SALT LAKE CITY | Six wins isn’t exactly what Colorado or Utah were shooting for at the beginning of the season but that’s what the two programs are desperate for in the season finale.
The two meet Saturday in a do-or-die game of sorts with bowl eligibility on the line. The loser goes home without a postseason and the valuable extra practices that come with it.
“It really is like a playoff game,” Colorado offensive lineman Jeromy Irwin said.
The season went off the rails for Utah after a 4-0 start. The Utes have since lost six of seven as youth, injuries and an inconsistent offense in a new system repeatedly caused issues. A loss would leave them tied with the 2013 team for their worst Pac-12 record since joining the league and leave them with just the third seven-loss season since coach Kyle Whittingham took over the program in 2005. The program has been to three straight bowl games.
Colorado (5-6, 2-6 Pac-12) is looking for consecutive bowl trips for the first time since 2004-05, but has lost six of its last eight games.
“This university has a great history,” Colorado coach Mike MacIntyre said. “For years, you didn’t even think about them not going to a bowl game. That tradition is here, which it should be. Last year, the guys got it started and this year they want to keep it going. I know some of the guys that were here last year have been calling and saying, ‘Don’t let it end.’
“That would be extremely important for us to keep it going. … I think it affects the overall view of the program. Momentum-wise on recruiting and things like that, I think it makes a bigger deal.”
Utah (5-6, 2-6) modified its season goal after the losing streak to getting the senior class to a bowl game so the four-year graduates will have played in the postseason every year.
“It would mean the world,” Utah defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei said. “I feel like that would be my real senior day, especially the way this season has gone.”
Other things to watch when Utah hosts Colorado:
IMPRESSIONS: Utah receiver Darren Carrington is looking to make one last impression on NFL scouts after being limited by an undisclosed injury the last three weeks. The 6-foot-3, 205-pound senior leads the team in receptions (60), receiving yards (854) and receiving touchdowns (6), but saw his numbers dip with the injury. His 85.4 yards per game rank No. 3 in the Pac-12. “I like to think I did the best I could this year,” Carrington said.
STILL GROWING: Whittingham said quarterback Tyler Huntley had his best game last week, throwing for 293 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. He also rushed for 48 yards and a score. Huntley’s 65.4 completion percentage ranks No. 13 in the country.
“He’s always had confidence,” Whittingham said. “He’s doing a great job making decisions during the course of the game. The way he’s running the offense. Decisions in the run-pass game. Decisions when he’s making reads in the throw game just keep getting better and better. He just seems to be picking up momentum and understanding exactly the nuances and details of this offense. I’m excited about the future because I think he’s really starting to get some traction.”
RECORD BREAKER: Colorado senior running back Phillip Lindsay is one of 11 semifinalists for the Doak Walker Award. His 127.45 rushing yards per game rank No. 10 in the nation and the team captain leads the nation with 283 attempts. “I’m a soldier, period,” Lindsay said. “I take what I have to do. I’m going to continue to do that. That’s it. I just want to win for the program, for my teammates and my family. That’s what it’s all about. I’ve learned that when you play hard, good things come your way.”
FACTS & FIGURES: Every game between the two has been decided by one score since the programs joined the conference in 2011. … MacIntyre will coach his 100th career game. … The Buffaloes lead the all-time series 32-28-3.