Travis Wilson

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No. 22 Utah hangs on for Holy War revival win over BYU in Las Vegas Bowl


No. 22 Utah turned five consecutive BYU turnovers into touchdowns en route to a 35-0 first quarter lead and then held on for dear life, securing a 35-28 win in the Royal Purple Las Vegas Bowl.

The turnover avalanche came early for BYU (9-4) after quarterback Tanner Mangum fumbled on the third play from scrimmage and Utah (10-3) cashed in with a six-play, 25-yard drive. Mangum’s next pass was intercepted by Tevin Carter and returned 28 yards for a touchdown. The Cougars’ third drive ended in another Mangum pick, this one again to Carter, who returned it 33 yards to the BYU 1. Joe Williams punched in Utah’s third touchdown one play later.

Mangum tossed his third pick on BYU’s next drive, this time to Dominique Hatfield, who raced 46 yards for another pick six. The deluge became complete when Squally Canada fumbled on the second snap of BYU’s next possession, and Travis Wilson cashed in five plays later with a 20-yard scoring dash.

All told, Utah held a 35-0 lead with 4:38 remaining in the first quarter while needing only 65 yards of offense.

The teams settled from there, trading punts on seven consecutive possessions after a missed BYU field goal, until the Cougars marched 97 yards in 13 plays to dent the scoreboard with a three-yard toss from Mangum to Remington Peck with 36 seconds left in the first half.

BYU forced a Utah punt to open the second half, then moved 72 yards in 12 plays to pull within 35-14 on a 10-yard Francis Bernard run at the 10:02 mark of the third quarter.

Mangum found Nick Kurtz for a five-yard touchdown pass on fourth-and-goal with 10:33 left in the fourth quarter, then pulled his Cougars to within 35-28 on a four-yard run with 3:23 left.

Utah’s offense, with no points since that first quarter deluge, ran out the final 203 seconds, securing a win that, kiss-your-sister as it may have felt after that 35-0 lead, is a win nonetheless.

BYU out-gained the Utes 387-197 on the day while holding a 22-13 first downs edge. Mangum finished the day completing 25-of-56 passes for 315 yards with two touchdowns (plus one rushing) and three interceptions (plus one fumble). Wilson hit 9-of-16 throws for 71 yards while adding 15 rushes for 23 yards and a score. Utah held a 126-71 advantage on the ground.

In the teams’ first meeting since 2013, Utah’s win extended its Holy War lead to 58-34-4 in a series dating back to 1896 (today’s game was the first outside of Provo or Salt Lake City). The Utes have now won five straight meetings and 10 of the last 13.

With its current coaching staff out the door for Virginia as soon as the final gun sounded and its new head coach all but named before toe met leather, it appeared BYU’s focus these past two weeks was on anything but the opponent lining up across the line of scrimmage. BYU head coach Bronco Mendenhall made coaching in the Vegas Bowl a condition of his accepting the job at Virginia, but the task of managing two jobs on opposite sides of the country appeared to affect his team’s preparation for Saturday’s game. Oregon State defensive coordinator and former Cougars fullback Kalani Sitake has been all but named BYU’s next head coach.

The win gives Kyle Whittingham his fourth 10-win season in 11 tries at Utah and, after an 18-19 start in the program’s first three Pac-12 seasons, pushes his Utes to 19-7 with two straight top-25 finishes over the past two seasons. And the cherry on top of a successful season? He denies Mendenhall his 100th victory at BYU while ending their personal 11-Year War with a 7-3 advantage.

Unranked USC upends No. 3 Utah in 42-24 blowout

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This was how it was supposed to be this season for USC. Speedy wide receivers slicing up defenses, while a running game chews up yardage and clock thanks to a dominant offensive line. A defense that matches the offense with big plays of its own. And a top five opponent sent home to lick its wounds. But thanks to a topsy-turvy, inconsistent start to the season, USC’s 42-24 win over Utah will go down as the upset that wasn’t.

Despite carrying in three losses to Utah’s none, bookmakers saw underachieving USC for what it was: a team capable of doing exactly what it did to the third-ranked team in the country.

The Trojans trailed 14-7 after the first quarter, but completely dominated from there. Cameron Smith got the ball rolling with a 41-yard interception return early in the second quarter, setting Soma Vainuku up for a game-tying one-yard touchdown plunge. Ronald Jones II gave the Men of Troy the lead with an 18-yard touchdown run with 3:40 to go before the half, and Smith added to it by snaring another Travis Wilson pass and racing it 54 yards for a touchdown.

Utah’s Andy Phillips added a 35-yard field goal just before the half to bring the score to 28-17, but that proved to be a brief respite in the midst of a route.

USC added to the lead by moving 83 yards over 17 plays and nearly nine minutes, culminating in a one-yard Cody Kessler sneak, then marched another 92 yards over eight plays and four minutes, capped by a 25-yard pass from Kessler to JuJu Smith-Schuster. The second score was set up by – you guessed it – another Smith interception. The true freshman was Wilson’s second-leading receiver on the night with three grabs for 122 return yards and a touchdown.

Utah added a cosmetic score with four minutes remaining when Wilson hit the Utes’ only bright spot of the evening, Britain Covey, for a 66-yard touchdown. Covey snagged seven receptions for 129 yards and two touchdowns and set up Utah’s other touchdown with a 40-yard punt return.

Make no mistake, this night was about USC, and USC performing like the team it’s capable of being. Kessler hit 21-of-28 throws for 264 yards and a touchdown, Jones and Justin Davis combined to rush 34 times for 139 yards and two scores, and Smith-Schuster contributed eight grabs for 143 yards and a score.

So, what now? USC sits at 4-3 overall and 2-2 in Pac-12 play, good for fourth in the Pac-12 South. But the Trojans hold tiebreakers over Utah and Arizona State, and UCLA waits ahead on the schedule. Utah owns control of the Pac-12 South despite the loss, but the team that took the field Saturday night has at least one more loss ahead on the schedule.

The USC team that took the field Saturday night is absolutely capable of winning out, winning the Pac-12 South and avenging its loss to Stanford in the Pac-12 title game. The USC team that lost to Washington is capable of losing any of its final five games. Which version of these Trojans will win out? Only time will tell.

Upset brewing? USC leads No. 3 Utah at the half

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In what would either be a complete shock or a complete chalk, favored but unranked USC is halfway home to a win over No. 3 Utah at the L.A. Coliseum. The Trojans used a ferocious second quarter to grab a 28-17 halftime lead over the Utes.

USC opened the scoring by moving a swift 88 yards in nine plays, capped by a nine-yard Justin Davis scoring run, to give the Trojans a 7-0 lead midway through the first quarter.

Utah struck back after that, namely on the back of wide receiver Britain Covey. He snagged a 30-yard touchdown pass to tie the game with 3:53 to go in the first quarter, then set his Utes up with a first-and-goal at the two after a corkscrewing 40-yard punt return. Bubba Poole punched in a two-yard touchdown one play later to give the Utes a 14-7 lead.

The USC defense owned the second quarter, forcing a three-and-out on Utah’s next possession and then intercepting Travis Wilson on the next. Trojans linebacker Cameron Smith snagged the pass and returned it 41 yards to the Utah four-yard line, and Soma Vainuku leaped in on fourth-and-goal at the one to tie the game with 9:47 remaining before the break.

USC forced another punt and promptly moved 78 yards in 10 snaps, punctuated by an 18-yard touchdown run by freshman Ronald Jones II, to give USC a 21-14 lead with 3:40 remaining. The Utes moved to the USC 45 with just over a minute remaining and electing to throw on 4th-and-2. Smith again intercepted Wilson and this time raced 54 yards for a touchdown.

Andy Phillips added a 53-yard field goal with five seconds to play to bring Utah within 28-17.

For the half, Wilson completed 14-of-22 passes for 117 yards with a touchdown and those two costly interceptions. Devontae Booker rushed 10 times for 52 yards.

Cody Kessler connected on 10-of-15 throws for 133 yards, and the combination of Jones and Davis have rushed 14 times for 85 yards and two scores.

Overall, USC out-gained Utah 204-177 in the half.

The Trojans will receive to open the second half.

Cal, Utah throw pastry party as turnovers reign in battle of unbeatens


The stage on which unbeaten Cal and undefeated Utah found themselves Saturday night was an unfamiliar one.  ESPN’s College GameDay show pulled into Salt Lake City for the first time in years.  The Golden Bears are looking to go 6-0 to start a season for the first time since 1950, the Utes looking to go 5-0 for the first time since 2010.  Add in Pac-12 and College Football Playoff implications, and this is a huge game given any metric you can utilize.

Given what’s at stake, you’d expect some nerves.  And nerves, and turnovers, are exactly what a national television audience received.

First and foremost, Utah was able to overcome their missteps and take a 24-17 lead into halftime.  As has been intimated, though, turnovers were the overriding theme of the first two quarters.

All told, the two teams combined for seven turnovers.  The decided “advantage” in that category, much to their chagrin, went to the Bears as they were responsible for five of them, which included four Jared Goff first-half interceptions.

The final two Goff picks were particularly penalizing for Cal as Utah turned them into a pair of touchdowns.  A 54-yard touchdown pass from Travis Wilson, responsible for two interceptions himself, snapped a 10-10 tie late in the second quarter coming off the third pick, with the fourth pick on the ensuing possession leading to a Devontae Booker four-yard touchdown run with 1:47 remaining to push that lead out to 24-10.

Goff was able to shake off the most picks thrown by an FBS quarterback in a half this season as he directed the Bears on a late scoring drive to pull his team right back into the game.  In 1:21 of game time, Goff orchestrated a seven-play, 75-yard drive that culminated in a one-yard touchdown pass that shaved the deficit to 24-17.

Utah, incidentally, will get the ball first to start the second half.


Ducks down to Utes, but Lockie breathes life into limp offense

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For the first 24 minutes or so of the first half, and with its offense flailing, it looked as if Oregon was headed toward a second defeat in four tries this season.  While that still may be the case, “The Switch” hasn’t certainly breathed some life into the Ducks.

Sensing the need to shake things up, Mark Helfrich swapped out starting quarterback Vernon Adams, playing with a broken index finger on his throwing hand, in favor of Jeff Lockie. Trailing Utah 20-6 in Eugene, Lockie keyed a seven-play, 68-yard touchdown drive that cut the lead to seven at 20-13.  Lockie went 4-5 passing for 50 yards and a touchdown pass on the drive, adding one carry for 20 yards for good measure.

That spark, though, was, at least temporarily, snuffed out on the Utes’ ensuing drive, and in emphatic fashion.

On a third-and-one from their own 34-yard line, Utah quarterback Travis Wilson raced 60 yards — and by raced I mean lumbered, seemingly in slow motion — down to the Oregon six-yard line.  A penalty set the Utes back five yards, but Wilson eventually hit Caleb Repp from nine yards out to push the lead back out to 27-13, where it remained heading into halftime.

Prior to Lockie’s insertion into the lineup, the Utes’ were absolutely suffocating the Ducks’ powerful offense.  With Adams in charge, UO ran 16 plays and managed just 44 yards in five possessions, punting the ball an unimaginable three times.  Lockie’s first drive netted 24 more yards on nine fewer plays, although his second drive, late in the half, netted a three-and-out and a punt as the Utes’ defense once again stiffened.

Wilson, who had been considered a game-time decision because of an injury to his left (non-throwing) shoulder, accounted for all three of the Utes’ touchdowns, with all three coming on scoring passes.