With two late touchdowns to tie the game, the Utah Utes completed a 30-27 comeback Sun Bowl win over Georgia Tech Saturday with an 8-yard touchdown run by John White IV in overtime.
The Utes, who led 10-7 at the half, found themselves trailing 24-10 heading into the fourth quarter after the Yellow Jackets came out and scored 17 straight in the third quarter. But two fourth-quarter TD passes by Utah quarterback Jon Hays forced the extra period. Prior to the fourth quarter the Yellow Jackets had dominated Utah with more than 300 yards rushing, but the Utes ironically trailed because of two big Georgia Tech passing plays and a costly turnover by Hays.
The Utes wasted no time in getting the upper hand with a seven-play 67-yard scoring drive. Hays had two big plays in the drive. First he hit DeVonte Christopher, just as he was being clobbered himself, for 35 yards on a crossing route. He then showed poise in the pocket in connecting with Luke Matthews for 31 yards on a comeback route down the left sideline to Georgia Tech’s 2-yard line. Two plays later Hays rolled left and found Shawn Asiata wide open for a 1-yard scoring toss, putting Utah up 7-0.
The Yellow Jackets started their ensuring drive on their own 10-yard line, but threatened quickly when Preston Lyons burst through a huge hole up the middle and galloped for 58 yards. Utah escaped undamaged, however, when Justin Moore’s field goal attempt from 42 yards hit the left upright.
Georgia Tech was soon on the move again before stumbling after a bad snap was recovered by Utah’s Star Lotulelei at the Utes’ 42.
As Utah’s offense hit a roadblock, Georgia Tech continued to find seams in the Ute defense. Lyons culminated an 80-yard scoring drive for the Yellow Jackets when he again made Utah pay for over pursuing the outside threat with a 36-yard TD run right up the gut to knot the game 7-7.
The Utes dodged another bullet late in the second quarter when Moore missed another field goal attempt from 42 yards, this time with a wobbler that missed far to the left.
Utah closed the half with its second solid drive that began with two nice runs by John White IV. Hays then hit David Rolf in stride, again as he was hit as he delivered the pass, for 20 yards. A 31-yard reverse by Reggie Dunn gave Utah a first-and-goal on Georgia Tech’s 8-yard-line. The Utes, however, failed to reach pay dirt on three consecutive pass attempts. But Coleman Petersen gave Utah a 10-7 halftime lead when he ricocheted through a kick off the right upright from 25 yards.
Utah, allowing less than 100 yards per game rushing, allowed the Yellow Jackets to rush for 230 yards in the first half alone. Still, the Utes held the slim lead thanks to an 89-8 advantage in passing yards, the two missed field goals by Moore and the Yellow Jackets turnover on the bad snap.
Georgia Tech came right at the Utes on its first drive of the second half and pounded the ball down to Utah’s 10 before settling for a 32-yard field goal from Moore to tie the score again 10-10.
After stopping the Utes once again, Georgia Tech kept its offense in gear – but this time through the air. Yellow Jackets quarterback Tevin Washington first caught Utah off guard with a deep toss over the middle to Embry Peeples for 58 yards. Three plays later, on a third-and-12 from the 31, Washington found Stephen Hill in the back of the end zone for his first TD toss in eight games – giving Georgia Tech its first lead at 17-10.
Utah seemed to have stolen the momentum back when Christopher returned the ensuing kickoff 68 yards to Georgia Tech’s 30-yard line. On the very next play, however, Hays let go an ill-advised pass as he was being sacked that was picked off by Yellow Jacket linebacker Quayshawn Nealy and returned 74 yards for a TD, putting Georgia Tech suddenly ahead 24-10.
The Ute offense finally awoke in the fourth quarter with a 10-play 71-yard scoring drive to make it a 24-17 game with 6:50 remaining. Hays kept Utah’s hopes alive by hooking up with Kendrick Moeai for a 3-yard scoring toss on a fourth-and-goal.
A 30-yard punt return by Griff McNabb down to Georgia Tech’s 24 gave Utah the final regulation scoring chance it needed. On a fourth-and-14 with 1:32 remaining, Hays went to his sure hand and hit Christopher for a 24-yard TD toss to tie the game.
Georgia Tech had a chance to win the game on the final play but long kicker David Scully missed a 48-yard field goal attempt right as time expired.
The Yellow Jackets had first shot in overtime and Moore put Georgia Tech up 27-24 with a 34-yard field goal. When Utah got its turn, White finished things off with a power run right up the middle.
Copyright 2015, Deseret News Publishing Company