Position Grades: Utah at Colorado
A struggling quarterback found his groove, a true freshman further solidified his status as an impact player, a grieving receiver made a big play, and a young defense clamped down in the second half. There was no shortage of storylines from Utah’s early afternoon win over no. 21 Colorado, as they turned things on in the final stretch to pull away to a 38-21 win against their ranked Pac-12 rival.
Here’s how the team graded out in their come-from-behind victory over the Buffaloes.
Jake Bentley has struggled this season, and it looked like the story would be the same after watching him play in the first half. However, he turned things around and put together a solid performance in the second half, completing 10 of 13 attempts and finishing the game 20 of 32 for 240 yards, two touchdowns, and an interception. Though there were still a couple of moments where Bentley missed what appeared to be fairly easy completions, he should be applauded for making a few absolutely beautiful throws. These include his on-the-money passes to Solomon Enis on a slant and Britain Covey on a slot fade for touchdowns, as well as a beauty of a long ball to Bryan Thompson for a 30 yard gain. Bentley also made a few clutch plays with his legs, including a 13 yard run where he fought through several tackles to get a first down.
Running Backs: A-
As far as production goes, Ty Jordan gets an A+ for his game against the Buffs. Jordan finished with 147 yards on 17 carries, and found the end zone on a pair of long touchdown runs. He also added 19 yards on two catches. Jordan put the nail in Colorado’s coffin late in the fourth quarter when he broke off a 66 yard touchdown run, putting the Utes up two scores with less than five minutes left in the game. Micah Bernard also added 14 yards on five carries. The only thing that dings this group’s grade a bit were some issues with blitz pickup and pass protection, but overall Utah’s running backs had a great performance.
Wide Receivers: B+
After a quiet game against Oregon State, Utah’s wide receivers made their presence felt a bit more, combining for 14 catches for 152 yards and two touchdowns. The star of the night was Britain Covey, who led all receivers with nine catches and 84 yards, and also hauled in a beauty of a touchdown where he broke his defender’s ankles on a fade route. However, in hindsight, the best moment of the game came when Bentley found Solomon Enis on Utah’s opening drive for a seven yard score. It was later revealed that Enis’s grandmother passed away during the game, so it’s only fitting that Solomon got his first touchdown catch of the season in her honor.
Tight Ends: A-
It’s hard to find much to complain about when it comes to Utah’s tight end performance against the Buffaloes. Brant Kuithe continued to prove he’s a big play threat right from the get-go, when he caught a screen pass on the opening play of the game and wound his way through the defense for 24 yards. Though Kuithe didn’t find the end zone, he ended with three catches for 53 yards and added another eight yards on the ground. Cole Fotheringham also provided a highlight moment when he caught a pass and hurdled a defender on his way to gaining 16 yards. Dalton Kincaid also got in on the fun, catching a two point conversion to put Utah up 35-21 following Ty Jordan’s long run. The tight ends were also instrumental in helping the run game get going and finding guys to block downfield.
Offensive Line: B-
Utah’s offensive line struggled a bit in the first half following their opening drive, but got back to form in the second half, opening some big holes for Jordan to run through and helping control the pace of the game as the Utes wore the Buffs out down the stretch. The line only surrendered one sack on the day, and helped the Utes gain 192 yards on the ground, averaging 4.8 yards per carry. Bad snaps were a recurring problem, and directly cost the Utes points, as a bad snap to Brant Kuithe in the wildcat formation on 4th and goal from the one yard line threw off the timing of the play and helped the Buffs to keep the Utes out of the endzone.
Defensive Line: B+
Yes, Utah’s defensive line failed to record a sack, and yes, Colorado put up nearly 400 yards of offense, but Utah’s defensive line did a good job of bottling up Jarek Broussard, who had been averaging over 180 yards per game up to this point. Utah’s defense held him to just 80 yards, and more importantly, prevented him from ever getting into a rhythm, forcing the Buffs to lean more heavily on their passing game. While the defense did initially get beat for some long plays through the air, they made adjustments and eventually locked things down in the second half. Mika Tafua and Maxs Tupai both deserve special recognition for their performance in this game. Tafua was able to hurry the quarterback on several occasions and also swatted down a couple of passes at the line, including one on fourth down that ended Colorado’s drive when they were still within striking distance. Tupai finished the game with four tackles and a forced fumble, which Nate Ritchie scooped up to help control the bleeding in the first half.
It should come as no surprise by this point, but Nephi Sewell and Devin Lloyd continued to anchor this defense, and led the team in tackles with 11 and nine, respectively. Sewell deserves player of the game recognition as he also came away with a tackle for loss and also made a great play in coverage to come away with an interception. Utah has been spoiled with great linebacker play over the last few years, and even if someone like Lloyd were to leave after this season for the NFL, they have a very promising crop of recruits coming to help carry on the tradition.
Utah’s secondary got burned a few times for big gains, but made some key adjustments in the second half and were instrumental in holding Colorado starting QB Sam Noyer to 0 of 7 on his final attempts of the game. Noyer’s backup, Tyler Lytle, did come in and completed a few passes down the stretch, but the secondary should be commended for helping Utah’s defense completely shut down the Colorado offense in the fourth quarter, forcing turnovers on downs on all three of the Buffs’ fourth quarter drives. When Colorado needed big plays through the air the most, they were nowhere to be found, thanks to Utah’s young secondary. Nate Ritchie deserves a shout out here for his performance which included a sack and a fumble recovery.
Special Teams: C+
Utah’s special teams had its goods and bads against Colorado. Starting with the goods, kicker Jadon Redding stayed perfect on the year, hitting all three of his field goal tries and all three PAT attempts as well. Britain Covey also ripped off some nice kick returns, setting the Utes up with good starting field position on several occasions. Ben Lennon was fairly solid as well, and though his average was just 37 yards per punt, he helped pin the Buffs deep in their own territory on several occasions. Utah’s kick and punt coverage was suspect however, as they gave up an 81 yard punt return touchdown which allowed Colorado to take a lead into halftime, and also gave up a long kickoff return.