I just want to win. Just the way our season has gone, I think, it would be the only right way to end off — with a win in our home stadium. —Lowell Lotulelei
SALT LAKE CITY — Utah’s senior class wants more than a pregame ceremony Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium. The 22 soon-to-be departing players are determined to become bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive year. That requires the Utes (5-6, 2-6) to be victorious in their season finale against Colorado (5-6, 2-6).
“I just want to win, really,” said defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei. “Just the way our season has gone, I think, it would be the only right way to end off — with a win in our home stadium.”
As far as going bowling, Lotulelei has no specific destination in mind.
“I just want to go,” he said.
Lotulelei acknowledged the Colorado game came first, however, he said it would be a big accomplishment for a class that came in after Utah posted back-to-back 5-7 records to keep a restored bowl tradition going. The Utes have won 33 games over the past four seasons, including three bowl triumphs.
“They have been involved in a lot of wins. They have made a huge impact in the transition time into the Pac-12. That transition time is over now and we feel fully entrenched in the Pac-12,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “But back in that time when they got here as a freshman, it was still new. We appreciate the efforts they made and the hard work and dedication they gave us.”
Whittingham added that he was really proud of them.
Of the group being honored this weekend, 12 played their entire careers with the Utes — tight end Tyler Bell, linebacker Christian Drews, tight end Siale Fakailoatonga, wide receiver Jameson Field, tight end Harrison Handley, defensive back Boobie Hobbs, defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei, running back Troy McCormick Jr., defensive tackle Filipo Mokofisi, offensive lineman Salesi Uhatafe, linebacker Alex Whittingham and defensive back Kenric Young.
Utah’s other seniors include quarterback Cooper Bateman, wide receiver Darren Carrington II, defensive end Kylie Fitts, wide receiver Kyle Fulks, defensive back Shawn Hansen, running back Jordan Howard, fullback Cody Ippolito, linebacker Kavika Luafatasaga, linebacker Sunia Tauteoli and quarterback Troy Williams.
“It is ‘Senior Night,’ so we will recognize our seniors who have meant so much to this program and have been such a huge part of success over the last few years. I am sorry to see those guys go, but it is a good way to honor them.” Whittingham said. “We thank the fans for their support all year long. The Rice-Eccles fans have been great, phenomenal and we hope they come out again to see these seniors off on Saturday night."
Whittingham noted that just about every one of them has earned their degree, which he said is the main reason they’re at the university.
They did a great job leading this football team this year and even though things didn't turn out nearly the way we would have hoped, they never let things go sideways internally,” Whittingham continued. “The camaraderie and unity never faltered and I am very proud of them and will miss them all."
Sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley said that this year’s seniors have had a big impact on the program, always pushing the younger players to succeed.
“They’re hard workers and that’s why they need a bowl game,” Huntley emphasized. “We need to send them out right.”
That’s the plan.
Handley admits it’s all a bit bittersweet as his collegiate career winds down.
“Something that’s been this impactful in my life is definitely something that’s going to be missed,” he said.
Colorado (5-6, 2-6) at Utah (5-6, 2-6)
Saturday, 8 p.m.
Radio: ESPN 700AM