SALT LAKE CITY – While Utah fans and media commentators were complaining about a holding penalty that should have resulted in a safety in the second quarter, Utah defensive lineman Pasoni Tasini decided to take matters into his own hands.
Tasini, a senior from Ephraim, beat his man and tackled Arizona quarterback Khalil Tate in the end zone to spark a 26-0 Utes run and help lead Utah to a 36-23 win over the Wildcats Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
With Utah trailing 14-3, a holding penalty in the end zone on first down by Arizona was ruled to have actually taken place at the 1-yard line. Replays showed otherwise, but the play was not reviewable. After a Utah time out and a delay of several minutes as Utes coach Kyle Whittingham made his case, the game resumed.
Tasini made the missed call a moot point by exploding past his man and straight into Tate for the no-doubt-about-it safety.
Moments later, Utah quarterback Troy Williams found Tyrone Smith in the end zone. Smith, though being interfered with, made a spectacular one-handed catch to help Utah close to within 14-12 at the half.
The Utes then dominated the third quarter, scoring on a Williams 2-yard run and an Armand Shyne 26-yard scamper to make it 26-14. Andy Phillips added a 35-yard field goal to push it to 29-14 before the Wildcats could regain their composure.
Arizona scored on a 37-yard field goal with 9:06 left in the fourth quarter to briefly cut it to 29-17. But Williams led the Utes on a seven-play, 67-yard drive to put the game away. Williams rushed for 41 of those yards, including the TD from a yard out to put Utah ahead 36-17 with 5:10 left in the game.
Williams played well at quarterback, passing for 245 yards and rushing for 77 more. But his backfield teammates continue to drop like flies. The latest casualty was Shyne, who crumpled with what looked like a serious knee injury on that last drive after he had carried for a 14-yard gain. Shyne had been enjoying the best game of his young career, rushing for 101 yards and a score. But the sophomore was taken off the field on a cart.
Utah, 5-1 overall and 2-1 in the Pac-12, had already lost Troy McCormick and Zack Moss to injuries and Joe Williams, who was the starter to begin the season, has quit football altogether. Jordan Howard may be the next man up. He rushed for 32 yards on five carries Saturday night.
Arizona, 2-4 and 0-3, had injury problems as well, with starting quarterback Brandon Dawkins in and out of the lineup. He did not finish the game after a rib injury early in the game and an undisclosed injury in the third quarter, after which he went to the Wildcat locker room.
The Wildcats actually outgained Utah 475-455, but Dawkins and Tate combined to throw three interceptions. The Utes had no turnovers in the game and excelled in the special teams categories. Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky averaged 50 yards per punt in the game and dropped five of his six boots inside the Arizona 20-yard line.
Cory Butler-Byrd averaged 29 yards per kick return and also had a 69-yard catch-and-run play in the third quarter.
The Utes moved into a tie atop the Pac-12 South with Colorado. They ended a four-game losing streak to Arizona. After beating Rich Rodriguez, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham has now defeated every active Pac-12 coach since joining the conference in 2011.
It is also the 100th victory for Whittingham as a head coach for Utah.
Utah is at Oregon State next Saturday for an afternoon (2 p.m. PDT) matchup with the Beavers.
Stats: Utah 36, Arizona 23
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