The Colorado Buffaloes came into their matchup with the Utah Utes with Pac-12 Championship aspirations. Injuries and poor scheming would contribute to the Buffs falling short to Utah 38-21 in the cold at Folsom Field.
Colorado Buffaloes Come Out Flat Against Utah With Chance at Pac-12 South Title
As an undefeated team, the Buffaloes were looking to get more national exposure. They got this by having a 10 a.m. game on national television. However, Utah looked like the team that was ready for the big stage.
Utah came into a game with a 1-2 record. They looked eager to get to .500 on their first series after they returned the opening kickoff to the 40-yard line. They went right down the field, and the Buffs found themselves in a quick 7-0 hole right away.
On offense, the Buffaloes came out throwing for some reason. It was an interesting decision to come out throwing in the cold. Jarek Broussard, who had 301 rushing yards last week against Arizona, has been the team MVP so far this season. He did not touch the football on the Buffs’ first two series.
Broussard finally got his first touch of the game on the third possession, a run that went for no gain. Sam Noyer fumbled two plays later. After last week, it was head-scratching why the Buffaloes were not taking a run-first approach. It has worked for them all season.
Noyer, Offense Get Going, Look Like They Will Have Halftime Momentum
Because the offense stagnated, the defense had to hold serve. They did just that, and the Buffaloes’ offense came to life. Sam Noyer found La’Vontae Shenault for 41 yards. The Buffs finally made it into Utah territory. Six plays later, Sam Noyer threw an absolute dime of a touchdown pass to wide receiver Maurice Bell. The Buffs were in a fight of a 7-7 ballgame.
The defense was still playing well, but linebacker Nate Landman was injured late in the second quarter. Landman has been the best linebacker in the nation this season. His leadership was sorely missed by the Buffs the rest of this game. Landman should still be considered for the Butkus award.
Colorado needed something to lift their spirits entering the locker room. It looked like they got that, as freshman Brenden Rice returned a punt 81 yards for a touchdown with 1:30 remaining in the second quarter.
However, after Utah went three-and-out, the Buffaloes could have kneeled the football. They ran the football instead, which never turns out well. Jarek Broussard fumbled and the Utes recovered in Buffs territory. They were able to get enough yards to set up their kicker, Jadon Redding, for a field goal as time expired. Colorado still had a 14-10 lead, but it was a precarious lead at best.
Brenden Rice Gives Colorado Boost to Start Second Half, But Utah Takes Control
Brenden Rice was the MVP for the Buffs in this game. He took a screen pass for a 61-yard touchdown in the first offensive play of the second half. The Buffs led 21-10 and looked in control. However, the defense missed Nate Landman greatly in the second half. They could not stop Utah running back Ty Jordan and were having trouble defending Utah receivers in space. These trends were a recipe for disaster on defense, as Utah scored two straight touchdowns.
Up 24-21 against Colorado, Utah could have scored again. Despite not having Nate Landman, the Buffs defense was still playing with pride. They were able to get a fourth-and-goal stop. The offense punted on the next possession. However, the defense held Utah, and they could only muster a field goal. Colorado was roundly outplayed to this point in the second half, but they were only down 27-21.
Sam Noyer got injured on the next possession, but he was only out a few plays. It looked like he could be having his signature drive of the season. However, once the Buffs got into Utah territory, the Utes’ defense tightened. The Buffs were forced into a 4th-and-5 at the Utah 34. They called timeout to make sure they had their best play call. It did not look that way though, as Sam Noyer’s pass was batted down.
Utah’s Ty Jordan would get a 66-yard touchdown run on the next play, and the game was all but over. The Buffs would turn the ball over on downs a few more times as Utah would eventually widen their lead to 38-21. As the clock hit zero, the Buffs had to look at a result they were not expecting against the Utes: a 17-point loss.
Colorado Could Not Get Out of Their Way Against Utah
The Buffaloes could not get out of their own way in this game. They cannot do anything about injuries, but their scheming was bad in this game. In their wins this season, the Buffs have established the run early. It made zero sense that they went away from it. Because of this, Sam Noyer was put in tough positions throughout the game.
On defense, we could not defend against Utah’s skill players in space for the second consecutive season. Tyson Summer’s defensive game plan looked a lot like the same one employed in the Buffs’ 45-15 loss to Utah last year. People that do not know Colorado football will say it is because we do not have as good of athletes. Athletically, the Buffs have proven that they can play with anyone in the Pac-12. However, they did not show that ability on Saturday against the Utes.
Looking Ahead: Buffs Unsure of Opponent This Upcoming Week
The Buffaloes sit at 4-1. They are basically the alternate for the Pac-12 Championship next week if either Oregon or USC cannot field enough players to play. It makes no sense why the Pac-12 used divisions this season. However, the Buffs have been dealt a hand where they have to hope at this point. If they had beat Utah, the Pac-12 would have been put in a spot where they had to put the Buffs in the conference championship. Colorado simply did not hold their end of the bargain.
Despite losing to Utah, this season for the Buffaloes has been a resounding success. They have succeeded basically every outside expectation this season. The Buffs will play in a bowl game for the first time in four years. More recruits are starting to realize that Boulder is a pretty nice place to play college football and to get their education. No matter who the Buffs play next week, there is no question that Karl Dorrell will have his players ready to play.