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August 30, 2013
Utes rally to down Aggies
It all started with an onside kick.
After looking like a team that was dead in the water midway through the third quarter, Utah rallied back from a nine point second half deficit to defeat in-state rival Utah State 30-26 on Thursday. The kick, which was perfectly executed by kicker Andy Phillips and recovered by running back Karl Williams, provided a badly needed spark that propelled the Utes to a close victory over the Aggies.
"The onside kick was something we had executed in practice and we had confidence that we could run it. Karl [Williams] did a great job of recovering the kick," said Phillips.
Utah's victory came on the shoulders of some unlikely heroes. Phillips was a perfect three for three in his field goal attempts and converted all three of his extra point opportunities as well. The most remarkable aspect of Phillips' game was it was his first football game at any level.
"[Andy] Phillips who was a skier and soccer player before this nailed some huge kicks. His onside kick changed the momentum and he was our player of the game tonight," said head coach Kyle Whittingham
Utah had other players step up to spark the comeback. Senior receivers Anthony Denham and Sean Fitzgerald both tallied career highs in yardage, with many of those yards coming after starter Kenneth Scott suffered a season ending ankle injury. Sophomore quarterback Travis Wilson stood tall in the face of a relentless Utah State pass rush to pass for 302 yards and two touchdowns.
"The team responded well tonight," said Wilson. "We never doubted ourselves and kept our confidence up. We were able to make some big plays downfield that set us up well for our touchdowns."
On the defensive side of the ball, ends Nate Orchard and Trevor Reilly spearheaded a defensive effort that despite yielding 403 yards of total offense and three touchdowns to Aggie quarterback Chuckie Keeton, made enough plays in the end to preserve the win.
Although Whittingham was pleased with the victory, he believes the Utes still have much work to do. "It was great to get a win, this was a hard fought game," he said. "We still have a lot of work to do. We are an average team right now. Our guys showed resiliency, especially after getting down 23-14, we didn't fold and kept fighting. In the end it was just enough to get the win."
With the opener out of the way, Utah turns its attention to improving its execution while taking on FCS opponent Weber State on Saturday, September 7.