SALT LAKE CITY -- Colorado coach Jon Embree had a death grip on that football
The poor pigskin clutched in the coach's right hand throughout his postgame press conference after the Buffs won at Utah on Friday was bound for a special spot on a shelf somewhere in Embree's office, maybe the locker room or elsewhere in the Dal Ward Center.
The victory was the first road win for Embree and the first for the program in more than four years. It ended the nation's longest road losing streak at the Football Bowl Subdivision level at 23 games.
At the end of a tumultuous first season at the helm of his alma mater, the joy and pride emanating from Embree in Rice-Eccles Stadium early Friday evening was unmistakable.
He looked like a first-time father celebrating the birth of his child and a winning lotto ticket on the same day.
"It feels great," Embree said. "... It was a four-year stain taken off this program."
Embree and his players watched the movie "In Time" on Thanksgiving night. It helped motivate the Buffs to make the most of the time they had remaining in their season Friday.
"What do you do with the time you have is one of the themes in that movie," Embree said. "So last night we talked about that this team has a life of three-and-a-half hours and then this team is done. So what are we going to do with that time? How are we going to maximize it? Are we going to find a way to finally put an end to this streak in these last three-and-a-half hours that we have as a team?"
In the end, the 2011 Buffs actually managed to achieve their No. 1 goal. For most teams the item at the top of the list is a national or conference championship, perhaps a bowl victory. The Buffs aimed to break their road losing streak.
Embree, who finished his first season 3-10 overall and 2-7 in the Pac-12, was most pleased for his seniors.
He gave quarterback Tyler Hansen a long hug as the two traded positions at the end of Embree's remarks and the start of Hansen's interview. Embree was so filled with emotion, he said he wanted to get back on the field and play again, knowing that opportunity won't come again for more than nine months.
"I told the guys thank you," Embree said. "I told them I know they've all, at different times, gotten the wrath of coach Embree, but it's just cause I love 'em and I expect more out of them than they expect from themselves. I just wanted to see if they can reach their potential.
"The No. 1 goal this season was to end this streak. So to get this win is special."