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3 takeaways from No. 19 Utah’s 28-13 win over Colorado

Utah wide receiver Britain Covey and Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid jump in the air to celebrate
Utah wide receiver Britain Covey, right and Utah tight end Dalton Kincaid celebrate a touchdown against Colorado in an NCAA football game at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 26, 2021.
Shafkat Anowar, Deseret News

No. 19 Utah capped off its regular season with a 28-13 win over Colorado.

Here are three takeaways from the Utes’ win:

Britain Covey shines on Senior Day

If that was Britain Covey’s last game in Rice-Eccles Stadium, what a way to go out.

Covey was honored before the game, along with 17 others, as part of Utah’s senior day. Thanks to COVID-19 eligibility rules, in which the 2020 did not count for eligibility, The 24-year-old is a junior and can return to play next year if he wants, but he has not yet made his mind up about returning for the 2022 season.

“We’ll probably have 15-17 guys walk for senior introduction. That doesn’t mean that every single one of those guys that’s a junior is definitively making the decision to move on. We could very well have some guys that go through that ceremony that decide to come back,” Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said earlier this week.

“It’s better to err on that side than not have them walk and not recognize them. In case they change their mind between now and then, I don’t want to screw things up. Some of them are still deciding. It’s not 100% set on which ones are going to walk.”

Covey had a good game on Friday afternoon, leading the team in receiving yards with 72 on five receptions.

He had a fantastic 33-yard grab in which he was hit hard by Christian Gonzalez upon catching the ball but still hung onto it.

Covey also caught a 13-yard touchdown pass on 3rd-and-5 from Colorado’s 13-yard line after Cam Rising started running to draw the defense and then flipped it to Covey for a touchdown.

The Rice-Eccles Stadium crowd chanted “Covey! Covey! Covey!” every time he was set to receive a punt, and though he didn’t break one for a score like during the Oregon game, he had 31 yards on four punts, including a 16-yard return, plus a 29-yard kickoff return.

Utes’ offense starts slow but turns it on in second and third quarters

Maybe it was a Thanksgiving hangover, or the knowledge that they already had the Pac-12 South division locked up, but the Utes came out flat.

Rising overthrew his target on the first drive of the game, which led to a Colorado field goal. Then, the Utes ended their next drive by running it six times in a row — one time too many — as Tavion Thomas was stuffed on 3rd-and-7.

Jadon Redding’s 37-yard field goal was then blocked.

It was a slow start for the Utes, who have usually started fast on offense this season, but then Utah got going in the second and third quarters.

Following a missed Colorado field goal at the end of the first quarter, Utah scored a touchdown — Rising to Brant Kuithe — then forced a three-and-out, then scored another touchdown — Rising to Dalton Kincaid — to go up 14-3.

Out of the third quarter, following Colorado’s 100-yard kick return touchdown to cut Utah’s lead to one point, Rising led the Utes down the field in two-and-a-half minutes, culminating in a Tavion Thomas rushing touchdown.

The Utes forced a punt, then Rising found Covey twice on the ensuing drive — once for a 33-yard gain and once for a 13-yard touchdown — putting Utah up 28-13.

Utah scored all of its 28 points in the second and third quarters, and it was good enough for a win thanks to a stout defensive performance.

After great performance last week, Utah’s special teams falters

Against Oregon, Utah’s special teams unit was phenomenal. The Utes had a huge blocked field goal, a 78-yard punt return for a touchdown courtesy of Covey and Redding made a field goal.

Against Colorado, the special teams unit had a dismal performance outside of a few nice returns by Covey.

Redding’s 37-yard field goal in the first quarter was blocked by the Buffaloes, then to start the third quarter, Colorado’s Nikko Reed took Utah’s kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown as the Utes had multiple missed tackles on the play.

It was the third kickoff return touchdown surrendered by Utah this season.

The Utes looked like they had put their special teams woes behind them a little bit against Oregon, but the mistakes reared their ugly head against against Colorado.