ANN ARBOR, Mich. – Kaelin Clay returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown and Andy Phillips hit four field goals to help the University of Utah football team beat Michigan 26-10 on Saturday at Michigan Stadium.
The game was tied twice, the last instance coming at 10 all, before the Utes closed the game with 16 unanswered points. Utah (3-0, 0-0 Pac-12) handed Michigan its first non-conference home loss since 2008.
Utah held a 4-1 edge in turnovers against Michigan and the Utes did not allow the Wolverine offense into the red zone the entire game.
Clay returned a punt 66 yards for a touchdown at the start of the second quarter to become the first Utah player since Shaky Smithson in 2010 to return two punt returns for a touchdown in a season. Clay had a game-high 129 all-purpose yards (83 punt return, 33 kickoff return and 13 receiving yards).
Phillips set a career-high with four made field goals (from 35, 38, 48 and 50 yards) on five attempts (miss from 41 after the weather delay). Phillips’ four makes is tied with nine others for the second-most in school history and he is now 12-of-15 over his career on attempts from 40+ yards. The last time a kicker made four field goals in a game was Coleman Petersen against Pittsburgh in 2011. Phillips also booted five touchbacks on kickoff duties.
Travis Wilson completed 14 of 20 passes for 172 yards and one touchdown without an interception. He also carried the ball eight times for a net of 25 yards. Wilson left the game with an injury early in the second quarter after three Ute drives, but returned to start the second half. Wilson had 30 thrown 30 career touchdown passes, which is tied for eighth in school history.
Kendal Thompson came on in relief of Wilson during the second quarter, completing four of seven passes for 33 yards and an interception.
Bubba Poole had three receptions for a team-high 75 yards, including a 67-yard effort. He also rushed for a team-high 40 yards to push his all-purpose yardage total to 115. Devontae Booker had 34 rushing yards to go with nine receiving yards.
Dres Anderson made an impact with a 28-yard touchdown catch, his third of the season, that moved him into a seventh-place tie in school history with 16 touchdown receptions (Paris Warren, 16 from 2003-04). He caught six passes for a total of 57 yards and remains fifth in school history with 1,974 career receiving yards. He needs 26 more to become the fifth Ute in school history with at least 2,000 career receiving yards.
The Utah defense came up with four takeaways (three interceptions and a fumble recovery) to go with eight more sacks and eight tackles for loss. The Utes had 10 pass breakups, the most in a game since recording nine breakups against BYU in 2011. The last time Utah had 10 in a game was against New Mexico in 2007.
Linebacker Gionni Paul had a game-high 14 tackles, an interception and recovered a fumble in his Ute debut.
Jared Norris and Nate Orchard had a pair of sacks apiece. Norris finished second on the squad with nine tackles, including five tackles and a sack in the first quarter alone. Orchard totaled seven tackles and was also credited with a pass breakup.
The Ute defensive backfield enjoyed a productive afternoon as Brian Blechen grabbed his ninth career interception as well as a three pass breakups to go with four tackles. Tevin Carter had 1.5 tackles for loss, an interception and a pass breakup to go with four tackles. Eric Rowe tied Blechen for game-high honors with three pass breakups
Tom Hackett downed two punts inside the 15-yard line, including a punt at the 3-yard line in the fourth quarter. He has 14 career punts inside the five-yard line, including four this season.
During the opening drive, back-to-back pass breakups by Rowe helped the Utes hold the Wolverines to a field goal in their opening drive that gave Michigan an early 3-0 lead, but the Utes countered with 10 unanswered points.
A big hit by Blechen helped Utah put a halt to Michigan’s second drive with the Utes starting their third offensive possession. On the Utes’ next possession, Poole was sprung by a nice block out in the left flat by tackle Jeremiah Poutasi on a 67-yard screen pass from Wilson. Wilson then connected with Tim Patrick for Utah’s second first down of the drive, set up a 35-yard field goal by Phillips, his second field goal of the season.
Clay returned Michigan’s first punt of the game 66 yards for his second punt return touchdown and third return of the season.
Blechen came up with an interception after a pass deflected off the hands of Michigan’s Devin Bunchess. Unfortunately, Wolverine defensive tackle Willie Henry intercepted a screen pass by Thompson and returned it for a 7-yard score to tie the game at 10-10.
On the ensuing drive, Utah picked up three passing first downs and Thompson ran for one that led to Phillips’ second field goal of the game, a 38-yarder from the left hash to give the Utes a 13-10 advantage heading into halftime.
With Wilson back under center to start the second half, Poole took the ball three straight times in the opening drive. Booker first broke a 24-yard run then caught a 9-yard pass from Wilson along the right sideline before rushing for another first down. Wilson then found Anderson on a crossing route for a 28-yard touchdown, his third touchdown catch on the year, to cap a five-play, 67-yard drive that lasted 1:27 to open the half.
Orchard registered a sack on first down and Filipo Mokofisi turned in a tackle for loss that stalled Michigan’s first drive of the second half. The Wolverine’s next drive went 45 yards in 11 plays and lasted 5:35, but the Ute defense came up with a 4th-down stop to take over on downs at their own 38-yard line. On the following drive, Wilson found Patrick on a crossing route for a 22-yard reception to convert a 3rd and 5. Wilson also completed a five-yard pass to Anderson that pushed the Utah offense to Michigan’s 31-yard line heading into the quarter break that put Phillips in a position to nail a 48-yard field goal from the right hash to give the Utes a 23-10 advantage, his third of the contest.
Paul dropped into coverage in the middle of the field and came up with Utah’s second interception of the game. On the next drive, Wilson scrambled for a first down and then ran for 14 more yards to align Phillips for a 50-yard try that pushed Utah’s lead to 26-10.
Carter then played `center field’ to pick off an errant toss by Michigan quarterback Shane Morris and returned it 59 yards down to the Michigan 17 yard line before a penalty pushed the Utes back to the 32.
A weather delay with 7:51 remaining in the fourth quarter lasted two hours and 24 minutes (6:25 p.m. ET to 8:49 p.m. ET) and the Utes came out and picked up eight yards on their first drive out of the break before Phillips missed a 41-yarder.
The Ute defense continued to keep pressure on the Wolverines as Orchard recorded his first sack of the contest on first down of the Wolverines’ next drive. Michigan was able to convert a pair of 3rd-and-long situations to keep its drive going, but Utah was able to stop the drive when Hunter Dimick forced a fumble that was recovered by Paul.
The Utes host Washington State next Saturday in their Pac-12 Conference opener. Kickoff from Rice-Eccles Stadium is set for 6 p.m. MT on the Pac-12 Networks.
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