Rookie 3 TDs and No. 16 pitches Utah edges out Colorado 28-13
Salt Lake City Losing two games early in the season was far from the hardest thing Utah had to overcome to get back into the Pac-12 game.
“Maybe we took the hardest thing that could happen and we turned it into something beautiful,” British receiver Kofi said after Senior Day’s victory over Colorado on Friday.
Cameron Rising threw three touchdown passes, Tavion Thomas ran for 142 yards and one point, and No. 16 Utah beat Buffalo 28-13.
Over the past year, the Utes have lost star back Ty Jordan and fullback Aaron Lowe to tragic shootings. Utah honored them with the TJ-AL logo on their helmets.
“There has always been reverence whenever we talk about them, but now we have come to a point where we celebrate them and respect what they stand for. It’s more than two guys now, the whole team, the whole university,” said Covey.
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said his team “didn’t have a look in our eyes last week” and his players admitted it was hard to focus because they had already grabbed the Pac-12 South. But they did not want to let down their fallen teammates. The Utes feel they are a team of destiny.
“I know they’re right there with us,” said quarterback Devin Lloyd, who had nine tackles and a sack in what he said was his last home game before the NFL draft was announced. “They are the reason we are as successful as we have been.”
Utah recovered from the start 1-2 to win eight of the last nine games en route to their third Pac-12 appearance in four seasons.
Utes (9-3, 8-1 Pac-12) rushed for 265 yards and held the Colorado (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12) to 148 yards of total attack.
“In this day and age, it is not easy to do. Our defense has worked great … They have been active, they have flown all over the place,” Whittingham said.
He rushed up and found Britain’s Kofi on an impromptu forward court for 13 yards with 6:45 remaining in the third quarter to cap the scoring.
Thomas proved tough to handle any game, but especially as he got to A and B to expand his school record to 18 touchdowns.
The height was 14 by 23 for 179 yards. TJ Pledger added 103 yards to the ground.
Colorado’s Brendon Lewis was teased throughout the game and finished in 84 yards, 9 for 23, with four sacks.
A week after the Utes won the Pac-12 South against Oregon and ended the Ducks’ playoff hopes, Utah seemed less focused initially against the CU.
“It took a lot to focus on this game all week because the whole season and the whole season, we’ve been talking about the Pac-12,” Covey said.
Not long after Rising ran into the field with Bad Moon Rising from Creedence Clearwater Revival, Brant knocked Kuithe at the hands of Mark Perry of Colorado. His 40-yard return set up a 33-yard field goal by Cole Becker for the Buffaloes’ first score of the day.
Baker hit 56 yards in the last play of the inning.
The Buffaloes took advantage of Utes’ weak link – the special teams – with a blocked field goal in the first quarter and a brilliant return from 100 yards by Nikko Reed to open the second half and cut the lead to 14-13.
Colorado has never figured out a way to attack Utah’s valiant defense with just nine first defeats, three doubles, and two turns on touchdown.
“On the offensive front we just struggled to get the rhythm to do anything positive. We had a number of great drives… Other than that we struggled to protect and struggled to create any kind of production in the sprinting game,” said Colorado coach Karl Durrell. .
He threw high first-half touchdown passes to Kuithe and Dalton Kincaid.
Eight Utah seniors were honored and joined by 10 juniors – including Covey, Lloyd, Lineman Nick Ford and Kuithe – who may or may not return next season.
Utah won the 700th game in school history, notching its fifth straight win in the Colorado series and ending the season undefeated at home.
Colorado: The Buffaloes, who averaged 267 total attack yards in a game and are third down the country, were opportunists on special teams but had another poor offensive performance.
Utah: Utes once again leaned on their running game and made assists when needed. The defense assured that the outcome would not be in doubt, despite the poor performance of the private teams.
Third time magic?
Utah’s first two trips to the Pac-12 main game ended in disappointing losses and Oates can’t wait for another shot at his Rose Bowl debut.
We will not even celebrate this victory. The moment we get home, we’re just getting ready, said Kofi.
Whittingham wishes to know the winner of the Pac-12 North, but will have to wait until tomorrow’s matches are over.
“I’m going to go to the office now and get started…but we’ll do some preliminary work on all three possible teams in the right way,” he said. “We can’t wait!”
Colorado season is over.
Utah will play a Pac-12 Championship game on December 3 in Las Vegas.
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