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Errors costly as CU Buffs fall to Utah

Buffs lose star linebacker Nate Landman and chance to win Pac-12 South

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Sam Noyer throws over Utah's Mika Tafua, left, and Maxs Tupai in the first half. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Tyler Lytle, runs of the field after the loss to Utah.The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Maurice Bell catches a touchdown pass over Utah's Nate Richie. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Nate Landman suffered a lower leg injury and spent the second half in a boot. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Utah's Cole Fotheringham hurdles Colorado's Derrion Rakestraw in the first half.The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: CU head coach, Karl Dorrell, leads the team out on the field. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Terrance Lang tries to get a hold of Utah's Jake Bentley. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020:Colorado's Nate Landman against Utah. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Mekhi Blackmon makes an interception past Utah's Bryan Thompson. Colorado's Mekhi Blackmon makes an interception past Utah's Bryan Thompson. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Daniel Arias looks for an opening against Utah. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Jarek Broussard gets past Utah's Mika Tafua. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Nate Landman look to tackle Utah's Micah Bernard in the first half. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Maurice Bell on the kick return. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Carson Wells has his eyes on Utah's Ty Jordan. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Nate Landman tackles Utah's Britain Covey. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Sam Noyer throws over Utah's Maxs Tupai in the first half. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Nate Landman and Joshka Gustav, wraps up Utah's Britain Covey. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's KD Nixon against Utah. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Nate Landman pressures Utah's Jake Bentley. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Sam Noyer is pressured by Utah's Mika Tafua. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Carson Wells. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Sam Noyer leaves the field after the Buffs loss to Utah.The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Jaylen Jackson tries to wrap up Utah's Britain Covey. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Utah's Ty Jordan gets away from Colorado's Mekhi Blackmon. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Tyler Lytle, of a run against Utah.The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Akil Jones tackles Utah's Ty Jordan. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Tyler Lytle, of a run against Utah. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Akil Jones, left, tackles Utah's Ty Jordan.The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020:Colorado's Tyler Lytle, runs of the field after the loss to Utah. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Jarek Broussard gets past Utah's Mika Tafua. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Akil Jones tackles Utah's Ty Jordan. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Jarek Broussard tries to escape the Utah defender. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Former Buff, Joel Klatt, in the FOX booth for the game. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado head coach, Karl Dorrell, on the sidelines against Utah. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer

    BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Nate Landman suffered a lower leg injury and spent the second half in a boot. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Nate Landman suffered a lower leg injury and spent the second half in a boot. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

  • BOULDER, CO - December 12, 2020: Colorado's Daniel Arias looks for an opening against Utah. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes play at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

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This week, the Colorado Buffaloes were the talk of the Pac-12.

Even nationally, the Buffs had started garnering some attention for their play.

Ranked No. 21 in the country, the Buffs went into Saturday with an opportunity to do something they hadn’t done in four years: play for a conference championship.

On a chilly, snowy day at Folsom Field, however, the Buffs lost their first game, lost their star linebacker and lost their argument for playing in the Pac-12 championship game.

Utah, which has dominated this series in recent years, smacked the error-prone Buffs, 38-21.

“We had an opportunity to control our own destiny, and we didn’t do it,” Karl Dorrell said after suffering his first loss as CU’s head coach. “I think that’s the biggest disappointment, the way that it happened with turnovers and doing some things that were uncharacteristic of what we’ve seen.”

BOULDER, CO - Dec. 12, 2020: ...
Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer
BOULDER, CO – December 12, 2020: Colorado’s Jarek Broussard gets past Utah’s Mika Tafua. The Colorado Buffaloes and the Utah Utes played at Folsom Field in Boulder on December 12, 2020. (Cliff Grassmick/Staff Photographer)

Dropped passes, missed tackles, costly penalties and three turnovers plagued the Buffs (4-1, 3-1 Pac-12) throughout the game, while the Utes (2-2, 2-2) dominated the second half.

Along the way, linebacker Nate Landman went down in the first half with ankle injury that Dorrell said will end his season. An All-American candidate, Landman spent the second half in a walking boot and using a scooter to get around the sidelines.

“It’s unfortunate that that happened for Nate,” Dorrell said. “Nate was off to a great start for this year and for that to happen and the way it happened, that’s unfortunate.”

As a team, the Buffs coughed up a chance to win the Pac-12 South division.

Coming into the day, CU sat a half game behind South leader Southern California. A CU win and a USC loss would have given the Buffs the division title. Instead, CU’s loss clinched the South title for USC (5-0, 5-0), which then rallied to beat UCLA, 43-38.

On Saturday night, the Pac-12 announced that USC will host North division champion Washington (3-1, 3-1) on Friday at Los Angeles Memorial Coliseum in the conference championship game.

Washington was unable to play Oregon (3-2, 3-2) this weekend because of COVID-19 issues with the Huskies, and it’s unclear if they’ll be able to play on Friday. If not, the Pac-12 could possibly replace the Huskies with Oregon or CU.

CU will play someone next week, but the Pac-12 has not announced the remainder of the matchups.

The Buffs could have made a case for a spot in the championship game by winning Saturday, but got outscored 28-0 during the final 28 minutes, 14 seconds by the Utes, who won their second straight.

“This was another game that was in our way, on our way to what we’re trying to do this season and we just didn’t get it done,” senior safety Derrion Rakestraw said.

In the week leading up to the game, the Buffs were in the spotlight as one of only five undefeated Power 5 conference teams in the country. They jumped into the national rankings for the first time in two years, and there was plenty of discussion about their right to be in the Pac-12 title game.

Meanwhile, Dorrell kept saying – publicly and with the team – that the Buffs needed to focus solely on the Utes, who had won the South the previous two years and were finally clicking after a rough start.

After the game, Dorrell said he didn’t believe the Buffs were bothered by pre-game hype.

“We had to just do the things that we were capable of doing for ourselves,” he said. “A lot of it was self inflicted today; you saw it.

“Give Utah credit. They played harder than we did, unfortunately. I think our guys played hard, but they made more rugged plays than we did and that was a difference in the game.”

The self-inflicted wounds included several dropped passes that contributed to drives stalling. Quarterback Sam Noyer had a fumble in Utah territory that killed a drive in the first quarter. A Jarek Broussard fumble late in the second quarter allowed Utah to kick a field goal and cut CU’s lead to 14-10 going into the half.

In the third quarter, two plays after Utah took a 24-21 lead, Noyer threw an interception with the Buffs near midfield.

“You can’t turn the ball over,” Dorrell said. “Those three turnovers were critical in moments of the game where we’re getting ready to drive.”

Defensively, the Buffs missed Landman’s presence in the second half and Utah carved them up for 261 yards after intermission.

For the game, Ty Jordan ran for 147 yards and two second-half touchdowns for the Utes, while Jake Bentley threw for 240 yards and two scores.

The Buffs were led by Brenden Rice scoring two touchdowns – on a punt return and a reception. Noyer threw for 258 yards and two touchdowns for the Buffs, while Broussard added 80 yards on the ground – the first time this year he’s been held under 100.

Rice scored on a 61-yard screen pass on the first play from scrimmage in the third quarter to give the Buffs a 21-10 lead. The Buffs managed just 102 yards of offense after that.

“Disappointing game in terms of the expectations that we have for ourselves in this game,” Dorrell said. “Our guys are disappointed and most of our disappointment was because of our own shooting ourselves in the foot, more so than anything.

“We just didn’t play like our normal selves, so it’s unfortunate. We’ll learn from this, we’ll pick up our ball and go home and get ourselves ready to go next week.”

Utah 38, Colorado 21

Play of the game: With the game tied at 7-7, freshman Brenden Rice field a Utah punt at the 19-yard line and sprinted untouched for an 81-yard touchdown in the second quarter.

Turning point: After Rice scored on a 61-yard pass on the first play of the third quarter, Utah needed just three plays to answer with a touchdown of its own. That sparked a 28-0 surge by the Utes to end the game.

Top 3 Buffs of the game

1. WR Brenden Rice: The freshman scored on an 81-yard punt return and a 61-yard reception. In all, he had 179 all-purpose yards.

2. OLB Carson Wells: Finished with six tackles, three tackles for loss and a pass breakup.

3. LB Akil Jones: Racked up 10 tackles, including two for loss, and a quarterback hurry.

Utah 38, No. 21 Colorado 21

Utah 7 3 14 14 — 38
Colorado 0 14 7 0 — 21

First Quarter

UTH – Enis 7 pass from Bentley (Redding kick), 12:03.

Second Quarter

COL – Bell 21 pass from Noyer (Price kick), 12:46.

COL- Rice 81 punt return (Price kick), 1:30.

UTH – FG Redding 42, :00.

Third Quarter

COL – Rice 61 pass from Noyer (Price kick), 14:39.

UTH – T.Jordan 18 run (Redding kick), 13:14.

UTH – Covey 20 pass from Bentley (Redding kick), 6:23.

Fourth Quarter

UTH – FG Redding 43, 9:19.

UTH – T.Jordan 66 run (Kincaid pass from Bentley), 4:43.

UTH_FG Redding 38, 2:24.

UTH COL

First downs 22 15
Rushes-yards 40-192 27-110
Passing 240 267
Comp-Att-Int 20-32-1 18-39-1
Return Yards 132 177
Punts-Avg. 5-36.4 5-44.8
Fumbles-Lost 2-0 2-2
Penalties-Yards 0-0 4-35
Time of Possession 36:11 23:49

INDIVIDUAL STATISTICS

RUSHING – Utah, T.Jordan 17-147, Bentley 11-31, Bernard 5-14, Br.Kuithe 2-8, Covey 1-2, (Team) 4-(minus 10). Colorado, Broussard 14-80, T.Lytle 1-15, Noyer 7-12, Clayton 2-4, J.Davis 2-0, Mangham 1-(minus 1).

PASSING – Utah, Bentley 20-32-1-240. Colorado, Noyer 16-34-1-258, T.Lytle 2-5-0-9.

RECEIVING – Utah, Covey 9-76, Br.Kuithe 3-53, Enis 3-34, B.Thompson 2-42, T.Jordan 2-19, Fotheringham 1-16. Colorado, Bell 4-46, Shenault 3-52, Nixon 3-52, Broussard 3-16, Arias 2-33, Rice 1-61, J.Davis 1-4, Stanley 1-3.

MISSED FIELD GOALS – None.