The Utes (9-3, 8-1 Pac-12), who won their fifth straight game, rushed for 265 yards and held Colorado (4-8, 3-6 Pac-12) to 148 yards of total offense with the Pac-12 Championship game looming.
Rising scrambled and found Britain Covey on an improvised forward pitch for a 13-yard touchdown with 6:45 left in the third quarter to cap the scoring.
Thomas proved tough to tackle on any play, but especially when he powered through the first level and into the secondary to extend his school-record to 18 rushing touchdowns.
Rising was 14-of-23 for 179 yards passing. T.J. Pledger added 103 yards on the ground.
Colorado’s Brendon Lewis was harassed all game and finished with 84 yards passing, going 9-for-23, with four sacks.
The week after the Utes clinched the Pac-12 South against Oregon and ended the Ducks’ playoff hopes, Utah looked less than focused at the start against CU.
Not long after Rising ran onto the field accompanied by Creedence Clearwater Revival’s “Bad Moon Rising,”, he overthrew Brant Kuithe right into the hands of Colorado’s Mark Perry. His 40-yard return set up a 33-yard field goal by Cole Becker for the Buffaloes’ first score of the day.
Becker hit a 56-yarder on the last play of the half.
The Buffaloes exploited the Utes’ weak link — special teams — with a blocked field goal in the first quarter and an electrifying 100-yard touchdown return by Nikko Reed to open the second half and cut the lead to 14-13.
But Colorado never figured out a way to attack the stout Utah defense with only nine first downs, three three-and-outs and two turnovers on downs.
Aided by Utah’s effective rushing attack, Rising righted the ship after his rough start with two first-half touchdown passes, one to Kuithe and another to Dalton Kincaid.
On Senior Day, eight actual seniors on the young Utah team were honored but were joined by 10 juniors — including stars like receiver Covey, linebacker Devin Lloyd, lineman Nick Ford and tight end Kuithe — who may or may not return next season.
The team has rallied from a 1-2 start around the pair’s memory to win eight of their last nine games on their way to their third Pac-12 Championship appearance in four seasons.
Utah won 700th game in school history, claimed its fifth straight win in the Colorado series and finished the season undefeated at home.
HONORING LOST TEAMMATES
Colorado: The Buffaloes, who averaged 267 yards of total offense a game and ranked third from the bottom in producing offense across the country, were anemic on offense but opportunistic on special teams. Colorado also kept the Utes from hitting big plays in the passing game.
Utah: The Utes again leaned on their running game and made crucial passes when needed. It wasn’t a clean offensive performance and another startling failure on special teams, but the defense made sure the result was never in doubt as Utah now eyes the Pac-12 title game.
Colorado’s season has ended.
Utah will play in the Pac-12 Championship game on December 3 in Las Vegas.