DENVER (AP) Six months ago, the Colorado Buffaloes were content for Sefo Liufau to take his time recovering from left foot surgery because Texas Tech transfer Davis Webb was insisting he'd be wearing the black and gold this fall.
Then, Webb spurned the Buffaloes for the Cal Bears.
Suddenly, Liufau's determination to make a lightning-quick recovery from a Lisfranc injury was a blessing for the Buffs, who open their season Friday night against Colorado State at soon-to-be-renamed Sports Authority Field at Mile High.
''It's a small miracle that he's back, maybe a big miracle for as many Lisfrancs you read about and that I've been around,'' Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. ''... Sefo never really went home. He stayed and was here every day. He would pay his own money to fly to Portland to work with his own passing coach to help keep everything going while he was down. It's helped his velocity on the ball and his accuracy. He's worked tirelessly.
''I'm excited he's back. He's looked good in practice. I'm looking forward to him having the year that he's earned.''
Liufau's dogged determination to make it back for his senior season has rubbed off on his teammates, too.
''They see that heightened intensity,'' MacIntyre said. ''When they see other people overcome things with the work ethic and the time they have to put into it, they understand it. If you know your friend's hopes and dreams, and you can help him reach them, then you're going to do a little more to reach his hopes and dreams. That's what I see that Sefo has done with this team.''
Other things to watch in the Rocky Mountain Showdown:
WHO'S THE QB?: Colorado State coach Mike Bobo isn't saying who will be under center for the Rams: Georgia transfer Faton Bauta, incumbent Nick Stevens or even freshman Colin Hill. Bobo said the advantage is that all three prepare as though they're the starter. Plus, Colorado's coaches can't hone in on just one.
''I might gain an extra hour on (Buffs defensive coordinator) Jim Leavitt trying to find tape on Faton Bauta or Jim Leavitt watching the high school film to see what kind of player Collin Hill was in high school,'' Bobo said. ''Was he a guy who ran or was he drop-back guy? To find out arm strength. Is he an intermediate passer? Can he stretch the ball down field? I would think they are going to watch a little bit more tape. You better have a plan for your guys. That's the reason.''
RIVAL RAMS: Buffaloes linebacker Jimmy Gilbert isn't sure this is such a rivalry: ''Yes and no. The reason I say no is because we go week-by-week so every week is a rivalry week for us,'' he said. ''We try to give each opponent we have respect, and if you treat your opponent with respect you'll learn about your opponent.''
The Rams have a similar philosophy but Bobo doesn't buy the notion that it's just another game to the Buffs.
''I heard they really didn't care about playing us too much'' last year, Bobo said. ''They really acted like they cared when they won the game. ... It's one game of 12. But you aren't naive enough not to say that it's an important game.''
NOW OR NEVER: MacIntyre's future in Boulder probably hinges on Colorado earning its first bowl bid since 2007, and right now he's talking up his team's chances this season.
''I really like this football team; I've said it a lot. I get excited when I talk about this football team. This is by far the most talent and the best football we've had in the four years I've been here,'' MacIntyre said. ''Now we've got to go do it on Saturdays, and Friday nights and Thursday nights.''
YOUNG AND RESTLESS: Bobo says the Buffs have the age advantage: ''They have a lot of returning players. They've got some experience, a lot of senior leadership and they want to make a mark and have a successful season,'' he said.
Said MacIntyre: ''I've been hearing about how young CSU is, but they have 16 seniors on the two-deep and we have 16 seniors. We have six freshmen in our two-deep and they have four freshman in their two-deep. I'm not buying that they aren't a good football team; they're a really good football team. Their offensive line kicked our butt last year; (Dalyn) Dawkins ran all over us.''
NEW RECEIVERS: Last year's game featured two of the nation's best receivers in CU's Nelson Spruce, now with the Los Angeles Rams, and CSU's Rashard Higgins, now with the Cleveland Browns.
So, it's time for new receivers to come out of their shadows.
The Rams are relying on Xavier Williams, Elroy Masters Jr. and Sammie Long IV to step up. The Buffs are looking to Devin Ross, Shay Fields and Bryce Bobo to make up for Spruce's departure.
AP college football site: http://collegefootball.ap.org