Ute defenders create havoc in the Buffaloes' backfield, even without Chase Hansen

Utah wide receiver Samson Nacua celebrates as time runs out in an NCAA college football game against Colorado, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018, in Boulder, Colo. Utah won 30-7. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)

Boulder, Colo. • Utah linebacker Chase Hansen is among the nation’s leaders in tackles for loss, so it was not shocking that the Ute defense caused all kinds of trouble in Colorado’s backfield Saturday.

The surprising part is that Utah recorded 16 tackles for a total of 56 yards in losses without Hansen's being credited with any tackles at all in a 30-7 win at Folsom Field.

The senior co-captain was ejected in the first quarter after his late hit of Colorado quarterback Steven Montez. The targeting element of penalty led Ute coach Kyle Whittingham to say the Pac-12 replay crew must have seen something other than his view via the scoreboard. Whittingham said the “gray area” of the targeting rule “sometimes … can be frustrating.”

The bigger story Saturday was how the Utes performed without Hansen. The game became a showcase for former BYU linebacker Francis Bernard as Hansen's replacement, while the entire defense got tough after Colorado's penalty-aided touchdown drive made it 7-0.

The Buffaloes posted only 19 yards on three possessions in the pivotal third quarter, and the Utes were relentless in stuffing Colorado's running game and pressuring Montez and his backups. The 16 tackles for loss ranked third in Ute history, behind the 22 stops that featured Hunter Dimick's monstrous effort at Arizona State in 2016 and the 18 tackles against Oregon State's wishbone offense in 1991.

Bernard, who led the Utes with 10 tackles, credited defensive coordinator Morgan Scalley for a good scheme and shrewd calls. “He knew exactly when to call certain things,” Bernard said. “His play-calling was right on point, to the point where we all made tons of plays. So it was awesome.”

Six players were responsible for six sacks. Utah's coverage in the secondary was sound, enabling the pass rushers to be more effective. The Utes allowed Colorado's Laviska Shenault to make nine catches, but they held him to 64 yards, far less damage than Arizona State's N'Keal Harry or Oregon's Dillon Mitchell did in recent games.

And Utah dominated the Buffs up front. The tackles-for-loss totals included 3½ for Maxs Tupai, three each for Bernard and Bradlee Anae and 2½ for Cody Barton. Redshirt freshman Devin Lloyd made four tackles in his first extended playing time, after Hansen was ejected and Donavan Thompson was injured.