Utah football: Utes end season with 24-17 win
There were a lot of forgettable moments for the Utah Utes in 2013. At least Saturday's season finale wasn't one of them.
The Utes (5-7, 2-7) ended their five-game losing streak with a 24-17 win over Colorado (4-8, 1-8) Saturday in front of 45,023 at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The victory did little to make up for the season's shortcomings that left the Utes shut out of the bowl season for a second straight year, but it did give Utah's seniors one final good memory of their home stadium.
The game fittingly ended with senior hybrid defender Trevor Reilly making an interception on Colorado's final drive. He chucked the ball into the stands in celebration. Utah ran out the clock on its next possession.
Arguably the team's MVP for the season, Reilly finished with 14 tackles, including one for a loss.
"I'm excited we won," he said. "We didn't play great in the second half, but I'm in a good mood. We won the game and defense closed it out."
Utah's defense set the tone early when Utah senior tackle LT Tuipulotu recovered two fumbles by Colorado quarterback Sefo Liufau, on Colorado's 34-yard line and 25-yard line.
Utah tight end Jake Murphy scored on a 16-yard pass on the possession following the first turnover then Kelvin York scored on a 6-yard run on the second.
Utah made it 21-0 when York, who finished with 132 yards on 31 carries, scored from a yard out early in the second quarter.
From there, Utah's defense continued to make key stops, holding Colorado to just 48 yards rushing and receiver Paul Richardson to just four catches for 54 yards, his second-lowest total of the year. He was ranked seventh nationally averaging 117.2 yards a game.
"I'm happy for the seniors, that is what this game was all about," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "We sent them out on a positive. This is a group that showed toughness and have fought through a lot of adversity this season and hung in there every step of the way."
Whittingham admitted the season has been a frustrating one, a sentiment echoed by Utah athletic director Chris Hill.
Hill said he planned to meet with Whittingham in the next week or so to discuss how to improve the program.
"We have some good things going," Hill said. "I want to take what we have to get where we want to be. We'll sit down and talk and see what are the things we need to do to get over the hump. There were a lot of games this year we could have gone over the hump but didn't."
Whittingham said his own evaluations of the program will start Sunday. The win over Colorado ended what he called a "miserable stretch," with the five-game losing streak being the longest since Utah lost six in a row in 2002.
"I am disappointed in it, the fans are disappointed in it, that's no secret," he said. "To snap that losing streak and go out with a positive gives us a little bit of momentum going into the offseason."
Whittingham didn't rule out the possibility there could be changes made to his staff.
"Anything to make us better will be done," he said. "Obviously we have to improve at a lot of things. I'll take a long hard look at all that."
Utah's players weren't too worried about the future on Saturday. They were just happy to enjoy a win, something they didn't get to experience enough this season.
"We came out and wanted to win this game really bad," Tuipulotu said. "Our main goal was to win this game and that was great."
R In short • Utah beats Colorado for the second time in a row to finish the 2013 season at 5-7, the same mark it had in 2012.
Key moment • Utah forces Colorado to settle for a 19-yard field goal in the fourth quarter after a holding call on Utah gives Colorado a first down at Utah's 3-yard line.
Key stat • Utah holds Colorado to 48 yards rushing. It is the fifth time the Utes have held a team under 100 yards rushing this season.