On a Saturday filled with upsets, Utah’s 27-21 win over No. 5 Stanford was the biggest of them all.
Utah quarterback Travis Wilson rebounded from a six-interception performance last week against UCLA by throwing for 234 yards and two touchdowns as the Utes shocked the Cardinal in Salt Lake City.
While Wilson’s play was big, the difference in the game was the performance of the Utah defense. The Cardinal opened the scoring on a 7-play, 75-yard drive to start the game, but the Utes limited the Cardinal to just 135 yards on their next eight possessions, including four punts, two fumbles and a missed field goal. A Stanford offense littered with NFL talent scored just two touchdowns.
Meanwhile, Utah went to work against the usually stingy Stanford defense, piling up 410 yards of offense and 21 first downs. The running game found room behind Bubba Poole’s 111 yards. By the time Stanford woke up, the Utes led 27-14 and an upset was brewing.
That’s when the Cardinal decided to make a game of it.
Kevin Hogan led Stanford on a 52-yard scoring drive that ended with a 7-yard touchdown pass to Devon Cajuste with a little over nine minutes to play. That drive took only four plays and, after forcing Utah to punt, the Cardinal got the ball back on their own 12-yard line with 7:53 to play. Plenty of time, right?
Well, this is where Stanford miscalculated. Instead of playing with urgency, the Cardinal went on a methodical 13-play, 82-yard drive that ate up over seven minutes on the clock. By the time Stanford was set up with a first down at the Utah 14-yard line, the clock was down to its final couple minutes and it was do or die for the Cardinal.
On a 4th and 2 from the six-yard line, Hogan overthrew Cajuste in the back of the end zone. Utah took over, took a knee and the raucous crown at Rice-Eccles Stadium stormed the field. It was Hogan’s first loss as Stanford’s starting quarterback.
“They outplayed us, they outcoached us, they beat us,” said Stanford coach David Shaw.
He’s right. But history has shown that the Cardinal aren’t out of the national title picture just yet. A lot of football is yet to be played and Stanford still has a date with Oregon on Nov. 7.
Meanwhile, Utah finally showed that it belongs in the Pac-12. This win was its first over a top five team at home and the Utes have to be considered one of the more underrated teams in the country at this point. If not for a 3-point overtime loss to Oregon State and a one-touchdown loss to UCLA, the Utes would be 6-0 and ranked in the top 15.
Instead, their 4-2 record is a testament to the toughness of the Pac-12, perhaps the nation’s top league this year.