SALT LAKE CITY — It’s not often that Utah quarterback Cameron Rising makes a mistake.
Colorado’s Mark Perry caught him with one on Friday, though.
On the fourth play of Colorado’s 28-13 loss to Utah, Perry picked off a Rising pass intended for tight end Brant Kuithe and returned it 40 yards. That set up a field goal and an early 3-0 lead for the Buffs.
“Coming in, we kind of knew their two biggest targets were (receiver) Britain Covey and Brant Kuithe,” Perry said. “(Rising) had dropped back and initially he wanted to hit Covey, but Isaiah (Lewis) did a good job of getting hands on him rerouting him, so he looked to Kuithe. He didn’t look off of him, so I just broke and he threw it right to me.
“I’m just trying to do my part by contributing and getting the ball back to the offense so they could get points on the board.”
It was just the third interception thrown this season by Rising. The sophomore took over as the starter in Week 4 and has been nearly flawless for the Utes. His other two interceptions both came on Oct. 16 against Arizona State.
“I do believe this team knows it can make plays,” head coach Karl Dorrell said. “We talked about those things prior to the game and at the hotel and things like that. Mark Perry makes a great play in first series of the game and we get three points out of it, but those are the things that we expect to do. We expect when that ball is in our area and we have great judgment on what we’re doing, and we’re in the right position; that’s what he did and he makes a nice play for us.”
For Perry, it was the continuation of what was a very good second half to his season. He added eight tackles and a pass breakup against the Utes.
Perry got his first career interception on Oct. 16 against Arizona and finished the season with a team-high three.
CU wound up having just 57 scholarship players in uniform for Friday’s game and the Buffs were missing some of their best players.
Inside linebacker Nate Landman and outside linebacker Guy Thomas both missed their fifth consecutive game with injuries. Starting cornerback Mekhi Blackmon didn’t play for the third time in four games.
Defensively, the Buffs were also without defensive lineman Janaz Jordan, inside linebacker Jack Lamb, outside linebacker Joshka Gustav and cornerback Kaylin Moore – all of which have been key role players.
On offense, running back Jarek Broussard didn’t make the trip because of a non-COVID illness and leading wide receiver Brenden Rice missed the game with a knee injury.
Cole Becker’ 56-yard field goal on the final play of the first half — with room to spare — was the longest field goal by a freshman in CU history.
The kick also tied for the seventh-longest overall in program history.
Becker made three field goals of at least 50 yards this season, becoming just the second CU kicker to ever do that. The first was Mason Crosby, who made five 50-yarders in 2004 and 2005.
Becker wrapped up his first season by leading the Buffs with 67 points. He made 14-of-20 field goals, including 2-of-3 on Friday. He was also 25-for-25 on extra points.
Utah took the overall lead in the series, at 33-32-3. The Utes are 9-2 against the Buffs since the two joined the conference in 2011. … Tight end Brady Russell caught two passes for 12 yards and finished the year with a team-best 25 catches for 307 yards. He’s the first tight end to lead CU in both categories since Riar Geer in 2006. … CU had its seventh turnover-free game of the season, extending a school record (the old mark was four). The Buffs also shattered the record for the fewest turnovers in a season, with seven. The previous best was 11 in 1956. … Nikko Reed’s 100-yard kickoff return for a touchdown was CU’s first kickoff return for a score since Nelson Spruce returned an onsides kick for a TD against California on Nov. 16, 2013. … On Thursday, second-year freshman receiver Keith Miller III announced that he has put his name in the NCAA transfer portal. Miller did not play in any games for the Buffs.