Colorado vs Utah: Score, highlights and recap

Nov 26, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau (13) prepares to pass the ball in the first half against the Utah Utes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 26, 2016; Boulder, CO, USA; Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Sefo Liufau (13) prepares to pass the ball in the first half against the Utah Utes at Folsom Field. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports /

Colorado is headed to the Pac-12 Championship Game after beating No. 22 Utah 27-22 on Saturday night at Folsom Field.

The No. 9 Colorado Buffaoes clinched their first-ever Pac-12 South title with a 27-22 win over the No. 22 Utah Utes on Saturday night in Boulder.

Both teams feature some of the most stingy and physical defenses in the Pac-12, and it showed early on. Utah recovered a Sefo Liufau fumble on the Buffaloes 40 just over a minute in, but couldn’t take advantage with a quick three and out.

Utah got an initial spark on special teams by pinning Colorado deep in its own territory on Ray Guy Award favorite Mitch Wishnowsky’s punt. After a Buffaloes three-and-out, Boobie Hobbs opened the scoring at the 9:17 mark of the first with a 55-yard punt return touchdown.

The Utes got Joe Williams and the running attack somewhat going on their next drive, but Andy Phillips missed a 45-yard field goal that could have made it a two-score game. Colorado responded with a quick 73-yard touchdown drive to close out the first, highlighted by Sefo Liufau’s 42-yard pass to Devin Ross.

Colorado took its first lead six minutes later with a long field goal, although it could have had more if it weren’t for a critical drop by Shay Fields on a sure touchdown pass. The Buffaloes defensive line came up huge on Utah’s next drive by stopping the Utes on fourth and short on their own 34, leading to another short field goal and 13-7 Colorado lead.

That score held until halftime, as Utah racked up just 85 yards in the first half. Still, things could have been worse for the Utes, as two crucial drops likely cost the Buffaloes a pair of touchdowns.

Another plus return by Hobbs gave Utah good field position near the start of the third, but the Buffaloes had to settle for a field goal and 13-10 deficit after driving down to the two. The Utes had a chance to tie or take the lead on their next drive following a 44-yard pass from Troy Williams to Tim Patrick before Joe Williams fumbeld near the Utah goalline in a huge play for the Colorado defense.

Utah would get the ball right back on Liufau’s second fumble of the game, and Cory Butler-Byrd’s 41-yard run on a reverse set up a short game-tying field goal from Phillips late in the third. Liufau would respond quickly by leading the Buffaloes down the field, as Colorado took a 20-13 lead on the last play of the third on Fields’ six-yard touchdown reception.

Special teams struck again for Utah on Kyle Fulks’ 93-yard kickoff return to the Colorado three. Yet again, the Utes could not finish a drive and had to settle for a short field goal to make the score 20-16 a minute into the fourth.

The two teams traded punts, as Utah’s pass rush punished Liufau consistently. With 10:56 remaining, the Colorado defense came up with the biggest play of the game on Kenneth Olugbode’s scoop and score on the second Williams’ fumble of the day to go up 27-16.

Three plays later, Tedric Thompson picked off Troy Williams for the second time to put Utah in a huge hole. After the Buffaoes took some time off the clock, the Utes made things interesting with 1:34 left on Williams’ touchdown pass Demari Simpkins to make the score 27-22. Colorado recovered the ensuing onside kick, and Phillip Lindsay picked up a first down on the ground to seal the huge win.

The Buffaloes held Utah to just 160 yards through the air, and got just enough offense out of Liufau and company. Utah’s huge problem in the game was getting just six points out of four redzone trips.

Three Stars

3. Shay Fields, WR, Colorado. Made up for important drop earlier in the game with seven catches for 78 yards and a touchdown.

2. Tedric Thompson, DB, Colorado. Recorded four tackles, four pass defenses and two interceptions to lead terrific effort in the secondary.

1. Chidobe Awuzie, CB, Colorado. Consistently made plays all over the field defensively, in addition to touchdown saving tackle on Fulks’ ling kickoff return.

Full Highlights

"TURNOVER | Moeller forces the fumble and Chido recovers..Buffs get the ball on their own 2 #beatUtah #TheRise— Colorado Football (@RunRalphieRun) November 27, 2016"

"Liufau finds an open FIELDS for the TOUCHDOWN BUFFS! #UTAHvsCUFOX— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) November 27, 2016"

"KENNETH OLUGBODE.What’s that you say, @RunRalphieRun? #PlayersMakePlays.FOX— Pac-12 Network (@Pac12Network) November 27, 2016"

Up Next

The Buffaloes will head to the Bay Area of the Pac-12 Championship Game against No. 5 Washington on Friday night. Utah will wait for its bowl destination after a disappointing end to the season.