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Quantifying Quarterbacks: Sefo Liufau Battles Past No. 22 Utah

In a weak year for the PAC12, Colorado has played at a surprisingly high level and earned themselves a spot in the AP top ten rankings. Many of Colorado’s juniors and seniors kicked it into high gear this season to generate Colorado’s surge. Among that group of seniors is quarterback Sefo Liufau.

By: Derrik Klassen

Liufau is a four-year starter at Colorado. He’s been the heart of the program, or at least the offense, for a while now. After years of stumbling through tough PAC12 schedules, Liufau has battled through a weakened PAC12 in his senior season and done his part to keep this Cinderella story alive.

Key:

  • ADJ = Adjustment from receiver
  • DE = Drop w/ effort or defended pass
  • DB = Dropped blatantly
  • TD = Touchdown
  • INT = Interception
25+ 2/4 (1 ADJ, 1 DE) 0/2 (1 DE) 0/2 (1 DB) 1/1
21-25 1/1 0/1 (1 DE)
16-20 0/1 0/1 (1 DE)
11-15 2/4 (2 DE) 1/1 (1 TD)
6-10 1/2 (1 DE) 2/3 (1 DE) 1/3 (1 ADJ, 2 DE)
1-5 1/1 3/5 (2 DE) 2/4 (1 ADJ, 1 DE) 2/2
0 2/2 1/2
Throwaways: Left Outside Left Middle Right Middle Right Outside

Total: 21/42 (50.00%) *Does not include jet/touch passes*

Sefo Liufau is many things, but he is not accurate. Liufau missed far too many open passes versus Utah, many of them that were drive killing. He was inaccurate at all levels of the field, especially down the field when receivers like Devin Ross blew the top off of Utah’s secondary. Despite the win, Liufau left an unhealthy amount of yardage on the field. He did not just leave yards on the field via incompletions, either. Even on many of Liufau’s completions, his placement was such that the receiver had to adjust unnecessarily or slow down just enough to hinder yards-after-catch opportunities.   

To his credit, Liufau plays with good field vision. It’s rare for Liufau to make an overtly bad decision, as his measly three interceptions on the season will attest to. Though he does not always get the ball to where he needs to, it is easy to trust Liufau to target the correct receiver on a given play. If his accuracy can be at all salvaged, his knack for finding the open receiver will become much more valuable.

Liufau also showed off his value as a runner. Liufau is not a burner like, say, Lamar Jackson, but Liufau can be a pseudo power back, more like Cam Newton. Newton is obviously worlds better athletically than Liufau, but Liufau does possess enough size, power and determination to grind for a handful of yards when necessary. On a number of occasions, Liufau’s ability to pick up yards on his own came in handy for the Buffs.

Pass Rush Breakdown:

  • 2 Man Rush: 1 Time, 0 Pressures – 1/1
  • 3 Man Rush: 1 Time, 1 Pressure – 0/1 (1 DE)
  • 4 Man Rush: 7 Times, 1 Pressure – 2/7 (1 DB, 2 DE)
  • 5 Man Rush: 20 Times, 5 Pressures – 11/20 (2 ADJ, 6 DE)
  • 6 Man Rush: 8 Times, 2 Pressures – 6/8 (1 ADJ, 1 DE, 1 TD)
  • 7 Man Rush: 5 Times, 3 Pressures – 1/5 (3 DE)

Passing When Pressured: 1/12 (1 ADJ, 7 DE)

Liufau, against Utah, was more comfortable getting the ball out quickly. Against six rushers, Liufau completed 75% of his passes, including his touchdown; when facing seven rushers, Liufau did not complete many passes, but he showed a willingness to throw the ball down the field immediately and test the defense. Whether it was by design or a panicked reaction, Liufau at least showed that he had no problem being aggressive with Utah when they got aggressive with him.

Unfortunately, Liufau did not place many of those aggressive passes well. A majority of Liufau’s deep passes hung for too long in the air, especially on plays where he was getting hit as or right after he threw. Colorado’s protection was largely poor, but there were certainly plays that Liufau could have saved, but failed to. Liufau did not play scared against pressure, but he could not execute.

Situational Passing:

  • Play Action: 4/9 (3 DE)
  • Rollout: 1/1
  • 3rd/4th Down: 6/13 (1 ADJ, 6 DE)
  • Red Zone: 2/4 (2 DE, 1 TD)

Liufau’s critical down passing and red zone passing versus Utah was about as average as could be. On third downs, Liufau failed to complete half of his passes, though he did show the willingness to test at or beyond the sticks, which far too few quarterbacks do. He’s going to need to complete more of those passes for his aggression to matter, though. Liufau was just as fine as a red zone passer. He scored once, completed half of his throws and avoided interceptions. It was nothing to get worked up about, good or bad.

Route Break Key:

  • S = Screen, Shoot, Swing
  • O = Out-breaking
  • I = In-breaking
  • V = Vertical
  • C = Crossing
S 3/4
O 4/5 (1 ADJ)
I 9/16 (1 ADJ, 7 DE)
V 4/13 (1 ADJ, 1 DB, 4 DE, 1 TD)
C 1/4 (2 DE)

When throwing to the boundary, Liufau looked excellent, but when throwing anywhere else, he faltered. Barely completing half of his passes on in-breaking routes is below average production, as is his 4/13 completion rate on vertical routes. Liufau’s aggression down the field is appreciated, but it won’t matter until he starts completing those passes more consistently.

Target Distribution

Shay Fields (No.1) 8/14 (1 DB, 4 DE, 1 TD)
Devin Ross (No.2) 7/14 (3 ADJ, 4 DE)
George Frazier (No.5) 0/1 (1 DE)
Jay MacIntyre (No.14) 2/4 (2 DE)
Kabion Ento (No.17) 1/3 (2 DE)
Phillip Lindsay (No.23) 2/5
Donovan Lee (No.29) 1/1

Wide receivers Shay Fields and Devin Ross dominated Liufau’s target share in this game. Neither of them are big wide receivers, but both of them have a shifty ability to get open. Ross, in particular, is a speed demon who does his best work down the field, not to mention he is Liufau’s best “accuracy erasing” receiver. Conversely, Fields feasts more over the heart of the field and is more like Liufau’s safety blanket.

Sefo Liufau is an easy player to root for, but a difficult prospect to bang the table for. He comes off as an excellent teammate and fighter on the field, but character only goes so far when a quarterback can’t throw accurately. Liufau is not inconsistent with his accuracy like some quarterbacks. Rather, Liufau is flat out inaccurate with rare flashes of “bucket dropping” deep placement. Accuracy be damned, between Liufau’s size, experience and manner in which he carries himself on the field, NFL teams will likely be inclined to give him a shot.

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