The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

The University of Utah's Independent Student Voice

The Daily Utah Chronicle

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Bowl or bust

Three games remain for the U football team, and needless to say, objectives and priorities have changed. The Utes find themselves in desperate straits, as each of the next three games is essential to their survival, for better or worse.

At 5-4, nine games into the new 12-game schedule, the Utes will have to win at least two of their final three games to earn a bowl-game berth–and possibly all three. Such thin ice certainly worked wonders for the team last year, when Utah won three of its last four, capped off by the overtime thriller over BYU, on its way to the Emerald Bowl.

In order to get back, a similar late-season showing is needed. Players have heard that message time and again over the last two weeks.

“Coach Whit said we’ve gotta win two of them?I think if we win all three, we’re in for sure,” said linebacker Kyle Brady. “We’re not looking forward in any of these other games. We’re going to come out and prepare for CSU and get a win–hopefully.”

Of course, the Colorado State team that comes to Rice-Eccles Stadium Saturday is in an even tougher bind–the Rams are one game under .500, making it essential for the Utes to win out to have a chance at the postseason.

For both teams, conference-title hopes are pretty much out of the question–at the very least, the Utes don’t have much control over it. So their efforts will have to be put to use elsewhere.

While just weeks ago, a conference title was all players and coaches wanted to talk about, the circumstances have changed. They can no longer consider “just another bowl game” a disappointment–because, at this point, it’s their last and only goal.

“If we make it to a bowl game we’ll have a successful season. We have a really talented team and I think it would be a shame if we missed a full opportunity with the team that we have,” Brady said.

In order to do so, the team will have to find the consistency and continuity it has been sorely lacking. The Utes are scoring more than 28 points per game and lead the MWC in takeaways–an area on which Kyle Whittingham places a premium–but from week to week, the team is hard to predict.

An impressive all-around showing against a team like TCU is followed up by a blowout loss to the likes of Wyoming. An efficient offensive performance is followed by a slew of turnovers and mental mistakes. That has been the team’s M.O. all year.

“I know that we’ve had some ups and downs this year,” Brady said, “but if we come out and play the way that we’re capable playing–there’s been a couple of games where we have done that–then I think we have a really good shot of making it into a bowl game and having a really good year.”

Needless to say, the team has gone through changes over the course of the season–not just positional changes like R.J. Stanford’s recent switch from tailback to defensive back, but in the general mental outlook of the team as a whole.

“Every single win or loss, you’re gonna kind of re-evaluate,” said defensive coordinator Gary Anderson. “We’ve got a couple major goals and that’s to get to a bowl game (and) that’s to get a winning season.”

But no matter what is being said, the games still need to be played to decide the Utes’ fate, and the three teams left on the slate are all clubs that have given them fits in years past. This season should be no exception.

While Colorado State has struggled as of late, the Rams, like the Utes, still have the talent to beat quality football teams. Whether that translates into anything is another story. History may repeat itself, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.

“Our goal right now is to get to six?six wins. Technically, that gets you bowl-eligible,” Whittingham said. “So, all our focus is on this Colorado State game this Saturday. If we can take care of business there and get to six, we’re at that magical number and then we’ll worry about who’s next.”

Daily Utah Chronicle

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