Instant Analysis: Buffaloes defeat Utah, run to Pac-12 title game

The Colorado Buffaloes have won the Pac-12 South division and will play for the Pac-12 Championship next Friday night. This, after the Buffs defeated the Utah Utes 27-22 on Saturday night at Folsom Field.

It wasn’t Colorado’s best performance of the season, but it was one that will make long-suffering fans in the Rocky Mountain area quite happy.

Things got off to a rough start. After forcing Utah to punt on their first possession, Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau fumbled the ball and Utah recovered at the Colorado 40-yard line. However, the defense forced a quick three-and-out, bailing the team out of a tough position, something that would become a theme on this night.

Colorado went three-and-out and was forced to punt but Bobbie Hobbs brought it back 55 yards for a touchdown. After another three-and-out, the Buffs saw Utah get into scoring position again, only for Andy Phillips to miss a 45-yard field goal.

The Buffs took advantage of the good field position and went down the field to put a touchdown on the board after Liufau ran one in from two yards out to tie the game at seven apiece.

The game became a defensive struggle after that, but Utah seemed to find themselves in the red zone on nearly every possession. The Buffs were up to the challenge, preventing the Utes from scoring touchdowns and forcing them to kick field goals. Utah tied the game up at 13 late in the third quarter.

The Buffs took the ensuing kickoff and went down the field. They were aided by a pass interference penalty on a third-and-10 play and on the last play of the third quarter, Liufau hit Shay Fields for the go-ahead 6-yard touchdown pass. The excitement wouldn’t last long.

Kyle Fulks took the following kickoff back 93 yards, all the way to the Colorado 3-yard line. Again, the Buffs were able to force a field goal. Tense moments would follow as the team’s traded punts, but the biggest play of the game was about to come.

On 1st-and-10 from their own 13-yard line, Utah handed the ball off to Joe Williams who had it ripped away from him. Kenneth Olugbode scooped it up and ran it in for a touchdown. The Buffs went on top 27-16 with just under 11 minutes to play.

Utah wasn’t going down without a fight. Despite turning the ball over again on their next possession, the Utes fought hard, scoring a touchdown with 1:34 to play in the game on a pass from Troy Williams to Demari Simpkins from seven yards out. They went for two, but the conversion failed.

Colorado was able to recover the onside kick attempt and exhaust what was left of the clock. It wasn’t pretty, but the Buffs will take it.

Liufau finished the game with 270 yards passing and 59 yards rushing. Defensively, Tedric Thompson played a whale of a game on senior night. He had two interceptions and was in on several key pass breakups and tackles.

The Buffaloes will now head to San Francisco to face the Washington Huskies from Levi’s Stadium next Friday night. The winner will be crowned Pac-12 champions. Washington is 11-1 on the season and has been ranked around the top 5 of the AP rankings for much of the season.

The winner of the game will stand a good chance of playing in the college football playoff.

Either way, it’s been an amazing success story in Boulder this year, one almost nobody saw coming. And it stands to get even better.

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