Black and Gold Friday as CU Buffs beat Utah 17-14
Buffs had lost 24 straight games outside of Colorado
11/25/2011 04:34:49 PM MST
Colorado wide receiver Paul Richardson during the first half against Utah on Friday. (Associated Press)
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SALT LAKE CITY -- Someday way off in the future a senior on the 2011 Colorado football team might be sitting on a porch swing or couch with a grandchild telling stories of his days in college football...
Grandchild: What was your favorite part of college football grandpa?
Former Buff: That's easy. The camaraderie, the friendships, the practical jokes. Some of my old teammates have remained my best friends to this day.
Grandchild: What was the worst part?
Former Buff: That's easy, too. We never went to a bowl game, well, at least most of us, and we won only once on the road.
Former Buff: Yeah, but it was glorious. ... It was Nov. 25, 2011 at Utah in Rice-Eccles Stadium. The final game of our careers. We won 17-14.
It had been 1,490 days since the program previously won a road game. Most of the seniors were still in high school then. We had lost 23 straight road games before that day in 19 different stadiums. It was 24 straight games played outside the state of Colorado.
Grandchild: So what made the difference against Utah?
Former Buff: Honestly, it was speed. The Utes were one of the few teams that didn't have a clear advantage against us in team speed in all those games.
But there were other factors, too.
We had been severely affected by injuries on defense all season, but that day we finally had the bulk of our starters back. That was huge.
It was also the last game most of us ever played and the final game for the whole team that season. That seemed to give everyone a fire to win that wasn't always there in some of those other road games.
We started fast, scoring on our first drive of the day. It was a 12-play, 80-yard march. Quarterback Tyler Hansen dived in from one-yard out. It was the first time we led on the road since the previous year at Kansas.
Don't even get me started about that game.
Grandchild: What happened at Kansas grandpa?
Former Buff: We don't talk about that. ... Anyway, the defense held Utah without a first down for almost the entire first half. The Utes definitely seemed to be in a funk, and we didn't do as much with the opportunity as we could have, but we led 10-0 at halftime.
It was the first time we had shut out an opponent on the road in the first half in four years. We had more than 250 yards of offense at halftime and Utah had 39.
Grandchild: Why were the Utes playing so poorly?
Former Buff: Hard to say really. It was senior day for them and they were playing for a chance to represent the South Division in the first Pac-12 championship game that day. Maybe they were feeling the pressure.
Sometimes injuries have a funny effect on a team and the Utes suffered two early in the second half that seemed to energize them. Their leading rusher, John White, left the game with a leg injury and an offensive lineman, Sam Brenner, had to be taken off the field in an ambulance after hurting his neck.
Football can be a dangerous game.
Utah running back Tauni Vakapuna had rushed for 27 yards the whole season before that day. He ran for 47 yards in the third quarter and scored the Utes first touchdown on a three-yard run.
We came right back with another long drive and scored on a one-yard pass from Hansen to fullback Evan Harrington. We didn't use Harrington that much all season, so when coaches called his number on the goal line, he was wide open.
Grandchild: Doesn't sound like winning on the road is that tough.
Former Buff: We had a habit of making it more difficult than it needed to be sometimes. That day was no different.
Utah closed the gap to 17-14 in the final minute of the third quarter on a 6-yard run by Shawn Asiata and then nearly recovered an onside kick. Our best special teams player that season, Derrick Webb, jumped on the ball.
For some reason the offense just couldn't do much in the fourth quarter with the game on the line. Part of the reason was our senior running back Rodney Stewart was out for most of the second half with a sprained ankle.
Utah actually missed a tying field-goal attempt in the middle of the fourth quarter from 25 yards out. Still not sure how that one went wide right. The Utes got the ball back with just over 3 minutes remaining and everyone was on the edge of their seats.
Grandchild: Then what happened?
Former Buff: The Utes started moving the ball down the field with some clutch passing by quarterback Jon Hays.
With a little more than 1 minute left, the worst call of the season came when officials called cornerback Parker Orms for unnecessary roughness when he hit wide receiver DeVonte Christopher. It gave the Utes a first down and moved the ball to our 22-yard line.
David Goldberg and Jon Major sacked the quarterback on consecutive plays and an interception by Travis Sandersfeld was called back by an offsides penalty. Utah ran a bizarre run on third-and-13 and then ran out its field goal team.
The clock was ticking down, the ball was snapped and the kick sailed through the Utah twilight ... wide right.
We danced around the field like kids on Christmas morning who received the presents they wanted. We sang the fight song with a small group of our fans in the southwest corner of the stadium.
It was the first punch in a budding rivalry.
Those were the days, kiddo. Those were the days.
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