Plenty Of Positives For Utes In Future

Jan 3, 2019, 6:14 PM
Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15) passes the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats during N...
Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15) passes the ball against the Northwestern Wildcats during NCAA football at the Holiday Bowl in San Diego on Monday, Dec. 31, 2018. (Ravell Call, Deseret News)
(Ravell Call, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Even though the Utah Utes suffered a bad loss in a 31-20 defeat to Northwestern in the 2018 Holiday Bowl, there are still plenty of positives for the Utes going forward.

“You judge the body of work as a whole,” said head coach Kyle Whittingham after the game. “You don’t judge the season on one game. It’s a 9-5 season. They won the South. So a lot of positives.”

Even though they fell in their last two games, it was a historic season of sorts for Utah. For the first time since joining the Pac-12 Conference in 2011, the Utes won the South division and got the opportunity to play in the conference championship game.

The Utes fell in that game, a 10-3 loss to Washington.

Utes Played Injured

While they’re not using it as an excuse, the Utes went into their final stretch of the season with season-ending injuries to key positions. Leading rusher Zach Moss was lost for the final four games with a knee injury, while quarterback Tyler Huntley also went down and missed a similar period of time with a broken collarbone. The Utes also lost their best defensive player, linebacker Chase Hansen to an undisclosed injury, prior to the bowl game.

In the absence of Moss and Shelley, running back Armand Shyne and quarterback Jason Shelley stepped up and led their team to pair of big wins over Colorado and BYU. While Shelley struggled in the bowl game, both players showed they are capable of performing in the future if called upon.

Returning Talent

While Whittingham acknowledged it was a shame to send this year’s senior class out with a loss, the Utes should benefit from the fact that it was a very small senior class. The Utes had just 14 seniors on the roster, something that Whittingham believes may be the fewest that he’s seen in 25 years with the program.

The Utes also started just six seniors in the bowl game, three on offense and three on defense. That means they’ll have a lot of returning experience next season.

Utah’s 2019 season will begin with rival BYU on August 29th.

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