SALT LAKE CITY — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham doesn’t really know whether to call it a rivalry — yet, anyway. Neither do his players.
Even though the Utes have played Colorado 64 times — the fifth-most among all-time opponents — and play them in the season finale most years and are closer to Colorado geographically than the other 10 schools in the Pac-12, they aren’t necessarily the Utes’ top rival.
“I don’t think it’s a full-on, full-fledged rivalry at this point,” Whittingham said earlier this week. “It’s starting to feel a little bit that way. That’s something that has to play out and evolve, you can’t just make it happen. But where it falls on the schedule, typically the last game of the year, that’s the traditional spot for a rivalry game.”
“I don’t know if it’s a rivalry game or not,” said Ute linebacker Cody Barton. “It kind of is, because it’s usually the last game of the season, which is usually the rival game, but I don’t see it as the rival game, but some guys might.”
“I’ve only been in the program for two years, so I don’t know,” added kicker Matt Gay. “But I think there’s the rivalry with us both being in the Rocky Mountains and I know it’s going to be a great environment in Colorado this week.”
One thing is certain, the Utes’ closest games since joining the Pac-12 seven years ago have come against the Buffaloes.
Except for last year’s 34-13 whipping by the Utes at Rice-Eccles Stadium, the Utes have always had close games with Colorado. All six of the previous meetings between the two “rivals” were decided by seven points or less, with the Utes coming out on top four times.
Here’s a look at each of the games since the two schools joined the Pac-12 seven years ago.
2011 — Colorado 17, Utah 14: Even though it was their first year in the conference, the Utes had a chance to make the championship game because of division leader USC being on probation, as they headed into the final game at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Utes were 7-4, 4-4 in Pac-12 play and just needed a win to qualify for the Pac-12 championship game. The 2-10 Buffs were coming off a 45-6 loss to a UCLA team that the Utes had drubbed by 25 points two weeks earlier.
But the Utes came out flat and trailed 10-0 at halftime. They finally got back into the game and pulled within three points late in the third quarter, but neither team scored in the fourth quarter. Coleman Petersen missed a 48-yard field goal try, his third miss of the game, with two seconds left that could have forced overtime.
2012 — Utah 42, Colorado 35: This was the game that featured back-to-back 100-yard kickoff returns in the fourth quarter, the latter which decided the game for Utah.
The Utes had jumped ahead 17-7, but saw the Buffs outscore them 21-3 to take a 28-20 lead going into the final quarter. Touchdowns by John White and Travis Wilson put the Utes up 35-28, but Colorado’s Marques Mosley returned the ensuing kickoff 100 yards to tie the score with 8:25 left. However, Utah’s Reggie Dunn returned the favor with his own 100-yard run and the Utes held on from there for the win.
2013 — Utah 24, Colorado 17: The Utes were on their way to their second straight losing season and had lost five straight going into the season finale. It looked like a cakewalk when Utah raced out to a 21-0 halftime lead behind Kelvin York’s two touchdown runs and a TD pass from Adam Schulz to Jake Murphy.
However after that, they could only manage an Andy Phillips field goal early in the fourth quarter as Colorado scored 17 points to make a game of it. The Buffs had one last chance when they got the ball back, but with 2:01 left, Trevor Reilly intercepted a pass to seal the victory. It was the last game for Reilly, who also had 14 tackles, and he incurred a penalty when he fired the ball into the stands after the interception.
2014 — Utah 38, Colorado 34: A week before, the Utes had seen their Pac-12 South hopes disappear in a disappointing home loss to Arizona, and they came into this game 7-4 on the season and ranked 25th in the country.
The Utes fell behind 24-16 at halftime, but with the running of Devontae Booker and the passing of Travis Wilson, the Utes pulled within 34-31 heading into the final quarter. Then with 10:00 left, Dominique Hatfield intercepted a pass and ran it in from 20 yards out to give the Utes the four-point victory.
2015 — Utah 20, Colorado 14: Just like the previous year, the Utes had been eliminated from the Pac-12 South race the week before and had little motivation for the regular-season finale while missing leading rusher Devontae Booker and leading receiver Britain Covey to injuries. They jumped out to a 10-7 halftime lead and increased it to 20-7 before the Buffs scored with 4:16 left on a pass. The Buffs forced a punt and made it to midfield before Viliseni Fauonuku forced a fumble with 30 seconds left.
2016 — Colorado 27, Utah 22: This time it was Colorado going for a title on its home field, and the No. 9-ranked Buffaloes came through against the 21st-ranked Utes, who lost a heartbreaker to Oregon the week before to fall out of title contention.22 comments on this story
The Buffs, who improved to 8-1 in league play with the victory, their first over Utah in Boulder since 1957, took control after an early punt return for a touchdown by Utah’s Boobie Hobbs and led 13-7 at halftime and 27-16 early in the fourth quarter. Utah scored with 1:34 left to cut the lead to five, but the two-point conversion pass failed as did an onside kick try and Colorado held on to win.
2017 — Utah 34, Colorado 13: For a change, this one didn’t go down to the final minute as the Utes scored 28 first-half points on two touchdown runs by Zack Moss, who ran for a career-high 196 yards and two by Troy Williams. The Utes could only manage two Matt Gay field goals in the second half, but it was good enough for a comfortable 21-point victory.