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Colorado Buffaloes vs. Utah Utes: The Game in Gifs

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A few plays that changed last Saturday’s contest.

NCAA Football: Utah at Colorado Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Utah game was one of missed opportunities for both teams. Sorry, no easy preface to this article, I’m diving right in to the #Analysis and #Facts. The final score was 27-22, thanks to the Buffalo defense, but both offenses in this game laid claim to more points than that. Utah scored 9 points out of 4 straight red-zone possessions (thank you based Buffs) and CU had two red zone trips end in chip shots instead of TD’s. Both are covered in the gifs below. Make no mistake, it was a high-level football game, but many more points could have been scored.

Let’s take a look at one of the prettiest plays Brian Lindgren has called. He was masterful almost all night, and took what the defense gave him all night. The Utes played with 5 down linemen and 7 in the box, so that left the middle of the field, specifically deep down the middle, wide open. CU strategically abandoned the run in favor of attacking the edges and the one-on-one coverage on the outside. This lead to many trips inside the 20, but with no deep field to attack, the Buffs had to get creative. Here is one of the best plays you’ll see all year.

The Utes got fooled three times on this play. The play action draws the two middle linebackers up to the line of scrimmage, which allows the three receivers space to run their routes and also gives Sefo clear throwing lanes. The second trick was the fullback out route, a common play at this down and distance. Bounds, the fullback, draws two defenders who cover the flat. Number 38, Chris Hill, on the other side of the line of scrimmage, gets a clean release off the line of scrimmage and goes deep corner, which draws the safety on the weak side of the play over to the strong side. Here’s the prettiest part. George Frazier, the third tight end in the play, chips a defender and gains a late release wide open into the vacated part of the field. Everything is done incredibly well... until the most important part. Frazier just dropped the ball. That cost CU four points.

Let’s look at another close call that cost CU points. Another example of the perfect play design and calling by Brian Lindgren. 3rd and goal from the seven is a tough spot. The defense knows you are going to pass. Utah spreads out and lines up the secondary on the goal line, expecting a pass. The Buffs beat the Utes at chess again:

Once again, the only breakdown is the pass between Liufau and Ross. Sefo could have thrown a better ball and Ross could have caught that pass. All season, CU has used the crack toss to full effectiveness. It gets Lindsay on the outside and keeps the defense guessing if Sefo keeps it. Lindgren uses it this time as a run-pass option. Devin Ross fakes like he is blocking, taking three slow steps forward. This draws the defensive back in. Ross times it perfectly and breaks on the route, leaving the defender in the dust and Ross wide open in the end zone. The fake toss to Lindsay draws the linebacker and nickel back to the run, opening the middle of the field and leaving Ross alone. The only breakdown was the drop. Against an aggressive defense like Utah (or Washington), these plays draw the defense in and let CU move the ball.

Not much to say about this next play. Perfect pitch-and-catch from Sefo Liufau to Shay Fields.

I think Sefo throws the corner end zone fade better than anyone in the country. Devin Ross scored on an identical play in Michigan.

I’ve gushed about the offense and Brian Lindgren’s playcalling, but it certainly wasn’t a perfect game. This next play is a classic case of outsmarting yourself.

This is either poor execution, poor situational play-calling, or both. I am a simple man. I love blankets, warm drinks, and running the ball north and south in short yardage situations. On this play, Utah has 5 down lineman, as usual. Somehow, both ends don’t get blocked, meaning the one reading the keys (#49, Hunter Dimick) gets to sit on the play and the end on the opposite side of the play gets to chase from behind. I don’t understand why this option play has every option flowing the same way, with no one blocking the back side. This is a situation where CU has to run out the clock. Due to a great run by Lindsay on first down, CU has two downs to get 1 yard. Just run the clock, line up twice in a row, and punch them in the mouth. Instead, CU takes a five yard loss due to lateral running and they have to throw it on 3rd and 6. Bad play.

We end on a great defensive play.

This is one of many examples of the Buffalo defensive backs showing great individual effort and skill. Ahkello Witherspoon plays this slant perfectly. Press coverage, disrupts the timing of the route, sticks to the receiver, and times his play on the ball perfectly. Just like you draw it up. Tedric Thompson had moments like this, and Chidobe Awuzie as well. This is a piece of evidence towards the case that CU is the Pac-12’s best defense. When you have a great defense, you can play anybody. They will need everything on Friday.