Utah Utes football: Utes on cloud nine after bowl win
Freshman quarterback Jordan Wynn helps seniors go out in style
SAN DIEGO — Nine has the Utah Utes feeling fine. They extended the nation's longest active bowl streak to nine wins with a 37-27 come-from-behind victory over California in the Poinsettia Bowl at Qualcomm Stadium.
"I couldn't be more proud of a football team as I was this evening — particularly the senior class," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. "It was important to us, as we talked as a football team, of sending these guys out the right way."
The seniors, though, were led by a true freshman offensively. Quarterback Jordan Wynn, who is from nearby Oceanside High School, earned Offensive MVP honors in his homecoming of sorts.
Wynn overcame an early pick-six to complete 26-of-36 passes for 338 yards and three touchdowns.
"I just had to get back in my rhythm and just not let it get to me. There was a lot of game left and I just had to bounce back," Wynn said while noting he couldn't have asked for anything better than how things turned out. "As a quarterback you've got to have a short memory. The offense as a whole kind of picked me up."
The defense did it's part as well.
"You have to give Utah credit. They're a good defensive team," said California coach Jeff Tedford. "They did a great job controlling the line. They did a lot of nice things."
Senior linebacker Stevenson Sylvester recorded eight tackles and returned an interception for a touchdown to receive Defensive MVP honors.
"Anybody on this defense could have won this trophy here tonight," he said. "Because we all played great. I love everything about this team."
Everything, perhaps, with the exception of Wednesday's sluggish start.
For the first time since 1999 in Las Vegas, Utah failed to put the first points on the board in a bowl game.
Cal broke the streak, which extended through seven games, when running back Shane Vereen ran 36 yards for a touchdown with 6:06 remaining in the first quarter.
It took just 11 more seconds for things to get worse for the Utes.
On the next play from scrimmage, outside linebacker Eddie Young intercepted a pass by Wynn and returned it 31 yards to the end zone.
The outburst, including extra-point kicks from Vince D'Amato, gave the Golden Bears an early 14-0 advantage.
Utah's comeback began on the ensuing possession after Shaky Smithson returned the kickoff 61 yards to the Cal 30.
The Utes capitalized on the field position with an eight-play scoring drive, capped by a 6-yard touchdown pass from Wynn to tight end Kendrick Moeai.
Trailing 14-7, Utah carried it's newfound momentum into the second quarter.
And turned things around — decisively.
While the defense prevented Cal from getting a single first down, Utah's offense scored 17 points over the 14:17 of the second quarter.
The run gave the Utes a 24-14 halftime lead.
A 28-yard field goal by Joe Phillips got things started. The go-ahead score was a 15-yard touchdown throw from Wynn to Moeai with 4:58 to play in the quarter.
Before the half was complete, Utah added a 21-yard scoring strike from Wynn to Jereme Brooks.
The last-minute play upped the Utes' total offense in the quarter to 180 yards.
Missed opportunities, however, followed in the third quarter and allowed the Golden Bears to climb back into contention.
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