Kyle Whittingham said his team simply would not be denied.
The #4 Utes (6-0, 3-0 Pac-12) escaped with a 34-18 win over the Arizona State Sun Devils (4-3, 2-2 Pac-12) and now hold a 2-game lead in the Pac-12 South division.
Special teams has been a hallmark of the Utes for the past several years, but tonight’s game was almost lost because of special teams. The Utes allowed a kickoff return touchdown immediately after taking their first lead. They allowed ASU punt returner Gump Hayes to return a punt 48 yards, only to be held from the end zone by a Tom Hackett desperation tackle. Britain Covey threw a pass forward in the end zone on a kickoff return for an automatic safety.
Devontae Booker was held at bay by a relentless Sun Devil blitz attack for nearly 51 minutes. But Travis Wilson and the brick wall Utah defense found a way to win.
Wilson maintained composure under constant pressure, throwing for 297 yards, completing 26 of 36 passing attempts for 2 touchdowns while enduring 5 sacks. He found longtime teammate Kenneth Scott for 5 receptions, 116 yards, a touchdown, and a Sportscenter Top 10 42-yard reception to the ASU red zone.
Arizona State senior quarterback Mike Bercovici likewise took 5 sacks. The Utes allowed 242 passing yards, but held the Sun Devils to only 15 net rushing yards.
The turning point came when Utah trailed 18-14, and Arizona State punter Matt Haack shanked his kick out-of-bounds for only 20 yards to the ASU 32. On 3rd and 3, Wilson pitched the ball outside to Booker, who took it through the ASU defense for a 25-yard touchdown to put the Utes up for good.
The remaining 4 ASU possessions ended in a punt, lost fumble (which Utah converted into a made field goal), turnover on downs, and a game-ending interception by Utah cornerback Cory Butler-Byrd.
After escaping with their hardest-won victory, Utah will head southwest next week to Los Angeles to face the USC Trojans (3-3, 1-2 Pac-12). Kickoff will be at 5:30 MT on ESPN700 and FOX TV.
Kyle Whittingham Postgame Press Conference:
Britain Covey, Gionni Paul, Kenneth Scott, and Travis Wilson Postgame Press Conference:
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