Utah Grits out Gutsy Win Against Utah State in Season Opener

Alan BlackAnalyst IIIAugust 30, 2013

Photo credit Rick Bowmer/ AP Photo
Photo credit Rick Bowmer/ AP Photo

Last season, the Utah Utes lost to the in-state Utah State Aggies for the first time since 1997. This year, the rematch came as the season opener for both teams. On college football's opening day, the Utes wound up on top at the end of a game that went back and forth, taking the 30-26 victory.

The Utes came out hot at the beginning of the game, grabbing a 14-3 lead after the first quarter. The Aggies committed several major penalties on defense to extend Utah's drives, and the Utes capitalized. Quarterback Travis Wilson threw touchdown passes to wide receiver Dres Anderson and tight end Jake Murphy, and the Ute defense held the Aggies to just a Nick Diaz field goal.

After that fast start, though, momentum swung over to the Aggies' side.

Utah State quarterback Chuckie Keeton picked up where he left off after last season's stellar campaign and led the Aggies to three straight touchdowns. Two consecutive touchdown passes from Keeton to wide receiver Brandon Swindall sent the Aggies into halftime up 17-14. 

After coming out of the locker room the Aggies picked up where they left off, scoring again on a 15-yard touchdown run by Keeton. At that point, it looked like the Aggies may just run away with the game, as the Utes simply had no answer for Keeton.

Utah refused to buckle, however, and after kicker Andy Phillips nailed a 45-yard field goal, head coach Kyle Whittingham made one of the gutsiest calls of his career. On the ensuing kickoff, Phillips shocked the Aggies by executing a perfect onside kick, which was recovered by running back Karl Williams. On the drive that followed, the Utes marched down the field and capped it off with a two-yard touchdown run by Williams.

Utah State then answered with a drive that saw it regain the lead on a 24-yard Diaz field goal.

Not to be outdone, Phillips responded with a 19-yard field goal to put the Utes back on top. The Ute defense came up huge on the next possession, keeping the Aggies off the scoreboard. The Utah offense then took almost all the time off the clock, with Phillips kicking another field goal to put the Utes up by four with just 19 seconds left.

After completing a pass across the middle, Keeton lofted up a Hail Mary as time expired, but it fell harmlessly to the ground, giving the Utes the win and revenge for last season's overtime loss to the Aggies in Logan.

Phillips was an especially impressive part of the Ute victory, as he had never played in a single football game before this one. The Utes were curious to see how he'd handle the pressure—quite well, it turns out.

While Keeton was the best player on the field Thursday, Utah simply had a better team overall, giving the Utes a big win over an in-state foe to start the season off right.