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Spenser Heaps
Utah Utes quarterback Jason Shelley (15). and quarterback Drew Lisk (12) warm up before the game against the Oregon Ducks at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City on Saturday, Nov. 10, 2018.

SALT LAKE CITY — Utah receiver Britain Covey wasn’t surprised Saturday’s 32-25 victory over Oregon proved to be quite a tussle.

“We’re both fighting for a spot, so we knew that it was going to be a hard-fought game,” Covey said as he headed for the locker room at Rice-Eccles Stadium. “The biggest thing we stressed is you’ve got to play the full 60 minutes. It wasn’t a perfect game by no means, but we got a ‘W.’ So we’re still alive.”

And very much so, as a matter of fact.

Utah (7-3, 5-3) enters this weekend’s clash at Colorado in contention with Arizona (5-5, 4-3) and Arizona State (6-4, 4-3) for the Pac-12 South title and a trip to the conference championship game. It can secure the berth with a win over the Buffaloes and a Sun Devils loss to either Oregon or Arizona over the next two weeks.

The Utes entered the pivotal stretch without their top two rushers — running back Zack Moss and quarterback Tyler Huntley. The juniors were sidelined with season-ending injuries before the game with the Ducks (6-4, 3-4).

“We had a team meeting with a ‘next man up mentality,’” said Utah coach Kyle Whttingham. “They could either pick up the slack and move forward, or feel sorry and mope and pout. That is not us. That is not our culture.”

Whittingham then credited the seniors for keeping the team’s attitude where it needed to be. Redshirt freshman Jason Shelley and junior Armand Shyne were thrust into starting roles in place of Huntley and Shelley.

“Every week there are certain goals we have to meet,” said senior linebacker Chase Hansen. “We wanted to step up this week for Jason and Armand. We did not have to because they put up yards and points.”

The duo came up big as the Utes clinched their fifth consecutive winning season. Shelley completed 18 of 31 passes for 262 yards. He also ran for two touchdowns. Shyne shined with 174 yards rushing.

Covey said that the performances were wonderful.

“Shelley, you could see that he’s confident that we have complete confidence in him, and Shyne is a beast,” Covey said.

So, too, was kicker Matt Gay. The senior made a school-record six field goals, including a 55-yarder, to bring his streak of consecutive kicks made to 18.

“I think he’s the best kicker in the nation,” Whittingham said.

The Utes, who are ranked 19th in this week’s Coaches Poll and 21st by the Associated Press, had other notable performances as well. Offensively, it was a big game for the tight ends. Cole Fotheringham had a team-high five receptions, while Brant Kuithe had four — as did Covey. The offense wound up with 494 yards and no turnovers.

The defense, meanwhile, made 12 tackles for loss and recorded four sacks in the victory. Oregon was held to just 4 yards in the first quarter. Individually, linebackers Chase Hansen and Cody Barton finished with 13 and 11 tackles, respectively. Defensive tackle Hauati Putuau had a fumble recovery.

“The defense played well when it needed to,” Whittingham said.

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On the special teams front, Gay stole the show. Another bright spot was Mitch Wishnowsky’s career-best 68-yard punt. On the negative side, Oregon blocked a punt midway through the fourth quarter and wound up getting possession on the Utah 3 — scoring on the ensuing play from scrimmage to take a 25-22 lead.

The Utes answered with a five-play, 60-yard touchdown drive to regain an advantage with 6:48 left to play. A 24-yard field goal by Gay capped all scoring with 15 seconds to go.


No. 19/21 Utah (7-3, 5-3) at Colorado (5-5, 2-5)

  • Folsom Field — Boulder, Colo.
  • Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
  • TV: Pac-12 Networks
  • Radio: ESPN 700AM