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November 20, 2011

Winning ugly

It wasn't pretty, but Kyle Whittingham's Utes won their fourth straight conference game on Saturday night, an overtime decision over Washington State.

The Utes won in unconventional style on Saturday night. They committed 11 penalties for 105 yards. The offense was inept for the entire first half. They fumbled the ball away twice in the second half. They survived a furious fourth quarter comeback led by redshirt freshman quarterback Connor Holliday. The Utes' play was by and large as sloppy as the weather conditions on Saturday night, but they still left the Palouse with a win due in no small part to making timely big plays.

Special teams lived up to their name on Saturday night, with Jay Hill's unit making play after play that ultimately decided the game. Punter Sean Sellwood was magnificent early, nailing several big kicks that prevented Washington State from capitalizing on strong field position. Sellwood's best play, however, came on a beautifully thrown 49 yard touchdown pass to Luke Matthews that helped spark Utah's offense late in the first half.

Placekicker Coleman Petersen was perfect on the night, kicking three field goals, including a 38 yarder to win the game, in horrific kicking conditions. Long snapper Patrick Greene also recovered a fumble on a Sean Sellwood punt that led to the Utes' final touchdown on the night.

Until the fourth quarter, the defense had another strong effort. The Utes harrased Holliday all night long, knocking him down several times despite being unable to come up with a sack for the first time all season. They also intercepted Holliday four times, the most critical coming on Mo Lee's pick in overtime, setting the stage for Utah's game winning field goal.

The Utah offense was once again led by junior tailback John White. White rushed for 186 yards on 42 carries, but his biggest play of the game was a 56 yard scamper that gave the Utes a 10 point lead with 6:36 remaining in the fourth quarter. The touchdown run tied Marty Johnson for Utah's single season rushing touchdown mark at 14, while giving the Utes enough of a cushion to survive Washington State's late comeback.

The Utes close out the regular season this Friday against Colorado, with the opportunity to secure a strong placement in the Pac-12 bowl pecking order and an outside shot at winning the Pac-12 South title.







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