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Utah Utes have good reasons for optimism

Published: Sunday, Jan. 1 2012 8:33 p.m. MST

Utah's DeVonte Christoper catches a one-handed pass against Georgia Tech during the Utes' overtime win over the Yellow Jackets in the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

Associated Press

EL PASO, Texas — It took a while for Utah's charter flight to load up and depart the airport Saturday night. Perhaps it's because no one was really in big hurry to leave.

The Utes' 30-27 overtime win over Georgia Tech in the Sun Bowl was certainly something to savor. They rallied from 14 points down with under seven minutes left to play, forcing overtime and prevailing when John White IV ran eight yards for a touchdown on third-and-goal.

"They trusted me with the ball," White said. ". . . I saw Shawn Asiata blast somebody and I knew I was going to go in."

A big celebration followed.

"Can't say enough about him," said Utah quarterback Jon Hays of White. "He's a great running back, couldn't wait to go over and celebrate with him and my teammates."

Georgia Tech, for obvious reasons, felt quite different about the outcome.

"It feels like somebody kicked you in the gut," said coach Paul Johnson. "When you're competitive, it really hurts."

Quarterback Tevin Washington, who led an offense that racked up 449 yards against the Utes, acknowledged the Yellow Jackets simply didn't finish things off when they had control of the game.

"We didn't make the plays that we needed to make to be successful," Washington said. "We should have put the game away when we had the opportunities."

The Utes capitalized on the situation and wound up leaving El Paso with all the hardware. Whittingham was presented with the Sun Bowl championship trophy, while White (game MVP), Star Lotulelei (line MVP) and DeVonte Christopher (special teams MVP) earned the individual awards.

White finished with 115 yards rushing on 26 carries, while Lotulelei made six tackles and recovered a fumble. Christopher had a 68-yard kickoff return, but more importantly made a 14-yard touchdown catch on fourth-and-goal with 1:32 to go in the fourth quarter. The score and PAT that followed wound up forcing overtime.

"I'm not going to lie. I love those situations," Christopher said. "I'm a competitor, first and foremost."

White, Lotulelei and Christopher will be back next season when the Utes look to improve on their 8-5 record. There's reason for optimism after the injury riddled squad finished 2011 with victories in five of their last six games.

Winning the Sun Bowl certainly helps.

"Going to the offseason with a win definitely keeps the morale up," Christopher said. "(It) makes you work harder in the offseason because you know what you're capable of."

There are a lot of bright spots to draw upon.

SCHRAMM LEAVING: Utah running backs coach Dave Schramm told ESPN 700's Bill Riley that he has been offered the offensive coordinator job at Fresno State and will accept the post. The Bulldogs hired Texas A&M defensive coordinator Tim DeRuyter as their new head coach last month. Schramm has been on Utah's coaching staff since 2005.

Email: dirk@desnews.com. Twitter: @DirkFacer

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