Colorado’s chances at a bowl bid slowly faded away at the hands of 6th-ranked Utah in Salt Lake City on Saturday night. A 45-15 win over the Buffaloes secures the Utes’ Pac-12 South Division title for the second year in a row.
A near scoreless first quarter for both team exhibiting a gritty defensive slug fest. Steven Montez and the Buffs struck first— a 12-play, 62 yard drive taking 5:07 off the clock being capped with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Brady Russell with :43 seconds left in the first. The 7-0 score was the first time since Sept. 28 vs. Washington that Utah’s defense gave up a passing touchdown, snapping a 15-quarter streak.
“I knew it was going to be a physical game and we were able to match that. That was not an issue for us. It was more about execution,” Colorado coach Mel Tucker said.
The Utes responded with a drive of their own. Taking the ball 75 yards in eight plays to tie the game at seven off a 38-yard pass from Tyler Huntley to Brant Kuithe with 11:21 left before halftime. Huntley would find his tight end again— a 7-yard pass to Kuithe in the back of the end zone to put the Utes up by seven with 2:03 to go before halftime. A near-perfect first half for Utah’s senior QB, going 9-of-10 for 91 yards and two touchdowns. He finished the game throwing for 165 yards and the two scores.
Utah added a Jadon Redding 23-yard field goal with :04 second left to score 17 unanswered going into halftime up 17-7.
From that point on Colorado had no answer for the Utes tantalizing defense en route to being outscored 28-8 in the second half. Montez took the brunt of the Buffs miscues and was sacked five times on the night. A quiet final night for CU’s all-time passing leader with 157 yards and a pair of touchdowns.
As a whole, Colorado accumulated 217 yards of total offense on Utah’s highly-rated defense. However, the Buffs failed finding consistency in the final three quarters, going 2-of-11 on third down. For the tenth time in the past 12 games, Utah’s defense kept their opponent to under 70 yards rushing.
On the other side, Utah’s leading rusher Zack Moss was held under the century mark for the first time in five games, despite the Utes offense churning out 207 yards on the ground over the Buffs. Moss’ 88 yards and one touchdown ties him with John White as Utah’ all-time leader with 15 rushing TD’s a piece.
Colorado (5-7) ends a lopsided season on a better note after dropping five straight games. Year two for coach Mel Tucker beings a great recruiting class in Boulder with three weeks to early signing day.
Utah (11-1) shakes off a loss to USC and meets No. 14 Oregon to decide the Pac-12 Championship this Friday night (6 p.m./TV: ABC). The Utes tallied their best season as members of the Pac-12, and second best under coach Kyle Wittingham.