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Sunday morning QB: Stars, stats from Utah's regular-season ending loss to Colorado

Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham watches a replay on the big screen during the second half of a football game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Utah lost 22-27.
Utah Utes head coach Kyle Whittingham watches a replay on the big screen during the second half of a football game against the Colorado Buffaloes at Folsom Field in Boulder, Colo., on Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016. Utah lost 22-27.
Kristin Murphy,

After a gut-wrenching 30-28 loss to Oregon bounced them from Pac-12 South title contention, all the 20th-ranked Utah Utes could do Saturday evening in their regular-season finale against No. 9 Colorado was play spoiler.

If the Utes beat the Buffaloes, USC would win the South division, while a Colorado win would give the Buffaloes the crown.

Utah was within striking distance until the waning minutes, but too many failures in the red zone doomed it as the Buffaloes won 27-22. With the loss, the Utes finished the regular season 8-4.

Scoring recap

After a series of 3-and-outs from both teams to start the game, Utah’s Boobie Hobbs returned a Colorado punt 55 yards for a touchdown and the Utes took the 7-0 lead less than six minutes into the contest.

Following another 3-and-out from the Buffaloes, Utah put together a sustained drive but couldn’t find the end zone, and Andy Phillips missed a field-goal attempt. Colorado responded with an eight-play, 73-yard touchdown drive, with quarterback Sefo Liufau punching it in on the last play of the first quarter to tie the game at 7.

After a 3-and-out from the Utes, the Buffaloes went 69 yards over 15 plays before being stopped at the 7-yard line and settling for a field goal to take a 10-7 lead at the 9:20 mark of the second quarter.

Following another 3-and out by Utah, Colorado drove to the 2-yard line but couldn’t punch it in and had to kick another field goal to stretch its advantage to 13-7, which is where the score stood at halftime.

The Buffaloes went 3-and-out to open the second half thanks to strong Ute defense, and Utah responded by getting to the 2-yard line before starting a second-half theme by failing to get into the end zone and settling for a short field goal from Phillips to cut the deficit to 13-10.

Neither team scored for nearly nine minutes until the Utes took a short field to the 3-yard line before settling for a Phillips field goal to tie things up at 13 with 2:58 remaining in the third quarter.

Colorado responded with a nine-play, 75-yard touchdown drive to retake the lead, 20-13. Utah got a stop on a third-and-10 in the middle of the possession, but a pass interference on Reggie Porter gave the Buffaloes a first down, and they scored three plays later.

Kyle Fulks returned the ensuing kickoff 93 yards to the 3-yard line, but the Utes again could not get the ball in the end zone, and Phillips hit another field goal to make the score 20-16 for Colorado with 13:53 remaining.

After some unsuccessful possessions from both sides, Utah got the ball with 11:05 left, but running back Joe Williams fumbled on the first play of the drive, and the Buffaloes’ Kenneth Olugbode scooped it up and scampered 13 yards to the end zone to stretch the Colorado lead to 27-16.

The game was seemingly out of reach for the Utes as the clock drained, but they created some drama when Troy Williams found Demari Simpkins for a 7-yard touchdown to cap a 14-play, 80-yard drive and cut the deficit to 27-22.

Following a failed two-point conversion attempt, Phillips also couldn’t execute an onside kick, and the Buffaloes ran out the clock to get the win.

Utah’s three stars

Andy Phillips, K

The senior wasn’t perfect on the night, missing a field goal early and then putting forth a poor onside kick late, but he did his part to keep the Utes in the game. On three separate occasions in the second half, Phillips made short field goals after Utah had stalled in the red zone, keeping the team within striking distance.

Hunter Dimick, DE

For the second week in a row, Dimick was huge, setting the tone in the second half as the Ute defense compensated for an awful offensive performance. Dimick finished with three pass breakups, a tackle for loss and a half sack.

Boobie Hobbs, PR

Until a late Utah touchdown, Hobbs’ punt return for a score in the first quarter was the only time the Utes reached the end zone. In all, he had four returns for 73 yards.

Analyzing the stats

— The teams were a combined 8-of-9 in red zone opportunities, but Colorado outscored Utah 20-15 in such opportunities, which wound up being the difference in the game.

— Colorado outgained Utah 378-339. The Buffaloes were far more successful in the passing game with 270 yards compared with just 160 for the Utes, but Utah had 179 yards on the ground compared with 108 for Colorado despite a tough evening for Joe Williams, who finished with 97 yards.

— The Utes committed four turnovers compared with two by the Buffaloes.

— Colorado was penalized zero times. Utah was flagged three times for 36 yards.

— Both Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky and Colorado punter Alex Kinney finished with an average of 42.3 yards per punt. Wishnowsky punted six times for 254 yards, while Kinney punted nine times for 381 yards.

Up next

Utah has just its bowl game remaining after finishing the regular season 8-4. The Utes’ bowl destination will be revealed Dec. 4.

Colorado will play Washington in the Pac-12 title game Friday night in Santa Clara, Calif. Kickoff is scheduled for 7 p.m. MT.

Ryan McDonald is a sports reporter at Follow him on Twitter @ryanwmcdonald.