Beavers, Buffs ready for another possible shootout
BOULDER, Colo. — Sefo Liufau's right arm isn't so sore and Nelson Spruce's hands don't hurt.
Colorado's prolific duo is ready to go at it again when the Oregon State Beavers (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) make their first trip to Boulder since 1988.
The Buffaloes (2-3, 0-2) are coming off a gut-wrenching 59-56 double-overtime loss at Cal in which Liufau completed 46 of 67 passes for 449 yards and seven touchdowns.
Never before had he thrown that many times in a game.
"No, not even close. Probably not even close to 50. It was something new to me but I'm totally fine, my arm's fine. We're good to go," Liufau said.
Spruce had 19 catches for 176 yards and three TDs against the Bears.
"You don't focus on the numbers really, you go back to work," Spruce said earlier in the week.
Spruce leads the nation in receptions (56), yards receiving (697) and touchdown catches (10).
"He is a good football player. He's got great ball skills down the field, he's got quickness and strength," Beavers coach Mike Riley said. "... I think we need three guys to cover him."
Other things to keep an eye on Saturday when the Beavers visit Boulder for just the fourth time in the last half century:
CLOSE CALLS: They don't count in the standings, but Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre believes the Buffs can take some positives out of that heart-breaking loss.
"Sometimes, we just never came back from anything" last season, MacIntyre said. "Now, this team may not get the result we want, but we're going to be right there fighting for it, I believe, all the time."
SUBSTANCE OVER STYLE: Oregon State QB Sean Mannion is a throwback thrower.
"In today's college football, the (Brett) Hundleys and the (Marcus) Mariotas that can run around, they're really good quarterbacks but, they have a little more flash so to speak maybe because of their ability to run and kind of wow you with their feet," MacIntyre said. "Mannion does not wow you with his feet."
But with his arm, he does: Mannion is 866 yards shy of breaking the Pac-12 record for career passing yards.
At 6-foot-5 and 227 pounds, Mannion looks and plays more like Peyton Manning than Russell Wilson.
"I don't want to stereotype him but Hundley and Mariota and those types of guys are more dual threats and he's a drop back, can make every throw, stands tall in the pocket," MacIntyre said. "He is tall but, he stands tall in the pocket. He can throw it from this hash to over there on that sideline for 25 yards on a dart, he can take it and, at the last second, launch it 60 yards."
GROUND GAME: Despite his prolific passing ways, Mannion might have to rely more on his improved ground game this week with top deep threat Victory Bolden doubtful for Saturday.
Junior Richard Mullaney is the most veteran receiver on the team, but playing out of position at flanker. Mullaney has 81 catches for his career; the rest of the current wide receiver corps have a combined 14 career catches if Bolden is out.
Mannion needs four completions to reach 1,000 for his career. He will be the 24th player in NCAA history to reach the milestone.
Beavers running backs Terron Ward and Storm Woods each have 100-yard-plus rushing games this season. Arizona is the only other team in the Pac-12 with two 100-yard rushers.
TOP TARGET: Spruce will certainly get some consideration for the Biletnikoff Award that goes to college football's top receiver. But is it really that far-fetched to put him in the Heisman Trophy race, too?
"Wow, that's a big conversation," MacIntyre said. "I definitely think he needs to be in the Biletnikoff conversation. I definitely think that. There's no doubt about that. I think he's a heck of a football player for us.
"Everybody giggled under their breath at me when I said, 'He's a first-team All-Pac 12 receiver.' I said it all fall, I said it all preseason, I said it in the spring," MacIntyre said. "That's what he is. I think he definitely needs to be in the Biletnikoff talk for sure."