BOULDER—The results on the football field will never be what Colorado’s eight listed seniors and three fourth-year juniors who all played in their final game Friday at Folsom Field wanted. Nobody will ever question that.
Some may, merely looking at the results, question if these players truly gave it their all, all the time. Those who do would be mistaken. This group never gave up, and there is proof of that in the final game, despite what the final score read.
“I just want to thank the seniors for what they did for us this year,” CU coach Jon Embree said. “The effort they put in and their leadership. This is especially tough because it’s their last home game.”
Slated as more than three touchdown underdogs, the Buffs equaled or out-played the Utes in all facets of the game outside of turnovers. Colorado’s first three interceptions (the fourth was on the game’s final play) led to touchdowns for the Utes while the Buffs only fumble led to a field goal.
It wasn’t until the first drive of the second half that Utah scored on a sustained drive, and the Buffs held Utah to a field goal after a few big plays early in the drive. And it wasn’t until the end of the third quarter that the Utes converted on a third down, when they drove 12 plays and 75 yards, tying the game at 28-28.
The Buffs meanwhile, sustained its offense with four drives with 10 or more plays and four drives over 70 yards or longer in distance, a feat only otherwise accomplished in the Washington State win. Utah’s length of drive on its four touchdown drives was 42.0 yards while the Buffs was 76.0 yards on its four touchdown drives. What does that tell you? Mainly that those turnovers really did kill the Buffs chances of winning.
But when was the last time a team lost the turnover battle 5-0 and remained in the game? What does that tell you? That this CU team did not give up, they put everything they had into staying in this game.
But those nine players – Jarrod Darden didn’t dress and Ryan Dannewitz had knee surgery this past week, ending his career – all had an impact on this game, and most had a major impact on this program.
None more so than Will Pericak, who finished his career starting every possible game, all 49, a feat that will not likely soon be matched. He was given the Buffalo Heart Award, selected by the fans behind the CU bench, after the game. He continued to make hustle play after hustle play, a feat that NFL scouts have not likely ignored.
Ray Polk unofficially led the Buffs in tackles in his final game with nine and had a tackle for loss. In a synopsis of his career, he was on the turf for a while with a stinger, but returned to action shortly thereafter.
Jon Major was in on four tackles and had a pass break-up that he probably wishes he would’ve caught and it would’ve been a sure six points.
“I take pride (in being one of a few players left from his original class),” Major said. “To finish what you start, that means a lot to me. Hearing all the good things from the fans means so much more than what the records have been. I have no regrets, I feel like I am not leaving anything on the table.”
Doug Rippy was credited with two tackles but both were on a goal line stand that held the Utes to a field goal in the first half. He looked like his old self out there.
“When I first came here, I expected things to be a lot easier than they have been,” Rippy said. “It’s a challenge but that’s what we’re here for, to take up the challenges and follow in the footsteps of those that came before us. I’ll never forget the relationships I’ve built here.
“We had a lot of potential coming into the year,” Rippy continued. “Through injuries, we still played, and that just shows you the toughness that we had to continue to play and it shows people that no matter what happens, you have to continue to push.”
Nick Kasa continued to make us all wish he was converted to a tight end earlier in his career. He had five catches for 51 yards and at least 10-15 of those yards were dragging multiple Utes down the field.
“We all know the young players will turn it around,” Kasa said. “And that will mean a lot to us when they do. It’s hard to play as a younger player, I did it, and it was really tough, so I can imagine what they’re going through and they’re still making plays.
“As unsuccessful as we were this season, I think I had the most fun I ever have had playing football,” Kasa continued. “Some of that may be my position change, and while we didn’t do what we wanted to, I think we still fought as hard as we could have.”
Alex Wood had a huge catch, a screen pass he turned into 34-yard gain on the drive the Buffs took a 28-20 lead on, the grab coming on a 3rd-and-10. He was also the lead blocker for freshman Donta Abron, who filled in nicely for the injured Christian Powell with 84 yards and a touchdown on 14 carries.
Other than a fourth quarter kickoff to Reggie Dunn that he wishes he had back, Zach Grossnickle booted four of his six kicks into the end zone, two for touchbacks, and despite being called for a personal foul on the play, he issued an impressive hit and tackle on one of the ones that was returned.
DaVaughn Thornton had a nice grab over the middle and earned nine yards on his final collegiate reception. Dustin Ebner nearly had a touchdown early in the game and Eric Richter saw action on the offensive line.
Nobody knows what the future holds, but the futures for all of these players are bright, whether it’s on or off the football field. Regardless of their win-loss record on the field, all of them can and will leave Boulder with a college degree and their heads held high.