SALT LAKE CITY,Utah We saw in the movie "Blind Side" how important it is to protect your quarterback backside.
The University of Utah jumped out to an early 14 point lead due to the two turnovers and withstood a valiant comeback effort by Colorado with the Utes win 24-17.
Colorado gave up 21 first half points, won the second half of play 17-3, the second straight week this Buffs team has won the second half of competition, today against Utah and last week against USC.
"I thought our kids fought extremely hard," Coach Mike MacIntyre said after his team's disappointing loss. "I believe in the last two Pac-12 games that we outplayed our opponents decidedly in the second half and just came up short. Today was a good example of that. I've got to do a better job of getting us started. We had a couple of plays there we could have made and didn't. But I thought we played really hard. I thought we made some plays, could have made a few more, and I'm very--I don't know if `pleased' is the word--but I have a lot of hope in our fight, our focus and our intensity."
Utah took the early lead in the game with 11:26 left in the first quarter after the Utes went 8 plays and 36 yards after the first forced fumble of Liufau. The second touchdown only took one play and six yards with :10 seconds remaining in the opening stanza.
"Those turnovers were tough for us," MacIntyre said. "We gave them a couple of early scores, I have to do a better job of getting us started faster."
Utah only had one long scoring possession; the Utes marched 78 yards on 7 plays with 11:16 to go before the half.
When asked about the two turnovers, a teary eyed Liufau showed his emotions.
"I didn't see them coming," Liufau admitted. "Being from my blindside, I had no idea I was about to get hit. I hate turning the ball over, especially for two touchdowns."
Colorado has played lights out defense, especially in the second halves of play the last two weeks, something that wasn't lost on MacIntyre and the rest of the Buffs team that participated in post game interviews.
"Our defense did a good job," MacIntyre said. "Especially in the second half, I couldn't be prouder of our seniors. They came in at the half emphasizing that they only had one half left in their careers. Then at the end of the third quarter, they were like we only have one more quarter, let's make this special. They never gave up."
While the defense played good in the second half and two turnovers led to scores for the Utes, the Buffs offense had some struggles and issues in Colorado's seven point loss.
The Buffs had it first and goal from the three yard line and failed to score the first time, the second time they had the ball first and goal from the four, CU had to settle for a field goal.
"We have to execute better down in those situations," Liufau said. "It's disappointing not to score in the red-zone."
MacIntyre agreed and explained why he went for three points on the Buffs second opportunity on first and goal.
"I thought that we would have really lost momentum if we hadn't scored any points, especially on the second attempt," MacIntyre said. "I don't know if I would say we were conservative in the red-zone. We definitely have to do a better job in the red-zone on scoring. Down 21-0 I thought we should go for it, it really hurt when we didn't make it."
Take the 14 points away from the two turnovers on sacked fumbles; add 6-14 points on the two second and goal opportunities and the Buffs could have won its fifth game of the year.
"I do feel like we're taking steps in the right direction. I really, really do," MacIntyre said. "This could have been one to help on the scoreboard also, but it didn't. So we have to keep moving on from here."
Considering that the Buffs only one game last fall and they won four this season, most Buffs will say that Colorado is definitely headed in the right direction.
If the way the Buffs finished in their last two games second halves, it's apparent that they are getting better, but not there yet.