Another blackout, another dramatic finish at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
And as was the case last year against TCU, the Utah Utes found a way to prevail in the end — much to the delight of a Halloween crowd. This time they rallied to defeat Wyoming, 22-10.
"We don't like to leave it up to drama," said linebacker Stevenson Sylvester. "But it makes a good story."
Storylines were plentiful in this one. The Utes changed play-callers and quarterbacks on the way to improving to 7-1 overall and 4-0 in Mountain West Conference.
"We just wanted to create a spark," said Utah coach Kyle Whittingham.
Trailing 10-9 with 10:34 left to play, Utah embarked upon what proved to be the game-winning drive. The Utes did so with true freshman Jordan Wynn, who replaced Terrance Cain to start the second half, manning the controls at quarterback.
"It was a lot of fun," Wynn said. "I'll tell you that."
After moving the team into scoring position, Wynn connected with Jereme Brooks on a 22-yard touchdown pass to give the Utes their first lead of the game with just 7:35 remaining.
Utah's defense then continued its second-half dominance by ending Wyoming's next two drives with an interception by R.J. Stanford and a failed fourth-down conversion. The latter gave the Utes possession on the Cowboys' 9-yard line with just under two minutes to go. They cashed in 12 seconds later on a 5-yard run by Eddie Wide.
It capped another successful night for the running back, who tied a school record with his fifth consecutive 100-yard game. He wound up with a game-high 135 yards on 24 carries.
Just before kickoff, Utah announced that offensive coordinator Dave Schramm would be on the sideline coaching the quarterbacks and receivers coach Aaron Roderick would be in the press box calling plays.
Whittingham explained that they wanted Schramm's "fire and intensity" on the sideline and that Roderick did a nice job calling plays.
"It really is a team effort. We collaborate on the game plan and (Schramm) still has the final call," Whittingham said. "We're just trying to get into a rhythm on offense."
The change failed to produce an immediate impact on the scoreboard, however.
The Utes didn't score in the first quarter and managed just a 43-yard field goal by Joe Phillips in the second quarter.
It tied the score at 3-3, matching a 32-yard kick by Wyoming's Ian Watts midway through the first.
The Cowboys regained the lead with 4:56 remaining in the half when quarterback Austyn Carta-Samuels scored on a 30-yard pass-and-catch play from backup signal caller Robert Benjamin.
Wyoming thwarted Utah's bid to retaliate — batting down a fourth-and-25 pass in the end zone with five seconds remaining — and led 10-3 at halftime.
The Utes held statistical advantages at the break. They led in time-of-possession (18:09-11:51), total offense (166-128) and first downs (9-8).
Missed scoring opportunities included a 43-yard kick by Phillips that was wide right in the first quarter. Utah's offense converted on just one of six third-downs and was 0-for-2 inside the red zone.
After the intermission and a defensive stop by Utah, Wynn made his collegiate debut. He completed his first four passes, leading the Utes downfield.
The drive, however, hit a snag with a false-start penalty on third-and-goal at the Wyoming 4. Wynn's first incompletion followed and Utah settled for a 26-yard field goal by Phillips to make it 10-6 with 7:46 left to play in the third.
A similar scenario disrupted the Utes' next scoring drive. A false-start penalty and an incompletion preceded a 38-yard field goal by Phillips with 18.2 seconds remaining in the quarter, closing the score to 10-9.
While Utah's offense warmed up a bit, the Utes' defense got downright tough down the stretch. They gave up just 21 yards in the third quarter and held the Cowboys to only 51 rushing yards in the game.
"In the first half, they got a few things on us," said Utah safety Robert Johnson. "We had to comeback and make some adjustments and the adjustments worked out for us."
The key, Sylvester explained, was just executing better.
"We didn't change up anything," he said. "We ran the same schemes."
Utah's improved execution proved pivotal.
"We struggled a little bit in our offense," said Wyoming coach Dave Christensen. "It's not a secret that when you play top-20 teams in the country and top defenses in the country week in and week out, there will be some struggles."
Especially, he added, with a young team.
"I talked with our guys and sticking with a top-25 team is not a moral victory," said Christensen, whose team fell to 4-4 and 2-2. "We got our tails kicked in the end. We did some things well and we made some progress. But in our program, losing is not acceptable. That's not what we are out here to do."
Utah wound up with 363 yards of total offense and 19 first downs, while Wyoming finished with 202 and 12.
"It was a positive game for us, Whittingham said. "The offense played well tonight."
For the first time this season, the Utes didn't turn the ball over. Contributions were plentiful, with eight players catching passes and six running the ball.
Wynn, however, proved to be the center of attention.
"I knew I could play well because I had prepared all week like I was going to play. I have done that every week this season," he said. "Eddie ran the ball well and that took pressure off me, too. This was a good team win."
The Utes, who have now won five straight games, host New Mexico on Saturday.
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