Defense Pushes #16 Utah Past Colorado, 28-13 In 70th Straight RES Sellout
SALT LAKE CITY – The No. 16 University of Utah Football program remained undefeated in Rice-Eccles Stadium this season with a 28-13 victory over Colorado today, holding the Buffaloes without an offensive touchdown. The Utes finished the season 6-0 in RES and enters the Pac-12 Championship game 9-3 overall and 8-1 in Pac-12 play.
It was defensive domination from start to finish for the Utes, holding Colorado to just 148 yards of total offense and nine first downs. Utah held the Buffaloes to 64 yards rushing, the sixth time this season the Utes have held their opponent under 100 yards rushing, also holding Colorado to just 84 passing yards.
After trailing in the first quarter, Utah held the Buffaloes to just 32 yards of total offense and two first downs in the second quarter with Colorado averaging only 2.3 yards per play. Utah held its 28-13 lead heading into the fourth and final quarter of the game with the Utes staying stingy on defense, keeping the Buffaloes to 24 yards on offense including only three yards on the ground.
Entering the game, Colorado led the Pac-12 and ranked 18th in the FBS in red zone defense with the Utes converting on three of their four trips to scoring territory, recording 444 yards of total offense. Utah wrapped up the game with 265 rushing yards, the fourth time in the last five games the Utes have reached the 200 rushing yard mark, along with 179 passing yards and three touchdowns through the air.
The Utes had a rough start on offense, turning it over on its first possession with the Buffaloes taking over on the Utah 15-yard line with 13:29 on the clock in the first quarter. Utah was able to hold Colorado to a 33-yard field goal after the Ute defense came up with stops from Cole Bishop and Hayden Furey to force the fourth down field goal attempt.
Despite entering the second quarter down 3-0, the Utes would gain momentum with a 14-point swing in the quarter, starting at the 12:23 mark. TJ Pledger would put the Utes in the red zone on a strong 27-yard rush with Cameron Rising and Brant Kuithe connecting on the next play for a 19-yard touchdown to give Utah a 7-0 lead.
Utah's defense would get to work on the Buffaloes on the next drive as Devin Lloyd forced a third-and-23 after a devastating sack, making Colorado punt it away. The Utes would get the ball on the Colorado 39-yard line after a 16-yard return from Britain Covey, making quick work of the short field to score their second touchdown of the quarter.
On the fifth play of the drive, the tight end connection would continue as Rising found Dalton Kincaid for a 28-yard passing play with Kincaid dragging a Colorado safety across the goal line for a touchdown. The drive gave Utah a 14-3 advantage with 8:08 remaining in the second quarter.
Colorado would score on a 56-yard field goal as time expired in the first half, cutting Utah's lead to eight heading into halftime. The Buffaloes were able to then make it a one-point game just 15 seconds into the third quarter, returning the kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown to make it 14-13.
The Utes had an answer though, scoring on their next drive to extend their lead to eight with 12:08 on the clock in the third quarter. Covey put the Utes on their own 32-yard line on a 29-yard kickoff return, followed by key first down plays by Tavion Thomas, Covey and Kuithe as Thomas finished the drive off with a 12-yard rushing score to put the Utes up 21-13.
Utah made it 14-unanswered with 6:45 to go in the third quarter when Rising and Covey linked up on a cheeky shovel pass for a 13-yard touchdown. Rising had to scramble on the broken play, and when the pressure collapsed on him, he found a wide-open Covey right outside the end zone, allowing the junior wide receiver to walk into the end zone to give Utah a 28-13 lead.
The Utes and Buffaloes would go scoreless in the fourth quarter with Utah keeping Colorado out of the end zone on a fourth-and-seven with 11:40 to go in the game. The two teams would trade punts down the stretch with Utah's defense continuing to keep the Buffaloes off the scoreboard, allowing the Utes to run down the clock for the win.
Rising tied his career high in touchdown passes in Utah's win against the Buffaloes, finishing with three on 14-of-23 passing for 179 yards. Rising linked up with five different players through the air against Colorado with three different players scoring receiving touchdowns.
Covey led the Utes with five receptions for a season high 72 yards and a touchdown, adding 29 kickoff return yards, 31 punt return yards and four yards rushing (136 all-purpose). Kincaid added 55 yards receiving and a touchdown while Kuithe contributed 35 yards and a receiving score.
The Utes had two 100-yard rushers, the second time the Utes have had multiple 100-yard rushers in a game this season. Thomas led Utah with 142 yards on 25 carries (5.7 ypc) and a touchdown while Pledger added 13 rushes for 103 yards (7.9 ypc).
On defense, Nephi Sewell finished with a team high 10 stops (1.0 TFL) while Lloyd had nine tackles that included 1.0 tackle for loss and 1.0 sack. Cole Bishop also racked up seven tackles that included six solo stops, also adding a tackle for loss.
In its 70th straight sellout, Utah improved to 78-25 all-time in Rice-Eccles Stadium during the Kyle Whittingham era, completing its fourth undefeated home season during his time as head coach (6-0, 2021; 7-0, 2019; 6-0, 2009; 6-0, 2008).
Utah improved to 8-1 in conference play for the second time since joining the conference, also recording an 8-1 record during Pac-12 games in 2019. Utah has eight consecutive years of winning seasons, dating back to 2014 and has finished with a winning season in 15 of Whittingham's 17 seasons as head coach.
The Utes will head to Las Vegas, Nev., for the Pac-12 Championship game on Friday, Dec. 3. The game is set for a 6 p.m. MT kick on ABC against the winner of the Pac-12 North, which will be determined Saturday night.