The #24 Utah Utes rallied in the second half to beat the Arizona Wildcats in Pac-12 play on Saturday, 36-23.
SALT LAKE CITY—The #24 Utah Utes rallied in the second half to beat the Arizona Wildcats in Pac-12 play on Saturday, 36-23. The Utes snapped a four-game losing streak to their foes from the desert.
It was slow start for the Utes (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12), to say the least. Arizona’s first play after the opening kickoff was a 75-yard touchdown pass from Brandon Dawkins to Shun Brown. The Utes then commenced a string of penalties, totaling 14 through the game, including nine false starts from seven different players.
Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham said the false start issues were in part due to Arizona’s defensive linemen mimicking the Utes’ snap count. “That’s not part of the game,” Whittingham said. “It’s illegal to make a ‘go’ call. Unless all five of our linemen were lying…they all say they were getting disconcerting signals.”
As Utah entered the Wildcats’ (2-4, 0-3 Pac-12) red zone late in the first half, the frustrated crowd of over 45,000 booed loudly as the Utes offense backed up all the way to a 3rd and 42 due to one false start after another, with a holding call mixed in.
Backed up against their own goal line after one of several terrific Mitch Wishnowsky punts, Arizona succumbed to a safety, as Pasoni Tasini squashed quarterback Khalil Tate. With the score now at 14-5, Utah finally had a taste of momentum. With the ball once again, the Utes drove 47 yards, and Troy Williams found Tyrone Smith on a contested fade route to bring the game within two points.
After a likely fiery halftime speech that quarterback Williams summarized simply (tongue-in-cheek) as “Go Utes,” Whittingham helped his team right the offensive ship. The Utes surged back, taking their first lead when Williams rushed for a touchdown just moments into the second half.
The Wildcats’ next promising drive came to a sudden halt when Chase Hansen obliterated Arizona’s Nate Phillips in the middle of the field. As the ball trickled down Phillips’ leg, fellow safety Marcus Williams alertly scooped up the ball for an interception in one of the highlight plays of the season for Utah.
Utah followed up the play with 26-yard touchdown run by Armand Shyne. He finished with 101 yards rushing on 19 attempts before going down with a right knee injury, and will be further evaluated over the weekend.
Dominique Hatfield came up with Utah’s third interception on a gifted mistake from Tate, which was converted into an Andy Phillips 35-yard field goal to put the Utes up 29-14. Williams scored a second rushing touchdown in the 4th quarter to give the Utes their scoring total of 36 before sailing relatively smoothly to their second conference victory.
The win marked Whittingham’s 100th win as Utah’s head coach, a milestone achieved in his 12th season in the position. True to form, Whittingham was quick to give credit to his players. “The 100th win just means that I’ve had the opportunity to have a lot of good players on our football team,” he said after the game. “That’s really what it means. I appreciate those guys, every one of them…That’s how you get to a milestone like that. It’s not the coaching, it’s the players.
Utah will hit the road to Corvallis, Oregon next Saturday to face the Oregon State Beavers. Kickoff will be at 2:00 p.m. MT, with pregame coverage beginning at 10:00 a.m. on ESPN 700.
Kyle Whittingham Postgame Press Conference:
Chase Hansen, Marcus Williams, Troy Williams Postgame Press Conference:
Kyle Whittingham, Utah Sports Radio Network Postgame:
Chase Hansen Network Postgame:
Nick Nowakowski Postgame:
Cory Butler-Byrd Postgame: