Utah fell to Washington 10-3 Friday night in the Pac-12 championship game played at Levi’s Stadium.
It was a rematch of an early season conference game between the Utes and Huskies, a game Washington won 21-7, and the Utes hoped for a better outcome in the second go-round.
Instead, undone by turnovers, the Utes came up short in their first championship game appearance.
Prior to Friday night’s game, redshirt freshman quarterback Jason Shelley had been excellent for the Utes. His stats weren’t overwhelming to be sure, but his management of the offense and ability to avoid turnovers helped Utah to back-to-back-to-back wins over Oregon, Colorado and BYU.
It all fell apart for Shelley Friday night.
The quarterback threw three interceptions, including a pick-six that proved to be the difference in the game.
More than that, Shelley was just off. The signal caller completed 17 of 27 pass attempts for a measly 137 yards. His quarterback rating, courtesy of ESPN? A 9.3 (out of 100).
Shelley was simply uncomfortable, unsettled and ineffective most of the night.
He wasn’t alone either.
Armand Shyne, T.J. Green, Devin Brumfield, name a Utah running back and they were completely ineffective.
Shyne finished with a measly 37 yards on 11 carries, while Green and Brumfield were only given a carry apiece, despite the running games woes.
On the receiving end, Jaylen Dixon had a standout performance. The Texan finished with 68 yards on seven receptions to lead all Utah pass catchers.
Other than him, however, Utah’s receiving corps was nearly nonexistent.
Excluding Dixon, seven different Utes recorded a catch, none of which went for more than 16 yards.
Not to be forgotten, Utah’s offensive line had a miserable outing. Shelley was under pressure much of the evening, although in fairness to the big men in the trenches he often ran into said pressure unprovoked.
The rushing attack, as previously mentioned, was completely ineffective and much of the fault lay with the offensive line.
All told, and despite an 11-play, 51-yard drive on the last possession of the game, it was the worst offensive showing of the season for Utah, a dismal outing that came at the worst possible moment.
At the end of the day, the Utes held the Huskies' offense to just three points in the Pac-12 title game. For any other failings Utah may have had on the defensive side of the ball Friday night, and truth be told there weren’t many, Utah’s defense held No. 11 Washington to a measly field goal through 60 minutes of play.
It was that impressive a defensive showing by the Utes.
Utah held Washington to 306 yards of total offense, 187 in the air, 199 on the ground. Harassed by Utah defenders all night long, Washington quarterback Jake Browning had a miserable game and finished with 21 pass completions — on 33 attempts — for 187 yards and an interception.
Star running back Myles Gaskin was mostly bottled up as well. The tailback rushed for only 71 yards on 23 attempts, good for an average of 3.1 yards.
Leading the way, as has been the case all season, was linebacker Chase Hansen.
Hansen finished the game with a team-high 13 tackles. Right behind him were Cody Barton and Corrion Ballard. The seniors each recorded 12 tackles, with Ballard also registering a tackle for a loss.
The list of standouts continued with Julian Blackmon, Bradlee Anae, Marquise Blair, Francis Bernard. Many a Ute had a strong performance against the Huskies.
The defensive secondary, maligned at times this season, was perhaps the most impressive group. Ballard led the way, but Blair (four tackles), Blackmon (seven tackles and a pass breakup) and Terrell Burgess all made an impact.
Javelin Guidry, meanwhile, had the Utes' only takeaway of the game, a pick that led to Utah’s only score of the game.
It wasn’t Utah’s best defensive outing of the year, but it was close.
For as great as the defense played, Utah’s special teams was even better.
The highlights were, first of all, Matt Gay’s 53-yard field goal.
That make, his second longest this season and the longest made field goal in Pac-12 championship game history, accounted for all of Utah’s points in the contest.
John Penisini’s block of Washington kicker Peyton Henry’s field goal try, late in the fourth quarter, was just as impressive.
The block kept Utah's hopes alive, and prevented a game-sealing score for Washington.
Gay and Penisini weren’t alone in special teams stardom, however.
Mitch Wishnowsky was as solid as ever punting the ball and booted four punts an average of 42-plus yards. He had a long of 48 and one punt downed within the 20-yard line.
Utah’s return men weren’t too shabby either.
Britain Covey and Demari Simpkins each had kickoff returns that went for 15 or more yards (Covey was knocked out of the contest at the end of his 17-yard scamper in the second quarter).11 comments on this story
The Utes ultimately did everything they could on special teams, and as a result had one of their best showings of the season.
It was a heartbreaking defeat for the Utes in their first ever appearance in the Pac-12 championship game.
The offense fell completely flat, undone by miscues, play-calling, and perhaps even the stage.
The defense, on the other hand, had yet another standout outing and held the Washington offense to only a field goal.
Special teams was even better. Gay etched his name in Pac-12 championship game history, but at the end of 60 minutes it wasn’t enough for Utah.