Utes defense shuts down Colorado 28-13, in regular season finale

Sports

SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes are headed to the Pac-12 Championship Game with plenty of momentum.

Cameron Rising threw three touchdown passes, Tavion Thomas ran for 142 yards and a score, and No. 16 Utah beat Colorado 28-13 on Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.

The Utes (9-3, 8-1 Pac-12), who won their fifth straight game, rushed for 265 yards and held Colorado (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12) to 148 yards of total offense and nine first downs with next week’s Pac-12 Championship game looming.

“The defense played exceptionally well today,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham. “148 yards and zero touchdowns. That’s about as good as it gets. I’m proud of those guys. I think it was a positive ending to the season. A positive ending to a very positive season. But we still have work to do.”

The Utes defense had four sacks and seven tackles for losses.

“My guys just really stepped up and showed out today,” said linebacker Devin Lloyd. “It was something special just to be able to do that, especially this being my last game in this stadium.” 

Rising scrambled and found Britain Covey on an improvised forward pitch for a 13-yard touchdown with 6:45 left in the third quarter to cap the scoring.

Thomas proved tough to tackle on any play, but especially when he powered through the first level and into the secondary to extend his school-record to 18 rushing touchdowns.

Rising was 14-of-23 for 179 yards passing. T.J. Pledger added 103 yards on the ground.

Colorado’s Brendon Lewis was harassed all game and finished with 84 yards passing, going 9-for-23, with four sacks.

The week after the Utes clinched the Pac-12 South against Oregon and ended the Ducks’ playoff hopes, Utah looked less than focused at the start against CU.

“It took a lot to really focus on this game throughout the week,” Covey said. “Because our whole entire off-season, we’re talking about Pac-12 Championship. So we are excited to be able to look forward now.”

Not long after Rising ran onto the field accompanied by Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,”, he overthrew Brant Kuithe right into the hands of Colorado’s Mark Perry. His 40-yard return set up a 33-yard field goal by Cole Becker for the Buffaloes’ first score of the day.

Becker hit a 56-yarder on the last play of the half.

The Buffaloes exploited the Utes’ weak link — special teams — with a blocked field goal in the first quarter and an electrifying 100-yard touchdown return by Nikko Reed to open the second half and cut the lead to 14-13.

But Colorado never figured out a way to attack the stout Utah defense with only nine first downs, three three-and-outs and two turnovers on downs.

Aided by Utah’s effective rushing attack, Rising righted the ship after his rough start with two first-half touchdown passes, one to Kuithe and another to Dalton Kincaid.

On Senior Day, eight actual seniors on the young Utah team were honored but were joined by 10 juniors — including stars like receiver Covey, linebacker Devin Lloyd, lineman Nick Ford and tight end Kuithe — who may or may not return next season.

The team has rallied from a 1-2 start around the pair’s memory to win eight of their last nine games on their way to their third Pac-12 Championship appearance in four seasons.

Utah won 700th game in school history, claimed its fifth straight win in the Colorado series and finished the season undefeated at home.

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