It's over. It's the final turn of the page, in my opinion, from the last regime to the new one. 23 road losses can be flushed down the drain and we can move on.
It has been the first thing many brought up when discussing the state of the program the last four years. It has been that gray cloud hanging over this team; a way to define the University of Colorado football program.
Coming into the game as 22.5 point underdogs against a team who had a great shot to win the Pac-12 South, it didn't seem like the Colorado Buffaloes would break the dubious road losing streak today.
But Jon Embree set a goal at the beginning of the season, he wanted this win when the Buffs took on Hawaii the first game of the year. He wanted the monkey off this program's back. He set a goal for this team and they accomplished it today against the odds. Embree got his first signature win of his career in the season finale.
Colorado led start to finish, never trailed. Coming out of the gates on the first drive of the game, the offense went 80 yards on 12 plays to take a 7-0 lead against the home team Utes. Shortly thereafter, the Buffs' defense responded and sent the Utah offense to the sideline after just three plays. A three and out. Colorado finally started a game well. Instead of getting behind like they did a week ago 21-0 to UCLA and like they have done so many times in the past, they set the tone, they put the pressure on the opposition. The defense played extremely well in the first half, allowing only 39 yards on 18 plays, forcing four punts.
But the Colorado offense left opportunities out there. The Buffs dominated the stat sheet in the first half but only scored 10 points with penalties and a fumble at the goal line preventing a 17 or 24 point lead going into halftime. You can't blame us fans for wondering if that would be another piece of the losing streak story we would be telling all offseason; how we had chances and didn't convert.
Utah jumped out quickly and scored after halftime to cut the lead to 10-7. I think many Buff faithful collectively said, "Here we go again."
Not this time. CU has been in a position to win on the road the last four years in the second half, they have had their chances but no one stepped up a made play. They didn't respond.
This time, Colorado responded and made plays in the second half. Not a ton, but enough and it led to a win.
Right after Utah scored, Colorado's offense drove 11 plays, 82 yards to answer the touchdown by the Utes to push the lead back to 10 points. That is when I knew today would be different. Old Buff teams would have folded, three and out. But back to back big completions to Toney Clemons for 50 yards jump started this offense and put them in a possession to win.
And then late in the fourth quarter after some questionable playcalling by the Buffs, Utah got the ball back with 3:14 to play. Surely, this is where the Buffs would blow it. After a horrendous personal foul call by the Pac-12 officials (one of many on the day), Utah got the ball all the way down to the CU 22 yard line. Colorado could have folded. Momentum was against them, the refs just gave Utah a gift.
But the CU defense responded with back to back sacks by David Goldberg and Jon Major pushing Utah back outside the 30 yard line and in a difficult position for a field goal. After some poor playcalling and clock management by the Utes, they attempted a 48 yard field goal that ended up wide right.
Never did a missed field goal feel so good.
The formula on the road is to make plays when it's crunch time and Colorado made more than Utah today. CU held the home team to just 89 yards rushing when they have averaged 192 over the past four games. Overall, Utah only gained 274 yards, their third lowest offensive output of the year. Remember, this was a Utah team that was on a four game winning streak, they were one of the hotter squads in the Pac-12 coming in.
Colorado's offense was led by their passing game. Toney Clemons continued his torrid pace in the second half of the season, grabbing four balls for 104 yards. Clemons has averaged 95 yards a game over his last five, a heck of a way to end his collegiate career.
For the Ralphie Report, it is a milestone. We have been running this ship since 2008 and well, like the many players on this team, haven't experienced a road win yet. Thanks for getting the monkey off our backs too, guys. We were starting to blame ourselves for the problems!
Great win for the program, congratulations to the players, the coaches and the fans. Jon Embree said it best after the game, this is a win that will jump start this program. Colorado hasn't won a season finale since the 2004-2005 season, they haven't ended on a high note and been able to recruit with a win fresh in people's mind. The current group of players can feed off this win all offseason. I truly believe this win will be big for the future of this program.