Three Takeaways From Utah Football’s Final Game In Pac-12

Nov 25, 2023, 5:24 PM | Updated: Nov 27, 2023, 11:57 am

SALT LAKE CITY – It’s the end of an era, Utah football officially ended their time in the Pac-12 against Colorado after 12 seasons.

Both the Utes and the Buffs will be heading to the Big 12 in 2024 along with Arizona and ASU. USC, UCLA, Washington, and Oregon will be in the Big Ten. Stanford and Cal will be members of the ACC while Oregon State and Washington State are still figuring things out.

Utah took care of business against Colorado, 23-17, and still have a bowl game yet to be determined left to play.

Here are three takeaways from Utah’s final Pac-12 game and Senior Day.

Takeaway No. 1: Just Win, Baby

Things didn’t pan out how Utah football had planned in 2023 and yet they still accomplished a lot when you consider what they were up against.

No Cam Rising.

No Brant Kuithe.

Basically no Micah Bernard.

A good chunk of the year with no Logan Fano, Thomas Yassmin, and Lander Barton.

Ja’Quinden Jackson never was quite right, but battled through as much as he could.

Unrest at the quarterback position in the first half of the season waiting for Rising while still trying to prep both Bryson Barnes and Nate Johnson to play too.

Team-wide illness the last two weeks.

Jonah Elliss ending the last few games of the season with a season-ending injury.

No Barnes available for the last game coupled with Nate Johnson transferring leaving Luke Bottari as the only quarterback option.

Whew. That is a list of things to overcome with likely things still missing and Utah battled through to an 8-4 regular season record.

While obviously not what the team and the fans wanted, it’s hard to be too disappointed in a team that just puts their heads down and figures it out anyway.

“Great to end the regular season with a win,” Whittingham said. “We had a last couple tough outings and so to get back in the win column was big for our football team. I’m so proud of these guys for all of the adversity- for lack of a better word to battle and come out 8-4. Very proud of our players. They hung in there and never quit or stopped believing and came away with an eight-win season.”

Takeaway No. 2: Luke Bottari & The Run Game

As briefly mentioned in the first takeaway, Utah once again had to get creative with their game plan and rely on some guys they weren’t planning on using.

Luke Bottari was that guy.

Bryson Barnes is banged up. Nate Johnson felt he needed to go elsewhere. Cam Rising hasn’t been available all season. Neither has Brandon Rose.

Bottari’s performance wasn’t flashy. He didn’t break any records. He likely is exactly what we saw, BUT he went out and did what he needed to help his team win under very crappy circumstances. You can’t ask for much more than that.

“Obviously, Bryson wasn’t available- injury,” Whittingham said. “He got banged up pretty good last week and Nate Johnson has decided to transfer and so he was unavailable. We wish him well and appreciate what he did for our program while he was here. He’s a fine young man and we wish him nothing but the best. Then Brandon Rose had been working with the scouts all year long essentially and really hadn’t been in the offensive meetings. Luke had been in the offensive meetings and with the offense all year long. He knows the offense inside and out. It’s not a lack of confidence in Brandon Rose- it just wouldn’t have been fair to him to put him in the game in that situation without having had the entire season to continue to assimilate the offense and progress. Luke was the guy.”

Bottari’s first and likely only start for the Utes ended 6-10 passing for 61-yards. Bottari was more potent on his feet with five carries for 11 yards and two touchdowns.

Running backs Jaylon Glover who had a career night with 17 carries for 107 yards, Ja’Quinden Jackson with his 21 carries for 68 yards, and Sione Vaki with his seven carries for 68 yards helped to run out the clock and take the pressure off Bottari.

Combined the group accumulated 268 yards rushing and controlled the ball for 31 minutes and some change.

Takeaway No. 3: The End Of An Era, Beginning Of Another For Utah Football

Kyle Whittingham is very on the record about not being a sentimental guy. He’s always just pushing forward and with the success he’s had that makes sense.

Still, it feels like a disservice to not take this moment to think back to who and what Utah was before they joined the Pac-12.

A plucky, never-quit, always out-punching their weight team that accumulated impressive wins over the likes of UCLA, Michigan, and Alabama.

Utah was undersized.

Their facilities- both athletically and academically were not all that impressive.

Still, the resume was intriguing and the Pac-10 at the time had an opportunity for them to come on board.

A lot of teams would just be happy to have their foot in the door. Not Utah though.

They wanted to be part of the top-echelon and they accomplished that. Four visits to the Pac-12 Championship game. Two trophies to show for it. Two trips to the Rose Bowl. Some of it under unimaginable circumstances.

What a ride.

We’ll see how the next chapter goes. Needless to say, there is plenty of opportunity there too, if Utah wants it and they’ve shown they are not ones to not want something.

Michelle Bodkin is the Utah Utes Insider for KSLsports.com and host of both the Crimson Corner Podcast (SUBSCRIBE) and The Saturday Show (Saturday from 10 a.m.–12 p.m.) on The KSL Sports Zone. Follow her on XInstagram, and Threads: @BodkinKSLsports

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Three Takeaways From Utah Football’s Final Game In Pac-12