The Utes have their first winning streak of the season. Utah earned its second straight victory by handing No. 21 Colorado its first loss of the season on Saturday, 38-21.
Here are the grades from Utah’s win.
The Utes had a role reversal from their last two games on Saturday. Against Washington and Oregon State, Utah’s offense was great in the first half and disappeared in the second. Against Colorado, the opposite was true.
Through the first half, Utah had gained 124 yards of offense. The Utes couldn’t get the run game going as Ty Jordan had rushed for just 33 yards. Quarterback Jake Bentley was 10-for-19 with a touchdown and an interception.
Utah’s only touchdown of the half was set up by a 40-yard Britain Covey return on the opening kickoff. All things considered, Utah was very fortunate to only be down four at the break. Utah’s offense, especially Bentley, didn’t look improved from last game.
In the second half, however, Utah played some of its best football this season, scoring 28 unanswered points. Of Utah’s six second-half drives, three ended in touchdowns and two ended in field goals, with only one drive ending without a score (when Utah went for it on fourth down from Colorado’s one-yard line in the third quarter).
Compared to the second half against Oregon State, when the Utes managed just 47 yards of offense on its last four drives, it was a huge improvement.
It was the best game of the season for Bentley, who went 10-for-13 in the second half and threw a touchdown pass. Bentley was mistake-free in the final two quarters and finished with 240 yards passing.
“We’re very impressed and proud of him. Andy had a pretty stern talk with him at halftime and let him know that he needed to bring more confidence and just be better overall. Jake responded. That was great to see,” Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. “Jake’s a competitor and he’s a veteran. He’s been there. He’s started close to 40 games at the Power Five level. He’s no stranger to situations and it was great to see him respond that way,”
Bentley did a good job involving Utah’s wide receivers on Saturday. Covey had nine catches for 76 yards and a touchdown, Solomon Enis had three catches for 53 yards and a touchdown and Bryan Thompson had two catches for 42 yards.
Tight ends Brant Kuithe and Cole Fotheringham were also in the mix. Kuithe had three catches for 53 yards and Fotheringham had a catch (and a sweet hurdle) for 16 yards.
Ty Jordan and the offensive line were much improved in the second half as well. Jordan finished the game with 152 yards and two touchdowns, an 18-yard score in the third quarter and the decisive blow, a 66-yard touchdown run to put Utah up 35-21 late in the fourth. Jordan is a star in the making for Utah and looks to be the Utes’ next great running back.
Finally, the Utes were penalty-free for the whole game.
“We just started blocking better in the second half. We challenged the offensive line a little bit at halftime because we weren’t getting much movement in the first half and the pass protection was a little rough,” Whittingham said. “They responded and did a great job in the second half. Got some movement, tight ends were involved as well and did a nice job blocking those long runs. So, concerted effort by everybody, but a great individual job by Ty Jordan.”
Now this looked like a Utah defense.
The Utes gave up just 110 rushing yards, and only 80 to Jarek Broussard, Colorado’s star running back. Entering the game, Colorado had the best rushing offense in the Pac-12, gaining 245 yards per game on the ground, and Broussard had rushed for over 120 yards per game, including 301 last week.
Utah’s defensive front was able to contain Broussard and never let him get going. Broussard’s longest rush of the day was just 18 yards and he was held without a touchdown.
“That’s how we always play, have a good, great defense. We did just that today. It all starts with defending the run. If you can defend the run, you turn a team one-dimensional and that is a big advantage. Just proud of the way the guys executed the plan,” Whittingham said.
Utah’s pass defense wasn’t as great as the run defense, but it was still solid. The Utes held Sam Noyer to 16-of-34 passing, his lowest completion percentage of the season, although he did finish with 258 yards and two touchdowns.
Utah was able to come up big when it mattered, allowing just one touchdown in the second half. That touchdown, a screen pass that Brenden Rice turned into a 61-yard touchdown, was the defense’s only big mistake of the last two quarters.
Linebacker Nephi Sewell had a fantastic game, totaling 11 tackles, an interception and a forced fumble.
“It’s definitely a milestone for us, but I feel like we can be so much better than we are. We’ve only played four games and we are just now scratching the surface. There are only limits if you put yourself into them, and we can be a better defense, go from good to great,” Sewell said.
Other defensive standouts included safety Nate Ritchie, who had six tackles, a sack and recovered a fumble, and defensive lineman Mika Tafua, who had two pass deflections and three quarterback hurries.
The biggest area where Utah improved on defense was penalties. The Utes had zero penalties, a 180 from last game when penalties extended Oregon State drives, which turned into touchdowns.
Mixed bag for special teams against Colorado. Kicker Jadon Redding was great, going 3-for-3 on field goals — making from 43, 42 and 38 yards out — as well as going 3-for-3 on extra points. Britain Covey had some good returns, including a 40-yard kick return.
The grade gets knocked down because of an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown by Rice. It looked to be a complete miscommunication by the punt team, and Rice weaved through for a score.
It was Utah’s best game of the season. The Utes had to put on a good showing both offensively and defensively to give Colorado its first loss of the season, and they came through, with their 28 unanswered points against a Top 25 team particularly impressive.