Utes football: Utah comes up short in roller-coaster Pac-12 opener vs. Oregon State

Published: Sunday, Sept. 15 2013 6:53 p.m. MDT

Utah's Trevor Reilly gets off the block and eyes Oregon State quarterback Sean Mannion during a game at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday, Sept. 14, 2013.

Matt Gade, Deseret News

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah tight end Jake Murphy wasn’t kidding when he said Saturday night’s 51-48 overtime loss to Oregon State was like a “roller coaster.” There were certainly plenty of ups and downs, twists and turns, and a little of this and a lot of that in the Pac-12 opener for both teams.

“We learned a lot about ourselves today,” Murphy said. “We were tough out there."

The Utes overcame a slow start and a 17-point deficit early in the third quarter to climb back into contention down the stretch. They took their first lead with 4:25 left to play, but failed to hold on.

After giving up a late touchdown and two-point conversion, Utah needed a touchdown and an extra point with 21 seconds to go in regulation to force overtime.

Quarterback Travis Wilson led the late heroics, having scored the Utes’ last two touchdowns — capping seven-play drives with touchdowns runs.

In overtime, though, Utah’s offense stalled — netting just 1 yard on three plays before Andy Phillips kicked a 41-yard field goal.

Oregon State followed with a game-winning touchdown three plays later. Quarterback Sean Mannion teamed with Brandin Cooks on a 6-yard scoring strike, bringing an end to a wild contest at Rice-Eccles Stadium just before midnight.

“I think our team showed a lot of heart,” Wilson said. “We battled all the way to the end.”

It wasn’t enough, however, to prevent the Utes from losing their third consecutive Pac-12 opener.

“The team is hurting. They split their guts out,” said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham. “When we were down 27-10, the look in their eyes was that they still believed. That is a great thing to have in a team. It was tough to fall short in the end.”

Oregon State coach Mike Riley acknowledged it was a “gutsy, gutsy game.”

Mannion paced the winning effort by completing 27 of 44 passes for 443 yards and five touchdowns. Wilson countered with a strong showing for Utah, although he was intercepted three times — including a pick-six to Sean Martin early in the second half. Wilson wound up rushing for a game-high 142 yards and three touchdowns. He also passed for two scores, completing 19 of 33 throws for 279 yards.

“Travis wants those interceptions back. We knew there would be a learning curve and it has been a lot smaller than we thought,” Whittingham said. “Travis has done great and I think we have found ourselves a quarterback.”

The Utes’ biggest concern, Whittingham later noted, is the inability to get any takeaways. He called it the biggest problem on the football team right now.

Utah now prepares to face BYU in the rivalry game Saturday in Provo.

“BYU is always a fun game. We’re going to hopefully come out and redeem ourselves,” Murphy said. “With that emotional loss (Saturday), we’ve got to be able to forget it, and move on because emotions will be high next Saturday as well. That’s just how the rivalry is. I think it will be fun.”

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