Despite a strong start in Salt Lake City, Mel Tucker could not have been more wrong when he told Molly McGrath that Colorado had seen the best of Utah in the first half. The Buffs struck first, scoring the only points of the first quarter. Unfortunately, the offense found little rhythm throughout the rest of the game.
Colorado (5-7 overall, 3-6 Pac-12) lost to No. 6 Utah (11-1, 8-1) spoiling CU’s chance at their first bowl appearance since 2016. With Alabama’s (10-2, 6-2 SEC) loss to Auburn (9-3, 5-3) in the Iron Bowl Saturday, Utah will creep closer to the four-team college football playoff. The win also clinches Utah’s spot in the Pac-12 championship game against Oregon (10-2, 8-1).
Much to the dismay of Colorado fans, Utah beat the Buffs the way they’ve beaten most of their opponents this year. In dominant fashion, the Utes won 45-15, scoring 17 unanswered points to end the first half and another 14 unanswered to start the second half.
On the first scoring drive of the game for Colorado, both Laviska Shenault Jr. and Alex Fontenot carried the ball. Shenault caught two passes on that drive, and Steven Montez connected with Tony Brown and K.D. Nixon as well. Colorado capped off the drive with a Montez touchdown pass to Brady Russell.
Montez had a solid day, but was running from pressure and being hit on a fair number of snaps. The physical front seven of Utah held Colorado to 60 yards rushing and sacked Montez four times. The Utes’ defense held Montez to 157 yards and two touchdowns.
And without much offense, there was just too much on the shoulders of the Colorado defense. They only gave up 17 first half points, and were doing well pressuring Tyler Huntley. But as bugaboos from the five-game losing streak reared their ugly heads again, Colorado began to lose ground.
A first quarter lead could have never existed for Colorado if Utah had been able to capitalize on a muffed punt by Dimitri Stanley. With fresh legs and a good adrenaline rush, the defense was able to make another stop.
The Buffs did well to contain Zack Moss in the first half. As the Utes wore them down, Moss rushed for a total of 88 yards and one touchdown.
The real issue for Colorado came in the form of a sophomore tight end. Brant Kuithe found openings in the Colorado coverage all night, catching the first Utah touchdown of the game as Huntley scrambled away from several Buffaloes in the backfield. He also took an end-around for 44 yards, a play he scored twice on last week. Kuithe finished the game with 59 yards and one touchdown rushing and three catches for 63 yards and two touchdowns.
Brant Kuithe, monster game, remember the name.
The muffed punt wasn’t the only miscue on special teams as the Buffaloes surrendered a punt return touchdown at the end of the third quarter.
Ain't nothing but a @Utah_Football thing. 💯
— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) December 1, 2019
While Utah did enter the night as the sixth ranked team in the nation, Colorado had issues in coverage, missed tackles, penalties, and trouble executing on offense. Still, they hung around and showed promise for the future.
Young players on defense have been getting critical experience all season long with leadership from Mikial Onu, Davion Taylor, and Nate Landman. Tonight the youth scored for the offense, with Brady Russell catching a touchdown pass and converting a two-point conversion and Daniel Arias catching a contested touchdown along the sideline. Both are sophomores.
While this season is over, and the Buffaloes will not be bowling, they showed promise this season. Mel Tucker has certainly established a culture in Boulder. Some players will be moving on from Colorado, but new recruits are itching to earn their reps.
It is difficult to measure this season immediately after the final game, especially a loss. But with wins over Washington, Stanford, and Arizona State in conference and early season victories over rivals Colorado State and Nebraska, this season is a solid foundation upon which Tucker and Colorado can build.