UCLA’s All-American linebacker flattened Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau with a late hit in the second half last week at the Rose Bowl. Liufau, a true freshman from Tacoma, got up and got in Anthony Barr’s face.
“If people are gonna push off on me on the ground,” Liufau said, “I’m not going to let that happen.”
On the next play, Barr was penalized again for a late hit on the quarterback, one of several heated moments between the Bruins and Buffaloes. UCLA wound up winning, 45-23, and handing Colorado its 13th consecutive loss in Pac-12 Conference play.
As their beleaguered rebuild continues under first-year coach Mike MacIntrye, the Buffaloes (3-5, 0-5) have been battered and beaten again around the Pac-12 this season. But Liufau insists they aren’t backing down as he leads Colorado into Saturday’s matchup against Washington (5-3, 2-3) at Husky Stadium (5 p.m., Pac-12 Networks).
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“Everyone over here is fighting,” Liufau said this week by phone. “The last couple games have been close. The score may not say so, but there’s a couple plays here, a couple plays there — especially from myself — that if we make and we’re consistent, the game’s a lot different than what it has been.
“We all feel it, and we can’t wait.”
The 6-foot-4, 215-pound Liufau, who led Bellarmine Prep to the Class 4A state championship game last season (losing to Skyline), made his first road start at the Rose Bowl last week, four days after his 19th birthday. He had the best game of his young career, completing 25 of 36 passes for 247 yards with one touchdown and no turnovers.
MacIntrye has raved about his poise and maturity, and Colorado sports information director David Plati called Liufau one of the most “polished” freshmen he’s ever been around. “And I’ve been here since the Reagan administration,” Plati said.
A three-star recruit in high school, Liufau said he has a good relationship with UW coach Steve Sarkisian, who recruited the quarterback early on. The Huskies never offered a scholarship though; when Colorado did, Liufau jumped at the chance.
He isn’t downplaying his enthusiasm over his return to the Puget Sound region.
“I’m really excited to come home,” he said, “and play in front of family and friends.”
He paused, then added: “And hopefully lead my team to victory.”
Liufau had made his collegiate debut against Arizona State on Oct. 12, replacing junior Connor Wood with the Buffaloes trailing 25-0 in the first quarter. Liufau had a promising start, leading Colorado on an 11-play touchdown drive, but he also threw two interceptions, lost a fumble and took a safety against ASU.
In his three starts since, he has thrown three touchdowns against one interception, and led Colorado to a 43-10 nonconference victory over Charleston Southern.
“I’ve been very impressed,” Sarkisian said this week. “He comes from a really good program here in state and we know he’ll be ready to play, for sure. He’s been coming to games here at Husky Stadium for a long time, so he’ll be fired up.”
Liufau’s father, Joe, is a retired Army veteran who would sometimes take a young Sefo with him to Fort Lewis.
“That had a big influence on me,” Liufau said. “It helped me grow to who I am today, a lot of my toughness, a lot of my humble character, I’d say that’s a credit to my parents, my dad. Especially my toughness. When he would take me to play football and basketball with the Army guys when I was in fifth or sixth grade, that helped me a lot. I’d always go as hard as I could.”
And come Saturday night, he’s hoping to make things especially hard for the Huskies.
Adam Jude: 206-464-2364 or firstname.lastname@example.org