Colorado Daily – Utah

November 22nd

Embree looking to spread offense for 2013?

The future of head coach Jon Embree and his staff remains to be determined, but Embree and his coaches are moving forward, assuming they will be retained until informed otherwise.

“Whatever is going to happen is going to happen,” said offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy, whose offense entered the weekend ranked 109th in rushing offense, 99th in passing offense, 118th in total offense, and 120th – dead last – in scoring offense. “You don’t coach this game scared. Everybody is hired to be fired. I’m going to keep working my ass off and being who I am. If they decide to go in a different direction, that’s what we do. I know who I am and I know what I’m about.

“You’re always disappointed,” said Bieniemy. “This is a production-driven industry. You’re measured by wins and losses and obviously if you’re not winning, then hey, you’ve always got to take a look at self.”

As for Embree, the head coach indicated that the “three yards and a cloud of dust” philosophy for his offense has not worked out. Two tight ends and a bruising fullback leading an elusive tailback was the original dream, but that may be replaced by the spread offense come spring.

“I think when you look at our games, we have moved the ball or been more effective when we have been doing some of (spread offense), said Embree. “So I would like to continue to move forward in that direction.”

Whatever may come, Embree is already looking ahead to next fall. “Well, I know the show has not always reflected (this), but our kids have always fought, they have never quit. For next year, we start (preparing) Sunday night at 6:30. We have a lot to build on, it may not be crystal clear to people outside the program, but we have a lot to build on. We have a lot of young talent that has growing opportunity and have made plays. We get guys back that have been hurt, and we have some kids coming in, whether they’re grayshirts or current commits coming in, at certain positions that will help us. We’ll see how Shane Dillion and Nick (Hirschman) go (during spring) along with the other quarterbacks. The one advantage of having all this youth is it all comes back, and it comes back mature and obviously with tons of experience. I’m excited with our young D-linemen and what they’ve done. Our whole offensive line is back. There is a lot to be excited about and feel good about.”

The next few days  should be interesting …

November 21st

Embree’s last pregame press conference of the year

From cubuffs.com …

General

“Getting ready for Utah, coming in here Friday.  Started preparation yesterday for them.  Playing them, when you start talking about them, you have to talk about Star [Lotulelei], defensive tackle, dominant player; similar to the Will Sutton kid we faced earlier in the year at Arizona State.  On the offensive side, they have a running back [John] White, he is a real good player and he is stronger than his size indicates for him, so he can run inside with some power.  They have some speed on the outside.  They have a young quarterback, but he is getting better; as you watch his games, he is improving each week.  As we go into this contest with them, those are the people that we have to be aware of.  Also, defensively, the safety [Brian] Blechen, he is a real physical player.  Last year, I thought he was playing at a real high level.  Maybe him and [USC’s T.J.]McDonald are probably the two best safety players.  They seem to be playing him more in the linebacker area, this year more in the box; he is a real physical player that can run.  We have to account for those guys when we play them.”

On The Message He Gave His Team Before Utah Last Season

“I think things just clicked, I don’t think there was any particular message.  We just talked about how every team has a limit on how long they’ll be together and when I talked to them on Thursday night, [I told them], ‘We only have three and a half hours left and then this team is done.’  So we talked about what that looks like, three, four, years down the road, the different things that they’ll think about and reflect on.  And then some things just clicked for the guys, they were tired of talking about that [losing] streak and they were able to go out there and win.”

On His Message To His Players This Week

“We talked a little bit about our time together.  We haven’t talked about anything specific.  I’ll talk to the team on Wednesday night and Thursday night.  Those will be the two nights that I will talk to the football team, and we’ll talk about the seniors and they’ll get a chance to talk to their teammates for one last time and then we will see what happens.”

On If There Will Be A Let Down From Utah With Them Not Going To The Postseason

“I don’t think so.  I think [Utah head coach] Kyle [Whittingham] will make sure they are prepared to play.  Everybody wants to win their last game, whether it is this week or your last game is in a bowl game, everybody wants to win that last game.  They’ll still come in with a lot to play for.”

On Greyshirt Freshman Jeff Thomas

“Jeff is doing well.  [Wide receivers coach] Bobby [Kennedy] talks to him once a week, that’s allowed.  There are times that Bobby brings the phone in and I’ll talk to him too because we only get the one call.  He’s doing well.  As far as our receiver corps next year, obviously him, Paul [Richardson] will be back – he went through warm-ups, he has been a scout team receiver the last couple of weeks – we have another kid coming in, [greyshirt] Peyton Williams, and then we have some kids committed.  We are excited about how that unit is coming together.  It was the last unit, along with linebackers this year that we had to address from a recruiting standpoint, to build depth and get some numbers at those positions.  I chose to go D-line and DBs first, heavy, and tight end, just because we didn’t have any of those players in our program at those positions.  After this year, we can recruit a little more normal and take guys at different positions instead of focusing on just one position.”

On The Difficulties Of Only Having Eight Seniors On The Team

“In a way it is a positive for those guys (the seniors), they are tight, it is a small number so it is easy for them to all be closer together.  As far as with the team, the leadership might be a little bit different because of the numbers.  It is not a vocal group by any stretch of the imagination, which is okay; they are more lead by example players.  That is where the juniors and the younger guys need to step up and be a little more vocal as leaders. ”

On If Senior Class Gave Enough Leadership This Year

“Yeah they did.  I thought how they worked and how they prepared, week in and week out, a lot of them playing at not 100 percent.  I thought all of those things were good for the younger kids to see.”

On How This Week Is Different Getting Ready To Play Utah Instead Of Nebraska

“It is still a little different, getting used to that.  I think some of the things that happened last year, what was at stake for them (a berth in the Pac-12 Championship game), and then as both programs continue to grow, this will become a game – I don’t know if this will ever become a true rivalry just because they will always have BYU that they go against and their fans and that is a long and contested rivalry – so I don’t know if that will ever replace that, but it can still be a game of importance for both programs.”

On It Being Easier To Pump Up The Team Because It Was Nebraska

“Yeah because it was Nebraska, it’s time.  That is the great thing, when it is truly a rivalry game, records, none of that stuff matters.  You want to beat that team because of who they are.  We are not quite there yet with Utah, and I’m sure they would say the same thing about us.  Hopefully over time, things will transpire that will help both fans that sense of each other that it becomes a game of that magnitude for each other.”

On Team Banning The Color Red This Week

“We have been trying to ban red from day one.  Still just because of the guys next door, on the other side.  That hasn’t changed.”

On It Being A Difficult Year Because Of Lack Of Seniors And Experience

“Yes and no.  Unfortunately for some of our seniors like [FS Ray] Polk and [LB Doug] Rippy, they weren’t healthy and really get an opportunity to play to what they were capable of being as players.  But we knew, when I sat here 10 months ago talking about our recruiting class, that 75 percent would be playing for us and I think we have nine or 10 of those true freshmen start.  Not just play, but start.  You know a little bit of that, but at the same time you always feel that you have opportunities to compete and win.”

On Redshirting More Players In The Future

“Yeah, I think as time goes on, we will be able to redshirt more of our incoming players.  A guy like [DL] Tyler Henington, he played his best game last week and he’s played great all year, but selfishly, I would have loved to redshirt him and some other guys just to have them for five years.  Same with the corners, I would have loved to have been able to just say, ‘Hey, you guys can’t play,’ but we are a couple of years away from getting guys in and saying, ‘You’re not going to play, you are going to redshirt.’  But as we continue to move forward, our classes will get more balance in their numbers, consistently around 20 each year and to where the majority of your class is going to redshirt.  Then when you get to that point, everything gets better; your practices are better because if [CB’s Kenneth] Crawley and [Yuri] Wright were going against P-Rich (WR Paul Richardson) every day, that would force them to get better at some things.  Same with Tyler Henington going against Alex Lewis every day, how much better he would be.  As you continue to build a program, as they continue to grow, that is where you want to get to.”

On The Impact The Freshmen Have Made This Season

“I think very impactful, I really do.  I just mentioned Henington, but [Josh] Tupou, Samson [Kafovalu]; those three guys have done a good job of anchoring the middle.  They have done a good job; I look at how they held up against Stanford, how they held up against USC, how they held up last week.  When you play zone-read teams, you have a gap and you just have to stay there.  So even though you think you can jump out and make a play, if you are supposed to be in the gap, you are supposed to hang there and trust the guy.  When you look at the pro-style teams, those guys have done very well.  And then some of the other guys have made an impact, whether it is on [special] teams, or just being out there and contributing.”

On His Concerns On Defense And Offense

“Stopping the run, tackling (on defense).  Offensively, running the football.  Some of it is our inability to make plays on the perimeter, allow teams to get up and put one more than you could block, so to speak, up in the box to slow you down running the football.”

On Improvements That He Has Seen

“I think on the offensive side, the offensive line.  I think the offensive line has played well.  I think they have really come together, the way they communicate.  It is easy to sit in the stands and say that, “They played bad because of this sack, or that,’ and that may not necessarily be the case with them.  Defensively, I think our defensive line has improved; our athleticism has improved on that side with speed.  We have to be better at tackling when we get those chances.”

On Improving With A Young Team For Next Season

“Some of it is that they have been playing, so they’ll be better because they have the experience.  I think running back, we’ll be fine there with Tony [Jones], Donta [Abron] and Christian [Powell].  Those guys have all gotten better, especially the two young kids with all the reps they have had.  We have to get better at quarterback; we’ll see what Shane Dillon brings on that side.  It hurts losing [TE Nick] Kasa because I think he was improving and getting better as the year goes on.  I don’t think anybody outside of the football offices thought that he would be an impactful player like he was.  Hopefully we can get [another] year out [of him].  I don’t know what is going to happen with that or [if we] get it back, but it would be great because he is like a freshman, it is his first time ever playing it (tight end)… I know he is a senior but he has never done it.  It would be good to get him back and see him keep improving.  Defensively, I expect us to be better on the back end.  Obviously, the two corners and the safeties have more experience.  If we can keep Parker Orms healthy, that will help back there too.  When he’s played, I think he has been a guy that has had some impact on the games.  He’s a sure tackler, he’s always around the football, he’s a smart player, instinctive.  And then up front, you lose a guy like Will [Pericak], which is never good but we have some guys up there.  Chidera [Uzo-Diribe] had his best game last week, but as I mentioned, those young guys that are coming back that will be sophomores now, stronger and all that, and what you do at the edge with a couple of guys that we have coming in and being able to play some as a role player behind Chidera and Juda [Parker] and [Kirk] Poston.”

On Why He Hasn’t Been Able To Establish A Physical Identity

“I think a lot of our issues in the run game is they have more than we can block.  So I don’t think it is a physical issue.  Defensively, it’s tackling, it’s giving up big plays, and then whether it is assignments or whatever else you want to say has been an issue.  Those are issues that we will get addressed and fixed.”

On If Lack Of Physical Identity Is Because Of 18 and 19 Year Olds Against 22 And 23 Year Olds

“Some of it is.  Early on, those young defensive linemen were getting a good dose of college football.  As they have gotten more comfortable with it, the last half of the season, those young guys inside have done well.  That was some of it maybe in the beginning of the year, the speed of the game and the matchup of full grown men against a kid.  But as we talked about after Oregon to those young guys, the challenge was, ‘You have to start playing like you are a sophomore, don’t keep looking at yourself as a freshman.  Start seeing yourself as something different.  Start expecting more instead of this guy is blocking me, so I’m going… to handle my responsibility and get off the block.’  Again, what Will Pericak has done, his effort and the energy that he plays with has rubbed off on those guys because there was a couple of times on Saturday that Henington and Tupou are running past Pericak to get to the ball, which I thought was really cool and impressive.  There are things like that that the kids are starting to figure out and they are starting to do more and more. Tyler Henington – I’ve talked about him a lot – and Tupou and Samson, those guys have really played well, they have really made a lot of plays, they’ve held double teams and they didn’t get pushed six, seven yards down the field, they are holding it at the line of scrimmage, allowing the linebackers to be freed up.  Those kinds of things are encouraging.  It is starting to click for them a little bit.  They are learning a lot of things that they have never had to do.  They were always the biggest guy in high school so they didn’t have to have technique necessarily, they could just overpower people, and now that’s not the case.  Your techniques comes into play, understanding light and heavy and what the guards, if you are on them, if it’s run or pass, those kind of things.  They are all starting to pick up on that, so that is allowing them to play better.”

On If He Takes Responsibility For This Year Or Is It Just Growing Pains

“I look at it as growing pains, but I take all responsibility.  It is still not good enough.”

On The Emotions Of The Last Game

“Well it’s the finality of it, it’s the fact that this group will no longer be together after Friday at 4:30.  That’s it.  What I’ve tried to get the seniors to understand is: athletes don’t understand the end.  Coach wants your playbook, that is when it is like, ‘Wow, now what.’  You walk out the building, that’s it, you’re done.  There’s no going back.  There’s no one more time.  So getting them to understand the finality of it, same with the guys in the locker room, there are guys that will still be on this team that will have a huge role in the lives of some of these guys that are seniors, whether it is groomsmen, whether it is being there when their kids are born, working together or helping them through difficult times, but its severed, it’s done.  If you want to say the cruelty of sports, that’s what it is.  You ask any athlete when it is done, you miss the locker room, you miss being around the guys, you’re going to miss the grind some.  The first week you’ll feel great because it is like, ‘Oh man, I don’t have anything I have to do,’ and then you find out how long a day really is when you have nothing to do.  You’ll find out how special it was to be a part of a team and try to do something as a group.  All those different emotions go through it.  We’ll talk about some of those things so that they understand; more of not being afraid of it but to embrace it, to really relish and enjoy this last opportunity, this last three hours.  So you don’t sit there when it is done and say, ‘Man, I wish I knew it was going to be like this.’  So I’m going to try and paint as clear of a picture as I can for them without being too down, but it’s okay, everyone does it, everyone goes through it.  It’s important that they relish these opportunities.”

On Using Emotion In The Final Game

“You come out and play with emotion, but at some point you have to settle down and keep playing.  There will be ebbs and flows in the game.  I want them to play like I ask them every week, ‘To play for each other.  It’s about them so play for each other and make sure when they watch the tape, they can say it is something they are proud of.’  Those are the things that they have to understand.  I’ve had some guys make highlight tapes and come and just sit down and watch tape with me, and when you are in the middle of something like this, a season like this, you lose sight of how you are playing maybe and it kind of opens their eyes to what they have or haven’t accomplished.  It kind of gets them refocused.  It’s important that they understand that whoever we play next year first, when they watch the Utah game is it going to be something like, ‘Wow, look at that guy,’ or are they just going to be [shrugs shoulders].  That is how you have to look at it all the time whenever you put something on tape, what is the other team going to say about you as an individual?”

On Best Players In The Pac-12

“There are a couple. Defensively, Star [Lotulelei] and Will Sutton.  Those two guys and [UCLA] Anthony Barr.  Those three guys I believe have played at a high level every week.  Whether we’re watching other teams and you get to see them when you are scouting the other team, I think those three players on the defensive side have been dominant.  Offensively, the guys at USC, the receivers (Robert Woods and Marqise Lee). [Kenjon] Barner, see him at Oregon and seeing what he has done.  To me, those guys as individuals stand out as dominant at their positions.  It’s a great conference, it really is.  Haven’t had a chance to see Oregon State up close yet, but I’ve watched them some on tape and they’ve done a good job, Mike [Riley] has done a real good job there.  I think David Shaw and what they’ve done at Stanford; they play great as a team.  You can’t name a bunch of guys, individuals on that team, but they play great as a team.  That is what you want.”

On If His Opinion Of What A Quarterback Needs To Have Has Changed Being In The Pac-12

“It does and that is something that next week I’m going to talk about a little more in depth, but it definitely does.  You are a week ahead.  You want to have some flexibility with that position, as much as you can possibly have.”

On QB Nick Hirschman Coming Off A Concussion

“He’s fine from a concussion standpoint.  It’s hard to tell, he’s goofy so you don’t know if it is the concussion or if it is just him.  He’s a great personality.  He was good yesterday, running around.  He didn’t have any symptoms today, this morning when the trainer saw him, so I’m looking forward to him having another good day today and get more and more comfortable.”

On If Nick Hirschman Has More Confidence After The Arizona Game

“Yeah, without a doubt.  It was good for him.  He’s been grinding and competing, waiting for his chance and he got it, and he is a classic example of when a guy that’s got his opportunity is ready to take advantage of it.  Last year when his opportunity came, he wasn’t ready, at the Arizona State game.  I think he learned a valuable lesson from that, on what prepared really means.  He remembered it and embraced it instead of shrinking from it and he’s done well.”

On His Grade Of Special Teams

“We broke one kickoff return.  They’ve (opponents) kicked off a lot, I don’t know how many returns we have had because everyone kicks it through the end zone for the most part.  Punt return, I want to get more out of that.  I think as Kenneth [Crawley] continues to get more confident back there about when to take chances and make some plays, he’s got some explosiveness in him.  We still need to be better with our coverage units.  Darragh [O’Neill] can be better with the hang time and placement, that will help some too.  That is nothing that he hasn’t heard from myself or [special teams coach] J.D. [Brookhart].  He wants to be an All-American, so he works that way.  Sometimes he needs to un-work and relax.  He over works his legs sometimes, which causes some things.  But I think Darragh, and with his athleticism, he has a chance to be a real good one for us here.  And then Will [Oliver], we haven’t had a lot of opportunities to use him much, but he is a guy that I am comfortable with in a clutch situation, sending him out there, expecting him to make it.”

 

Injury Report

From cubuffs.com …

Defensive tackle Nate Bonsu – ankle – suffered a sprain in practice (Oct. 31); missed Stanford and Arizona games – PROBABLE

Offensive lineman Ryan Dannewitz – knee – suffered a sprained ACL against Stanford (Nov. 3); surgery on Nov. 20 – OUT

Running back Josh Ford – ankle – suffered late in the Oregon game (Oct. 27), high ankle variety – OUT

Center Gus Handler – knee – suffered a sprain (MCL) early in the Oregon game – OUT

Quarterback Nick Hirschman – concussion – suffered in the third quarter at Arizona (Nov. 10); missed Washington, cleared for Utah – DEFINITE

Tight end Vincent Hobbs – concussion – suffered early in Washington game (Nov. 17) – DAY-TO-DAY

Defensive back Parker Orms – concussion – suffered over course of two games, USC (Oct. 20) and Oregon (Oct. 27) –  OUT

Tailback Christian Powell – concussion – suffered late in the Washington game (Nov. 17) – DOUBTFUL

Defensive tackle Justin Solis – neck – suffered a strained neck against Stanford; all tests negative – OUT

Quarterback Jordan Webb – finger – suffered a subluxation against Stanford (Nov. 3), has tried to play but now opting for surgery – OUT

Defensive back Yuri Wright – anke – suffered a slight sprain late against Arizona (Nov. 10) – DAY-TO-DAY

OUT FOR SEASON: TB Terrance Crowder (knee), WR Paul Richardson (knee).

November 20th

Buffs atop the Pac-12 … in the classroom

From cubuffs.com … A league-high 16 University of Colorado football players earned Pac-12 All-Academic honors Tuesday as announced by Pac-12 Commissioner Larry Scott. Four Buffs earned first team, seven second team and five honorable mention honors.

Only Utah placed more on the first team with five members while both CU and Arizona had four on that team. Colorado led the way with seven second-team honors and the Buffs’ 11 combined first- and second-team honors led all Pac-12 schools, ahead of Utah’s nine selections. The Buffs 16 overall selections matched Oregon, which had 12 honorable mention selections, and out-paced Utah’s 14 and Stanford’s 12 selections.

DL Nate Bonsu, ST Justin Gorman, DL Will Pericak and QB Connor Wood all earned first-team honors. DB Issac Archuletta, OL Brad Cotner, WR Dustin Ebner, OL Stephane Nembot, PK Will Oliver, WR Nelson Spruce and ST Richard Yates each earned second-team honors. RB D.D. Goodson, WR Tyler McCulloch, OL Daniel Munyer, OL Marc Mustoe and P Darragh O’Neill all were honorable mention selections.

Pericak was also afforded first-team honors last season, the Buffs first in the Pac-12, and was one of just four players honored for a second time while three players were honored for the third time on the first-team.

To be eligible for selection, a student-athlete must have a minimum 3.0 overall grade point average and be either a starter or significant contributor.

November 19th

Jordan Webb done for the year

Sophomore quarterback Nick Hirschman, who suffered a concussion two weeks ago against Arizona, will be back behind center when the Buffs take on Utah this Friday. If Hirschman can’t go, or is ineffective, either Connor Wood or John Schrock will come in as a replacement.

Jordan Webb is done for the year.

The junior quarterback will be undergoing surgery to his throwing hand/thumb, and is out for this Friday’s game. Webb’s status for next year – he still has a year of eligibility remaining – is to be determined. Webb will likely return (he would have to play for an FCS school which offers his graduate program if he wanted to transfer again), but the issue of whether Webb can beat out red-shirt freshman to be Shane Dillon or incoming freshman Sefo Liufau for the starting job is very much in question.

Three fourth-year juniors to play their last game Friday

There are only eight seniors who are to be honored in a pregame ceremony before the Utah game.

They will be joined by three fourth-year juniors.

Tight end DaVaughn Thornton, wide receiver Jarrod Darden, and kicker Zach Grossnickle are juniors, but all three will be done with the program after this season.

As was the case with Jordan Webb, the three players, if they graduate next spring, will have the option of transfering to another school, enroll in a graduate program not offered by the University of Colorado, and still have a year of eligibility remaining.

There were high hopes for all three players when they first came to Boulder.

Grossnickle and Thornton were teammates at Denver East high, and joined the Buffs as part of the recruiting Class of 2009 (the pair were joined by another Denver East alumnus, running back Quentin Hildreth, who joined the Buffs as a walk-on). Darden came to CU from Texas, and was supposed to be a part of the revitalization of the wide receiver position in Boulder.

Zach Grossnickle was one of the top rated kickers from the Class of 2009, and came to Boulder off of a senior season in high school in which he went 12-for-13 on field goal attempts – with his only miss coming from 58 yards. After red-shirting in 2009, Grossnickle became just the fourth player in CU history to be the team’s regular punter as a red-shirt freshman. Grossnickle lost his job to Darragh O’Neill, however, in 2011, and has only seen duty as a kickoff specialist in 2012.

DaVaughn Thornton was an all-state tight end for Denver East, and his 6’4″, 230-pound frame seemed ideally suited for the Buffs. After sitting out his true freshman season in 2009, Thornton played in ten games in 2010. He had only one catch that season, but he made it count, going for a 12-yard touchdown against Kansas. In 2011, Thornton played in all 13 games, including one start. He moved to wide receiver towards the end of the season, and had an important 52-yard catch in the 17-14 season finale against Utah. This season, Thornton has moved back to tight end, but has only six catches for 64 yards on the year.

Jarrod Darden was part of a quartet of wide receivers who were supposed to be the next generation of great wideouts in Boulder. If you are wondering why the CU offense has struggled this season without a deep threat, see how many of these names ring a bell … Will Jefferson, Andre Simmons, and Terdema Ussery. Jarrod Darden saw spot action in two games as a red-shirt freshman, dressed for six games (but did not play) as a sophomore, and has dressed for only one game (against CSU) this season.

 

 

UCLA in a unique position

The UCLA Bruins, by virtue of their big win over cross-town rival USC, are repeat Pac-12 South champions.  The Bruins know that they will play for the Pac-12 championship, they just don’t know where.

Which gives rise to dilemma.

UCLA plays Stanford on Saturday. If No. 17 UCLA takes down No. 8 Stanford, the victory may actually work against the Bruins.

Stanford controls its own destiny when it comes to the Pac-12 North. If the Cardinal beats the Bruins, there will be re-match between the two teams in Palo Alto next week.

If UCLA beats Stanford, however, and No. 5 Oregon beats No. 15 Oregon State, then Oregon will win the Pac-12 North, and the Ducks, by virtue of a better conference record, would host the Bruins in Eugene. The game would be a rematch of last year’s Pac-12 title game, which Oregon won, 49-31.

So, if you are a Bruin fan, where would you rather play the Pac-12 title game … in Palo Alto, or Eugene?

If it were me, I would rather take my chances against Stanford, but that would mean that my team would have to lose this Saturday …

November 18th

Utah installed as a 23-point favorite over Colorado

Utah is 4-7, the first losing season in Salt Lake City since 2002 guaranteed.

Utah is 0-5 on the road this season.

Utah is averaging 12.6 points per game on the road, never scoring more than 20 points in any one of the five road contests.

Utah is averaging 10.7 points per game on the road against Pac-12 opponents, never scoring more than 15 points in any one of the four road contests.

So, naturally, the Utes are a 23-point favorite over the home-standing Buffs on Senior Day.

Such is the state of the CU football program, 2012 …

Utah loss to Arizona gives Utes first losing season since 2002

… and perhaps less to play for Friday against the Buffs …

From the Salt Lake City Tribune … The Utah Utes played like a team on the verge of elimination Saturday night, pulling out tricky and risky plays and all-but-forgotten players as they gave their best shot at maintaining bowl-eligibility hopes.

But the high risks didn’t pay off for the Utes. Arizona prevailed with a 34-24 win at Rice-Eccles Stadium, ending Utah’s hopes of being bowl-eligible for a 10th straight season. It marks the first time since 2002 that the Utes (4-7, 2-6) won’t go to a bowl game.

As Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said earlier this week, the Utes are in a new world of football as a Pac-12 team. Right now, that world is filled with bitter disappointment. “There can be a lot of explanations,” defensive end Trevor Reilly said. “But at the end of the day, we just didn’t get the job done.”

The Utes, picked to finish second in their division, wrap up their season at Colorado on Friday.

For the first time since they finished 5-6 in 2002, the outcome of that game matters little in the big scheme of things.

What’s frustrating for the Utes is that a victory over the Wildcats (7-4, 4-4) was tantalizingly close. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson, coming off the worst performance in his young career, played with more confidence than he has in previous starts and finished 28-for-40 for 311 yards. Running back John White also had a solid game, finishing with 27 carries for 112 yards to set a school record for most 100-yard games in a career with 13.

Their performances were enough to help the Utes take a 24-17 lead into the fourth quarter after Wilson threw a 36-yard touchdown pass to DeVonte Christopher, which was just the senior’s second touchdown of the season.

Normally Utah’s defense plays well when the Utes have a lead to protect. But fitting for an abnormal season, the Utes’ defense couldn’t keep Arizona pinned. Arizona quarterback Matt Scott finished 12-for-27 for 160 yards and a touchdown while running back Ka’Deem Carey rushed 26 times for 204 yards.

The Utes knew Arizona, which has the highest-ranked offense in the league, was going to get its share of yards. But Utah failed to get the key stops, a common theme for the Utes this season. After Christopher’s score, Arizona used a 75-yard drive to tie the game with a 2-yard run by Daniel Jenkins.

The key play in the drive was a 19-yard pass from Scott to Austin Hill on a third-and-11, one of the seven third-down conversions the Wildcats successfully converted on 16 attempts.

The Utes, who gambled successfully with flea flickers and a faked kick that went for a touchdown earlier in the game, pushed the risks too far on the following possession. Facing a fourth-and-6 on their own 39-yard line, the Utes faked a punt with punter Sean Sellwood throwing a pass to Mike Honeycutt.

The Wildcats needed just four plays to make the Utes pay, with Ka’Deem Carey rushing for 20 yards on one play and Scott connecting with Hill in the corner of the end zone on an 18-yard touchdown pass to take a 31-24 lead.

The Utes never recovered.

Their last gasp ended when Utah took over on its 7-yard line with 5:59 remaining. The Utes earned one first down but couldn’t convert a fourth-and-4 as receiver Kenneth Scott was stopped a yard short.

Just like everything else Saturday, the effort was there, but it just wasn’t good enough.

2 Replies to “Colorado Daily – Utah”

  1. The Buffs have a winnable game, despite some serious injuries, if Hirschman can get the job done. Utah will prove to pose less of a challenge for our beleagured defense. We do need to avoid turnovers and eliminate stupid penalties. A win won’t erase the bad taste that this team left behind but it may prove to be psychologically helpful going into next season.

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