by Scott Funk (@scottfunk0)
Salt Lake City – Troy Williams. Not the name we expected to hear tonight, but it was the name of the quarterback that led the University of Utah football team (4-0,1-0) to a 30-24 victory over the Arizona Wildcats (2-2,0-1) in Tucson on Friday night.
Tyler Huntley started the game nearly perfect. He led the Utes down the field on their first drive capping off the drive with a 8-yard touchdown strike to Samson Nacua to take the early 7-0 lead.
After trading field goals, Huntley was leading the Utes on another drive before he was hit hard on a scramble and went down with an apparent right shoulder injury. He would exit the game and go straight to the locker room. He finished the game 8-9 for 98 yards and one TD. Huntley would return to the bench in the fourth quarter with his right arm in a sling.
Troy Williams entered the game, and on his first throw, completed a 40-yard pass to Darren Carrington, showing his confidence. The drive would end with another Matt Gay FG to make the score 13-3 with 5:39 to play in the half.
Late in the second quarter senior Kylie Fitts would go down with an apparent left ankle injury and would also head into the locker room. He returned to the field with Huntley in the fourth quarter, but was on crutches.
“I do not believe there are any season-ending injuries,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham after the game. “To my knowledge there aren’t any, and after early diagnosis, there shouldn’t be.”
After a late TD by the Wildcats, Utah would go into the half with a 13-10 lead.
After costly penalties in the 3rd quarter the Utes found themselves in a daunting 2nd and 30 from the 50. But two plays later, and after a 30 yard dime-of-a-throw from Williams to Demari Simpkins, it was first and goal from the two for the Utes. Troy Williams would get his first TD of the year two plays later on a 1-yard TD run to make the score 20-10 with 9:46 to play in the 3rd.
Arizona would quickly strike back and pull the score to 20-17 after a JJ Taylor 7-yard TD run with 4:38 to play in the third quarter.
The next score would be the first defensive score of the year for the Utes when freshman Javelin Guidry snagged the first pick-six of his career, running it back 14 yards to put the Utes up 27-17 with 2:03 to play in the third.
Matt Gay seemed to put the game away with his 14th FG of the year (14-14) to put the Utes up 30-17 with 4:58 to play. But Arizona would march down the field on their next possession and finish the drive with a 30-yard TD pass to Tony Ellison from Brandon Dawkins. On the ensuing kick-off the Wildcats would recover the onside kick to put Ute fans on the edge of their seat with 2:41 to play.
On their first play, Dawkins fumbled the ball and the Utes would recover to put their offense back on the field. The Arizona defense would hold to force the Utes to punt, and they would get the ball back with 2:07 to play, needing to go 75 yards for the TD and PAT for the win.
But the comeback would fall short after a pressured Dawkins put the ball up in the air and Corrion Ballard would come down with the interception, and fifth turnover of the night, to seal the victory for the Utes.
The Utes would finish the night with 112 rushing yards and 229 passing yards for a total of 341 on the night. The story of the night, and key factor that Whittingham said would have the biggest impact of the game, was the Utah rush defense vs the Arizona run offense. Utah’s defense would give up 448 total yards, but held the Wildcats to 200 yards rushing, holding them 128 yards below their average.
Zack Moss led the rush attack for the Utes with 73 yards on 14 carries. Darren Carrington led the receiving unit for the Utes with 76 yards on four receptions.
Troy Williams would finish the game 9-18 for 131 yards and had one TD run.
“It felt good to lift my team up and be the next man up,” said Williams. “I’ve prepared myself week in and week out as if I’m the starter. I grind every day to make sure I’m ready for when my name is called, and tonight it was called.”
The Utes go into a much needed bye week after racking up a number of injuries in their Pac-12 opener. They will return back to action on October 7th up at Rice-Eccles Stadium when they take on the Stanford Cardinal, time TBD.