Utah’s defense suffocates the Panther’s offense to get the win

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Pittsburgh, PA-The University of Utah traveled across the country to face the Pittsburgh Panthers in their last non-conference game of the season. Utah’s defense was ruthless as they held the Panther offense to only 120 total yards including 40 yards passing as they completed 9-29. The Ute defense didn’t allow a single point. Nevertheless, it was a close game because of two special teams touchdowns by the Panthers in the first quarter to take the early lead 3-14. However, it was all Utah from there. The Ute offense was not impressive, but they didn’t commit a single turnover and had a balanced attack. Hays was able to shake off most of the mistakes that plagued him last week and John White ran the ball 35 times for 171 yards to help the Utes get a 26-14 victory on the road.

Pitt too the lead in the first half by scoring two special teams touchdowns, but Utah’s defense kept the Panther’s offense from scoring. On the other side of the field Utah’s offense was able to score three times.

On their first possession, Utah drove the ball 75 yards, using a nice balance of passing and running. The drive was highlighted by a 21 yard run by White that took it to the Pitt 4-yard line, but the Utes were unable to get any further and had to settle for a field goal.

The Utes spent the rest of the first quarter digging themselves into a hole. Utah’s special teams made a few costly mistakes on the kickoff that allowed Buddy Jackson to break a tackle and return the kickoff for a touchdown. Utah’s offense then went three and out, their punt got blocked and the ball was picked up by Antwuan Reed for another Pitt touchdown to put them up 3-14.

The Utes then spent the second quarter digging themselves out of that hole. Early in the second quarter Utah engineered a 71 yard drive with a heavy emphasis on the running game to get to the Panther’s 11-yard line, but once again they weren’t able to get any closer and again settled for a field goal.

Utah’s defense certainly did their job in the first half as they held Pitt’s offense scoreless and had a few power plays including one toward the end of the half. Pitt was backed up on their own 10-yard line facing third and 20. Two Utah defenders got into the backfield. One of them was Brian Blechen, who went up the middle and clotheslined the quarterback to pick up the sack and help Utah get the ball back with excellent field position, as they started on the 33-yard line. The Utes only needed one, lucky play on this drive. Hays dropped back, saw Luke Matthews open with a few yards separating him and Andrew Taglianetti, and threw it. As he started to throw the ball he was blindsided by Brandon Lindsey. The unexpected hit took the power out of the throw. The soft throw was on track to be intercepted by Taglianetti, but Max Gruder noticed that the ball was low and he reached up and deflected it. Gruder’s deflection caused the ball to go up and over Taglianetti and into Matthews hands. Matthews was then able to run up the open field for a touchdown to make it 13-14 at the half.

In the second half it was more of the same. Utah’s defense again didn’t allow Pitt to do anything offensively and their offense picked up a field goal early in the third quarter and another field goal early in the fourth quarter, but their offense just couldn’t put the game away, even when given the opportunity.

About halfway through the fourth quarter, Pitt’s offense was on their own 20-yard line. On third and nine several Utah lineman got to quarterback Tino Sunseri at the same time and Joe Kruger forced Sunseri to fumble the ball. Utah recovered it on the Pitt 13-yard line, but on third and six got a false start penalty and then Hays was sacked for a loss of nine and the Utes were called for a personal foul to make it fourth and 32 and also put out of field goal range. To make matters worse, the snap was fumbled so the Panthers got the ball on their own 48-yard line.

Once again Utah’s defense stepped up big when the Panthers decided to go for it on fourth and three. The turnover on downs gave Utah the ball back with 2:56 left in the game.

Pitt got the ball back with 1:36 left, but Derrick Shelby intercepted the pass by freshman Trey Anderson, who had several tries at quarterback throughout the game since starting quarterback Tino Sunseri was unable to get anything going for them. Shelby returned the interception for a touchdown to end the game 26-14.

Next week the Utes will go to San Francisco to take on the California Golden Bears.

sports@stgnews.com

Copyright 2011 St. George News. This material may not be published or rewritten without written consent.

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