Utah closed out the 2023 regular season with a 23-17 win over Colorado on Saturday inside Rice-Eccles Stadium.

It was the Utes’ eighth victory of the year — a campaign that was derailed by injuries to key players all over the field and at every juncture. Utah played with its fifth-string quarterback in the game, former JC quarterback Luke Bottari, who was making his first career appearance for the Utes.

Bottari threw just 10 passes all game, completing six of them for 61 yards. The Utes leaned on the ground game. Ja’Quinden Jackson, Jaylon Glover, and Sione Vaki all shouldered the load. Jackson had 21 carries for 68 yards. Glover had his best game as a Ute, going for 107 yards on 17 carries. Vaki added 68 on seven totes.

Utah didn’t turn the football over and it dominated time of possession. The offense had scoring drives that spanned 4:46, 5:10, 6:39, and 8:25.

After an eight-play, 84-yard touchdown drive from Colorado clawed the Buffs within six points with 7:31 to play, Utah took possession of the football and never gave it back.

The Utes proceeded to run off the remaining 7:25 of the game with a 12-play, 44-yard possession. Bottari fired an incomplete pass on the first play, then Utah ran it on 11 consecutive plays. On two different third-and-shorts, Jackson took direct snaps and plowed ahead for first downs.

Colorado, which lost its sixth straight to close out the season at 4-8, was also playing without its starting quarterback. Shedeur Sanders, after being knocked out of last week’s loss to Washington State, was unavailable.

In his place, true freshman Ryan Staub started and fared well. Staub completed 17 of his 24 passes for 195 yards and a touchdown. Travis Hunter posted eight catches for 107 yards and a score. Jimmy Horn Jr. also threw a 30-yard touchdown pass to Donovan Edwards.

Fittingly, the final Pac-12 game for the two sides was not without a bit of officiating controversy.

On a third-and-7 throw at the end of the first half, Staub fired into the endzone for a diving Hunter. Officials ruled the play as a touchdown on the field but overturned it on replay review and Colorado settled for a field goal. A touchdown would have put the Buffs on top 14-13 going into the half. Instead, Utah led 10-3.

The review was heavily criticized by Colorado fans who felt Hunter maintained possession of the football throughout the play.

Colorado’s season comes to a disappointing close, but the four wins marks a three-game improvement over the 2022 campaign.

Utah will await a bid for its ninth consecutive bowl appearance (excluding the 2020 COVID year).