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November 30th – Salt Lake City          No. 6 Utah 45, Colorado 15

No. 6 Utah used short fields and a punt return for a touchdown to turn a close game into a rout, taking the Pac-12 South title with a 45-15 win over Colorado. The Buffs became the only Pac-12 opponent in the 2019 season to score two touchdowns against the Utes in Rice-Eccles stadium, but an inability to convert on third downs (2-of-11) kept the Buff offense from creating any consistent movement on offense.

Senior quarterback Steven Montez completed his final game as a Buff completing 17-of-26 passes for 157 yards and two touchdowns. The passing yardage, along with his 136 yards of total offense (after rushing losses due to sacks were taken into account), allowed Steven Montez to pass Sefo Liufau on the CU all-time lists for both career passing yards and career total offense.

The Colorado defense held its own, giving up only 372 yards of total offense to the Utes, but short fields and a punt return score allowed the Utes, a 28.5-point favorite, to beat the spread.

“I want to thank our seniors, guys who have really put their heart into this football team and guys who gave it everything they had,” said Mel Tucker, who finished his first season at Colorado with a 5-7 overall record. “I have a lot of respect for our seniors in what they’ve done, laying the foundation for how we are going to play football here, and for staying with it”.

Game Story ... The Buffs opened the game with an 11-yard run by Alex Fontenot, but went nowhere after that, punting the ball to Utah after three more plays. The CU defense, though, did the Utah defense one better, forcing a three-and-out.

Except … the ensuing punt was muffed by Dimitri Stanley, giving the ball right back to the Utes. Taking over at the CU 32-yard line, the Utah offense … went backward. Thanks to a sack of Utah quarterback Tyler Huntley by Mustafa Johnson, the Utes had to punt the ball back after another three-and-out.

The Buffs’ second drive looked much like the first, with a good opening play – a 17-yard completion from Steven Montez to Dimitri Stanley – followed by three plays and out. The Alex Kinney punt was fumbled by the Utah punt returner, but was recovered by the Utes at their 14-yard line.

After forcing the third three-and-out of the game from the Utah offense, the Buffs took over at their 38-yard line. An eight-yard run by Laviska Shenault, followed by a six-yard completion from Montez to Shenault, gave the Buff offense a first down near midfield. A nine-yard completion from Montez to Tony Brown two plays later pushed the ball to the 36-yard line.

Three plays later, the Buffs faced a fourth-and-five at the Utah 31-yard line. Rather than attempt a 48-yard field goal, the Buffs went for it, with a six-yard completion from Montez to Shenault keeping the drive alive. A 12-yard completion to K.D. Nixon and a six-yard run put the ball at the Utah seven yard line, where Steven Montez hit tight end Brady Russell for a touchdown.

With less than a minute to play in the first quarter, the four-touchdown underdog Buffs became the first team to score a touchdown against the Utes in Rice-Eccles stadium in 15 quarters of play against Pac-12 competition.

The Utah offense picked up its first first down of the game on the final play of the first quarter, but used that momentum to launch an eight-play, 75-yard drive to tie the game early in the second stanza. An 18-yard completion from Tyler Huntley to tight end Brant Kuithe on third-and-13 kept the drive alive, with Huntley connecting with Kuithe for a 38-yard touchdown to complete the drive. With 11:21 to play in the half, it was a 7-7 game.

An eight-yard completion from Montez to Brady Russell and a 13-yard run by Alex Fontenot got CU’s next drive off to a promising start. A false start penalty and a sack later, however, the Buffs punted the ball away.

Utah, buoyed by the momentum of the stalled CU drive, took off on another eight-play scoring drive, this time covering 82 yards. A 44-yard run by Brant Kuithe gave the Utes a first-and-goal at the Buff seven yard line. On the next play, Tyler Huntley hit the same Brant Kuithe for a touchdown. With 2:03 remaining in the first half, No. 6 Utah had its first lead of the game, at 14-7.

The CU offense was unable to mount a drive on its next opportunity, going three-and-out after Steven Montez was sacked on third-and-four. Punter Alex Kinney, who had been a weapon for the Buffs in his three punts (all three inside the Utah 20-yard line), hit a line drive 37-yard punt which was returned 35 yards to the CU 29-yard line. With a 15-yard late hit penalty tacked on, the Utes set up shop at the CU 14-yard line.

With the game at risk of getting out of hand, the Buff defense made a stand. Three plays from the Utah offense netted only nine yards, with the Utes settling for a 23-yard field goal by Jadon Redding with four seconds remaining in the first half.

Halftime score: No. 6 Utah 17, Colorado 7

The Utes pushed the ball out near midfield to open the second half, but the CU defense forced a punt. The punt, though, was downed at the CU five yard line. Three plays and one yard later, the Buffs punted the ball back to the Utes.

Taking over on the CU side of the field, the Utes needed to cover only 48 yards to score. The Buff defense made the Utes work for it, as the Utah took 12 plays and almost seven minutes of clock to score. Converting four third downs on the drive, Utah made it a 24-7 game with a one-yard run by Devin Brumfield with 4:11 remaining in the third quarter.

Then the Buffs fell apart.

After Steven Montez assumed the all-time career passing lead with a seven-yard completion to Dimitri Stanley, the Buffs went backwards, with a false start and another sack. Then Alex Kinney’s punt of 50 yards was returned 66 yards for a touchdown by Demari Simpkins. With just under a minute remaining in the third quarter, what was once a game was now a rout, at 31-7.

With the result no longer in doubt, the CU offense put together its second scoring drive of the game. An eight-yard run by Laviska Shenault on the first play of the fourth quarter gave the Buffs their first first down of the second half. Two plays later, the Buff offense converted its first third down conversion of the game, with Montez hitting Shenault for a 24-yard gain to the Utah 37-yard line.

Two plays later, Steven Montez hit sophomore wide receiver Daniel Arias for a 27-yard touchdown. Montez then hit tight end Brady Russell for a two-point conversion to make it a two-score game, at 31-15, with 12:51 remaining in the game.

The Buffs went for an onsides kick, but the effort failed, giving the Utah offense a short field. The Utes then scored on their second drive of less than 50 yards in the half, needing only five plays to cover 47 yards. A one-yard touchdown run by Zach Moss with 10:46 to play put the game out of reach, at 38-15.

The response from the CU offense? A three-and-out with yet another sack of Steven Montez.

The subsequent Alex Kinney punt forced the Utah offense to start its next drive on its side of the field for just the second time in the second half. The Utah offense, playing for style points, put together a seven-play, 63-yard drive to push the lead over the 28.5-point spread. A 15-yard touchdown run by Brant Kuthie made it 45-15 with 5:12 to play in the game.

The Buff offense, behind some runs and a 20-yard catch by running back Deion Smith, pushed the ball as far as the Utah 33-yard line before the Steven Montez era at Colorado came to a close with a sack of the senior quarterback on fourth-and-eight.

Final score: No. 6 Utah 45, Colorado 15

The Buff defense, despite the final score, did its share to contribute to a CU victory. The Utes had only 372 yards of total offense, with start quarterback Tyler Huntley held to 165 yards passing with two sacks, while star running back Zach Moss was held to 88 yards rushing on 20 attempts.

“We didn’t finish the way we wanted to finish tonight,” said Mel Tucker of his team, which was out-scored 45-8 in the final three quarters. “But I have a lot of respect for this football team and I told them to keep their heads up. It’s a privilege to be able to coach this group of guys. Our record doesn’t necessarily reflect everything about this football team.”

“Of course, I’m sad with this being my last game,” said star linebacker Davion Taylor. “But I’m excited for this program because we just set the foundation for this team. I feel like this group can do great things in the future.”

Game Notes … 

— With the win, Utah crept within one game of CU in the all-time series (32-31-3). Utah made it 18-14-2 in games played in Salt Lake City;

— Utah had only 27 yards of total offense in the first quarter, going three-and-out in its first three possessions. The Utes’ punt return for a touchdown was the only non-offensive touchdown scored against Colorado in all of the 2019 season;

— Steven Montez (17-for-26, 157 yards, two touchdowns) finished his career by passing Sefo Liufau on three career lists. Montez finished his career with 9,649 yards passing (Liufau: 9,568); 10,609 yards of total offense (10,509) and 74 touchdowns responsible for (Liufau: 72). Montez finished his career with a 17-22 record as a starter (Liufau finished 16-24);

— Alex Kinney, with two punts inside the 20-yard line (a third was downed on the 20), finished his career with a school-record 96 punts inside the 20 (Darragh O’Neill had 95, 2011-14);

— Laviska Shenault (four catches for 43 yards; five carries for 25 yards) finished his junior year eighth in all-time receptions (149), 11th in receiving yards (1,943) and 35th in all-purpose yards (2,332).

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12 Replies to “No. 6 Utah 45, Colorado 15”

  1. Stuart, First and foremost, thank you for all that you do. I have been following this website for a long time. I enjoy your thoughtful analysis and your engaging prose. I also enjoy some of the comments–both good and bad. I will say that this year had a different feeling, but let’s be honest–you are only as good as your record. Add to that, the professionals who set the line are really the true judges of talent and progress. We opened up as a 29 or 29.5 underdog and we lost by 30. While the feeling was different, the progress and improvement were more of an illusion–or perhaps hope–than reality. An example of progress and improvement would have been beating UW and then coming out as a 13-17 point underdog to UU. Or, beating UW and then losing to UU in a close game. But, let’s be honest. This game was not close. We were down 17-7 at half and we were unable to score 17. Hence, this game was really over at halftime, despite the sense of hope and coach Tucker’s words at halftime. I wish it were different, but it isn’t. Regardless, I am a CU fan through and through and like all of the others–I am waiting for next year and hopeful for our future.

  2. That was a fun first half though. Buffs were physical, Moss limping off, Huntley limping off. The short fields and special teams hurt, and then smelling blood the blitz krieg shut the Buffs down. How good is Utah? Hard for me to tell. For Pac12 sake I wish them success. But they got kind of cocky there down the stretch which I hope gives Tucker and the team a motivation for revenge next season.

  3. As so often over the past 60+ years, I come away with “wait until next year”. Always the optimist, I think next year will be better. The difference this year is the coach. He has an intensity that’s been lacking. Not in your face screaming, but a quiet intensity that’s much more powerful. The kids seem to like and respect that.

    We’ve already seen an uptick in recruiting which in turn feeds itself. However, after watching Alabama Auburn, I see how very far we have to go; the difference of 5 star vs 3 star recruits. Let’s see how Tucker does in living rooms, because it’s hard to get a 5 star committed to a program that hasn’t seen the post season in years.

  4. I agree I am optimistic about the future with this staff, but right now the big question mark is who is the QB next year? Is there a graduate that can take over for one year? Are either Lytle or Stenstrom capable of leading us to a bowl game? Is our 2020 Freshman out of Texas the answer? This is the key question this now long off season.

  5. Yo Stuart,

    My thanks go out to Mel Tucker. Although Colorado has another 5-7 season, things are different this time. Much tougher schedule this year than last, but Colorado is learning from a new master.

    Utah was a perfect opponent because it gave us a glimpse of what will be coming to Boulder. The Utes showed what a big, strong team that will dominate the line of scrimmage can do. Tucker’s Buffs hung with the Utes for longer in Utah than anyone in the conference over the last two months of the season.

    While Colorado has a very young team that is quickly on the rise, Utah is a team this year that can play against anyone in the country. Every team that is securely in the 4 team national championship tourney is hoping and praying that Utah does not get in, because no one wants to play them. Their senior leadership is phenomenal. Period. We’ll find out more next week when they play Oregon in the Pac-12 Championship, but I wouldn’t bet against the Utes facing anybody right now.

    Although the future in Colorado is clearly bright, the future is now in Utah. They could very well be the best team in the country right now. But their graduating seniors are such an important part of their team that they know in their hearts that they may not see another year like this for quite some time.

    That’s good news for Colorado, and the rest of the Pac-12. Next year, Colorado can and will compete for the Pac-12 South title. And if Tucker and his crew can continue to recruit and develop like they have shown they can, the Buffaloes are in good hands.

    Colorado is losing some talent, to be sure. I will always relish watching Viska. He’s a special physical specimen, certainly. I just wish he was a freshman or a sophomore and could benefit from what Tucker will create in the coming seasons.

    So many of the two deep on Colorado are freshman or sophs who will continue to develop. And the incoming classes will only make them better. And from now on, the team will no longer be spending half the season implementing a new system. Everyone will be playing fast from the get go. Our opponents will be facing a team from Colorado that hasn’t been seen for longer than most of us would care to admit.

    I, for one, can’t wait for the new classes to come in and for opening day to arrive next fall. I have complete faith in Mel Tucker. Things will only get better as his staff develops their own skills as well as the skills of their players.

    Thanks again, Stuart, for your continuous excellence in covering our beloved Buffaloes. If they can do their jobs as well as you do yours, they can be among the best in the country once again. I believe in my heart that Mel Tucker is the man to lead them there.

    GO BUFFS!

    Mark
    Boulderdevil
    GoldenBuffs.com

    1. Boulderdevil, such effusive praise for Utah, the team Colorado hopes in can become. Did you note that their offensive coordinator is an ex wide receiver with an extensive background as a QB/wide receivers coach–the exact resume you say that CU should not have as offensive coordinator?

      I guess you don’t remember the Elliot Uzelac years and completely blowing any National Championship opportunity in 1994 with the most talented CU team in history. Also interesting that Utah is paying that offensive coordinator $820,000 a year, along with $4.1 million for the head coach. Will CU shell out that type of salary in the future if they do turn the corner?
      At least they have $3.65 million on hold to pay MacIntyre in January.

      Go Buffs.

      1. Yo B-UP,

        Utah is Kyle Whittingham’s team. Period. He’s been at Utah since the year after McCartney retired at CU. Their OC Ludwig has been there for one season. He can’t take credit for the offense. Tyler Huntley was going to have a great season no matter who was calling the plays.

        But it’s the beasts up front that make everything else possible. And Huntley is the kind of QB we hoped that Montez would turn into. I sort of compare Huntley to Koy Detmer, in that he would make any coordinator look good.

        Before Utah, Ludwig was at Vanderbilt as OC for 4 seasons. Not a winning record in any of them. Utah won 9 games (and 10 once) three times in the same time frame and did not have a losing season.

        And I would gladly take back the Elliot Uzelac years at Colorado. Yes, the Buffs lost on the road in 1994 to Nebraska… who won the National Championship. But the Buffs finished #3. And had the Heisman Trophy winner. Man, if that’s the season you want to complain about, I don’t know what to think about that.

        Utah pays Whittingham very well because they know he’s not going anywhere and he’s a consistent winner. Ludwig is a vagabond who rarely sticks around anywhere for more than a couple years. Long after Ludwig has moved on, Whittingham will still be at Utah.

        Like I said before, THIS is the year for Utah. Next year they will not have the same leadership on the field that they had this year. The lose a lot of seniors who could have left early last year and chose to come back and win a Pac-12 Championship. We’ll see how the game against Oregon goes.

        I see in Utah what Mel Tucker is trying to build here. It reminds me of the good old days. Those are the days I would like to have again. Colorado being one of the best teams in the country on a consistent basis was a blast I’ll never forget.

        GO BUFFS!
        Mark
        Boulderdevil

        1. You only highlighted a small portion of Ludwig’s resume. Ludwig was the OC at Utah when Utah beat Bama in the New Year’s day bowl. He was also at Wisconsin when Melvin Gordon was a finalist for the Heisman. A running back by the way. He had success at other non-Whittingham schools (and led Vanderbilt to their fourth highest per game scoring average since World War II). That’s why Utah gave him a 2.5 million dollar contract to come back. Utah had stagnated on offense under Troy Taylor and under Whittingham and he (Whittingham) knew he needed to improve to become an elite PAC-12 team. Think they would shell out that much coin if it is all Whittingham? Nope. And he now calls the shots on offense for Utah’s best team ever.

          Yet you say CU should stay away from his type because they give wide receivers and QBs all the glory. Well, if it is all Wittingham calling the shots at Utah, and he won’t allow an ex -wide receiver/qb who is now the offensive coordinator to favor those positions so they get the glory at the expense of the run game (your theory by the way) doesn’t that hold true for Mel Tucker and Jay Johnson? You wrote previously that Mel Tucker has a problem at OC based on that premise. I say Utah proves your theory has no basis.

          Uzelac sucked. Lost the Nebraska game by not attacking the cornhole secondary which was by far their weakest position group. Tried to attack their front seven which was their strength all game. Cost CU’s most talented team ever a shot at a national championship. That team won on talent and in spite of his garbage offense.

          1. Here’s my two cents to your discussion w/ Mark: UT’s offense has an NFL QB (and three year starter), an NFL RB (three year starter), and four or five NFL linemen. If their offense wasn’t humming this year, something was seriously wrong.

            Now, we’ll be able to have fun carrying this conversation over to next year, presuming Ludwig likes his HC salary for being a coordinator and stays put, and see how they do. I would expect some drop off, unless they can reload with another six or eight NFL caliber starters.

            Coaches coach. Players play. Our Buffs need more players.

            I was curious, so went and checked out draft picks CU’s had. The link I used is here: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_Colorado_Buffaloes_in_the_NFL_Draft I had a sense of what I’d see, but had not ever looked. This of course doesn’t include un-drafted free agents who made teams (Lindsay, Tupou, etc.) but those are probably fewer and further between. Our pal Urb had an interesting comparison when discussing TX vs. ‘Bama, GA, etc. and looked at star ratings coming in, and guys into the NFL. The #s were staggering. TX has had top 5 recruiting classes, but relatively low #s of NFL draft picks.

            Given what CU’s had on the recruiting front more often than not, since our glory days 20-ish years ago, each coach has actually done “ok” developing kids for the next level. But, it’s not enough to really compete. Notice the wins started dwindling around the time the NFL draft picks did too (mid 90s).

            Hopefully Tucker and Co’s recruiting chops – and at least as importantly developmental chops – turn that tide.

            So far, they’re taking what they inherited, and seem to be improving it further. It’s going to take that, and a lot of it, regardless of the schemes they run (spread, pistol, power, hybrid/multiple on offense, 4-3, 3-4, 3-3-5 etc. on D).

            I mean, people clamor about point totals, and using TE’s but? We had fewer points on offense, used the tight ends, and gave up more points on defense, and still, 5-7, with “a few plays here or there” away from 8-4. Players gotta make plays.

            Go Buffs.

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