Utah Utes football: Seniors have a chance to match school record
Tom Smart, Deseret News
SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah football's senior class is on the verge of equaling a school record. Should the Utes defeat Colorado Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium, they'll match last year's seniors with 41 career victories.
"That was always kind of been a goal for me. Obviously that's something I wanted," said offensive lineman Tony Bergstrom. "I saw last year's senior class go out that way and wanted the same thing for our senior class, the for the guys that I played with."
Bergstrom and Utah's 17 other seniors — defensive tackle James Aiono, fullback Shawn Asiata, defensive back Greg Bird, defensive back Conroy Black, offensive lineman John Cullen, defensive lineman Tevita Finau, defensive end Nai Fotu, kicker Kenny Golladay, linebacker Matt Martinez, wide receiver Dexter Ransom, running back Mychal Robinson, defensive end Derrick Shelby, defensive back Ben Soliven, running back Tauni Vakapuna, linebacker Chaz Walker, defensive back Tyler Whittingham and linebacker J.J. Williams — will be honored in pregame ceremonies before the Utes' home finale.
"It's bittersweet. We're going to miss them," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "But we've thoroughly enjoyed what they've given to the program and their work ethic and all that they have contributed."
Besides helping Utah win a lot of football games, Whittingham noted that the members of the class have been "tremendous leaders" as well. He credits them for helping the Utes bounce back from an 0-4 start in Pac-12 play. After reeling off four straight wins, they can now reach the inaugural conference championship game with a victory over the Buffaloes, along with losses by Arizona State and UCLA.
Should it all pan out, this group of seniors will have an extra opportunity to break the school record for victories — preceding a bowl appearance with the Pac-12 title game.
That, however, isn't what the Utes are thinking about right now. Colorado and the home finale are first and foremost in their thoughts. Even so, defensive back Greg Bird acknowledges there's also something on the backburner considering the seniors will be playing in their home stadium for the final time.
"It's definitely on your mind," Bird said. "(But) the most important thing to focus on is getting the win as your last home game. So put a show on for the fans and hope for the best."
Bergstrom insists it's something he hasn't really thought about yet.
"I don't know," he said. "Maybe it'll hit me sometime this week."
Same goes for the senior class record for victories, according to Bird.
"I didn't even know that was close because of how we started the season," he said. "But that would be something great to be a part of and I'm happy to be a part of it."
EXTRA POINTS: Bergstrom, Bird, Fotu, Martinez, Robinson, Shelby, Walker and Williams played their entire collegiate careers at Utah. … Cullen, Bergstrom, Asiata, Finau, Shelby, Walker, Martinez and Black are expected to start against Colorado. … Williams had season-ending foot surgery on Nov. 4.
Utah football: 2011 senior class
The Utes will honor their 18 seniors before Friday afternoon's game against Colorado. The class has a 40-10 record, the second-most wins in program history.
DT — James Aiono LB — Matt Martinez
FB — Shawn Asiata WR — Dexter Ransom
OL — Tony Bergstrom RB — Mychal Robinson
DB — Greg Bird DE — Derrick Shelby
DB — Conroy Black DB — Ben Soliven
OL — John Cullen RB — Tauni Vakapuna
DL — Tevita Finau LB — Chaz Walker
DL — Nai Fotu DB — Tyler Whittingham
PK — Kenny Golladay LB — J.J. Williams
Utes on the air
Colorado (2-10, 1-7 Pac-12) at Utah (7-4, 4-4)
Friday, 1:30 p.m.
TV: ROOT Radio: 700 AM
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