It was a good way to end it. —Utah kicker Matt Gay
SALT LAKE CITY — It ended with a kick as time expired. Utah’s annual spring football game was decided by a 57-yard field goal by Matt Gay. The reigning Lou Groza Award winner capped all scoring as Red edged White 25-23 Saturday at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
“It was a good way to end it,” acknowledged Gay, who added that “you live for moments like that."
Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said he was 100 percent confident in Gay’s ability to kick the game-winner, noting that the senior can get the job done from 60 yards or more.
“He’s not the Lou Groza Award winner for nothing. He handles the pressure,” Whittingham explained. “He’s got a strong leg. He’s the whole package.”
The Utes had several other notable performances in the scrimmage. On offense, all four quarterbacks — Tyler Huntley, Jason Shelley, Jack Tuttle and Drew Lisk — threw touchdown passes. The Red team featured Huntley and Shelley. Tuttle and Lisk quarterbacked the White squad.
Huntley connected on a 7-yard strike to Jameson Field to get things started. Tuttle later teamed with tight end Jake Jackson on a 49-yard touchdown toss, and Shelley hit Batchlor Johnson for a 7-yard score. Lisk had a pair of 12-yard TD throws, the first to Demari Simpkins and the second to Samson Nacua.
Joey Wood had the lone rushing touchdown, reaching the end zone on a 2-yard run.
The defense also put points on the board. Shelley was sacked by Hauati Pututau for a safety in the second quarter. Fellow defensive linemen Pita Tonga and Maxs Tupai also recorded sacks.
Linebacker Chris Hart and defensive back Terrell Burgess wound up sharing game-high honors with five tackles apiece. Burgess also had a 69-yard interception return.
Nickel backs Tareke Lewis and Javelin Guidry had good showings as well. Lewis made four tackles and a pass breakup, while Guidry had an interception and a tackle for loss. Defensive tackle Mika Tafua wound up with a forced fumble and a fumble recovery.
“I feel like we had a lot of fun out here,” Burgess said. “Everybody came to play. We were all balling. So it was a good day.”
Several projected contributors this fall did not play in the game for precautionary reasons and injuries. Huntley and Jackson were limited to one half.
“The primary thing is seeing a lot of guys that haven’t played a lot of football for us get a chance — in as game-like situations as we can create — and see what kind of response we get from them,” Whittingham said.
The Utes came out of the game and spring healthy. Whittingham said there were no severe injuries, unlike past years where a couple have been damaging for fall. As the players transition into summer conditioning, Whittingham offered a positive assessment — noting that he learned a great deal about the team.
“They’ve got a great work ethic. Their leadership is outstanding. We’ve got a bunch of seniors and even some underclassmen that did a tremendous job leading us through winter conditioning as well as spring ball,” Whittingham said. “This team is no nonsense. They come out to work every day. We had 15 practices, every one of them was positive — some better than others, obviously. But we took a step forward every time we hit the field.”
EXTRA POINTS: Tight end Bapa Falemaka had a game-high six catches for 69 yards Armand Shyne was the leading rusher with seven carries for 28 yards Lisk completed 8 of 12 passes for 133 yards Tuttle was intercepted twice The defense recorded eight pass breakups . . . The Utes had approximately 50 players on campus for “out-of-state junior day."