UCLA at the Rose Bowl?
The Buffs decided to pass on giving an inspired effort in Pasadena.
Apparently, Colorado's seniors wanted their bowl game to be their final game on Friday against Utah.
CU ended its 24-game out-of-state losing streak at the expense of the Utes with a 17-14 victory on Black (and Gold) Friday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
An emotional Jon Embree had a tight hold of the game ball after this group stiff-armed some more adversity and finally refused to let a road win slip away.
"For these seniors, this is unbelievable," Embree said during a post-game interview on Root Sports. "This win will springboard us next year. This win will do a lot."
The Buffs finished a grueling 13-week, bye-free, injury-riddled 2011 campaign 3-10 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-12. The opener at Hawaii feels like it was three years ago, not three months ago.
But each of the three CU conquests will be remembered forever on the program's big-win wall in the Dal War Center.
The team earned bricks for beating Colorado State in the Rocky Mountain Showdown to give Embree his first win as head coach, for crushing Arizona on Senior Day to deliver CU's first Pac-12 win, and for ending the road losing streak at Utah in the Rumble in the Rockies.
"This is 100 times better," senior quarterback Tyler Hansen said on 850 KOA when asked how the win in Salt Lake City compared to walking off Folsom Field for the final time with a blowout win over the woeful Wildcats. "The streak was something that was stinging the program, and we had to get rid of it."
Embree described the streak as a "stain" on the once proud program. He gives the seniors a lot of credit for helping the staff wipe the slate clean and for getting the underclassmen started on a journey to return CU football to glory.
"I'm thankful and I love those guys," Embree said. "Those guys are the best."
The win may have jump started the Pac-12's newest rivalry.
The surging Utes (7-5, 4-5) had won four consecutive games and still had a chance to win the South Division. And then the Buffs spoiled those dreams and Utah's Senior Day with the first win over their former Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference and Mountain States Athletic Conference rivals in 53 years.
"I'm so proud of everybody on that team," senior safety Anthony Perkins said after willing his broken body onto the field for his final football game. "That was sweet."
CU deserved to win.
The offense racked up 20 first downs, 33:04 in time of possession and 375 yards, including 111 on the ground, to keep the Utes on their heels. The defense held the home team to one first down in the first half (the Buffs led 10-0 at halftime) and bent but refused to break as Utah rallied.
The Buffs, of course, didn't make things easy with two turnovers and 10 penalties, including a borderline personal foul call against Parker Orms on the game's final drive. The officials also missed what should have been a 15-yard face-mask call against Utah.
Coleman Petersen, the reigning Pac-12 special teams player of the week, helped the cause with three missed field goals, including a chip shot in the fourth quarter and a desperate last gasp into the wind as time expired.
Some things are just meant to be.
Ironically, that includes Rick Neuheisel and UCLA playing in the Pac-12 championship game thanks to Embree and the Buffaloes.
"It was a great year, it was a fun year," said Hansen, who didn't have a lot to smile about during his first three years in Boulder. "We didn't get the wins we wanted, but we laid the foundation for years to come."
Connor Wood is on the clock. Only a little over nine months until the Buffs put a one-game win streak on the line against CSU at Sports Authority Field.