Thoughts From the Gridiron: Utah vs Colorado


Jonathan Wang

Running Back TJ Pledger makes a play against the Colorado Buffaloes in Salt Lake City on Nov. 26, 2021. (Photo by Jonathan Wang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

By Cole Bagley, Sports Editor


Nobody said sweeping the South Division and emerging with the best Conference record would be easy, and for the Utes it wasn’t. Despite flooring the No. 3 Oregon Ducks just a week ago, Utah found itself in a battle with Pac-12 Rival Colorado on Senior Day. 

Luckily, when it mattered most, the Utes’ stars shined brightest and took care of business, defeating Colorado 28-13 to remain undefeated in the South Division (5-0) and at home (6-0).


Despite just a two-possession victory, the defense was actually quite good, allowing just 148 total yards and technically, only two field goals (Colorado’s one touchdown was scored on special teams).

To only give up six points and a total of 82 yards through one half of play is actually a pretty significant accomplishment. For the year, Utah has been allowing an average of 171 yards per half, and Colorado didn’t even crack half of that.

This came as a direct result of a locked down secondary and immense pressure by the front line and linebackers. Going into the locker room at the half, Colorado had a measly 49 yards through the air and 33 on the ground for a combined 3.2 yards per play.

As for the second half, the defense continued their dominance and didn’t allow a single point. Drive after drive they brought the pressure, wracking up multiple tackles for loss and forcing Colorado quarterback Brendon Lewis to throw the ball away on several occasions. This resulted in a poor performance by Lewis who finished just 9-23 (39%) for 84 yards.

“I thought our defense played exceptionally well today, only giving up 148 yards and zero touchdowns,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said. “That’s about as good as it gets. Proud of those guys. Offensively, we weren’t quite as efficient and didn’t execute as well as we have been over the last stretch of six to seven weeks, but we did enough to win the football game.” 


In true poetic fashion, the upperclassmen stole the show on senior day with Nephi Sewell leading the team with 10 total tackles and Devin Lloyd just behind him with nine. 

It comes as no surprise that these two dominated in what will more than likely be their last time taking the field at Rice-Eccles Stadium. While Sewell had more of an under-the-radar contribution, Lloyd was all over the place and even punished Lewis with a devastating sack for a loss of a few yards.

Room to Improve

While it was technically a special teams play, it was also really hard to fault the defense for any mistakes today, so let’s go with the kick-off return for a touchdown by Colorado on this one.

The Utes have had their fair share of mistakes on special teams this year, and it yet again reared its ugly head. For a team that prides themselves on making defensive plays and has also had a very good special teams unit over the years, this was unacceptable. Allowing a team to run it back 100 yards for a score right out of the locker room and cut it to a one-point game is unsettling and very well could’ve changed the outcome.

If the Utes want any shot at winning their first Pac-12 Championship game, special teams has got to be better, because those are the types of mistakes that can turn out to be unforgiving with a trophy on the line.


Not that it was necessarily a bad performance by the Utah offense, seeing as they scored 28 points and posted 444 total yards, but it may have been their worst start of the season. For the year, Utah has averaged roughly 8.9 points per quarter but were held scoreless during the initial 15 minutes of play against the Buffaloes. 

Most of this had to do with quarterback Cameron Rising throwing an uncharacteristic interception on the very first series, which set the Buffaloes up in field goal range and lead to an unexpected early deficit.

However, the Utes would go on to outscore Colorado 28-10 through the rest of the game, and the outcome was never in doubt.

Overall, Utah actually recorded one of its most balanced attacks, finishing with 179 yards through the air and 265 on the ground. 

Speaking of the run game, Tavion Thomas and TJ Pledger were a two-headed monster and finished the day with a combined 245 yards on 38 carries (6.4 average) and one touchdown.


Without a doubt, Thomas or Pledger could probably take home the standout performance of the game, but Britain Covey also had himself a day. For the game, Covey recorded a game-high five receptions for 72 yards (season-high) and one touchdown. 

With what Covey has done all season long on special teams, it can be hard to remember the fact that he can be a dangerous weapon for a quarterback as well, and this afternoon, that was on full display. 

Time and again, Covey brought down some pretty remarkable catches which not only demonstrated his reliable hands, but also his fearlessness and high football IQ. 

Take the touchdown for example. Initially, it appeared Covey was supposed to run an inside route, but when Rising decided to scramble to the sideline, Covey ran along with him, stayed open, and then went sideline to catch a block and found the end zone. 

Simply put, Covey has learned a thing or two in the near decade he’s been with the program. 

Room to Improve

Can’t fault Utah for not being at their best given the situation, but one thing is for sure, Utah has to be a lot better at converting on 4th down. 

While it didn’t really end up hurting them or impacting the outcome of the game, going 1-3 on fourth down isn’t good no matter what. When a drive ends without points, that can greatly kill a team’s momentum, so either figure out a better way to convert it or just take the three points.

“Well, I think it’s obvious we didn’t play our best, but at this point it doesn’t matter,” Covey said. “We sent those upperclassmen out right in Rice-Eccles and it’s nice being able to focus on what we really want to focus on right now. It took a lot to really focus on this game throughout the week because our whole entire off season, we’ve been talking about the PAC-12 Championship, so we are excited to be able to look forward now. We’re not even going to celebrate this victory. The moment we get home we’re just preparing.”

With the victory, Utah improves to 9-3 on the season and 8-1 in the Pac-12. With their eyes set on the Pac-12 Championship, the Utes will await the outcome of the games tomorrow to determine their opponent. More than likely it will end up being Oregon, but as the conference has proven this season, anything can happen and Utah needs to be ready for anyone.


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