How Utah got to the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl

Steven Jacobs

Utah Runnin' Utes athletic logo
Utah Runnin’ Utes athletic logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Idaho St (0-0) vs. Utah (0-0) Led by junior quarterback Travis Wilson, who missed the last three games of last season due to injury, the Utah Utes overpowered an outgunned Idaho State Bengals team in their home-opener. The Utah offense had three touchdown drives that each took less than 42 seconds to go with Clay’s two scores on kick returns. The Utah defense held the Bengals to 337 total yards as Utah went on to win 56-14 in Salt Lake City.

Fresno St (0-1) vs. Utah (1-0) Utah quarterback Travis Wilson threw a career-high five touchdowns, two each to receivers Dres Anderson and Kenneth Scott, and the Utes defense had seven sacks. Bulldogs quarterback Brian Burrell was removed after a poor start, but returned to throw two touchdowns in the fourth quarter to make the score respectable. Ultimately, the Utes ran away with the contest and won 59-27 in Salt Lake City.

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Utah (2-0) vs. Michigan (2-1) Michigan players called the game against Utah “weird” afterward, due to a two-hour, 24-minute lightning delay midway through the fourth quarter. The Utes were winning 26-10 at that point, and the Big House was nearly empty after the rain delay. The game was stagnant offensively, but the Utah offense and kicker Andy Phillips were able to capitalize on four Michigan turnovers and turn them into points as the Utes beat the struggling Wolverines 26-10 in Ann Arbor.

Washington St (1-3) vs. Utah (3-0) In the first quarter, the Utes got off to an early lead with an Eric Rowe pick-six, Kaelin Clay punt return and Devontai Booker 76-yd rushing score. Wazzou’s Halliday threw a second quarter touchdown and the Cougars held the Utes to just a field goal in the second. Down 24-7 at the half, Halliday rallied the Cougars back and threw three more touchdowns while the Utes managed just one field goal. The Cougars edged by Utah 28-27 and handed the Utes their first loss of the season.

Utah (3-1) vs No. 8 UCLA (4-0) After being up by 21 points against Wazzou and losing, the Utes traveled to UCLA raring for an upset. Utah quarterback Travis Wilson was replaced by the more mobile Kendal Thompson just two drives into the game, and the Bruins were often caught off guard by the dual-threat. After both defensive and offensive scores, the Utes led 17-7 at halftime and went on to win 30-28 after Andy Phillips kicked a 29-yard field goal with 0:34 left in the game in Pasadena.

No. 20 Utah (4-1) vs. Oregon St (4-1) The Utes only passed for 62 yards in the game, but that’s all they needed. They did their damage on the ground with Devontae Booker, whose three touchdowns came in the fourth quarter and the two overtime periods. A last-second field goal by the Beavers tied the game at 16 and sent the game into an extra period where Booker took the game over and scored touchdowns in the first and second overtime with the second one proving to be the game-winner. Utah has an FBS-high 28 sacks on the season and won the game 29-23 in a true nail-biter between PAC 12 powers in Corvallis.

No. 20 USC (5-2) vs. No. 19 Utah (5-1) Utah quarterback Travis Wilson played with maturity under pressure just a week after losing the starting job to Kendal Thompson. With USC up 21-17 in the fourth quarter, Utah rallied and scored the game-winner with just eight seconds left in the game. Before the game-winning one-yard pass to Kaelin Clay, Wilson scrambled for 19 yards and nearly dove for the touchdown, but was stopped just short. The Utes were able to get the ball into the end zone and won the game 24-21 in Salt Lake City to secure their third-straight last-minute or overtime win.

No. 17 Utah (6-1) vs. No. 14 Arizona St (7-1) For the fourth-straight week, things came down to the wire for Utah. This time, clutch kicker Andy Phillips didn’t have what it took to bail them out, as he missed not one but two field goals in overtime. Meanwhile, the Sun Devils’ kicker Zane Gonzalez made a 30-yarder to put the game into overtime, and a 36-yarder to win it. The Utah defense still leads the nation in sacks (35) but ASU won 19-16 in OT.

No. 4 Oregon (8-1) vs. No. 17 Utah (6-2) This game is remembered nationwide for the debacle that was Utah’s premature touchdown celebration on a long Kaelin Clay catch. The ball never got passed the goal line and while the Utes were celebrating, Oregon’s Joe Walker picked up the ball and returned it 99 yards for a touchdown. In the game the Utes lost quarterback Kendal Thompson for the year due to a leg injury, and Heisman candidate Marcus Mariota led Oregon to 21-straight points in the fourth quarter and a 51-27 victory over Utah in Salt Lake City.

No. 23 Utah (6-3) vs. Stanford (5-4) For the first time in school history, Utah would find itself in its third overtime game in a single season. This one came in a gritty game against Stanford in which neither team scored in the entire second half. Each team matched each other with a first half touchdown and entered overtime by the same 7-7 score. In overtime, Kaelin Clay redeemed his premature celebration against Oregon when he caught a touchdown and Travis Wilson threw for an additional score in double overtime to solidify the 20-17 win in Stanford.

No. 15 Arizona (8-2) vs. No. 17 Utah (7-3) Other than the loss to Oregon, Arizona handed the Utes their worst loss of the season. Led by running back Nick Wilson who torched the stingy Utes defense for 218 yards and three touchdowns, the Wildcats racked up 520 total yards of offense and had the game wrapped up in the second quarter before going on to trounce Utah 42-10 in Salt Lake City.

No. 25 Utah (7-4) vs. Colorado (2-9) In their last game of the regular season, the ground-and-pound Utes turned to their passing game and defense to come back against the lowly Buffaloes. Led by running back Christian Powell, the Buffs had consistent production on offense and led the Utes 24-16 at halftime. But the Utes came back in the second half, and on a Dominique Hatfield 20-yard interception, took a 38-34 lead over the Buffs and won by the same score in Boulder.

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Collegian Sports Reporter Steven Jacobs can be reached at sports@collegian.com and on Twitter @steven_jacobs_.