November 26th – Boulder          No. 9 Colorado 27, No. 21 Utah 22

Colorado relied upon its defense to bring home the school’s first ten win season since 2001, downing No. 21 Utah, 27-22. With the victory, the “worst-to-first” dream season was completed, with the Buffs going from 1-8 in Pac-12 play in 2015 to 8-1 in 2016, claiming CU’s first Pac-12 South title, and first division title since winning the Big 12 North in 2005.

The Buffs were held to 378 yards of total offense, but the CU defense held the Utes to 339 yards of total offense, forcing four turnovers along the way. A forced fumble from Utah running back Joe Williams was returned by Buff linebacker Kenneth Olugbode ten yards for a game-clinching score early in the fourth quarter. Olugbode’s score made it 27-16, and the Buff defense made it hold up.

Special teams almost cost the Buffs the game, with Utah scoring on a punt return for a touchdown early in the game, and almost scoring on a kickoff return early in the fourth quarter.

“I’m very excited to grind one out,” said Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau, who had 270 yards passing and a team-leading 59 yards rushing, but fumbled twice. “The defense got my back.”

“Nobody thought we’d be here, especially four years ago,” said senior safety Tedric Thompson, who had two interceptions and broke up four passes.

“I can’t really put it into words right now,” said Colorado head coach Mike MacIntyre. “The best word I can use right now is joy. Joy from the bottom of my toes to the top of my head for the players, the coaches, everybody involved with our program, all the fans that stayed with us and all the fans that came back. It’s just really gratifying on that side of it. I’m so happy for these kids and we have the opportunity to go play for the Pac-12 Championship.”

 

For the 11th time in 12 games, the Buffs won the opening toss of the coin, opting to defer. For the sixth time in 12 games, the Buff defense opened the game by forcing a three-and-out from the opposing offense.

The Colorado offense, which had scored touchdowns in seven of its first 11 opening game possessions, instead posted a turnover. On first-and-ten at the CU 40 yard line, quarterback Sefo Liufau fumbled, giving the Utes the first golden opportunity of the game.

Instead, the Utah offense went nowhere in three plays. The punt by Ray Guy award front-runner Mitch Wishnowsky, though, pinned the Buffs back at their five yard line. On third-and-ten, Liufau appeared to hit Devin Ross for a first down, but the ball was spotted just short of a first down. Alex Kinney got off a 41-yard punt, but the offering was returned by Boobie Hobbs 55 yards for a touchdown.

Just like that, Utah was up, 7-0, six minutes into the contest.

The first sellout crowd at Folsom Field in eight years had reason for concern when the Buff offense posted a second consecutive three-and-out, with Utah putting together a drive on the ensuing possession. Taking over at their 30-yard line, the Utes strung together a 12-play drive taking up over five minutes of first quarter clock. The drive stalled, however, at the CU 27-yard line, and the Buffs avoided a two-score deficit when the usually reliable Utah kicker Andy Phillips missed a 45-yard attempt.

The Buffs seized the momentum back on the second play of the ensuing drive, with Sefo Liufau hitting Devin Ross for a 45-yard gain. A pair of Liufau runs netted 19 yards and gave the Buffs a red zone opportunity. After a seven-yard completion to Phillip Lindsay on third-and-one gave the CU offense a first-and-goal at the two yard line, Liufau took it over on the next play, tying the score at 7-7 on the final play of the first quarter.

After a quick three-and-out from the Utah offense, the Buffs put together a drive of missed opportunities. First, Liufau hit a wide open Shay Fields on the first play of the drive, but Fields dropped the pass. Fields redeemed himself two plays later, converting a third-and-one with a seven yard reception.

An 11-yard completion to Phillip Lindsay helped the Buffs cross midfield, with a 27-yard completion to Kabion Ento giving the Buffs a first-and-goal at the Utah eight yard line. On third down, Devin Ross was wide open in the end zone, but Liufau missed him, and the Buffs had to settle for a 25-yard field goal by Chris Graham. Colorado 10, Utah 7, early in the second quarter.

The game might have turned for good on the next two series of downs … but did not. Utah was facing another three-and-out, but, after gaining nine yards in three plays, Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham decided to go for it on fourth-and-one at the Utah 34 yard line. There Joe Williams was stuffed for no gain, giving the Buffs a short field.

Once again, though, the Buffs were unable to take full advantage. A pass interference penalty got the Buffs halfway to the end zone, with a 12-yard run by Liufau giving CU a first-and-goal at the Utah four. On third-and-goal at the one, Liufau hit a wide open George Frazier, but Frazier, a fullback/tight end who had no catches on the season, dropped the ball. Chris Graham hit the 19-yard field goal to give the Buffs a 13-7 lead, but it was another lost opportunity for the Colorado offense.

The Utah offense, held to less than 80 yards of total offense in the first half, did cross midfield on its next possession. The drive, though, came to a halt after Utah quarterback Troy Williams was sacked by senior defensive lineman Jordan Carrell.

The sack forced a punt out of the Utes, but the Buffs were pinned deep. The CU offense was unable to generate a first down, giving Utah one last opportunity before halftime. A Hail Mary pass to the end zone on the final play of the half, though, was intercepted by Tedric Thompson. The senior safety posted a 51 yard return, but the half came to a close when Thompson was tackled near midfield.

Halftime score: No. 9 Colorado 13, No. 21 Utah 7

 

Just as the Colorado offense and defense had dominated the opening series of the game all season, the Buffs were almost as good opening the second half. The Buff offense had five scores in 11 opportunities, while the defense had surrendered only one score.

Against Utah, though, the tables were turned. The Colorado offense went three-and-out on its first possession, while the Utes put together a scoring drive. A punt return of 15 yards by Boobie Hobbs set the Utes up at the Buff 42 yard line. A 30-yard completion gave the Utes a first-and-goal at the CU nine yard line, but there the Buff defense stiffened, with Utah forced to settle for a 22-yard Andy Phillips field goal to cut the lead to 13-10, Colorado.

After another three-and-out by the Colorado offense, the Utah offense drove to take the lead. A 35-yard completion from Troy Williams to Tim Patrick pushed the ball deep into CU territory. On first-and-ten at the Buff 14, running back Joe Williams went for 12 yards, but Buff safety Ryan Moeller forced a fumble, with the ball recovered by Chidobe Awuzie at the Buff two yard line.

The Colorado offense posted its first two first downs of the second half to flip the field, but, just when it appeared that the Buffs might go for a 98-yard drive to take control of the game, Sefo Liufau fumbled the ball back to the Utes.

A 41-yard run by Cory Butler-Byrd gave the Utes yet another first-and-goal, this time at the CU eight yard line. Once again, though, the Buff defense held. Andy Phillips hit his second field goal of the game, this time from 22-yard line, to tie the score at 13-13 with three minutes remaining in the third quarter.

The score tied, the Colorado offense finally responded. Converting two crucial third downs – a 12-yard completion to Devin Ross on third-and-four and a pass interference penalty on third-and-ten – the Buffs found themselves at the Utah 43-yard line. There, Liufau hit Jay MacIntyre for a 37-yard gain to set up a first-and-goal at the Utah nine yard line. On second-and-goal at the six yard line, Sefo Liufau hit Shay Fields, giving Colorado a 20-13 lead on the final play of the third quarter.

Time for the Buffs to assert themselves?

Not exactly.

The ensuing kickoff was returned 93 yards by Kyle Fulks. The return did not result in a score, however, as Chidobe Awuzie did not give up on the play, tackling Fulks at the CU three yard line. The effort was rewarded three plays later, when the Utes were unable to complete the drive. Utah kicker Andy Phillips added his third chip shot field goal, this time from 23 yards. The score made it 20-16, Colorado, but the series was a win for the Buff defense.

The Buff offense, though, again failed to capitalize on the momentum, giving the ball right back to the Utes. The teams then traded three-and-outs, with the Utes taking over at their own 12-yard line.

There, the Colorado defense decided to take matters into their own hands.

On Utah’s first play from scrimmage, Ute running back Joe Williams was held up by Rick Gamboa and Ryan Moeller, forcing his second fumble of the game. This turnover was scooped up Kenneth Olugbode, who took the ball in from ten yards out to give Colorado its first two score lead of the game, at 27-16.

When Tedric Thompson intercepted his second pass of the night on the Utes’ next drive, it was time for the Buff offense to put the game away.

Instead, the Buffs went three-and-out … in less than 90 seconds. The CU defense again forced a Utah punt, but the CU offense again failed to take Utah out for good.

With 3:45 remaining, Utah put together its only touchdown drive of the game. It took 13 plays to cover 80 yards, but the Utes did keep it interesting with a seven yard touchdown pass from Troy Williams to Demari Simkins. Colorado 27, Utah 22, with 1:34 remaining (the two-point conversion attempt failed).

Utah’s onside kick attempt failed, and, when three Phillip Lindsay runs generated 18 yards and a first down, Colorado was Pac-12 South champions.

Final score: No. 9 Colorado 27, No. 21 Utah 22

 

Colorado finished the game with 378 yards of total offense, led by quarterback Sefo Liufau. The senior, playing in his final game in Folsom Field, went 23-for-44 for 270 yards and one touchdown. Liufau also led the team in rushing, with 21 carries for 59 yards, with Phillip Lindsay contributing 55 yards on 12 carries. Devin Ross led the receiving corps, with nine catches (matching a career-high) for 94 yards, with Shay Fields posting seven catches for 78 yards and a score.

The Buff defense held the Utes to 339 yards of total offense, containing star running back Joe Williams for most of the night. Williams, who had averaged over 200 yards rushing per game for the previous five games (with a low of 149 yards), was held to 97 yards on 26 carries.

“Wow. These young men are special, special, special,” said Mike MacIntyre. “You again saw the fight in them, which they’ve had – these guys that have been with me – for the whole time. I told them before the game, the people came to see them. They have built the mystique of Folsom back. It’s really exciting how we played tonight – how we just kept fighting, kept going, kept working and kept pushing. That’s what a championship team does, they find a way to win it. Worst to first, not many people can say they do that and our young men did that”.

Here is the YouTube video of the game, courtesy of CU at the Gamer Paul:

 

Game Notes … 

— The victory gave Colorado a ten-win season for the eighth time (1971, 1989, 1990, 1994, 1995, 1996, and 2001 being the others), and the first eight-win conference season in school history (CU played seven games in Big Eight play, and had three 7-1 seasons as a member of the Big 12);

— The six-game winning streak was the longest since 1996, while the Buffs finished 6-0 at home for the first time since 1994;

— CU finished with no penalties for the game (there was a holding penalty when the Buffs were on their own three yard line, but the penalty was declined). The blemish free game was just the fifth in school history, and just the second since 1985 (the other coming against Texas Tech in 2006);

— The Buffs played before a sell-out crowd for the first time since 2008 (v. Texas). The 52,301 was not near a record, however, as with the reconfiguration of the stadium with the addition of the Champions Center in 2015, capacity of Folsom Field was reduced from 53,750 to 50,183;

— The win gave CU a 32-28-3 advantage in the all-time series with Utah, though the Utes retained a 4-2 advantage in Pac-12 play. All six games between the two teams in the Pac-12 having been decided by seven points or less;

— Wide receiver Kabion Ento earned his first career start, substituting for the injured Bryce Bobo. Ento finished the game with two catches for 38 yards, with both receptions going for first downs;

— The “worst-to-first” turnaround was the best for any team in Pac-8/10/12 history. The Buffs seven-game improvement, from 1-8 to 8-1, bested the 6.5-game improvement by Stanford (0-6-1 to 7-0) in 1939-40;

— Safety Tedric Thompson had two interceptions (to go with four passes broken up and four third-down stops). Thompson finished the regular season with seven interceptions, tying him for the best total in school history with Dick Anderson (1967) and Cullen Bryant (1972);

— Quarterback Sefo Liufau added school records 86 and 87. His touchdown pass to Shay Fields tied him with Cody Hawkins with 60 career scoring passes, while his total passing yards for the season (2,150) gave him his third season with over 2,000 yards passing, tying him with Kordell Stewart and Joel Klatt for that record.

— Liufau was awarded the “Buffalo Heart Award” Saturday after the game, an honor presented annually by a group of fans. Liufau called the award a “great honor,” and added, “I couldn’t have done it without my teammates pushing me and getting me through those years.”

— Cornerback Chidobe Awuzie had his ninth career sack, adding to his already existing record for sacks by a defensive back.

pac-12-south-division-champions

 

 

 

 

 

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16 Replies to “No. 9 Colorado 27, No. 21 Utah 22”

  1. Shoulder to Shoulder! THANK YOU TO THE SENIORS and EVERY MEMBER of this squad and EVERY STAFF MEMBER for bringing Championship Football back to the Folsom Flatirons!! AND at the very least 2 more T.I.P.S from Stuart! GO BUFF’S!!!

  2. Hey VK – wouldn’t be surprised if Leavitt is GONE….hired away as a HC. Who wouldn’t want that turnaround leading your program? I agree without that defense Buff’s record looks much different.

    Could be interesting to see next year’s performance without Leavitt and without seniors…

    Go Buffs!!!!

  3. Gotta agree with Ben. The O, anyway, played a little “tight.” I dont think that will be the case against Washington. They got a huge load off their back last night.Washington’s D line is every bit as tough, if not more, than Utah’s.
    I hope the 2 headed OC monster comes up with some new stuff for that game.

    1. Great win but agree with the “tight” part (dropped passes, two TD missed). Given the stakes, understandable that they had some jitters. Hope the D continues to play lights out and the O plays loose with some creative stuff. Go Buffs!!

  4. Pac 12 South Champs. Sweet.

    I just want the Buffs offense to finally play a complete game against Washington. The Buffs are gonna need that to happen. Execution errors. The Buff Oline got the crap beat out of them. How many “Hurries” did they have. Oh well he Lindy/chev combo needs to get it together for this game. Pretty weak plan. If lindy really is calling the plays, then there is a problem right here in river city.

    Now about that defense. Without Lindgren and his Legions, the Buffs are 4 and 5 in the pac. Maybe 3 and 6. Yup Mac has done a good job playing CEO. But without Leavitt, he is history. Agree or not. It is fact.

    What a great season
    What a turnaround
    What a great effort by the players.
    What a great effort by the coaches.

    Go Buffs.

    Some facts

    conference games only………..2015………..2016..
    Scoring Offense……………………..19.7………………32.1
    Scoring Defense……………………..32.3………………18.4

    Over the 9 Pac 12 games it has been pretty amazing

    But forget not, the scoring defense number also includes pick 6 returns and st returns by the opposition.

    What a year. If only the O could have played to win rather than “not to lose” against USC. That 17 point game really hurt.

    The sad deal is if the Buffs lose to Washington it is probable USC will be ranked higher in the last CFP rankings and hence get the Rose Bowl Bid.

    Uh Oh Buffalo

    Note: Is it any wonder Oregon sucks on Defense? Hoke-a-Joke being the reason.

    Note 2: And the poor cornholers. The community college goes down again. Love it.

    Note 3: Mac2 is coach of the year.

    Note 4: Mac 2 has earned an extension and a raise.

    Note 5:The biggest raise and extension needs to go to Leavitt. Period

    1. You know he is going to get an HC offer somewhere. Be ironic if it is from “offense first” Oregon.
      If I was MM I would offer a portion of my salary too.

  5. Stuart, thanks for all you do! Just a quick edit… The touchdown pass at the end of the 3rd quarter was to Shay Fields, not Devin Ross.

    So proud of our Buffs! The Rise is Real! The really amazing thing about this season to me is that we have beaten so many different types of teams in so many different ways. This team has shown incredible resilience and a will to win that I believe (hope?) will not leave with the seniors who exemplify it most (Liufau, Awuzie, etc.).

    Hats off to the coaching staff as well. Not sure how many times I heard yesterday on pregame as well as during the game, about how well coached the Buffaloes are. And it’s absolutely true. We need to lock up coach Mac and as many of the assistants as possible.

    I feel like the team was a little “tight” yesterday, which led to some of the dropped passes and mental mistakes. Let loose on the Huskies, we’re playing with house money now!

  6. What a wonderful season this has been, certainly one for the ages. I can’t help but notice that we have a senior laden team, maybe a piece could be written on the outlook for next year after these great seniors are gone.

    1. Consider it done. We will be spending a great deal of time this off-season looking at how the Buffs will be replacing eight senior starters on defense (and relishing the fact that CU loses only three seniors on offense)

  7. great victory. that said, the special teams mishaps, some bad spots and calls, and missed connections made this game close. really, other than Dimmick, we dominated this game. the rise is real. and by the way, can you believe awuzie ran down folks? the play of the game. we will miss him.

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