Two teams with bowl aspirations took the gridiron on Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium. Both at 5-6, the winner would become bowl eligible and the loser's season would be over. Utah started the scoring in the first quarter and never let up leading 28-0 vs. Colorado in the first half. Zack Moss had his best game of the season and senior quarterback Troy Williams didn't have major miscues helping the Utes win 34-13.
With Tyler Huntley out due to injury, senior Troy Williams came to play along with running back Zack Moss. Williams threw for 181 yards while running for two touchdowns as well. Moss anchored the rushing attack with 196 yards and two touchdowns himself. The offense got the ground game running early, which set the tempo for the evening. Even Devonta'e Henry-Cole got in on the action with 9 carries for 79 yards. Being able to start on the right foot was key for this offense that has been better than the last few weeks, but has still been criticized for its third-down efficiency and red-zone production.
The Ute defense didn't allow any points until the 9:34 mark of the third quarter. A far cry from the weeks where this unit was prone to getting scored on immediately. By limiting the passing attack and the ground game to 319 total yards, Utah didn't seem like they needed to press while in a must-win game. This also helped the defensive side to rush the quarterback because of their consistent secondary play. In the second half, the defense started to bend more allowing two touchdowns for Colorado's score to look more reasonable. But, one takeaway and 5 sacks kept the Utah defense ahead of running back Phillip Lindsay and the rest of the Buffaloes offense one step behind all evening.
This unit continues to impress for the Utes. Matt Gay made all four extra points and went 2 for 2 on field goals, too. Mitch Wishnowsky and the punt team kept Colorado to zero return yards, pinning Colorado each time. Furthermore, there were no miscues on special teams which can make or a break a game.
The Utes could have come out flat after a close loss last week against Washington, but the coaching staff did not allow that to happen. Coach Kyle Whittingham had his boys ready and offensive coordinator Troy Taylor stuck to a formula that worked: run the ball and run the ball some more. The offensive line was able to succeed with this game plan. After a season that had high expectations, the Utes get to go to a bowl game. The coaching staff is a big reason Utah looked ready to end the regular season on a high note.
The Utes are bowl eligible. That means 15 more practices to prepare for a game that matters to the program and the fans. Where will they go bowling? Sure, it wasn't what the Utes dreamed of at the beginning of the season, but their year continues. Let the bowl possibilities begin.
Shane Reinhard is a graduate of Weber State University and a teacher and coach at St. Joseph Catholic High School in Ogden, Utah. Email: [email protected]. Follow on Twitter @hoopsters12.