November 28th – at Utah          Utah 20, Colorado 14

For the fifth straight game since joining the Pac-12 conference, the Colorado/Utah game was decided by a touchdown or less.

For the fourth time in a row, Utah came out the winner, hanging on for a 20-14 win over Colorado as Buff backup quarterback Jordan Gehrke fumbled the ball at the Utah 47 with 30 seconds remaining in the game, thwarting the Buffs last chance at an upset.

Gehrke’s fumble was the fourth turnover of the game for the Buffs, who also had a field goal attempt blocked and 49 yards rushing on a snowy afternoon in Salt Lake City.

The Buffs had more first downs, 19-18, and were close to the Utes in total offense, 324-307, but could not overcome squandered opportunities. Cade Apsay threw for 145 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions before leaving the game, with replacement Jordan Gehrke throwing for 113 yards, one touchdown, one interception, and the final turnover of the Buffs’ season.

Nelson Spruce became CU’s all-time receiving touchdown leader, with his 23rd touchdown part of a five-catch, 111-yard day. Phillip Lindsay led the Buffs with 48 yards rushing, and also added a 17-yard touchdown reception.

 

Colorado opened its final game of the 2015 season with a sense of purpose.

Buff running back Phillip Lindsay opened the game with a 17-yard run, moving the ball out to near midfield. Two plays later, quarterback Cade Apsay hit Nelson Spruce for nine yards on a third-and-eight, keeping the drive alive. Back-to-back completions to Spruce and tight end Sean Irwin, going for 13 and 16 yards, set up the Buffs at the Utah eight yard line.

There, the Colorado offense, ranked 119th in the nation in red zone offense, did what teams ranked so poorly do … it failed to score.

A sack of Apsay forced a field goal attempt, but the 31-yard field goal attempt by Diego Gonzalez was blocked, ending the 11-play, 51-yard drive with no points.

The Utah offense, held out of the end zone the week before in a 17-9 loss to UCLA, had no issue scoring a touchdown on the Colorado defense. The Utes marched down the field with their opening possession, going 80 yards in 13 plays, with Travis Wilson hitting Kenneth Scott for a 16-yard touchdown with five minutes remaining in the first quarter.

It would have been easy at that point for the Buffs, faced with adversity of the first two drives, to mail it in in the Salt City snowstorm. Instead, the Buff offense again put together a drive. Starting at their five yard line after a penalty on the kickoff, Cade Apsay connected with Sean Irwin for a 17-yard gain to get the Buffs out of trouble. On the next play, Apsay hit Nelson Spruce for a 50-yard gain to the Utah 27-yard line. A 14-yard gain on a run by Apsay, with a personal foul tacked on, gave Colorado a first-and-goal at the Utah six yard line.

There, the Colorado offense, which had only 37 scores in its 51 previous trips to the red zone in 2015 … again failed to score.

On third-and-goal at the eight, a Cady Apsay offering was tipped at the line of scrimmage, with the pass intercepted by Marcus Williams.

Utah moved the ball to midfield, looking to turn the game into a rout, but there Buff defensive lineman Jordan Carrell forced a fumble from Ute running back Joe Williams, with linebacker Kenneth Olugbode recovering for the Buffs.

The Colorado offense, though, could not take advantage of the shift in momentum. Three plays netted nine yards, with coach Mike MacIntyre deciding to go for the first down on fourth-and-one at the Utah 43. Quarterback Cade Apsay, though, fumbled the snap, falling on the ball for a one yard loss and a turnover on downs.

Still only down 7-0, the Buff defense made another stand. Successive sacks by Samson Kafovalu and Jimmie Gilbert forced a Utah punt. The CU offense, though, also went three-and-out, giving Utah the ball back at their own 41-yard line. An eight-play, 40-yard drive ensued, with the Utes settling for a 37-yard field goal by Andy Phillips. Utah 10, Colorado 0, midway through the second quarter.

A quick three-and-out from the Buff offense gave the Utes a great opportunity to seize control of the game, but Alex Kinney’s 47-yard punt was fumbled by Boobie Hobbs, with the ball recovered by CU senior safety Jered Bell at the Utah 33-yard line.

The Buff offense then finally solved its red zone issue … by not having a snap in the red zone. On third-and-five at the Utah 28, Apsay hit Nelson Spruce for a touchdown. The scoring reception was the 23rd of his career, finally allowing CU’s all-time leading receiver to capture the lone remaining major CU receiving record which had eluded him, breaking the tie Spruce had held with Scotty McKnight.

When the Buff defense forced a three-and-out on the Utes’ next possession, it was CU’s turn to take control of the game’s momentum … and then give it right back.

On CU’s first play from scrimmage after the punt, Cade Apsay through his second interception of the game, with this pick by Cory Butler-Byrd setting the Utes up near midfield.

After yet another three-and-out by the Utah offense, the Buffs once again had a chance to tie the game or take the lead. With Jordan Gehrke now at the helm, the Buffs drove 47 yards … with 30 of those yards on penalties against the Utah defense.  The Utah penalties were not enough to keep the drive going, with the Buffs punting the ball away.

The Utah offense, stymied for much of the second quarter by the Buffs, quickly responded. A 64-yard run by Joe Williams set the Utes up at the Colorado 15-yard line. There, however, Ute quarterback Travis Wilson was intercepted by CU junior safety Tedric Thompson, allowing the Buffs to escape without further damage.

Halftime score: Utah 10, Colorado 7.

With yet another chance at a break-through win, the Buffs needed a fast start to the second half to sustain momentum.

They got exactly the opposite.

On its first possession of the third quarter, Utah methodically moved the ball down the field before a 28-yard pass completion gave the Utes a first-and-goal at the CU five. On the next play, Joe Williams took it in to complete a 13-play, 68-yard drive. Utah 17, Colorado 7.

The Buffs’ answer?

One play – an interception thrown by Jordan Gehrke.

The Utes took over at the Buff 28-yard line, but the CU defense stiffened in the red zone, forcing a 27-yard field goal by Andy Phillips. Still, it was more points for the Utes, making it a 20-7 game midway through the third quarter.

The Buffs next drive produced one first down – highlighted by Phillip Lindsay knocking down his own blocker, guard Gerrad Kough, on a screen pass – but ended in another Alex Kinney punt.

As the third quarter turned into the fourth quarter, the teams traded punts, with the clock running out on CU’s final chance at a 2015 victory.

With 9:36 left to play in the game, the Buffs set off on a do-or-die drive. Runs by Phillip Lindsay and Jaleel Awini got the drive started, but the Buffs appeared halted with fourth-and-two at the Utah 43 yard line. An eight yard run by Awini, though, kept the drive alive. A 17-yard run by Lindsay got the ball down to the Utah 18. Then, on third-and-eight at the 16, Gehrke connected with Lindsay for a 16-yard touchdown.

The 13-play, 80-yard drive brought the Buffs back to within a score, at 20-14, but the drive consumed 5:23 of game clock and two of CU’s time outs.

Utah received the ensuing kickoff with 4:13 to play, needing only a pair of first downs to run out the clock. Instead, the Colorado defense forced one last three-and-out, with Ute quarterback Travis Wilson being stopped for no gain on a third-and-three at the Utah 32.

The Buffs took over at their 19-yard line with 2:28 to play an no time outs. After a sack of Jordan Gehrke, the CU offense faced a third-and-15 at its 14 yard line. An eight-yard completion from Gehrke to Bryce Bobo made it fourth-and-seven at the 22. There, Gehrke hit Bobo for a 22-yard gain and new life.

Two plays later, Gehrke was sacked, fumbling the ball away. With 30 seconds remaining, the Buffs’ last chance at a fifth win in 2015 was recovered by the Utes. The Buffs’ fourth turnover proved to be the last play of the season, with one kneel down by Travis Wilson ending the game.

Final score: Utah 20, Colorado 14

The six-point loss continued a series of frustrating losses for the Buffs, both in 2015 and against the Utes. After defeating Utah, 17-14, in the first game between the schools as members of the Pac-12, the Utes, with the 20-14 win, extended their win streak against the Buffs to four games, with the other three wins coming by scores of 42-35, 24-17, and 38-34.

Game Notes –

– The “Voice of the Buffs,” Larry Zimmer, wrapped up his 42nd and final season calling CU games with the Utah game; it was his 486th game (KOA surprised him pregame with special messages from 12 former players, including John Stearns, Mike Pritchard, Matt Russell and Chauncey Billups as well as three former head coaches (Bill McCartney, Rick Neuheisel and Gary Barnett);

– The game was CU’s first time with significant snowfall during the game since Nov. 11, 2000 (versus Iowa State in Boulder);

– Nelson Spruce I … the senior wide receiver had five catches for 111 yards and a touchdown. Spruce added to his school and Pac-12 marks in career receptions (294) and to his school mark in yards 3,347 (that number is good for eighth all-time in the Pac-12);

– Nelson Spruce II … his touchdown reception enabled him to break a tie with Scotty McKnight (2007-10) for the most TD receptions in school history with 23 … his 294 receptions are the 16th-most in NCAA (FBS) history;

– Nelson Spruce III … he finished the season with 1,053 yards, joining Charles E. Johnson (1992-93) and Rae Carruth (1995-96) as the three players in school history with two 1,000-yard receiving seasons. He finished his career catching at least one pass in 38 straight games (multiple in 33 straight, the latter also a CU record);

– Phillip Lindsay had nine carries for 48 yards, giving the sophomore 1,042 career yards, becoming the 53rd player in school history to rush for 1,000 yards in a career. He also went over the 1,000-yard mark in kickoff return yards, finishing with 1,003.

– Linebacker Rick Gamboa had 11 tackles (five unassisted) against Utah. Gamboa finished the season as the Buffs’ leading tackler, with 96 tackles, the second-highest total by a freshman in CU history (Addison Gillam, 119 in 2013).

… Coming Sunday morning … the final game essay of 2015 …

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10 Replies to “Utah 20, Colorado 14”

  1. About what I expected coming into the season except the Hawaii loss. Oh well we’ll get ’em next year. At least the Broncos are still looking pretty good.
    It’s off to the NFL and the 7 months of hibernation.

  2. I just hope that the Oline get better and either OC gets to know what his players can do and can`t or he needs to go. I agree that a good recruiting class is a must .Coach Mac is getting things done and needs to stay .

  3. That wasn’t heartbreaking because I think at this point we are all just numb. We cannot catch a break. I knew it wouldn’t matter how many times we go to the red zone because we can’t score. Here is my checklist for next year:

    1. Need to get rid of Lindgren.
    2. Need to improve at corner.
    3. Need to hit the weights. (So tired of the buffs looking like shrimps out there and Utah just manhandled us).
    4. Need to land a solid recruiting class while continuing to invest in our veterans. We HAVE to stop being the youngest team on the field.

    Mac is not on the hot seat. Unless next season is very much worse than this season he won’t be on the hotseat after that one either.

    This year was disappointing but we made tangible progress. First time that has happened in a decade.

    Next year the criteria for a great season is 7+ wins, for an acceptable season 6 wins and a bowl, for another disappointing season 5 wins or less and missing a bowl.

  4. I agree with most of what CJ says, with some additions. First, the special teams this year were awful. We have a kicker who can’t make a kick from the left hash mark? Second, both the OC and OL coach need to go. We also need a quality QB coach, it became apparent we have no depth at QB. I’m also tired of the constant rotation at RB, pick one and play him! Only decent offensive coach we have is Walters at WR coach. Can the rest or next year will be a repeat.

  5. Devin Ross is, by far, the worst D-1 wide receiver I have ever seen. He must have more drops than catches. He should be playing DB. At some point it is on the coaches to continually put him out there.

    MacIntyre should be given at least one more year, I would echo most of the above sentiments. Lindgren must go.

    1. He dropped two sure TD’s with Sefo against UCLA. Gehrke hit him with a perfect 45 yard strike vs Nicholls in stride at the thee for a sure TD, that bounced off his chest ( how does that happen? Don’t you catch with your hands???) and he dropped two Cade passes vs WAZZU. That fade at the 8 yesterday just before half Gehrke threw could have changed the game. Right in his belly softly. He needs to be cut. He CANNOT catch a football. Period.

  6. Defensive line had injuries just like the offensive line. Defensive line is largely young just like the offensive line. Defense significantly improved this season with the players we had and kept us in most of our games. The difference? Coaching. Leavitt got the young man paying all right but he also got them into schemes they could compete in. Lindgren could never adapt his offense or his play calling to the people he had. If he remains this will be what we have moving forward. Clock management from a coaching perspective continues to be a issue and falls solely on Lindgren’s shoulders to either coach the players he wants or make faster better decisions. I believe MacIntyre sets the right tone for the overall program and gets these young men to stay focused and play hard. I want him to stay but he needs to bring in an OC that can adapt to the players they have, that can manage the clock much better, and that can bring a creativity to the play calling that we lack. On my wish list is an OC that believes in a pro style offense but that is probably just asking too much. Change must happen this year or Leavitt needs to be our interim head coach half way through next year.

  7. The players give it all they have and represent CU well. The same end result is, in my opinion, on the offensive coordinator and the offensive line coach. Different opponents, different QBs, different stadiums, same end result: close but not one win against a quality Pac 12 opponent in last two years. Not a single one. The red zone struggles are epic. I cannot see the Buffs turning the corner over the next two years into bowl eligibility unless we make coaching changes on the offensive coaching side. One could argue that the buck stops with Macintyre since he ultimately owns the inability to win games. However, changing the head coach is too much churn for the program. I hope to see announcements by next week.

  8. Much like the USC game, this game would have been very interesting if the starting QB could have been able to stay in the game. (Saw very quickly why he started over Gerhke)
    The Buffs moved the ball at will, only to come up short on two red zone appearance. But one issue that showed up time and time again all season was the Offensive line. At some point this unit will have to figure it out. Moving forward I see every unit especially the defense getting better next year, but have yet to see signs of the O-Line getting better through the year or the years. Hoping it was case of bad injuries.
    Here is hoping for next year.

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