Following two straight home wins, Mel Tucker and the Colorado Buffaloes (5-6 overall, 3-5 Pac-12) hit the road for their final regular season game. Colorado plays sixth ranked Utah (10-1, 7-1) Saturday with a bowl game appearance on the line for the Buffs and a chance to spoil Utah’s college football playoff hopes.
The game will be broadcast on ABC at 5:30 PM (MT) and Colorado is a 28.5 point underdog.
“To play on a national stage, against a great opponent, it’s something we have to take advantage of,” Mel Tucker told media members this week. “And we’re going to finish strong.”
Tucker has had the utmost confidence in his players all year, and they have embodied that confidence on the field. Especially in the last two games, beating Stanford (4-7, 3-6) and Washington (6-5, 3-5).
A bowl game could still be in the future for this Buffs team, and would be a great testament to the culture Mel Tucker has brought to Colorado. Before earning one more game this season, the Buffaloes have their most difficult test of the year against the highly-ranked, highly-physical Utah Utes.
The Utah defense has been stingy this season, allowing only 243.8 yards and 10.9 points per game. They have held opponents to one score or less in five games.
“Of course we’ve got to play very physical, that’s a very physical defense we’re going against,” said Laviska Shenault Jr.
The junior receiver had a 100-yard day and his fourth touchdown reception of the year in a 20-14 win over Washington last week.
“We’ve got to do the little things the right way. We’ve just got to execute,” Shenault added.
The Buffaloes have had some unforced errors, such as drops and penalties, throughout the season that have hindered their ability to close out games. That combined with injuries meant a dark five-game losing streak in the middle of the season. But it seems as though Tucker and the Buffaloes are clicking at the right time to finish the season strong.
Continued defensive execution and thorough preparation will put the Buffaloes in a position to win Saturday’s game. Shenault’s leadership trickles down to other players as he is someone who not only does the little things the right way, but the big things as well.
Some NFL team is going to get Laviska Shenault and they are going to love him very, very muchpic.twitter.com/45H7djXyGO
— Unnecessary Roughness (@UnnecRoughness) November 24, 2019
The Colorado passing game will need to unleash its full explosive potential in order to keep pace with the high scoring Utah offense. The Utes have only been held under 30 points in one game this year.
Steven Montez will have to make calm decisions in the pocket and find Shenault or his other receivers when they are open. Taking care of the ball and getting any yards the Utes give them will be key as Utah holds opponents to 56 yards rushing per game.
As far as the Colorado defense is concerned, physicality up front is a must. Utah averages 215.3 rush yards per game, and senior Zack Moss has rushed for 14 touchdowns and 1,158 yards on the season.
“Me personally, I love the run game,” shared a smiling Davion Taylor. “I love getting physical with the big guys, I love getting physical with the tight ends. I love setting the edge and making the play on the running back, and getting TFLs.”
Tackles for loss. Stopping plays behind the line of scrimmage in critical situations has been a strength for the Buffaloes in several of their tight victories this season. And it will be very important Saturday in Salt Lake City.
Colorado only surrendered 32 yards on the ground to Washington, giving the front seven some swagger. Defensive linemen Mustafa Johnson and Jalen Sami have had huge impact when healthy, and the team’s leading tackler, Nate Landman, snagged an interception last game. They, along with Taylor, will not lay down against their tough opponent.
Taylor, the senior linebacker, is second on the team in tackles and also has a sack and a fumble recovery this year. He has performed at a high level consistently and can’t wait for the big stage of a primetime contest.
“Just knowing I’m going to be playing in front of a million people, it makes me more excited to do great.”