One question following Utah's dramatic 42-35 win over Colorado: Did eking out a victory over a one-win team bring the Utes to a new low? Or should the intense finish be viewed as a highlight from the Utes' disappointing season?
Either way, Utah's victory at Folsom Field marked its first this season away from Rice-Eccles Stadium. It also preserves an outside chance of a Ute bowl appearance, which would extend Utah's streak of consecutive bowl appearances to 10 if the team is picked despite having five wins.
OFFENSE: While the poor Buffalo defense yielded 30 or more points for the 11th straight game, the Ute offense did make most of its most critical plays when it most mattered. While they may have been "0-fer" on third-down conversion attempts through three quarters, Travis Wilson and Co. did manage three big ones in the fourth quarter (they finished 3-of-12). After perhaps his best performance of the season last week against Arizona, Wilson (13-of-25, 128 yards, 1 touchdown) was far more mediocre this week against a worse defense (124th in the nation in scoring defense). With a fantastic performance in perhaps his final collegiate game, John White IV (20 carries, 168 yards, 1 touchdown) became the first running back in Utah history to eclipse 1,000 yards each in two seasons. However, Kelvin York (10 carries, 25 yards) was less effective in his first game in four weeks. And how about that two-point conversion jump pass in the fourth quarter to knot the game at 35? GRADE: C.
DEFENSE: The defense was helped not only by five Colorado turnovers, but also by a suddenly poor Colorado offense in the fourth quarter, which scored no points (the Buffaloes' seven points in the final stanza came off a kickoff return) after scoring at least one touchdown in every other quarter. That included 14 in the third. If this is the end of Utah's season, at least it wrapped up in fashion, with an interception from Brian Blechen on the Buffaloes' final drive.
Considering Colorado quarterback Nick Hirschman had made his 42 pass attempts in six previous games, he probably shouldn't have been able to complete nearly 60 percent of his throws for 306 yards. But four interceptions largely nullify that. The 84 yards on 14 carries freshman running back Donta Abron gained, too, may have been a surprise, considering he had experienced just one other double-digit carry game this season. GRADE: C-.
SPECIAL TEAMS: Seconds after talking its first lead since midway in the third quarter, the Utes squandered the advantage with a 100-yard return from Marques Mosley. But then Reggie Dunn struck. Again. Dunn made his fifth career 100-yard touchdown return run, the go-ahead score, with 8:12 remaining. That and his four returns for a score this season are both all-time NCAA records. His heroics meant that three touchdowns were scored in a span of 35 seconds. GRADE: B.
OVERALL: In an effort to pick up their first home win of the season, Buffalo seniors and their teammates played at a higher level than usually seen this season. Still, Ute Kyle Whittingham and the program would have had a difficult time explaining a season-ending loss to one of the nation's worst FBS teams, so the Utes saved face. With that said, would Utah actually take pride in going to the postseason with a losing record? The program may want to just settle for the exciting finish displayed in Boulder. Unless, perhaps, Reggie Dunn has more work to do in the kickoff return category. GRADE: C.
Rhett Wilkinson attends Utah State University and is the co-founder of Aggie BluePrint, USU's first student magazine. Previously a Deseret News intern, he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter: @wilklogan
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company