When adversity hits you can't turn on each other. So we just stuck with that and did what we needed to do. —Hunter Dimick
SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Before leaving Levi’s Stadium after Wednesday’s 26-24 victory over Indiana in the Foster Farms Bowl, Utah coach Kyle Whittingham credited his team for continuing the tradition.
The win was the program’s 16th in 20 bowl appearances and the fourth straight triumph overall.
Whittingham noted that the Utes were “carrying the mantle” for hundreds of players before them who raised the bar to where it’s at.
Several seniors played prominent roles in the latest success.
— Kicker Andy Phillips made four field goals, including a 27-yarder with 1:24 remaining that proved to be the game-winner.
— Running back Joe Williams earned offensive MVP honors in the game after rushing for 222 yards and a touchdown.
— Defensive ends Pita Taumoepenu and Hunter Dimick made big plays. Taumoepenu recorded two sacks and forced a fumble. Dimick had a fumble recovery and a pass breakup.
— Defensive tackle Pasoni Tasini notched two pass breakups and a forced fumble.
Underclassmen also made major contributions to Utah’s ninth win of the season. Junior safety Marcus Williams made an interception, while sophomore Chase Hansen had three pass breakups and a fumble recovery. Junior linebackers Kavika Luafatasaga and Sunia Tauteoli wound up with 12 and 10 tackles, respectively.
Backup quarterback Tyler Huntley scored a touchdown on a 1-yard run and freshman receiver Demari Simpkins caught a team-high four passes.
The Utes topped the Hoosiers despite three fumbles and throwing an interception. In addition, they were penalized nine times and surrendered five sacks. Return specialist Kyle Fulks had the ball jarred loose on the opening kickoff.
Dimick said the team just did the same thing it’s done all year.
“When adversity hits you can’t turn on each other,” he explained. “So we just stuck with that and did what we needed to do.”
Utah let a 17-7 first-half lead disappear and needed some late heroics to defeat an Indiana team that finished with a 6-7 record.
A 32-yard run by Williams on third-and-7 from the Indiana 42 kept the final drive alive.
“The mindset on that play, the drive, was just finish out strong,” said Williams, who explained that Whittingham told him to put the team on his back after losing a fumble on the previous drive.
Williams heard the same thing from his teammates. Phillips, too, received a similar boost before making the decisive kick.
“No doubt,” he said. “My teammates gave me that confidence.”
As such, Phillips noted that the late field goal “was a nice little chip shot for me.”
Utah enters the offseason with a 9-4 record. Whittingham said that everything will be evaluated as it is every year. As for underclassmen considering early entry into the NFL draft, he noted that there are couple of guys who are 50/50 on what they want to do.
“We’ll just have to see how things shake out,” Whittingham said. “If they come back, we’ll welcome them with open arms, and if they decide to go then we’ll congratulate them, support them and thank them for what they contributed.”
EXTRA POINTS: As BYU did in the Poinsettia Bowl, Utah sported helmet stickers honoring Reno Mahe’s daughter Elsie and Steve Tate’s son Hayes. The children passed away in the past month. Whittingham improved his NCAA-best bowl record to 10-1. Utah broke up nine passes, with six players getting in on the action.
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