SALT LAKE CITY — The University of Utah is bowl eligible for the fourth consecutive year following a 34-13 rout over the visiting Colorado Buffaloes in the regular season finale.
Utah concluded the game with 310 rushing yards on a 491-yard total offense night. Senior quarterback Troy Williams, who got the start in place of an injured Tyler Huntley, added two touchdowns of his own in the second quarter: an 8-yard rushing touchdown and a 9-yard rushing touchdown. Williams finished the night in his last game as a Ute at Rice-Eccles Stadium throwing for 181 yards on 15-of-24 passing.
Colorado running back Phillip Lindsay punched the ball in for a 6-yard rushing touchdown in the third quarter to give the Buffaloes its first score of the night. Quarterback Steven Montez followed that up with a 3-yard rushing touchdown to start the fourth quarter. The Buffaloes were unsuccessful on a 2-point conversion try following Montez’s touchdown.
With the win Saturday, Utah becomes bowl eligible after a rocky season. The Utes started out the season 4-0, but only managed one win against UCLA for the rest of the season before beating the Buffaloes.
Zack Moss is Utah’s latest great RB
It took the sophomore nearly six games to really find a rhythm running the ball and to gel with the offense. But in the latter half of the season, Moss has proven to be the next great running back for a Utah program that consistently churns out 1,000-yard rushing running backs.
On Saturday, Moss joined the elite club of 1,000-yard rushers, finishing with a career high 196 yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries. His physical style of play, running over multiple defenders and pushing for extra yards, had him averaging 7.5 yards per carry in the regular season finale for the Utes.
Moss finishes the regular season with 1,023 rushing yards and is primed for an incredible next two seasons with the Utes. Add him to a stellar returning quarterback, a more experienced offensive line and a receiver corp that is finding a rhythm, and Utah could be ready for something special.
Credit, too, goes to the offensive line Saturday for giving Moss the massive gaps to make big gains. All season I’ve been critical of the offensive line play — for good reason — but these last two games have been much improved. Consistency goes a long way on the offense when the offensive line plays well together.
Two words: bowl eligible
Sure, it took until the last game of the season for Utah to become bowl eligible, but it’s a meaningful benchmark for a program that lost several starters to the NFL last season and had to retool its offensive strategy. Although Utah wouldn’t call it a rebuilding year, the program has taken great strides throughout all the bumps and bruises of an up-and-down season.
Utah players and coaches never gave up and fought to the end, despite some frustrating and heartbreaking losses. It all wasn’t pretty, but a bowl game offers the Utes more playing time and more opportunities to get better for the next season, which is extremely vital for the budding program.
Also, it’s a great way to reward the seniors for all their hard work.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said after the game that his team was “a pretty good 6-6 team.” Although the record may not reflect it, Whittingham is right. Utah competed with every team and had an opportunity to win most, if not all, games this season. Anyone paying attention to the inner workings of Utah this season should be pleased with the record and fight Utah put up all season long.
It’s not time for wholesale changes moving into the offseason, whenever that comes; it’s time for Utah to build on their successes, learn from their mistakes and challenge — again — for a Pac-12 title.
One last hurrah for the senior QB
Senior quarterback Troy Williams has had an up-and-down career, moving from Washington, to the junior college ranks and then to Utah, only to be benched for a sophomore quarterback in his senior year. But Williams never wilted and took the benching as motivation for the times he did get in on the action.
And in his final performance at Rice-Eccles Stadium, in front of all his family, Williams delivered in stunning fashion. He didn’t need to be the flashy quarterback who rushed or passed for exorbitant yards. Instead, he needed to be a game manager, control the offense and give Utah a fighting chance in the game for bowl eligibility.
Williams executed his offensive coordinator’s game plan well. He finished throwing for 181 yards on 15-of-24 passing, while adding an additional 26 yards and two touchdowns on 12 carries, to will Utah to a win.
The season may not have gone the way Williams expected, but credit is due to the backup quarterback who was voted as a team captain. Many would throw in the towel following all his adversity, but Williams was always ready and tried to give Utah his best whenever he got the opportunity to lead the team.