SALT LAKE CITY - On his final play at Utah, Trevor Reilly dropped back from the line of scrimmage instead of rushing the passer.
As he often does, Reilly found himself in the right place at the right time and snagged his second career interception to clinch Utah's 24-17 win over Colorado on Saturday afternoon.
"I guess you couldn't ask for more. I got a pick on the last play of my college career to win the game. Personally, it's nice. More importantly it sealed the win. That's what I'm excited about," Reilly said.
A year of frustration was evident as Reilly threw the ball high into the south end zone stands before he was greeted by a horde of celebrating teammates on the sidelines.
No one seemed to care that the heave brought a 15-yard unsportsmanlike conduct penalty.
"Trevor has made plays for us for four years. I'm happy for him. He is a heck of kid and has been through a lot off the field this season," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. Reilly's one-year-old daughter has been battling cancer.
Reilly, who had 14 tackles, busted into the Colorado backfield several times but mostly played his finale as a hybrid linebacker.
"We decided to mix it up and it worked for me," Reilly said. "I know the defense inside and out after five years in the program."
Mixing it up certainly caught the Buffs off guard.
Senior Kelvin York rushed for 132 yards and two touchdowns for Utah.
In a matchup of the two teams at the bottom of the Pac-12 South, the Utes raced to a 21-0 first-half lead before the Buffs roared back.
On fourth-and-10, Liufau completed a 14-yard TD pass to Nelson Spruce that made it 24-17 with 2:30 remaining. The ensuing onside kick bounded high over the Utah line and out of bounds.
But the Buffs forced a Utah punt that was downed at the 10 -- Tom Hackett's third kick inside the 10-yard-line.
On the next play, Reilly dropped back from the line and caught the ball at the Colorado 21-yard-line to quell the Buffs' rally.
Adam Schulz, a former walk-on who was pressed into service when starter Travis Wilson was sidelined with an intracranial artery brain injury three weeks ago, completed 19 of 33 passes for 233 yards for Utah.
Utah broke a five-game losing skid and Dres Anderson became the seventh Ute to reach 1,000 receiving yards in a season, the first since David Reed had 1,188 in 2009. He caught seven passes for 94 yards against the Buffs, which put him at 1,002 for the season.
"We have had so many close losses this year. It was great to finally pull one out," Anderson said.
Liufau, a freshman, was pressured mercilessly in the first half but finished 23 of 46 for 241 yards and two touchdowns for the Buffs.
Wide receiver Paul Richardson had four catches for 54 yards and completed his eligibility with the Colorado single-season records of 83 catches and 1,343.
In the third quarter, Liufau finally had time to throw and lofted a pass to Scott Fernandez down the middle of the field for a 34-yard touchdown.
Just when it looked like the Utes would put the game out of reach late in the third quarter, the Buffaloes made a big play. Jake Murphy caught a pass near the goal line and as he reached for the end zone, he lost the ball and Jeffrey Hall returned the fumble for 42 yards. A 15-yard face mask penalty on Schulz tacked on 15 yards.
The ensuing drive stalled at the Utah 2, but Will Oliver kicked a 19-yard field goal to draw Colorado within 21-10 with 12:17 to play.
Andy Phillips countered with a 46-yard field goal for Utah before the Buffs made their late push.
The opportunistic Utes used two fumble recoveries to spark short touchdown drives in the first quarter. The Buffaloes had just 11 fumbles all season but Liufau was sacked by Tenny Palepoi and lost the ball at the Colorado 34.
Schulz completed three passes on the drive to Jake Murphy, the last of which was a 16-yard touchdown. Murphy, in his third game back from a broken wrist, had eight catches for 93 yards.
Later in the first quarter, Liufau was hit just before he threw by Hunter Dimick and LT Tuipolutu took the ball off a bounce and rumbled to the Colorado 6-yard-line. On the next play, York ran up the middle and Utah led 14-0.
York scored again from one yard out after Anderson highlighted an 80-yard drive with a 49-yard dazzling catch. In his final game as a Ute, York posted a career-highs in yards and carries (31).
Both teams have struggled since joining the Pac-12 in 2011 and this season-ending contest has been tight all three years, with Utah claiming the last two.
The Utes, who beat Stanford and lost nail-biters to Arizona State and Oregon State, have wondered all year what could have been without the key injuries and few friendly bounces of the ball.
"We felt we had momentum for the rest of the season after that Stanford win but then we had the injuries and it all kind of fizzled," Whittingham said.
After a 10 consecutive season ending in bowl games, the Utes have now finished back-to-back campaigns with losing records.
The Buffs, on the other hand, have not been to the post-season since 2007 but feel they made progress in Mike MacIntyre's first year.
"I do feel like we're taking steps in the right direction. I really, really do. This could have been one to help on the scoreboard also, but it didn't. We just need to keep moving on," MacIntyre said.