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Behind Williams and Phillips, Utah Battles To Foster Farms Bowl Win

True to Utah form, the Foster Farms Bowl was a stressful nail-biter, but ultimately the Utes (9-4, 5-4 Pac-12) prevailed over Indiana (6-7, 4-5 Big Ten), 26-24.

SANTA CLARA, Calif.—True to Utah form, the Foster Farms Bowl was a stressful nail-biter, but ultimately the Utes (9-4, 5-4 Pac-12) prevailed over Indiana (6-7, 4-5 Big Ten), 26-24.

Senior kicker Andy Phillips was a perfect 4/4 on field goal attempts, and running back Joe Williams rushed for a bowl-record 222 yards with a touchdown in his final game as a Ute.

Williams, whose playing status was uncertain due to flu-like symptoms, accounted for ten of Utah’s eleven rushing chunk plays of 10+ yards. The senior, who retired following the game against BYU, then un-retired after four games, ended his collegiate career on a loud and positive note, earning the game’s offensive MVP.

Though perfect on the day, Phillips made Ute fans sweat on a pair of his attempts. With 5:10 remaining in the 3rd quarter, the ball sailed left, then suddenly corrected right á la a Tim Wakefield knuckleball, and snuck inside the left post. Punter and holder Mitch Wishnowsky held the laces toward Phillips on a crucial 27-yard attempt in the 4th quarter, but “Automatic” Andy adjusted for what was ultimately the game-winner for the Utes.

Indiana’s last-chance gasp was restrained when FIlipo Mokofisi sacked Hoosier quarterback Richard Lagow at his own 21-yard line in the dying moments of the game. Junior college transfer Kavika Luaftasaga, in his strongest game as a Ute, hit Lagow on a Hail Mary attempt, causing the ball to flutter helplessly just a few yards down the field.

It was ugly. It was messy. It was exciting. It was frustrating. It was certainly dramatic. But above all, the Utes gave head coach Kyle Whittingham his tenth bowl win, and ended an emotional 13-game campaign on a positive note.

Kyle Fulks fumbled the game’s opening kickoff after getting drilled by Indiana’s Greg Gooch, which the Hoosiers quickly converted into a 7-0 lead on a Lagow touchdown pass to Mitchell Paige.

Utah’s season-long offensive nightmare in the red zone lasted only one possession into the game, when Andy Phillips kicked a 30-yard field goal for the Utes’ response to IU’s instant score.

Utah owned the next two touchdowns when Williams rushed 16 yards for a score after Pita Taumoepenu sacked Lagow, forcing a lost fumble.

Three drives later, the Hoosiers found themselves inside Utah’s 10-yard line. But one of a tiny handful of teams in the country with a statistically-worse red zone offense in 2016 than Utah is Indiana. Five plays later, Pasoni Tasini stripped the ball from running back Devine Redding, with Chase Hansen falling on the ball.

In two plays, Joe Williams sprinted 56 yards down the left sideline to Hoosier territory, and backup quarterback Tyler Huntley found Fulks on a flea-flicker for 36 yards to the IU 1-yard line. Eight ugly, penalty-saturated and mistake-ridden plays later, the Huntley rushed for a one-yard touchdown to put the Utes up 17-7.

Indiana responded to close the half with a field goal and a touchdown drive to knot the game at 17-17 at the halftime intermission.

Lagow threw an interception out of the third quarter gate, but Utah punted just four plays later.

With the momentum, he Utes lost their chance of putting away the Hoosiers soundly, and nearly gave up the game entirely when Williams and Zach Moss both lost fumbles in a turnover-riddled match with seven combined giveaways by the two teams. But Utah’s defense held off IU just enough, and with the help of a missed Hoosier field goal attempt, allowed just 7 points in the second half.

Along with the senior graduates, the Utes will await word from three juniors on the matter of foregoing remaining college eligibility for the NFL Draft. Offensive tackle Garett Bolles, safety Marcus Williams, and defensive tackle Lowell Lotulelei will decide in coming days and weeks about their playing future.

Kavika Luafatasaga Postgame:

Troy Williams Postgame:

Garett Bolles Postgame:

Marcus Williams Postgame:

Tyler Huntley Postgame:

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