The Utah Utes are characterizing their week as a time for prepping for Colorado. But in reality, the week is more about picking up the pieces of their shattered goals than anything else.
For the first time in many years, the Utes (4-7, 1-7) head into their final game with no other goal than winning for the seniors.
Colorado at UtahSaturday, noon
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How important is pride for the Utes? Enough that they say they will give it their best to win Saturday when they host the Buffs (4-7, 1-7) at noon at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Utes, who have lost their last five games, know the offseason will be miserable enough since they failed to qualify for a bowl game. The last thing they want to do is go into the offseason on a six-game losing streak, with the last loss coming at home.
"It’s all about the seniors and sending them out the right way," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "If this crew was going to fold its tent, it would have done it a long time ago, so that isn’t a concern. They are a resilient group and I would expect no other mentality this week."
Still, losing the way they did at Washington State has rubbed salt into the fresh wound of failing to meet their main goal, Whittingham and others acknowledged.
After trailing Washington State 21-0, the Utes twice cut the Cougars’ lead to six points, at 36-30 and 43-37. After that final Utah touchdown — a 64-yard pass play between quarterback Adam Schulz and tight end Jake Murphy‚ Whittingham said he thought the Utes were going to win.
"We had the momentum," he said.
But like the way the rest of the season has gone, the Utes couldn’t close the deal.
Utah defensive end Trevor Reilly said the team is taking the loss hard, particularly himself.
Reilly said he didn’t even turn his phone on until Monday afternoon because he didn’t want to discuss the loss and that the flight home was even quieter than normal after a loss.
"I didn’t have a very good game so I am taking it pretty hard," he said. "I feel bad for the alumni and fans that we didn’t deliver this year."
Whittingham said he’ll wait until Saturday’s game is over before he evaluates and determines why exactly the Utes couldn’t finish at least at the .500 mark this season.
He took the blame, noting as the coach everything is on his shoulders, but he also didn’t discount the notion staff changes might be made.
"We’ll sit down at the end of the season when it’s complete and look at the whole body of work, at the strengths and deficiencies," he said. "We’ll adjust accordingly if we have to."
For now, the Utes just want to beat Colorado to have something positive with which to end the season.
Schulz took Saturday’s loss hard, knowing his two first-quarter interceptions put the Utes in a horrible spot, and he is determined to make up for his mistakes with a good game on Saturday for the seniors.
"This could be the last time they play, and you want to do everything you can to win for them," he said. "You expect that from the younger ones when they are in that spot."
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