfidence if not for the loss to Colorado State.

''I see hungriness,'' MacIntyre said. ''I don't see any sign of us overlooking anybody. We can't overlook anybody by any stretch of the imagination.''

The Minutemen are eager, too.

''Colorado is a lot faster than Boston College,'' UMass coach Mark Whipple said. ''I'm not going to say they are as physical as Boston College - I hope they aren't as physical.

''We did not play well as a team and one or two mental breakdowns in certain areas cost us against BC. If we can shore up those things it will give us a chance.''

Things to consider as the Buffaloes travel roughly 1,770 miles to face the Minutemen:

POUND THE BALL: Like Boston College did a week ago, the Buffaloes are hoping to establish the run against the Minutemen. ''I hope we can run the ball,'' MacIntyre said. ''We definitely need to be able to have a good balance and be able to run the football. That takes all the pressure off of Sefo, and it gives us the opportunity to have some more big plays.''

START OF SOMETHING: This is the first of a three-game series between the schools. UMass will visit Boulder next season and again in 2021. The two schools have met three times on the basketball floor, with the Minutemen holding a 2-1 edge.

ARTIFICIAL NOT-SO-SWEETENER: The turf at Gillette Stadium is a synthetic surface, not exactly welcomed news to the Buffs, who have lost four straight on faux grass. Their last win on synthetic grass was at Washington State in 2012. Colorado also plays on non-grass surfaces at California, Arizona and Oregon.

SOLID OPENER: Whipple liked what he saw out of freshman running back J.T. Blyden against Boston College. Blyden had 43 yards on nine carries, including a 14-yard scamper. ''He showed he has talent,'' Whipple said. ''His eyes weren't too big, and we are excited about that. I think he is going to be a good player for us down the road.''

SPRUCE WATCH: The Minutemen will definitely keep an eye out for Liufau's favorite target, junior receiver Nelson Spruce, who caught seven passes for 104 yards and two TDs last week. ''He was a good player for them last year and is a go-to guy,'' Whipple said.