The Colorado Buffaloes fell 28-13 in their final game of the season against the Utah Utes on Friday in Salt Lake City, finishing the year with a 4-8 record. While the Buffs upsetting the No. 19 Utes was unlikely, this game exemplified many of the strengths and weaknesses that Colorado has shown all season long.
The Buffs’ offense had another weak outing, totaling 148 yards and failing to score a touchdown. The highlights came from CU’s defense and special teams, a common theme this season for the Buffs.
Now that it’s all said and done, we have some time to reflect on what was a turbulent season for the Colorado Buffaloes. Here are five takeaways from their final game of the year against the Utah Utes:
Brendon Lewis is a tough kid with a big heart
Nov 26, 2021; Salt Lake City, Utah, USA; Colorado Buffaloes quarterback Brendon Lewis (12) looks to pass in the second quarter against the Utah Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Jeffrey Swinger-USA TODAY Sports
Brendon Lewis took an absolute beating today at the hands of the Utes’ defense. He was sacked four times and struggled to get up after awkward hits or falls on numerous occasions. But despite those struggles and the lopsided scoreboard, he got up every single time.
I think Lewis deserves a ton of credit for giving it his all every time he has taken the field this year. He was sacked 27 times this season and took plenty of abuse from opposing defenses due to lackluster pass protection from Colorado’s offensive line.
Quarterbacks are an easy target to blame for a team’s offensive struggles and despite that pressure on his back all season long, Lewis has played his heart out. We’ve seen how talented he is when things go right, and with the right systems in place, he could really thrive.
Freshman OLB Devin Grant looks promising
Utah running back Tavion Thomas (9) is tackled by Colorado safety Mark Perry (5), defensive end Mustafa Johnson (34) and linebacker Devin Grant (44) in the first half of an NCAA college football game Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/George Frey)
With a number of injuries ravaging the Buffs’ linebacker corps, freshman outside linebacker Devin Grant has seen a lot more playing time over the last three weeks, getting starts against Washington and Utah and a few snaps against UCLA.
Grant had a noticeable impact against the Utes this week, recording eight total tackles including five solo efforts and two tackles for loss. His efforts didn’t go unnoticed, either. It seems as though Grant could have a promising future ahead of him.
Devin Grant has flashed some potential out there the last few weeks.
— Adam Munsterteiger (@adamcm777) November 26, 2021
Cole Becker is a rock solid kicker
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – NOVEMBER 26: Hauati Pututau #41, Devin Kafusi #90, Mika Tafua #42 and Cole Bishop #6 of the Utah Utes try to block a field goal by Cole Becker #36 of the Colorado Buffaloes during their game November 26, 2021 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Freshman kicker Cole Becker has been very solid for the Buffs this year, and his performance at Utah was no different. He opened Colorado’s scoring early in the first quarter with a 33-yard kick set up by Mark Perry’s interception.
He missed an off-angle 48-yard attempt late in the third quarter, but he more than made up for it by drilling an impressive 56-yard FG to close out the first half of the game. It was his longest field goal to date and the longest by a freshman in Colorado history.
Becker now joins Mason Crosby as the only Buffs kickers to make three or more field goals of at least 50 yards in one season. If he can stay consistent during his time at CU, the Buffs will rest a little easier knowing they have their guy when they need a clutch kick.
Offense needs to be better
SALT LAKE CITY, UT – NOVEMBER 26: Alex Fontenot #8 of the Colorado Buffaloes stiff arms Bryson Reeves #18 of the Utah Utes as he rushes the ball during their game November 26, 2021 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah. (Chris Gardner/Getty Images)
Plain and simple, the Buffs’ won’t be a winning team if their offense doesn’t change for the better. Their weak performance against Utah was not an outlier, as they averaged just 257.4 yards of total offense per game this year.
While injuries may have been a problem this week with key offensive talents like Jarek Broussard and Brenden Rice sidelined, the Buffs’ offensive struggles go deeper than that. Major weaknesses point towards the offensive line’s failure to protect quarterback Brendon Lewis all season and continuously uninspired play calling from offensive coordinator Darrin Chiaverini.
Colorado has plenty of talented backs and receivers to rely on, but they need a more consistent game plan and reliable pass protection if they want to succeed.
Rest in peace, Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe
Utah football players will wear a special helmet honoring slain Utah football players Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe, before an NCAA college football game against Colorado, Friday, Nov. 26, 2021, in Salt Lake City, Utah. (AP Photo/George Frey)
It feels important to acknowledge the tragic losses that this Utah Utes team has suffered over the last two seasons with the passing of Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe.
Ty Jordan was a freshman running back for the Utes when he was killed in an accidental shooting on Christmas night in 2020. He was 19-years-old at the time.
Less than a year after Jordan’s death, his teammate Aaron Lowe was killed in a shooting at a house party. Lowe was 21-years-old and had been a cornerback on Utah’s roster.
The two had played high school football together and after Jordan’s passing, Lowe switched his jersey number from #2 to Jordan’s #22 to honor him. The number 22 is now retired by the Utes.
After Friday’s game, Colorado tight end CJ Schmanski was seen taking a moment to himself on the 22-yard line.
— Colorado Buffaloes Football (@CUBuffsFootball) November 27, 2021