The Utah Utes concluded their regular season with a dominant 63-21 win over the one-win Colorado Buffaloes in Boulder, Colo. on Saturday.
Here are three takeaways from the Utes’ regular-season finale.
Cameron Rising with a bounce back performance
After struggling against Oregon last week, Utah quarterback Cameron Rising looked back to his old self, albeit against a bad Colorado defense.
In one half of play — after amassing a 42-0 halftime lead, the Utes brought on Bryson Barnes at quarterback — Rising was 17 for 19 for 234 passing yards and three passing touchdowns.
Rising looked a lot better on Saturday and played virtually flawless. He started 2 of 4 and then completed 15 consecutive passes. You can’t play better than that as a quarterback.
Rising was able to connect on some long passing plays, something that’s been missing a little bit in Utah’s offense as of late. He had completions of 41 33, 31 and 29 yards.
Perhaps Rising’s most impressive moment came at the end of the half. With about 30 seconds left, he led the Utah offense down the field on a three-play, 70-yard drive.
Rising completed an 8-yard pass to Money Parks to get started, then a 33-yard yard pass up the middle to Dalton Kincaid. He finished the drive with a 29-yard touchdown pass to Kincaid with two seconds left on the game clock.
Is Ja’Quinden Jackson Utah’s running back of the future?
At this point, it’s safe to assume that Ja’Quinden Jackson will be a part of Utah’s running back plans moving forward.
Jackson has adapted well from quarterback to running back, and the transformation has been interesting to watch, as he hit the ground running and has been improving as the season goes along, becoming a legitimate Power Five running back.
Against Colorado, Jackson showed his speed and his improved vision, rushing for three touchdown and 117 yards on 10 carries to lead Utah on the ground. It was the first 100-yard rushing game of his career.
With Tavion Thomas declaring for the NFL, the competition for Utah’s No. 1 running back position next year will be something to follow.
Jackson, a redshirt freshman, will be in the mix, alongside freshman Jaylon Glover, redshirt freshman Ricky Parks, junior Chris Curry and 2023 commits Michael Mitchell and Dijon Stanley. Additionally, Micah Bernard is just a sophomore, although he was honored on senior night, leaving his future in question.
Colorado’s rebuild will be steep
The Colorado football program has a steep climb ahead of it.
The Buffaloes were among the worst teams in Division I football this season, winning just one game — against Cal in overtime. To be fair, Colorado didn’t have any “gimme” games, playing all Division I opponents — TCU, Air Force and Minnesota — in non-conference play.
Colorado ranked 127 of 131 Division I teams in total offense, averaging 14.9 points per game. The Buffaloes ranked dead last in scoring defense, allowing 42.8 points per game.
Simply put, Colorado has a lot of work to do to get back to the Pac-12 mountaintop. It’s been a steep drop from 2016, when the Buffaloes went to the Pac-12 championship game. Since then, Colorado has had only one winning season — a 4-2 record in the 2020 COVID-19 shortened campaign.
The Buffaloes fired coach Karl Dorrell and have reportedly offered Jackson State coach Deion Sanders the job, according to Fox Sports’ Bruce Feldman.
In the competitive portion of the game — the first half, before Utah pulled most of its starters in the second — Utah outscored Colorado 42-0 and outgained the Buffaloes 379-18.
Colorado was 0 for 8 on third-down conversions and 0 for 1 on fourth-down conversions. The Buffaloes only had one first down in the first half.
Whomever the Colorado head coach ends up being will have a tough road ahead.