Utah-Colorado grades: Buffaloes’ secondary shuts down Utes in close win

Colorado's defensive backs earn excellent grades in win, helping to overcome inconsistent QB play.

| 1 week ago
(Justin Edmonds, Getty Images)

(Justin Edmonds, Getty Images)

Utah-Colorado grades: Buffaloes’ secondary shuts down Utes in close win


Colorado Buffaloes 27, Utah Utes 22

Here are the top-graded players and biggest takeaways from Colorado’s 27-22 win over Utah in Week 13:

Colorado Buffaloes

Quarterback grade: Sefo Liufau, 69.0

Big plays down the field help Liufau overcome ball security issues on the ground

This win clinched the Pac-12 South for Colorado in Liufau’s final game in Boulder, but the truth is it was an inconsistent performance from the Buffaloes’ signal-caller. Liufau fumbled twice on the ground while gaining 61 yards on 22 carries as an integral part of the Colorado ground game, but he made up for those fumbles with some big plays through the air. The senior quarterback completed four of his 11 downfield passes for 136 yards, just more than half of his passing total, and wasn’t punished for some of his less accurate throws at the intermediate level as Colorado booked a date with Washington in San Francisco this Friday for the Pac-12 title game.

Top offensive grades:

C Alex Kelley, 78.2

RB Phillip Lindsay, 70.5

WR Devin Ross, 68.3

WR Jay MacIntyre, 67.9

WR Kabion Ento, 67.1

Supporting cast does its part to seal the South

There were no standout performances on the Colorado offense in the Buffaloes’ final home game of the season, but as a unit they did enough to end a five-game losing streak against the Utes. Center Alex Kelley was the only lineman to surrender no pressure in the game, while slot receiver Devin Ross snagged a game-high nine catches, including a 42-yard gain to lead a productive receiving corps that came up with enough plays to overcome the Utah defensive backfield. RB Phillip Lindsay probed the edges of the Utah defense, coming up with an efficient 55 yards on 12 carries, with 43 of his yards coming on runs to the outside.

Top defensive grades:

S Tedric Thompson, 91.5

S Ryan Moeller, 86.0

CB Chidobe Awuzie, 83.5

OLB Jimmie Gilbert, 82.2

NT Josh Tupou, 80.1

Defensive backs show their playmaking credentials

In booking their place alongside Washington in the Pac-12 title game next Friday in San Francisco, the Colorado secondary staked its claim as a match for the Huskies in the defensive backfield. That group had six pass breakups and two interceptions in the game, with Ahkello Witherspoon producing a pair of those breakups and Tedric Thompson notching two more while also adding the two picks. He came close to converting one of those breakups into a third interception with a break on a Troy Williams pass in the red zone. Both quarterbacks are going to have be very careful on Friday at Levi’s Stadium, because both sets of defensive backs have a nose for the football, especially when they work in combination as Isaiah Oliver and Thompson did for Thompson’s second interception of the game.

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Utah Utes

Quarterback grade: Troy Williams, 63.2

Williams and his receivers hold each other back in inefficient display

The stat line for Troy Williams makes for ugly reading, only just creeping over the 25 percent completion rate mark. That stat line looks even uglier when you add to it the seven drops from his receivers, three in the space of four plays at one point by Cory Butler-Byrd. This was a frustrating performance where big plays where there to be made, but Williams missed his receivers when they got open or the receivers dropped Williams’ best passes. Williams completed only two of his 12 passes aimed 20-plus yards down the field, but he deserved a better stat line than that, with his receivers coming up short for him on what could have been pivotal plays.

Top offensive grades:

LT Garrett Bolles, 81.4

RG Salesi Uhatafe, 81.3

RT Sam Tevi, 68.8

LG Isaac Asiata, 67.6

WR Tim Patrick, 63.8

Offensive line clears a path, but ball security hinders Utah offense

Utah entered this game with the No. 1-ranked run-blocking offensive line in the Pac-12, per PFF’s O-line metric, and led by Garrett Bolles they laid the ground work for a strong game on the ground. But poor ball security on the ground from running back Joe Williams led to two turnovers, one of them leading directly to six points on a fumble return. That paired with receivers dropping seven passes contributed to the Utes coming up short in their attempt to put a ninth win of the season on the board.

Top defensive grades:

DT Filipo Mokofisi, 85.3

DE Hunter Dimick, 84.9

LB Kavika Luafatasaga, 84.4

DE Bradlee Anae, 79.5

DT Pasoni Tasini, 78.6

Dimick stars again but cools off in second half

This was another outstanding display of pass-rushing skill and tenacity from Utah DE Hunter Dimick, who racked up nine pressures to take his season total to 74 at the end of the regular season. Dimick added three batted passes as well, but only one of his pass-rush disruptions came in the final 25 minutes of the game. After swatting a pair of passes, snatching two hurries and a sack in the first five minutes of the third quarter, the Buffs sent plenty of help towards Dimick’s side in terms of sliding protection and sending extra blockers his way to limit his impact from then on. Other members of the Utah front like Filipo Mokofisi and Kavika Luafatasaga put in strong performances against the run, but penalties and big plays in the secondary limited the effect that the front seven’s control had on the result of the game.

| Director of Analysis

Ben joined Pro Football Focus in 2007, and has since been in charge of the company’s analysis process. He also contributes to PFF’s weekly NFL podcast.