SALT LAKE CITY (AP) — Brant Kuithe scored three touchdowns and No. 6 Utah is locked up a spot in the Pac-12 championship game for the second consecutive season with a 45-15 victory over Colorado on Saturday night.
The Utes (11-1, 8-1, No 6 CFP) needed a quarter to get rolling in 25-degree temperatures, but romped to their eighth straight victory. Tyler Huntley was 14-for-17 for 165 yards and connected with Kuithe twice for touchdown receptions.
The Buffalo defense keyed on Zack Moss and made it tough to run between the tackles, but the all-time Utah rushing leader tallied 88 yards on 20 carries and scored on a 1-yard run to put the game away in the fourth quarter and set up Utah’s matchup against No. 14 Oregon on Friday in Santa Cara, California.
Auburn did the Utes a favor in the College Football Playoff race by outlasting No. 5 Alabama 48-45 on Saturday.
Steven Montez threw for 157 yards on 17-of-26 passing for Colorado, setting two major career records as he eclipsed Sefo Liufau on the Colorado passing (9,649 yards) and total offense (10,614 yards) lists in his final game.
After five drives that netted a total of 25 yards, Colorado mounted their second foray into Utah territory early in the fourth quarter and Montez threw to Daniel Arias for a 27-yard touchdown and added a 2-point conversion on an improvised pass to Russell to cut the lead to 31-15.
But Moss and Kuithe scored again to put it away.
The Utes started the second-half scoring in familiar fashion, with a bruising 12-play drive that ended with Devin Brumfield’s 1-yard plunge for a 24-7 advantage.
Utah’s Demari Simpkins sprinted down the sideline on a 66-yard punt return for a touchdown and a 31-7 lead with 56 seconds left in the third quarter.
Kuithe caught touchdown passes of 38 and 7 yards and ran 15 yards for a score. The tight end also 44-yard run on a jet sweep.
Colorado: The Buffaloes put up a fight and held Utah’s offense from executing on some of their bread-and-butter rushing plays, but they couldn’t consistently move the ball against Utah’s stout defense. The Buffaloes were looking for their third straight win to become bowl eligible for first time since they won the Pac-12 South and played in the 2016 Alamo Bowl.
Utah: For the 11th time in 12 games, the Utes kept their opponents under 100 yards on the ground and bolstered their top-ranked rushing defense. Colorado had 60 yards rushing. Though two of their top players – Huntley and cornerback Jaylon Johnson – came up limping during the game, they finished and appear healthy going into the Pac-12 Championship.
NEW MAYOR OF SACK LAKE CITY
Bradlee Anae, one of 19 seniors honored before the game, had one-and-a-half sacks to tie Hunter Dimick (2013-16) for the all-time lead with 29.5 career sacks. The Utes, without showing many blitzes, sacked Montez five times in the game.
With Alabama dropping their Iron Bowl game but other top teams winning, the Utes might climb into the top 5 but no further.
Colorado: The season is over.
Utah: Plays Oregon in the Pac-12 Conference Championship game in Santa Clara, California.