When the Utah Utes traveled to Colorado for their season finale last year, they at least had a sliver of a hope of being invited to a bowl game if there weren’t enough eligible teams to fill all the bowl slots.
With plenty of teams bowl-eligible this year, the Utes (4-7, 1-7) don’t even have that slim possibility to motivate them to beat Colorado (4-7, 1-7) on Saturday when the teams play in Rice-Eccles Stadium at noon.
Colorado at UtahSaturday, noon
TV » Pac-12 Networks
Unfortunately the Utes aren’t one of the lucky ones. All they are playing for is pride.
Will it be enough? The Utes say it is going to have to be.
"We’d like to go out the right way, with a win," defensive end Trevor Reilly said following Utah’s 49-37 loss to Washington State (6-5, 4-4) on Saturday. "Being 5-7 sounds better than 4-8."
Reilly probably never thought he’d utter such a statement in his career, but that is how much the Utes have fallen.
A program that went from being a BCS buster and making bowl games every year is now wallowing at the bottom of the Pac-12 standings for a second straight season.
Say what you will about how injuries and playing one of the nation’s toughest schedules have factored into Utah’s record, but nothing except winning would make things better.
"It’s a huge disappointment for the seniors," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said, trying to put Utah’s position in perspective following the WSU loss. "I want to get into a bowl game for the seniors."
Utah goes into its season finale on a five-game losing streak, the longest such streak since it lost six in a row in 2002 in Ron McBride’s last year as head coach.
Utah’s loss to WSU also guarantees the Utes of another losing season, marking the first time the Utes will suffer back-to-back losing seasons since 1989 (4-8) and 1990 (4-7).
Colorado, meanwhile, enters the game in similar fashion. The Buffs lost to USC 47-29 on Saturday.
Their only league win was a 41-24 upset of Cal on Nov. 16.
With Colorado struggling on offense, averaging just 26.2 points this year, Utah should notch one last win to close out the season.
Still, it feels like an empty situation, tight end Jake Murphy acknowledged following Utah’s loss at WSU.
Getting Utah’s 19 seniors to a bowl game had been the goal all season, Murphy said.
"It feels like we let the seniors down, people like Trevor Reilly, Tenny Palepoi, the whole senior class," he said. "It hurts. It hurts."
Whittingham has complimented his team all year for resiliency and having a good attitude.
That resiliency will get tested this week.
"We want to get the seniors out on a winning note," Whittingham said. "That is the last carrot out there, the last step for our seniors in their college career."
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