Photos by Rick Egan / The Salt Lake Tribune
Utah 34, Colorado 13
How it happened: From the start, the Buffs appeared listless and got run out of the building by halftime. Utah’s run game tore through the Buffs for 202 yards and four touchdowns in the first two quarters, racing to a 28-0 lead.
Turning point: In the first quarter, after Utah took a 7-0 lead, the Buffs had a solid drive that stalled at the Utah 34 and ended with a missed field goal. It took Utah just four plays to go 66 yards for a touchdown and make it 14-0. The Buffs never threatened again.
CU’s stars of the game
RB Phillip Lindsay: Finished with 72 yards and a touchdown on 18 carries.
WR Juwann Winfree: He made some nice catches throughout the night, finished with four receptions for 53 yards.
Bottom line: Colorado’s season ends with a disappointing 5-7 record and no bowl game for the ninth time in 10 years.
SALT LAKE CITY — Phillip Lindsay sat in front of the media one last time late Saturday night, pulling athletic tape off his arms as he talked about his final game at Colorado.
“No matter what, you’re going to get pushed out the door sooner or later,” the Buffaloes’ star running back said of his career coming to a close. “It’s our time to get pushed out the door, just like there were a lot of greats that came through CU that got pushed out the door. That’s just how it goes, and then the next ones are up.”
This wasn’t exactly what Lindsay had in mind for his exit, however, as the Buffs concluded their season with an embarrassing 34-13 loss to Utah at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
A year after going from worst to first in the Pac-12 South, the Buffs (5-7, 2-7 Pac-12) went from first to worst, and for the ninth time in 10 years, they failed to reach the postseason.
“We just didn’t get it done,” senior tight end/defensive lineman George Frazier said about the season. “We had a lot of opportunities to make plays this year, a lot of opportunities to win games; we just didn’t pull it through.”
CU may always look back at some of its close calls, and games where one play here or there might have made a difference, but this wasn’t one of those games.
CU and Utah (6-6, 3-6) both came into Saturday playing for bowl eligibility, but only one team played like it wanted to achieve it.
“We were equally matched,” Lindsay said, “but they came out with fire and they wanted it more than we did.”
It was stunning that, after a bye and two weeks to prepare for a game that could save its season, the Buffs were seemingly unprepared to face the banged-up Utes, who played without several players, including starting quarterback Tyler Huntley.
“I don’t know if the week off was more of a detriment than it was a help,” CU junior cornerback Isaiah Oliver said. “It kind of seemed like we didn’t really know what to do offensively and defensively. We were trying to figure it out on the sidelines, different schemes and different things to attack them with, but it seemed like we couldn’t really get anything to go our way, to go right. It’s unfortunate for the seniors and for this team.”
Without Huntley, the Utes ran their offense through running back Zack Moss, who torched the Buffs for a career-high 196 yards and two touchdowns.
Backup quarterback Troy Williams – who started all of 2016 and parts of this season – added two touchdown runs and 181 yards passing.
The listless Buffs were buried by halftime, trailing 28-0. It was the first time since CU and Utah joined the Pac-12 together in 2011 that their annual meeting wasn’t decided by seven points or less.
“It was just on the players,” senior offensive tackle Jeromy Irwin said. “They played more physical than us and they made more plays.”
Utah finished with 491 yards in total offense, 310 of those on the ground. CU had just 319 yards in total offense.
Offensively, quarterback Steven Montez misfired on several passes and had others dropped in the first half, and running the football was an issue, as well. Lindsay finished 72 yards on 18 carries, and the Buffs had just 124 rushing yards.
The Buffs did put up a bit of a fight in the second half, as Lindsay and Montez both scored rushing touchdowns to pull the Buffs within 31-13.
CU had a shot to make it a game after forcing a Utah punt and then driving to the Utah 14 early in the fourth, but Montez was sacked by Bradlee Anae, who also stripped the ball. The Utes’ Cody Barton recovered the fumble with 13:17 to play.
“They played harder in the second half than they did in the first half, really,” MacIntyre said of his players. “More energy, more emotional. We have a touchdown – if we look to the right, it’s 31-20. There’s nobody within 20 yards of our receiver. That wasn’t all (Montez’s) fault.
“I thought (the Buffs) came out and fought in the second half with resiliency and fire.”
Had they done that in the first half, the season might not be over, but this season was defined by wouldas and couldas.
“It was tough,” Oliver said. “We expected to do a lot better. We expected to play a lot better in every single game than we had. We expected our record to be better, but things work out different ways. We fought hard throughout the year, even after some tough losses early on. We came back and kept on working, kept on going.
“We had a chance to go to a bowl game and we just came up a little short.”
Contact staff writer Brian Howell at email@example.com or twitter.com/BrianHowell33