Saturday's 38-24 win against Washington State was one of the most important and impressive wins the Colorado football team has had in years.
Perhaps the most impressive part about the win, however, was how the Buffaloes finished the game.
Down 24-21 with 16 minutes to play, the Buffs outscored the Cougars 17-0 down the stretch and held them to 56 yards of offense in the fourth quarter.
For the Buffs (9-2, 7-1 South), who are ranked No. 9 in the Associated Press and Amway Coaches polls, as well as the College Football Playoff rankings, strong finishes have been a key element to this season's success.
"Our young men are performing well under pressure," said head coach Mike MacIntyre, who will lead his team against No. 21 Utah on Saturday. "They just keep playing. They don't get stressed out. Our coaching staff has done a phenomenal job of play calling in those situations, defensively and offensively. That's the key there. It's the combination of a lot of things, but mainly the players just not blinking and just keep playing."
Washington State was the most prolific fourth-quarter scoring team in the country before being shut out by the Buffs in the final frame last week. The Cougars had scored in 14 consecutive quarters before that.
For CU, that's been common.
The defense has allowed just 24 fourth-quarter points all season — 14 of those coming from Arizona after the Buffs had build a 42-10 lead. Eight of 11 opponents have failed to score on offense against the Buffs in the fourth quarter.
It's a testament to CU's conditioning, but also their confidence and the ability to make in-game adjustments.
"The main thing is (defensive coordinator Jim) Leavitt, and then on top of that the seniors and stuff like that, we're able to talk to guys and get guys in the right fit," safety Tedric Thompson said. "Another key thing that we do, everybody in the locker room is talking and telling each other what we see. I think that's why our adjustments are so good."
The offense has done its part, too, coming through with some clutch fourth-quarter points in key games. In addition to the Washington State game, there were three other times where the defense shut out the opposition in the fourth and the offense came through.
On Sept. 24, the Buffs outscored Oregon 8-0 in the fourth quarter to win 41-38. On Oct. 22, they were able to grind out a key field goal late in the game to beat Stanford 10-5. And, on Nov. 3, after going into the fourth tied 10-10 with UCLA, the Buffs closed on a 10-0 run.
Two players who left last week's game with injuries might be back on the field this Saturday.
Safety Ryan Moeller suffered a concussion early in the win against Washington State. He has been going through concussion protocol this week and has not practiced, but is improving.
"He made it through the stage he was supposed to make it through (Wednesday), so hopefully he'll make it through the stage (Thursday)," MacIntyre said. "If he makes it through tomorrow morning's stage, then he'll be able to practice tomorrow, so it looks very positive."
Receiver Bryce Bobo sprained his left ankle against the Cougars. He has not practiced this week, either.
"It's still going to be a game-time decision on that," MacIntyre said. "He didn't do a whole lot today, but he's a quick healer and we'll see what happens."
Left guard Gerrad Kough will not play against the Utes. He missed the Washington State game with a sprained ankle and is not ready to return.
CU is having to balance game preparation with the Thanksgiving holiday this week.
The Buffs will practice on Thursday morning and then take the rest of the day off.
As a CU family, though, the team planned to have a Thanksgiving dinner on Wednesday night, with players, coaches and coaches' families.