Kristin Murphy, Deseret News
The University of Utah football team fell short in overcoming a fruitless first half and lost to Colorado, who entered the contest with just a pair of wins on the season.
Following are five keys to the Utes' loss.
A desperate team is often a dangerous team
Coming into the game with a 2-10 record, Colorado was desperate to win a game, especially wrapping up its season on the road at Utah (7-5).
After suffering through a brutal Pac-12 stretch earlier in the season that included, in order, Stanford University, University of Washington, University of Oregon, Arizona State University and University of Southern California, the Buffaloes were clearly playing with, as they say, nothing to lose.
That attitude was definitely reflected on the field of play, with the Buffs seemingly forgetting that they weren't nearly as good as Utah, and giving it an all-around strong effort that proved to be good enough, at least on this day.
Keeping Utah's offense off the field
Although it's obvious that a team can score on special teams and big plays on defense, it's more common to put points on the board with your offense. Realizing that, Colorado found a way, especially in the first half, to keep the Utes off the field.
With a couple of extended drives (12 and 15 plays), the Buffaloes dominated time of possession in the first half, limiting Utah to not even 10 minutes with the ball. While things evened out in that regard after halftime, Colorado had already built a 10-0 lead that ultimately couldn't be overcome.
In the right place
Running well in relief of John White IV, Tauni Vakapuna didn't protect the ball enough during a fourth-quarter run, and Colorado linebacker Ray Polk took advantage.
On the play, which was part of a drive that, if successful, could have given Utah the lead, Polk popped the ball out of Vakapuna's hands like a cork, and defensive tackle Curtis Cunningham was right behind his teammate, snagging the ball in stride to complete the turnover.
From hero to goat in one week
It's almost always a thankless job, and it's a position that's easy to poke fun at: the kicker.
Last week, Utah's kicker, Coleman Petersen, was clutch with three field goals, including an overtime game-winning kick in the snow at Washington State.
How quickly things change. It was a complete reversal of (mis)fortune for Petersen against Colorado, as he missed all three of his attempts. Two of those kicks could have tied the game at 17-17, including one as time expired.
Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen
No world-beater by any measure, quarterback Tyler Hansen put forth a gutsy performance, consistently finding receivers in the flat, and doing just enough to keep drives going and getting his team the victory.
Hansen finished the game with 264 yards, a touchdown and a pick on a 22-of-36 day. He also ran for a touchdown.
Chris Peterson, who has been covering sports ranging from high school preps to professional teams for almost 20 years, feels that football season is the best time of the year. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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