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No. 24 Utah rallies for 36-23 victory

No. 24 Utah rallies for 36-23 victory
Published On: Sun, Oct 09
Sep 3, 2015; Logan, UT, USA; Utah State Aggies quarterback Chuckie Keeton (16) avoids a tackle by Southern Utah Thunderbirds defensive end James Cowser (53) during the fourth quarter at Romney Stadium. Utah State Aggies won the game 12-9. Mandatory Credit: Chris Nicoll-USA TODAY Sports

SALT LAKE CITY -- Utah did everything possible in digging an early hole for itself against Arizona.

The No. 24 Utes let the Wildcats turn their first play from scrimmage into a touchdown and short circuited several drives with repeated false start penalties. It took some huge defensive plays to finally settle down the offense enough to allow Utah to rally for a 36-23 victory over Arizona on Saturday night.

"We had a few big plays made on us, but we bounced back every time those happened," junior safety Marcus Williams said. "We never put our heads down. We just kept grinding through the game and we just got this win. We're looking forward to playing better next week."

Utah (5-1, 2-1 Pac-12) snapped a four-game losing streak to Arizona. Troy Williams threw for 245 yards and a touchdown and rushed for 73 yards and two scores to lead the Utes. Armand Shyne added a career-high 101 yards and a touchdown on 19 carries for the Utes. The sophomore left midway through the fourth quarter after suffering what could be a season-ending knee injury.

Shyne is the fourth Utah running back to suffer a serious injury in six games.

"Armand doesn't look good and that's a big issue for us right now because Troy McCormick was out and Zack Moss was out," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "Now it looks like Armand is out and it may be season ending. We'll know in the next 24-to-48 hours. That's a big blow for us."

Sophomore quarterback Brandon Dawkins threw for 243 yards and a touchdown to lead Arizona. He was replaced in the second half by freshman quarterback Khalil Tate after throwing two interceptions. Tate finished with 105 yards and a touchdown, along with another interception.

Arizona outgained Utah 475 yards to 455 yards, but could not overcome the three turnovers. The Wildcats (2-4, 0-3) have lost three straight to open conference play for the first time since 2012.

"You want those players and coaches in there to quit because we lose a game or two?" Wildcats coach Rich Rodriguez said. "Come on. These guys are going to fight. We're not used to doing it and nobody's going to be happy. We ain't going to be like, 'Oh, woe is us.' We're going to get back to work and try to win the next one."

Trailing 14-3 in the second quarter, Utah turned a corner when defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini sacked Tate in the end zone for a safety. It opened the door for the Utes' first touchdown -- a 3-yard catch by Tyrone Smith that cut their deficit to 14-12 with 55 seconds remaining before halftime.

From there, Utah rattled off 26 consecutive points to put the game out of reach. The Utes took their first lead at 19-14 early in the third quarter when Williams scored on a 2-yard keeper. Cory Butler-Byrd took a pass from Williams and eluded multiple defenders for a 69-yard gain to set up the scoring play.

Back-to-back interceptions helped Utah extend the lead. Defensive back Marcus Williams reeled in his third interception of the season and the Utes cashed in with a 26-yard touchdown run from Shyne. Then defensive back Dominique Hatfield picked off a pass to set up a 35-yard field goal from Andy Phillips, extending Utah's lead to 29-14 with 2:16 left in the third quarter.

All of it traced back to the safety that shook Utah out of its doldrums.

"That was a big play that I think jump started the whole team," sophomore safety Chase Hansen said.

Utah suffered a huge blow midway through the fourth quarter when Shyne crumpled to the turf after a first-down run. The sophomore could not put any weight on his left leg and had to be helped from the field by two teammates.

The Utes finished the drive with a 1-yard run on a keeper by Williams, going up 36-17 with 5:10 remaining to cement Whittingham's 100th win as Utah's head coach.

The Wildcats took a 7-0 lead on their first play from scrimmage when Dawkins hit slot back Shun Brown with a deep ball over the middle and he raced 75 yards for a score.

The Utes could not do enough on offense to answer. Utah drove to the Arizona 2-yard line on their second drive and settled for a 28-yard field goal from Phillips after a fumbled snap by backup quarterback Tyler Huntley pushed the Utes back to the 10.

Then Utah was forced to punt on back-to-back drives after favorable momentum swings. The Utes started at midfield on the first drive after a 22-yard punt from Josh Pollack. They got the ball at their own 9 on the following drive after defensive back Brian Allen picked off Dawkins. Both times, Utah ended up punting.

That opened the door for Arizona to stake a 14-3 lead on a 6-yard run from Dawkins with 7:54 left before halftime.

"I was encouraged that we hit a couple of big plays that were there," Rodriguez said. "There's probably going to be a few that we would love to have back after watching the film. But the effort was good and the guys are trying hard. We've just got to clean a few things up."

NOTES: WR Shun Brown's 75-yard touchdown on Arizona's opening play marked the longest pass this season for the Wildcats. It was Arizona's second-longest play from scrimmage in 2016, trailing only a 79-yard touchdown run by Dawkins against Washington. ... Utah was whistled for eight false starts in the first half. Seven different players committed a false start. The Utes had 11 total first-half penalties. ... Arizona QB Brandon Dawkins and Utah QB Troy Williams combined for 353 passing yards in the first half.

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