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Utah Utes football: Utah's defense struggled to stop the Buffs

Published: Friday, July 3 2015 9:42 a.m. MDT

Utah Utes defensive end Derrick Shelby (90) tackles Colorado Buffaloes running back Tony Jones (26) during the first half of the Utah vs. Colorado football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. Trailing Shelby is Colorado Buffaloes offensive linesman Ryan Dannewitz (53). (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Utah Utes defensive end Derrick Shelby (90) tackles Colorado Buffaloes running back Tony Jones (26) during the first half of the Utah vs. Colorado football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. Trailing Shelby is Colorado Buffaloes offensive linesman Ryan Dannewitz (53). (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — All season long the Utah football team has relied on its defense. When the offense was sputtering, which has been the case most of the season, the defense has always been there to pull the Utes up, usually to victory.

In Friday's loss to Colorado, the Ute defense wasn't that bad, allowing just 373 total yards — not much more than their 341.5 yard average — and 17 points, three less than its league-leading average.

However, a poor start by the Ute 'D' put them in a hole the Utes could never climb out of and eventually left them with a head-scratching, upset loss.

The Buffaloes, who could only manage six points a week earlier against UCLA, which a week earlier was beaten by 25 points by Utah, came out and marched the length of the field on their first drive.

Injured Utah Utes offensive linesman Sam Brenner (74) waves as he is taken off the field in Salt Lake City  Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Injured Utah Utes offensive linesman Sam Brenner (74) waves as he is taken off the field in Salt Lake City Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

The Utes were hurt by a stupid unnecessary roughness penalty by Mo Lee that kept the drive alive, but the Utes also missed tackle after tackle on running back Rodney Stewart and quarterback Tyler Hansen, who continually slipped past Ute defenders in going 80 yards in the opening six minutes of the game.

"We came out a little flat," acknowledged Ute linebacker Chaz Walker. "They came out and made plays."

"We just couldn't stop them," added Dave Kruger.

Ute coach Kyle Whittingham was very aware of his team's inability to tackle.

"We did tackle very sloppily, particularly in the first half," he said. "We missed a lot of tackles."

On their second possession, the Buffs nearly scored again, but a fumble out of the end zone resulted in a touchback. Then in the second quarter, the Buffs went from their own 25 to the Utah 6 and settled for a 23-yard field goal to go up 10-0.

Utah's Ryan Lacy (26) gets ready to tackle Colorado Buffaloes tight end DaVaughn Thornton (85), something Utah struggled to do Friday.     (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Utah's Ryan Lacy (26) gets ready to tackle Colorado Buffaloes tight end DaVaughn Thornton (85), something Utah struggled to do Friday. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

The Utes grabbed the momentum in the second half, by coming out and scoring on their first drive of the third quarter.

However, just like in the first half, the defense couldn't stop the Buffs, who went 82 yards in 11 plays to go up by 10 again.

The Utes kept Colorado out of the end zone after that, but they couldn't find enough offense to pull out a victory.

"Credit Colorado, they had a nice game plan. They were one of the more effective teams this year as far as moving the ball both on the ground and in the air," said Whittingham. "They did a nice job of mixing up the play-calling. We did get some pressure, but we let (Hansen) escape too much."

Whittingham said the storyline was that Utes had too many missed opportunities to pull out a victory. From a defensive standpoint, it came down to one thing, according to Walker.

Utah Utes running back Tauni Vakapuna (24) fumbles the ball after getting hit hard by Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Ray Polk (26) and Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Anthony Perkins (7) in Salt Lake City  Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Utes running back Tauni Vakapuna (24) fumbles the ball after getting hit hard by Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Ray Polk (26) and Colorado Buffaloes defensive back Anthony Perkins (7) in Salt Lake City Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

"We just let too many touchdowns in — one too many."

Email: sor@desnews.com

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