When it rains it pours… but sometimes it actually stops. In a steady rain throughout much of the game, the Utes fought and clawed their way back from multiple 17 point deficits and stopped their two game losing streak in San Diego with a 38-34 victory over the Utes.
The game seemed headed in a direction similar to that of the last two weeks against TCU and Notre Dame when San Diego State blew 74 yards down the field on the opening possession in under two minutes. Combine that with a 98 yard drive for a touchdown at the end of the first quarter and a third touchdown less than two minutes into the second, and Utah was staring at a 20-3 hole. But two things happened this time that did not in the last two games: The Utes responded and they made big plays.
A team who's heart and motivation was being questioned severely after the back to back losses came back from that third SDSU touchdown and showed what they are made of, displaying the quick strike offense that had been missing since the midpoint in the season. Following two Matt Asiata runs, Jordan Wynn hit Luke Matthews on a beautiful ball over the middle, splitting the cornerback and the safety. Matthews did the rest taking it 57 yards for the touchdown, getting Utah back into the game. The Utah team I saw the last two weeks wouldn't have done that. They would have hung their heads, content on going through the motions and taking the loss. Instead of throwing in the towel, they made a game of it again.
To top that, SDSU blew down the field again and scored once more, but again, Utah rose up and responded, this time on the shoulders of Eddie Wide. The big play ability of Wide came through as he scampered for an impressive 39 yard run before taking it into the end zone two plays later from 16 yards out pulling the Utes back to within 10.
Instead of enjoying the success of the last two drives and being content with the 10 point halftime deficit, the Utes's best defender went out and did something that no defender had done in weeks…make a big play. Brandon Burton's, near the goal-line interception, saved the Utes likely 3, but as many as 7 points going into halftime and what would have been both a momentum changer and an insurmountable 34-17 deficit.
With only 37 seconds remaining in the half, most expected Utah to sit on the ball and go into the half with the momentum and the second half kickoff coming their way. They chose not to, instead moving down the field with ease using the arms and legs of Matt Asiata and Wynn, setting them up at the Aztec 47 with 3 seconds left in the half.
Jordan Wynn took the snap, rolled to his right, and lobbed a ball towards the end zone that was tipped by an SDSU defender and found it's way into the hands of Kendrick Moeia for a touchdown and a 3 point deficit.
Things like that didn't happen to the Utes the last few weeks, but they didn't allow themselves to have plays like that. At some point in the past seven days, Kyle Whittingham, Aaron Roderick, and Dave Schramm decided to take their recently purchased conservative hats off and let the players make plays. The Utes would have sat on that ball with 37 seconds remaining in the half at their own 15 last week. They would have done the same thing the week before. This time, they gave their players an opportunity and they delivered. They delivered on a big play that may have ultimately won the game.
Welcome back Jordan Wynn. Will you be staying long? 21-33 for 362 yards and 2 touchdowns with ZERO interceptions was impressive, as was rallying and leading a team that was down 17 points on two different occasions. This is the Jordan Wynn that we've seen glimpses of this year and the Jordan Wynn we anticipated when the season started. He looked calm, collected, poised, and like a leader. A leader that the Utes desperately needed.
The defense was bad. Very bad. Ryan Lindley lit up the secondary like a Christmas tree throwing for over 500 yards. Lamar Chapman and Conroy Black had tough days and Brandon Burton wasn't at his best as DeMarco Sampson and Vincent Brown each went over 150 yards receiving with Brown pulling in 3 touchdowns. There wasn't a lot of help over the time top as Blechen and Taplin-Ross didn't do much to contain the receivers, but they did do a good job helping in run support as Ronnie Hillman and company were limited rushing the ball.
The defensive line did a decent job putting pressure on Lindley, especially in the second half despite only one sack. The linebacking corps was beat on a few passing plays, but was improved in the rushing game over the last two weeks limiting the big running play.
San Diego State did converted 8 of 12 third downs and moved the ball at will with big plays. The few stops the Utah defense did have were due to turnovers. With BYU's offense averaging 48 points per game in their last three contests, the defense is going to need to be better next week or the Utes risk getting into a shootout with a confident, ever improving team.
That said, they did come up with huge plays when it mattered most including the Burton interception that kept SDSU points off of the board and led to a touchdown, as well as the Chaz Walker and Brian Blechen interceptions on San Diego State's last two possessions. The bend, but don't break defense that the Utes exhibited so well earlier in the year came through in the end and ultimately got the team a win.
Making plays. The Utes finally went out and made big plays with passes of 42, 44, 47 and 57 yards. Matt Asiata and Eddie Wide chipped in runs of 42 and 39 yards respectively giving Utah six plays that were longer than any they'd had in the past two games. With three interceptions and a blocked punt that eventually resulted in a touchdown, the team that made more big plays won the game. Kudos to the coaches for drawing up high risk, high reward offensive plays and letting the players make them, while putting the defense in a position to be opportunistic.
This team really bounced back. The coaches had them right where they needed to be mentally, to get back on track, and even more impressive, bounce back when faced with adversity in the middle of a game. Now we know who this team is. They're not a great team. They're a good team. They're a Kyle Whittingham team. They're a solid team that is going to put up a good fight and work their way through adversity. They're a Utah team.
Utes Bounce Back With Comeback Win Over SDSU
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