Utes Breathe Sigh Of Relief With Win
SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The No. 21 ranked Utes football team have become Oregon fans after beating the Ducks on Saturday 32-25 despite starting their second string players in the back field.
The Utes need Oregon to beat Arizona State Saturday to solidify their own path to the Pac-12 Championship.
At Monday’s press conference a reporter asked head coach Kyle Whittingham if he was a fan now going into next week. The coach responded quickly with, “absolutely.”
“They’ve got to play (Arizona) State, right? It’s at Oregon, correct? Then they’ve got Arizona after that, if you want to know who Arizona State has after that,” Whittingham said.
Here’s what’s at stake: If the Utes and Sun Devils win out their conference games, they will finish with identical records at 6-3. The problem for the University of Utah football team is Arizona State holds the tie-breaker after their 38-20 win over the Utes.
Utah lost both starting quarterback Tyler Huntley and starting running back Zack Moss in the same week, but bounced back to beat Oregon.
KSL’s Unrivaled host Alex Kirry said that has to be a good feeling for the football program and its fans.
“The reward on something like this is huge,” Kirry said. “When you lose your quarterback and lose your starting running back, then you beat a team like Oregon at home, you feel like all you have to do is beat a bad Colorado team at their place this weekend.”
Co-host Scott Mitchell said there was just one scary thing about that thought.
“It’s the, ‘all you’ve got to do,’” Mitchell said about relying on another teams’ performance. “That makes people in Utah really nervous.”
Mitchell said quarterback Jason Shelley’s performance was a rare thing to watch, coming in to replace the starting position.
“Jason Shelley played extremely well,” Mitchell said. “Quite frankly, there are a lot of things he does better than Tyler Huntley.”
He said Shelley was well prepared for the Ducks, and that offensive coordinator Troy Taylor had an excellent game plan. He also said Shelley seemed to have really good timing with his throws, especially in the drop back. He recalled the Utes first third down of the game and how Shelley made an excellent throw.
“He’s in his own end zone, and he hits Britain Covey without any hesitation,” Mitchell said. “Huntley on similar plays kind of held the ball.”
Kirry said the only thing that concerned him was the feeling fans have seen the Utes in this position before – going to Colorado and needing a win.
It 2016 the Utes were 5-3 in conference play and ranked No. 22 when they visited No. 9 Colorado. Although not in contention for the division crown, Utah needed a win to solidify their bowl position, but came away with a 27-22 loss to the Buffaloes.
“I think this is a different spot,” Kirry said. “Your defense is that good. The defense showed up (versus Oregon).”
The Utes play at Colorado Saturday at 11:30 a.m. on the Pac-12 Network.