Do I have the time to write my dad’s lines
What can I say, should I jump in the fray?
I’m still in my prime so I’ll do just fine
While my dad is away, the son will play.
COMMENTARY — This is Josh Vance. My dad, Dwayne, got tied up with some issues (which is no big surprise — he has a lot of issues, but there isn’t enough time to go into that now), so I am filling in and writing his column this week.
Last week, the Utes went on the road to face Stanford. After a tough loss to Oregon at home the week before, Utah was hoping for another road win. However, the Utes have been plagued by more injuries than my broken-down dad trying walk without a limp on a cold winter morning. The most notable missing player was QB Kendal Thompson, who has been sharing the starting spot with Travis Wilson. At least there is no longer a QB controversy.
The Cardinal started strong in their first series of the game. Although Utah stopped Stanford short on third down, they converted a fourth and inches with a 37-yard run to the 10-yard line. Two plays later the Carinal had a 7-0 lead.
The Ute offense didn’t start quite as strong. The good news was they had three first downs and moved the ball downfield. The bad news was they didn’t get any points to show for their effort.
Early in the second quarter, a penalty on Utah after a punt gave Stanford the ball on the Utes’ side of the field. The Cardinal was unable to capitalize on such good field position as a few plays later Utah caused and recovered a fumble. The Utes rode the shift in momentum as Travis Wilson completed three passes for 47 yards and rushed five times for 19 yards, including a 2-yard dash across the goal line to tie the game at 7-7.
Overall, the game was a classic, throw-back, grind-it-out defensive battle. Both offenses were held to less than 300 total yards. This really came as no surprise as the Utes among the best in the nation in sacks and tackles for loss, and the Cardinal leads the Pac-12 in virtually every other defensive statistical category.
The kicking game was a real weapon for Utah. Stud punter Tom Hackett continued to show his spectacular skill by placing the ball inside the 10-yard line on 6 of his 7 attempts, with 4 of those downed inside the 5-yard line.
“Excellent field position battle won by our punt team and Tom Hackett in particular,” Whittingham said. “He is doing an outstanding job for us and leading the nation in punts inside the 10-yard line.”
Unfortunately, the Utes return team was not as good as usual. Penalties on three separate returns caused Utah to start deep in its own territory, which was a real shame considering that two of those penalties negated otherwise very good returns by Kaelin Clay that would have made a significant impact on field position.
With less than two minutes left in the game, Stanford elected to punt from Utah’s 34-yard line instead of attempting a 51-yard field goal to potentially win the game. Apparently Cardinal coach David Shaw didn’t have enough confidence in his kicker to put the game in his hands, and the game went into overtime.
After scoring just seven points each during the entire 60 minutes of regulation play, each team scored a touchdown during the first overtime to double the score to 14-14. Kaelin Clay caught the touchdown pass for the Utes and proved that he may have finally learned his lesson about showboating on touchdowns by running over to the referee at the back of the end zone and literally handing him the ball.
In the second overtime, Utah pushed Stanford backward to force a 51-yard field goal attempt. Ironically, the Cardinal’s kicker converted the field goal from essentially the same spot he could have kicked a field goal to potentially win the game in regulation. However, those three points were not enough as Travis Wilson found Kenneth Scott on a 3-yard slant for the game-winning touchdown and the Utes got the 2OT win 20-17.
“I’m proud of the way our guys continue to find ways to win and slug it out to the biter end,” Whittingham said. “That’s the bottom line. They just keep playing.”
Utah continues to make strides in the Pac-12 by beating Stanford for the second consecutive year. In fact, as pointed out by Clay after the game, this is the first year that the Utes have swept all of their games against California teams in the same season as Utah beat UCLA, USC and Stanford this year (the other California team, the Cal Bears, are not on the schedule this year).
For a team that many people thought would be lucky just to be bowl eligible this year, the Utes continue to give their fans a reason to cheer with a 7-3 mark and two very winnable games left to play.
Utah hosts 15th-ranked Arizona this Saturday in a rare afternoon game, kicking off at 1:30 p.m.. The Utes then wrap up the regular season the following week on the road against Colorado. The reference to wrapping up the regular season was intentional, and Utah’s season will ultimately culminate with a bowl game appearance. At this point it is not a matter of if the Utes will be bowling at the end of the season, it is only a question of where.
Dwayne Vance is a columnist covering the Utah Utes. The opinions expressed are not necessarily those of St. George News.
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