Utah Utes football notebook: Special teams miscue proves to be pivotal vs. Washington
SEATTLE — Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said there was a pretty obvious turning point in Saturday’s 34-15 loss to Washington at CenturyLink Field.
It came in the third quarter after the Utes forced the Huskies to punt, trailing by six. The return was muffed by Charles Henderson and wound up being recovered by Washington’s Jamaal Kearse just inside Utah territory.
"We couldn’t recover,” Whittingham said while lamenting the lost momentum after making a stop and then turning the ball over on special teams.
Less than two minutes after the pivotal miscue, Bishop Sankey’s 2-yard touchdown run and a PAT by Travis Coons extended Washington’s lead to 27-15. By game’s end, Sankey added another short run for a score as the Huskies pulled ahead comfortably.
TAKING THE BLAME: Quarterback Travis Wilson had trouble throwing the football. The true freshman completed only 8-of-23 passes for 55 yards. He was intercepted once.
“For me personally, I definitely wanted to get a road win — get one underneath my belt,” Wilson said after his fifth career start (he’s 2-0 at home and 0-3 on the road). “It just didn’t really work out and there’s nobody to blame but myself.”
BARKING FOR SARK: Former BYU quarterback Steve Sarkisian, who improved to 25-23 overall as Washington’s head coach, drew praise after the Huskies become bowl eligible for the third consecutive year.
“We wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him. We had the players playing, but in order to have a great team you have to have a great leader — and Sark is that leader,” said senior fullback Jonathan Amosa. “We have other leaders on the team with the captains but coach Sark is really the one who takes charge. Honestly, we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for him.”
Amosa is one of six players left in the program who endured an 0-12 season before Sarkisian’s arrival in 2009.
NOT THIS TIME: After returning three kickoffs 100 yards over the previous two weeks, Utah senior Reggie Dunn didn’t get an opportunity to continue his unusual streak.
“They have arguably the best kickoff returner in America and we didn’t want to let that guy beat us,” Sarkisian said. “So we went into a pop-over mentality and we sacrificed some field position in the game by doing so.”
In the end, though, everything worked out for Washington. The Huskies, in fact, made Dunn a non-factor on offense as well. He had one run for 4 yards and did not catch a single pass.
EXTRA POINTS: Saturday’s home finale against Arizona will kick off at 8 p.m. It’ll be televised by ESPNU. ... Despite Utah’s dire situation, CBSSports.com is predicting a bowl appearance — Dec. 28 in the Independence Bowl against Louisiana Tech. ... Nate Fakahafua, Eric Rowe and Jason Whittingham each had a team-high eight tackles for the Utes. ... John White ran for 142 yards and two scores while passing Mike Anderson and Eddie Lewis on Utah’s career rushing list. White is now No. 6 with 2,280 yards. His 22 career rushing touchdowns put him in a fifth-place tie with Anderson, Juan Johnson and Chris Fuamatu-Ma’afala. ... The attendance was 60,050. The Huskies went 5-1 at the home of the NFL's Seattle Seahawks this season. They'll move back to a renovated Husky Stadium in 2013.
Contributing: Dan Rasmussen
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