football Edit

Utah Defeats ASU and Becomes Pac-12 South Favorites

The University of Utah took on Arizona State Saturday night for the sole possession of the Pac-12 South. The game was a tale of two halves as Utah was largely dominated in the first half, but took complete control in the second half and punched ASU in the mouth. Utah ended up with a come-from-behind victory in which they looked like a totally different team in the second half.

The game started out with easy opening drive touchdowns from both Arizona State and Utah to tie up the game 7-7. It looked like it could end up being higher scoring than anticipated, but after that, both offenses stalled for the majority of the first half.

The latter portion of the second quarter momentum really started to swing Arizona State’s way. Utah’s defense began to get gashed on the ground and the Sun Devils also had success through the air. Jayden Daniels completed a 59-yard pass to LV Bunkley-Shelton, in which Utah seemed to forget how to tackle.

Then, Daniels ran it in for a touchdown himself the next play to make it 14-7. Not long after, the Sun Devils had another dominant drive on the ground ending with Daniels’s second touchdown pass of the game. It would make it 21-7 with only a minute to go to halftime. That would be the last time they scored.

Utah’s offense couldn’t find a rhythm at all after their early touchdown. They struggled running the ball with only 63 yards on the ground in the first half. Utah quarterback Cam Rising was also having trouble finding his receivers. Between drops, some inaccurate passes, and mistimed routes, Rising only completed 8-18 passes in the first half along with two interceptions, one coming on a promising drive right before the break. They would enter halftime down 14 with essentially nothing going their way.

“I think we know how to take adversity and we know how to do it together,” said Rising. “Not just focus on pointing fingers at what we are doing wrong or trying to figure out this, this, and that, but just staying together in those situations.”

Utah safety Vonte Davis also talked about how the team can come together in difficult moments like being down and out at halftime.

“I lean on my brothers,” said Davis. “They make plays, and what plays they can’t make I try to backdoor and help them out with it. To have them there with me just boosts my confidence more.”

Utah came out in the second half and put on a clinic on how to handle adversity. The defense held Arizona State scoreless as the Sun Devils struggled to move the ball. After having 288 yards of total offense in the first half, Utah held Arizona State to only 97 total yards in the second half for a total of 3.3 yards per play.

The defense is not the only side of the ball that came to play in the second half. The offense put up 28 unanswered points scoring touchdowns on all four of their second half drives. The rushing attack came back with a vengeance led by Tavion Thomas. Utah ended up finishing the game with 208 rushing yards after only having 63 at halftime. Rising got into a groove as well, completing 13-15 passes in the second half for 140 yards and two touchdowns. Both touchdown passes went to tight end Brant Kuithe, who made his impact felt despite only three receptions.

“(Rising) was 8-18 in the first half and ended up with an outstanding night,” said Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham. “(We’ve) got a lot of faith in Cam Rising. He is a great leader for us and the players believe in him. Tavion Thomas also gave us a spark. The tight ends, their usual contribution, those guys are an outstanding position group with Kincaid, Kuithe, and Cole Fotheringham. I can’t say enough good things about our players and how they continue to compete.”

“It was awesome,” said Kuithe. “First half we started off slow but the defense held it down and the offense got that spark we needed. 28 unanswered points. Whew. That’s a great game.”

“I’m so proud of this team,” said Whittingham. “We hadn’t played very well in the first half. We left some points on the field. I’ll tell you what, we rallied together at halftime. Those players believed. They were not going to be denied and they came out and it was 28-zip in the second half.”

The momentum all shifted when Utah came out in the second half and scored a touchdown on the very first drive. From there, they didn’t look back.

“It all started with the first drive of the second half,” said Whittingham. “We talked about at halftime that we left some points out there at the end of the first half. We got the ball first, if we go out and put one on them it’s game on. That’s exactly what we did and then we proceeded to score three more times in the second half and that last one was the dagger.”

This was Utah’s first home game since the tragic loss of Aaron Lowe. A beautiful tribute had fans get loud while lighting up the stadium with their cell phone lights to honor both Ty Jordan and Aaron Lowe.

“I get chills down my spine,” said Whittingham. “It’s a great way to honor those two young men. It really gave us a boost.”

Devin Lloyd talked about how he and his teammates can feel Jordan and Lowe giving them strength to fight and they attribute this win to their teammates looking over them.

“I think they’re the reason why we’ve been so much together,” explained Lloyd. “We came together and I firmly believe that they’re with us and they’re strengthening each and every one of us. They are bringing us closer together and I give this all to them.”

This Utah team has shown resilience and grit all year long. Saturday night’s game was no different, as they stormed back from behind to become the sole undefeated team in Pac-12 play. After the early season struggles, they now look like exactly the team everyone expected them to be.