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The Utah Utes played themselves out of one disappointing situation, and minutes after Colorado put the finishing touches on its upset of the Utes Friday, Utah defensive lineman Dave Kruger vowed the Utes were prepared to battle their way out of another unwelcome position.
Instead of playing in the Pac-12 championship game or winning Friday to snag part of the Pac-12 South division title, the Utes instead find themselves merely waiting to find out in which bowl game they'll play.
The Utes, who won four games in a row to become a factor in the South division race, would have been happy with just a bowl bid a few weeks ago when they started the league 0-4. While they went into the final week hoping for much more, Kruger said the Utes wouldn't let the 17-14 loss to Colorado affect their bowl preparation.
"We did lose this game, but we have been battling all season long," Kruger said. "This team can't get down on this. It's part of the game. It was our first Pac-12 schedule, and we had some losses but we won seven games for our first time in conference, and we will get that eighth in the bowl game."
The Utes won't find out where they'll play until next week, when the various league championship games are held.
Until then, the Utes are in sort of a holding pattern. Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said the coaches would go recruiting Sunday, then have a team meeting Monday and decide how to proceed.
The Utes have 15 bowl practices at their disposal.
A win could have possibly put the Utes in line with the Alamo Bowl, but now Utah is in a jumble with Arizona State, Cal and Washington.
"There are three or four scenarios that could play out," Whittingham said. "But we'll use all 15 practices."
Judging by Friday's result, they could use the extra time.
Just when it had earned the right to claim it was the hottest team in the league, Utah came crashing down in a loss to a team that was suffering a 23-game road losing streak.
Coleman Petersen missed three field goals, including a 48-yarder with two seconds remaining that could have tied the game, while the offense struggled, with John White leaving the game early in the third quarter with an ankle injury.
The defense gave up 264 passing yards to Colorado quarterback Tyler Hansen, who guided Colorado's offense like it was one of the top rated, not one of the worst, offenses in the league.
"We had a lot of issues," Whittingham acknowledged. "That being said, we had a chance at the end and couldn't find a way to get it done."
White, defensive lineman Joe Kruger who also suffered an ankle injury and offensive lineman Sam Brenner are all expected to recover in time to play in Utah's bowl game.
Brenner left Friday's game with a neck injury, but exams at University Hospital showed there were no broken bones and he had full motion.
The Utes acknowledged Friday's loss was a huge disappointment, but defensive back Reggie Topps said the Utes would rebound.
"It hurts," he said. "But we'll keep fighting for the bowl game that is the focus now."
Bowl Date Teams Destination Payout
Rose Bowl Jan. 2 Pac-12 No. 1 vs. Big Ten No. 1 Pasadena, Calif. $36 million
Alamo Bowl Dec. 29 Pac-12 No. 2 vs. Big 12 No. 3 San Antonio $6.35 million
Holiday Bowl Dec. 28 Pac 12 No. 3 vs. Big 12 No. 5 San Diego $4.3 million
Sun Bowl Dec. 31 Pac 12 No. 4 vs. ACC No. 4 El Paso, Texas $4 million
Las Vegas Bowl Dec. 22 Pac-12 No. 5 vs. MWC No. 1 Las Vegas $2.2 million
Hunger Bowl Dec. 31 Pac-12 No. 6 vs. Army San Francisco $1.675 million
New Mexico Bowl Dec. 17 Pac-12 No. 7 vs. MWC No. 5 Albuquerque, N.M. $750,000