Thoughts from the Gridiron: Utah vs Colorado

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Utah Utes played Oregon State Beavers on December 5, 2020 at the Rice Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City. Utah won with 30-24. (Photo by Ivana Martinez | Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor

 

The University of Utah Football team stunned No. 21 Colorado 38-21 on Primetime national television as Ty Jordan had a field day and the Utah defense played their best game of the season.

Defense

The Buffaloes met an actual defense for the first time this season as Utah held Colorado to 377 total yards and only 110 on the ground. Until this game, Colorado running back Jarek Broussard was averaging 183 yards per game in his first four games. But the Utah defensive line stepped up big and shut those gaps before they ever opened. 

Broussard tied a season-low as his longest rush of the contest was only 18 yards. Broussard finished with only 80 yards and it’s clear Utah sent a message as he was only given 14 attempts — less than half from his 29 attempt season average. Elite running back? Not when facing a legitimate defense.

 

Standout

Nephi Sewell had himself a day as he had 11 tackles, 10 of which were solo. Additionally, Sewell had a great interception against Sam Noyer and forced a fumble against Broussard with 13 seconds left in the first half. Utah would cash in on a field goal as time expired, making it a 14-10 game at the half and stealing the momentum. 

“First of all, he’s got really good speed and quickness for a linebacker. He was a safety before he got to us and actually was a safety for part of last year before we made the move full time to linebacker. That defensive back quickness and change in direction and burst is really a huge asset, even as a linebacker. He did a great job in the offseason putting on 15 pounds. He was about 210 last year and you should probably put on 15 pounds. He’s 225 pounds, about six feet tall; a little undersized for a linebacker, but just quick, tough, instinctive, and he has a nose for the ball. It runs in the family, I guess. He’s one of a bunch of really good football players,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. 

Overall, this was the best game of the season for the Utah defense as they forced 3 turnovers, stopped Colorado on a lot of third downs, and didn’t allow a single point in the fourth quarter. Despite their youth, this Utah defense is one of the best in the Pac-12 and will be a force to be reckoned with as they gain more experience. 

 

Room to Improve

While Utah was stellar on the defensive side of the ball, they did give up a 61-yard touchdown pass from Noyer to Brenden Rice to start the third quarter. A poorly defended play that should have only resulted in a few yards ended in six points for the Buffaloes.

The Utah special teams also gave up a rare 81-yard punt return touchdown to Rice in the second quarter. There weren’t a lot of Utah defenders to try to squeeze through as most of them over-committed. Ben Lennon also missed a tackle that would’ve ended the play but was hit with a shoulder fake and Rice took it to the house. An inexcusable play, but one Scalley will be sure to correct.

 

Offense

This arguably was Utah’s best offensive game as well as they went for 432 yards on the day with 240 in the air and 192 in the air. They also put up a season-high 38 points on the Buffaloes and dominated the time of possession with 36 minutes to Colorado’s 23.

 

Standout

Anyone who thinks that Jarek Broussard is better than Ty Jordan just doesn’t know football. Jordan could not be stopped as he ran for 147 yards and 2 touchdowns. Both touchdowns were impressive runs — the first was 18 yards to the house and the second was 66 yards for 6 points and officially iced the game, giving Utah a 35-21 lead. 

Britain Covey’s return campaign has been nothing short of impressive, as the beloved receiver had a team-high 9 receptions for 76 yards and a touchdown. Covey was also impressive on special teams, as he had six total returns for 132 yards. It’s safe to say that Covey is officially back.

“It’s critical. I talked to Coach this week about giving me more freedom on taking kick returns along with punt returns. They’re much different because the momentum is usually with the team kicking off because they scored or whatever it is. If you can then switch the momentum back off of a good kick return, that is huge for the offense. They’re two different things and I’m excited to get more opportunities on kick returns and I really think I can bust one open,” Covey said. 

 

Room to Improve

While Bentley continues to improve, he still occasionally overthrows his receivers. The interception was a well-overthrown pass and there were several instances where he missed Brant Kuithe, including a pass downfield that would’ve resulted in a touchdown.

Overall, this was a big game for the Utes as they upset a top 25 team, improved to 8-2 against Colorado since joining the Pac-12, and are no 2-2 with hopes of going bowling if they can win next week. While their opponent is still TBD, Utah is now well on track with back-to-back victories and looking to finish 3-2 in regular-season play.

 

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