Buffaloes Fall To Utah
BOULDER — Colorado's hopes for a Pac-12 title game berth took a big blow Saturday when Utah rallied to take a 38-21 win over the Buffaloes at Folsom Field.
The loss dropped Karl Dorrell's Buffs to 4-1 overall (3-1 in Pac-12 play) while Utah improved to 2-2 (overall and conference).
The Buffs led 14-10 at intermission and extended the margin to 21-10 on the first play from scrimmage in the second half. But that proved to be the final points for Colorado, as Utah took advantage of a second-quarter injury to CU star linebacker Nate Landman and ran off 28 unanswered points to collect the win.
Colorado running back Jarek Broussard was held under 100 yards for the first time this season, finishing with 80 yards on 14 carries. CU quarterback Sam Noyer was 16-for-34 for 258 yards, two touchdowns and one interception, and CU freshman Brenden Rice had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown in the first half and a 61-yard reception for a score to open the second half.
Overall, the Utes gained 432 yards to Colorado's 377. Utah running back Ty Jordan finished with 147 yards rushing, including a backbreaking 66-yard touchdown gallop in the fourth quarter. CU's offense also committed three turnovers compared to just one for Utah.
But Dorrell, who suffered his first loss at the CU helm, refused to latch on to excuses.
"A lot of issues were culprits, particularly not taking care of the ball offensively," Dorrell said. "Defensively, there were some spurts of really good defensive play and good series, but for the most part they had some issues too. We had some missed tackles, they got some runs out on us, they threw a few passes on us, so they were more efficient offensively than we were. They took care of the football and they did what it took to win the game."
Landman suffered an ankle injury late in the second quarter and Dorrell said he will be out the remainder of the season. The Utes rushed for 47 yards in the first half and 145 after intermission.
"Not one guy does the whole defense," Dorrell said. "We have a next-man up mentality. We had a lot of guys in position and we missed tackles. Our guys played hard, but they made more rugged plays than we did, and that was a difference in the game."
HOW IT HAPPENED: On a cold day with snow still on the field from the previous night's storm, Utah struck first, going 60 yards in six plays for a touchdown on the opening possession of the game. Jake Bentley threw 7 yards to Enis Solomon for the score.
Neither team then managed any kind of sustained drive for much of the rest of the first quarter. Colorado punted twice and lost the ball once on a Noyer fumble while the Buffs defense forced three punts, including a pair of three-and-outs.
But Colorado finally cranked up its offense late in the first quarter. Starting from their own 10, the Buffs marched 90 yards to the end zone in 11 plays, with Noyer hitting Maurice Bell with a 21-yard scoring toss on third down early in the second quarter. CU converted two other third down tries on the drive, with Noyer throwing 41 yards to La'Vontae Shenault on the first, and then taking it 5 yards himself on a third-and-2 keeper.
CU's defense then came up with a big play on Utah's ensuing possession. After the Utes drove into Colorado territory, Buffs cornerback Mekhi Blackmon produced an interception at the Colorado 18 to halt the drive.
Roughly eight minutes later, Rice then produced one of the more electric plays of the game, taking a Utah punt and racing 81 yards to the end zone for a 14-7 CU lead with 1:30 left in the half. Colorado's defense had stopped the drive after a Carson Wells sack of Bentley on third-and-7.
CU's defense then forced another three-and-out and a punt, but a fumble by Broussard on second down gave the Utes the ball back at the Colorado 40 with 13 seconds left in the half.
That was just enough time for the Utes to maneuver into field goal position, and Jadon Redding's 42-yard kick as the half ended sent Colorado into intermission with a 14-10 lead.
Colorado looked ready to seize momentum in a hurry in the second half when La'Vontae Shenault returned the kickoff to the CU 39. On the first play after the kick, Noyer connected with Rice on a 61-yard touchdown toss to give CU a 21-10 lead.
But the Utes quickly responded, bringing momentum back to their sideline. Following CU's touchdown, Utah answered with a three-play, 75-yard scoring drive to pull within 21-17. The Utes' defense then forced a CU three-and-out, and their offense put together another long drive, going 80 yards in 10 plays — aided by two CU penalties — to get a 20-yard touchdown pass from Bentley to Britain Covey to regain the lead, 24-21, with 6:23 left in the third quarter.
The Buffs then committed their third turnover of the game when Noyer was intercepted near midfield.
"A lot of our issues were self-inflicted," Dorrell said. "You can't turn it over."
The Utes drove all the way to the Colorado 1-yard line after the pick, but the CU defense responded with two huge stops on third and fourth down to leave Utah empty-handed on the possession.
But the Buffs' offense couldn't take advantage of the opportunity. Utah forced another CU punt and then drove into Colorado territory for another Redding field goal for a 27-21 lead with 9:19 left in the game.
"Offensively, it wasn't quite the performance we were looking for," Dorrell said. "They (Utah) did what it takes to win the game."
Still, CU trailed by only six points with plenty of time remaining, and the Buffs answered with a drive into Utah territory. CU backup quarterback Tyler Lytle, who stepped in for Noyer after the starter suffered a shoulder injury, ran 15 yards on the drive to the Utah 39.
Noyer then returned to the game, but the drive stalled at the Utah 34. Colorado opted to go for it on fourth down, only to see a pass tipped at the line of scrimmage fall incomplete.
Utah then put the game away, needing just one play to expand its lead to two scores when Ty Jordan raced 66 yards to the end zone. Bentley threw to Dalton Kincaid for the two-point conversion and a 35-21 Utah lead with just 4:43 on the clock. The Utes added one more field goal with 2:24 remaining to complete the game's scoring.
Now, the Buffs have one more Pac-12 game next week, then a bowl game.
"What you do is get back to work," Dorrell said. "There is no other way to do it. To get things fixed is to get back to work, analyze the issues that we had today, get some resolution and get it fixed so we can move forward to the next week. I think our players, given what they felt, are disappointed today but they know there is much more football to play."
TURNING POINT: After Colorado opened the second half with a one-play scoring drive, the Buffs had the chance to take the momentum and run. Instead, Utah answered with a long scoring drive and then forced a CU three-and-out that led to another Utah score. Momentum never returned to the Buffs' sidelines after that.
CU STANDOUTS: Freshman Brenden Rice had a 61-yard touchdown catch and 81-yard punt return for a score … WR Maurice Bell had the first touchdown catch of his career while cornerback Mekhi Blackmon recorded his first interception … Linebacker Carson Wells had six tackles, including three for loss with one sack, as the Buffs finished with 10 tackles for loss … Linebacker Akil Jones had 10 tackles with two for loss.
KEY STATISTIC: The Utes had just 47 yards rushing in the first half and 145 on the ground after intermission ... Colorado three turnovers while the Utes had just one ... Utah also had zero penalties (they were flagged once but it was declined by CU) while Colorado was penalized four times for 35 yards.
NOTEWORTHY: Rice became the first player since Walter Stanley (1981) to score a touchdown receiving and by return in the same game. Stanley's son, Dimitri, helped throw key blocks Saturday on both of Rice's touchdowns … Despite not hitting the 100-yard mark, Broussard is still averaging 162.6 yards per game … Temperature at kickoff was 23 degrees, making it the 10th coldest game in CU history and seventh coldest at home. The coldest is still a 1911 home game against Colorado A&M that saw the temperature at 7 degrees at kickoff … Utah has now won eight of the 10 meetings between the two teams since they both joined the Pac-12 in 2011, and the all-time series is now tied at 32-32-3. Utah has also won the last four …
UP NEXT: The Buffs will wait for the Pac-12 to announce next week's pairings. The announcement is expected to come late Saturday or early Sunday.