SALT LAKE CITY — In a game where the Utah offense seemed to steal the show, racking up 59 points and 648 yards on its way to a 21st consecutive win at Rice Eccles Stadium, a 59-6 rout of Colorado State, the defense put up its own share of impressive numbers.
"Defense played very well," said head coach Kyle Whittingham. "Defense has been very consistent all seven games. There hasn't been a bad game defensively."
Although the Utes allowed the Rams to score every time they entered the red zone, CSU never found the end zone and only made it into the red zone twice all game for six points total.
In addition, Utah held CSU to just 2-of-12 on third-down conversions and 0-of-2 when trying to reach the marker on fourth down.
"Third downs have been big for us all season long," Whittingham said. "We're performing very well on third downs defensively. I think we're holding teams under 30 percent. Obviously we did better than that tonight."
The Utes have held their opponents to 28-of-101 for 28 percent efficiency on third downs for the season.
"The defensive puts a whole lot of emphasis on third down and getting out of drives," said junior linebacker Chaz Walker, who led the team with eight tackles. "It's been a big part of our defense this year, and we were just trying to get out of drives any time we could."
The Utes also won the battle of the turnovers, forcing the Rams to hand the ball over twice.
With 10:21 left in the third quarter, Derrick Shelby sacked CSU quarterback Pete Thomas for an 8-yard loss. He lost the ball and Christian Cox recovered it on the 23-yard line. With 5:51 left in the game, the Utes put a stop to the Rams' last attempt at putting numbers on the board when junior Conroy Black made his first career interception.
"I think that was a turning point in the second half," Cox said, referring to Shelby's sack. "We got some stops and definitely eliminated the run game. It was just big plays on defense that turned the game."
Not only did the defense force CSU to give the ball up, with five of 11 drives ending in punts, two on turnovers and one on downs, the Utes also kept the Rams from moving the ball when they did control possession.
CSU gained a total of just 213 yards with only 28 on the ground. The Rams were at minus-5 yards at the end of the third quarter.
It is the fifth time this season Utah has held an opponent under 100 rushing yards as they also kept Pittsburgh (82 yards), New Mexico (69), San Jose State (94) and Wyoming (67) from hitting the century mark.
"I think we did exactly what we needed to do," said Shelby, who made his first start of the season as defensive end. "Coming in, (CSU) had two 200-yard rushing games, so we had a focus to stop the run, and I think we did that today."
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company