BOULDER Reggie Dunn got his hands on the football just one time Friday, and thats all he needed to send Utah past Colorado 42-35, sealing the worst season in CUs storied history.
I cant for the life of me figure out why they kicked to Reggie Dunn, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. But were glad they did.
Utahs last two opponents, Washington and Arizona, used short kickoffs to keep the ball away from the NCAA record-holding returner, and the Buffs used booming touchbacks at altitude to do the same thing for most of the afternoon.
Yet, following Marques Mosleys 100-yard kickoff return for a Colorado score, Buffaloes kicker Zach Grossnickle booted it right to Dunn, who responded with his own 100-yard touchdown return 13 seconds after Mosleys to break a 35-35 tie.
Buffaloes coach Jon Embree didnt say exactly why the Buffaloes kicked off to Dunn, but he did say there were some substitutes on the coverage team.
We had some guys that were hurt, so we had to put some other guys in there, he said. They got hurt like two plays before, so there was a little bit of chaos.
Dunn extended his NCAA record with his fifth career 100-yard kickoff return and his fourth this season.
Thats got to be the most memorable, man, said Dunn, a senior. The last game of my collegiate career and to end a game like that, unbelievable.
After Mosleys 100-yard touchdown, everybody was like, Just match em, Dunn said. We knew we could do it. We feel like were the best kickoff return team in the nation.
And the best returner.
Hes a beast, Utes running back John White said. Hes the record holder. You kick it to him, youre going to pay for it.
In a big way.
The Utes (5-7, 3-6 Pac-12) doubled their season total with four interceptions of Nick Hirschman, and they sent the Buffaloes (1-11, 1-8) to their worst finish since the schools inaugural 0-4 campaign in 1890.
Colorado also failed to win a game at home for the first time since 1920.
Tough game, tough loss, said a weeping Embree, adding he was infuriated that a fan berated one of his disconsolate players coming off the field.
The Utes, who hadnt won on the road all season, outscored Colorado 22-7 down the stretch after third-quarter touchdown runs of 3 yards by Tony Jones and 5 yards by Donta Abron gave the Buffaloes a 28-20 lead heading into the fourth quarter.
The teams combined for 21 points in a stunning 29-second span after Moe Lees crucial interception at the Colorado 30-yard line:
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson scored on a 9-yard keeper to break a 28-28 tie with 8:41 remaining.
Mosley returned the kickoff 100 yards to tie it back up at 35. It was Colorados first kickoff return for a score in three years.
Dunn then raced 100 yards down the Utes exuberant sideline one last time to cap his record-breaking collegiate career.
Its just amazing, Dunn said. They return one back, and then we return one, just hushed their crowd, and our defense ends it like its supposed to be.
The Utes got the ball back on downs, then punted before Brian Blechen corralled Hirschmans fourth interception to seal it.
Its a real good memory to have, White said. But you still have that bad taste in your mouth because we didnt get to a bowl game. But at least we go out on a good note.
White, whose right arm was in a sling after the game, ran 20 times for 168 yards and became the first Utah player with consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. His score from 11 yards out with 10:50 left pulled Utah to 28-26. The Utes tied it when Jake Murphy took the direct snap and threw a 2-point jump pass to fellow tight end David Rolf to tie it at 28.
On the next play from scrimmage, Lee picked off Hirschman. Four plays later, the Utes set up in a five-wide receiver set, and Wilson scampered in for the go-ahead score with 8:41 left before the teams traded 100-yard kickoff returns.
This game kind of summarizes the year: close but still a ways to go, said Embree, who is expected to part ways with some of his coaching staff, including defensive coordinator Greg Brown and maybe even longtime friend and offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy after going 4-21 in two seasons.
Tight end Nick Kasa, one of eight seniors, left Folsom Field with his head held high, determined not to let the woeful season define him any longer.
What defines me is we fought our butts off to win this game, he said. And Im going to keep that going in my life. The main thing that (we) learned is that hard work will eventually lead to success, and unfortunately it didnt here, but Im not stopping. Neither are any of us.