Utah Utes notebook: Special teams pave way to Utes' victory
Petersen hits 3 field goals, Sellwood tosses key td pass
PULLMAN, Wash. — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham acknowledged that Saturday's 30-27 overtime win at Washington State was special, very special.
Coleman Petersen's three field goals and a fake punt that resulted in a 49-yard touchdown pass from punter Sean Sellwood to Luke Matthews lifted the Utes past the Cougars on a cold and snowy night at Martin Stadium.
"That really was the difference," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "Offense, defense was probably a wash in this game but special teams was advantage Utah and that was the difference."
Petersen had a strong showing with successful kicks from 33, 45 and 38 yards. He also made three PATs.
"I was pretty confident," Petersen said of the game-winner in overtime. "It was almost down the middle. So it was just another kick."
Utah's fake punt broke a scoreless tie late in the first half.
"That was a well-executed play. We've been working on that for two weeks now," Sellwood explained. "The time came up and I felt pretty confident with it. So it was fun."
FIRST PICK: WSU freshman quarterback Connor Halliday went 62 passes without throwing a collegiate interception. He wasn't so fortunate on No. 63. That's when Utah freshman safety Eric Rowe picked him off for his first career interception. Before the half was complete, Brian Blechen and Mo Lee also intercepted Halliday.
The Utes entered the game with 14 picks on the season, tops in the Pac-12 STADIUM FACELIFT: An $80 million upgrade of Martin Stadium will begin Wednesday with the demolition of the press box. It'll be replaced by a building that includes suites, loge boxes and club seating, which is expected to generate $3 million per year in revenue fo WSU. A second remodeling phase of the 32,248-seat stadium could begin the following year. It'll include football operations space and new locker rooms.
FAMILIAR FACE: Washington State senior associate director of athletics John Johnson, who was Weber State's athletic director from 1994-2004, said it's great to have the Utes in the Pac-12.
"Great facilities, great city, great fans and they're a perfect fit both academically, most importantly, and athletically," Johnson said. "I'm thrilled. I'll get to see some of my old friends back in Utah a little bit more now that they're in the league. Chris Hill has done a terrific job for many years. I have great respect for him as an individual. He was always terrific for me.
"Utah is just a perfect fit," he added. "It's like they've been in the league for 10 years already. So it's good to see them."
EXTRA POINTS: The Utes had four players finish with a team-high five tackles — Matt Martinez, Chaz Walker, Eric Rowe and Greg Bird. ... Cornerback Ryan Lacy had two pass breakups. ... Other than a concussion suffered by reserve linebacker Jacoby Hale, the Utes came out of the game relatively injury free. ... DeVonte Christopher topped Utah's receivers with five catches for 83 yards. ... Utah and Utah State played just a short drive apart Saturday. While the Utes were in Pullman, the Aggies were in nearby Moscow playing the University of Idaho.
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