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Utah Football Snags Win Over Colorado to Claim Final Pac-12 Victory

After a tough couple of losses, the Utes were able to pull off a victory with a score of 23-17 to secure their last game as a part of the Pac-12 conference.
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Xiangyao Tang
Utah defensive end Van Fillinger (7) celebrates after recovering a fumble versus the Colorado Buffalos at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle)

 

Coming off of three losses in the last four games, the Utes had one more shot to record a victory in the Pac-12 conference during Saturday’s match against the Colorado Buffaloes. With the snow-covered Wasatch sitting in the background and temperatures approaching freezing, Utah fans made sure to bring the holiday spirit as they cheered on their Utes in the last game of the season, which ended in a 23-17 win. 

Recap

To start, Utah won the coin toss and chose to defer. With Colorado starting on offense, it was up to the Utes to put up a wall and keep the Buffaloes out and that they did. A sack from Connor O’Toole at the Utah 35-yard line forced a fumble, which Van Fillinger swiftly recovered, turning the drive over to the Utes.

In their first drive of the game, Utah quickly got down to business. A 30-yard rush from Jaylon Glover brought the Utes all the way up to the Buffaloes’ 10-yard line before a penalty pushed the team back to the 20. Sione Vaki came through to rush another 19 yards, and on the next play, Luke Bottari finished the last few steps to nab Utah’s first touchdown of the game, making it 7-0.

“It took a couple seconds to hit me, for sure,” Bottari said regarding his first college touchdown. “But I’m super juiced about it and ready to celebrate with my guys.”

Another sack, this time from Cole Bishop, kept Colorado at bay as they entered the next drive. Bishop continued to hold the Buffaloes back through a series of pass attempts and before long the quarter concluded with Utah sitting seven ahead.

Kicking off the second quarter on offense, Bottari completed a pass to Mikey Matthews for a gain of 14 yards, before another rush from Vaki grabbed another 13. A penalty on the Buffaloes for unsportsmanlike conduct enforced 15 yards, pushing the Utes to the Colorado 23-yard line. Utah had to settle for a field goal before moving any further, and the kick from Cole Becker added another three points to bring them to 10-0.

As Colorado turned back over to offense, they seemingly did not want to be left out a 30-yard pass from Jimmy Horn Jr. found the arms of Dylan Edwards for a short run to the Utah endzone. With the match now sitting at 10-7, Utah was reminded not to let their guard down as they moved back on offense.

With that in mind, Utah made quick moves to advance as they entered their next drive. Ja’Quinden Jackson made a series of rushes to grab 16 yards before Bottari executed a 10-yard pass over to Munir McClain. Another penalty from Colorado added 15 more yards to Utah’s gain before Glover rushed 19 more to get the Utes to the Buffaloes’ 5-yard line. Unfortunately, Colorado’s defense put up a firm wall, and Utah had to settle for another field goal courtesy of Becker. 

With a little over a minute left in the first half, Colorado came determined to make the most of the time they had left. The Buffaloes quickly advanced to the 29-yard line, and a 30-yard touchdown pass appeared to put the team ahead of the Utes. However, a review of the play determined the receiver lost control of the ball and it was rendered incomplete. Colorado went for the field goal instead, putting the score at 13-10 at the end of the first half.

Coming into the second half, Utah fans were spooked again after a punt from Jack Bouwmeester was caught by Colorado and taken down to the endzone. However, the play was once again nullified due to a penalty from the Buffaloes, keeping Utah in the lead.

Still determined to make progress, Utah didn’t waste any time on their next drive. Bottari sent a pass to Landen King for 18 yards, and another to Luca Caldarella for 16. A rush from Money Parks secured an extra 18 yards, swiftly bringing the Utes to Colorado’s 4-yard line. Jackson inched three yards closer, before Bottari claimed his second touchdown of the game, bringing the Utes to 20-10. Neither team could manage any more scoring drives during the remainder of the third quarter, and the battle entered the fourth and final quarter of the day. 

During the first drive of the quarter, Utah saw a series of short rushes from Glover, totaling 18 yards and quickly moving the team to the Colorado 8-yard line. Here, Utah made a penalty before the snap, pushing them back to the 13. Utah then went for their third field goal of the game, with Becker stepping up to grab another three points and bringing Utah to 23-10.

When the drive turned back over to Colorado, it was clear the Buffaloes weren’t ready to throw in the towel. A deep 25-yard pass helped push Colorado to the Utah 18-yard line, before another 18-yard pass found the hands of another Buffalo in the endzone, inching Colorado closer to the Utes at 23-17. However, even with seven minutes left in the quarter, neither side was able to make any more progress and the Utes claimed their last Pac-12 victory at 23-17.

The Utah Utes celebrate the win versus the Colorado Buffalos at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 25, 2023. (Photo by Xiangyao “Axe” Tang | The Daily Utah Chronicle) (Xiangyao Tang)

Analysis

Despite being down to fifth-string Bottari at quarterback, the Utes were able to perform in the first half. Utah finished the first half with 157 yards, 135 of them on the ground. Both teams entered halftime averaging 5.8 yards per play, but the Utes held the 13-10 lead.

Bottari finished the game going 6-10 for 61 yards. Despite throwing for a small amount of yards, he was able to protect the ball, giving up zero interceptions. Utah finished with 268 rush yards, highlighted by 107 from Glover.

“Jaylon Glover had his breakout game today,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said in a post-game press conference. “By far his best game today, with over 100 rushing yards.”

Utah’s rush defense once again put on a clinic, only allowing 37 rush yards. The Buffaloes were forced to gain yards in the air, with 225 pass yards, 30 of them on a trick play touchdown.

Despite failing to make the Pac-12 Championship, Utah finished the season with eight wins. The injury-riddled team finished their final Pac-12 game with a win, now joining the Big 12. Utah has been one of the most dominant teams in the Pac-12 since joining in 2011.

Utah joined the Pac-12 with Colorado, now wrapping their time in the Pac-12 with a win over Colorado. The Utes will join the Big 12 along with Colorado, Arizona and Arizona State, once again playing in-state rival BYU and reigniting the rivalry.

Utah’s season isn’t over yet, despite missing out on the Pac-12 Championship. The Utes clinched bowl eligibility with a win over USC on Oct. 21, and the Utes will likely play in either the Alamo Bowl, Holiday Bowl or Las Vegas Bowl.

 

 

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About the Contributors
Abbey Thomas, Assistant Sports Editor
Abbey Thomas started at the Daily Utah Chronicle in the fall of 2022 as a Sports Writer and is now Assistant Sports Editor for the desk. She is currently studying Cultural Anthropology with a minor in history and hopes to pursue medicine one day. Abbey is a die-hard fan of Real Salt Lake and Manchester City, and loves to travel and practice photography in her free time!
Sean Overton, Sports Editor
Sean Overton is the Editor of the Sports Desk. He is currently a senior and is majoring in Business Administration with plans to attend law school.
Xiangyao Tang, Photo Director
Axe is a photographer and the photo director of the Daily Utah Chronicle. He is from China and is a senior majoring in computer science and minoring in digital photography. Axe joined the Chronicle in August of 2021. In addition to his position at the Chrony, he is also a photo intern for University of Utah Athletics. When he's not writing code, you will find him rock climbing, camping, skiing or hiking with his camera.

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