Quantcast

Utah Utes football: Colorado coach's correct guess helps Buffs' seniors end careers on high note

Published: Friday, Nov. 25 2011 7:59 p.m. MST

Utah Utes wide receiver Griff McNabb (16) gets tackled by Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Derrick Webb (1) and Colorado Buffaloes offensive linesman Kaiwi Crabb (54) during the first half of the Utah vs. Colorado football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Utah Utes wide receiver Griff McNabb (16) gets tackled by Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Derrick Webb (1) and Colorado Buffaloes offensive linesman Kaiwi Crabb (54) during the first half of the Utah vs. Colorado football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — As Utah's special teams rushed on the field with precious seconds ticking off the fourth-quarter clock following Tauni Vakapuna's rush for a loss of 2 yards, Colorado first-year coach Jon Embree had a particular strategy in mind.

Then he thought otherwise.

"I thought about calling a timeout to ice the kid, but then I thought, 'Nah, he's gonna miss it," Embree told the Denver Post. "I'm so happy for these kids."

Twenty-20 hindsight or not, Embree did indeed do something that his predecessor, Dan Hawkins, couldn't do for years — win a game on the road. CU's 17-14 win over Utah Saturday ended a 23-game road losing streak, including 24 out-of-state, according to ESPN.com. The win, which burst the Utes' bubble for a Pac-12 championship game berth, marked the first win away from Boulder in the careers of the CU seniors.

Utah's Greg Bird stretches before the start of the Utah vs. Colorado football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Utah's Greg Bird stretches before the start of the Utah vs. Colorado football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

"That streak was something that was staining the program," CU senior quarterback Tyler Hansen also told the Post. "It was a fun year. We didn't get the wins we wanted, but we set the foundation for years to come."

The Buffs hope the future won't involve so many personnel setbacks. A story in the Denver Post said that CU had suffered through one of its worst injury years in at least a quarter century. The school's sports information department calculated that this year's squad had endured 70 "lost games" because of injury to players on the two-deep roster or to those who figure prominently on special teams.

Dailycamera.com's Buffzone has taken advantage of Utah's surprising loss, emphasizing the improbabability of CU winning the game after going 1,490 days without a road victory, which spanned 19 different stadiums. Visualizing one of the two dozen-plus Colorado seniors talking to a grandchild about the victory, Kyle Ringo painted a picture of the game's surprising result in the years to come after describing how the Buffs were finally out out-quicked by the Utes in the contest, a departure from other Pac-12 battles. Ringo laments about how CU has made it more difficult than it should have been to notch a road victory over the past several autumns.

Utah Utes wide receiver Griff McNabb (16) gets tackled by Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Derrick Webb (1) during the first half of the Utah vs. Colorado football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News) Utah Utes wide receiver Griff McNabb (16) gets tackled by Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Derrick Webb (1) during the first half of the Utah vs. Colorado football game at the Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

Ringo uses the senior's future grandchild to ponder why the Utes came out flat against a team that entered Rice-Eccles Stadium at 2-10, with just one conference victory.

"Hard to say really," he said. "It was senior day for them and they were playing for a chance to represent the South Division in the first Pac-12 championship game that day. Maybe they were feeling the pressure."

Embree said that the team's "number one" goal going into the season was to end the road skid.

"For them to finally get that (win)," they see what it feels like," Embree told the Washington Post. "This is awesome."

"We kept fighting," Hansen said. "We kept going at it. Slowly but surely, things started to turn our way. Everyone did their job, got pressure on the quarterback and stopped the run. That's what we wanted to do."

Utah Utes quarterback Jon Hays (9) is sacked by Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Josh Hartigan (17) in Salt Lake City  Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News) Utah Utes quarterback Jon Hays (9) is sacked by Colorado Buffaloes linebacker Josh Hartigan (17) in Salt Lake City Friday, Nov. 25, 2011. (Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News)

"I'm so happy for these kids," Embree added. "I told the team last night that we have three-and-a-half hours as a team, and how do you want to be remembered? ... Every time it looked like we had it, something would happen. It's so special, so sweet."

Email: rhett.wilkinson@yahoo.com Twitter: @wilklogan

Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company