Tyler Huntley

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USC takes charge in Pac-12 South after upset of No. 10 Utah

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Late Friday night saw the first upset of the weekend in college football. No. 10 Utah (3-1, 0-1 Pac-12) was upset on the road by USC (3-1, 2-0 Pac-12), 30-23, despite the Trojans playing with a third-string quarterback and the Pac-12 officials throwing enough flags to fill five loads of laundry. The win by USC moves the Trojans into a comfortable spot in the Pac-12 South before even getting to October.

USC lost starting quarterback Kedon Slovis on the second play of the game. After Slovis left to be evaluated for a possible head injury, third-string quarterback Matt Fink stepped in to lead the offense. All Fink did was lead USC to touchdowns on their first two possessions of the game and then make some big passes in the second half to keep the Trojans in front of Utah. Fink ended his night off the bench with 351 passing yards and three touchdowns. Michael Pittman Jr. was on the receiving end of 10 of those receptions for a massive 232 receiving yards. The highlight of the night was a 77-yard touchdown pass that saw Pittman come down with a jump ball and then push aside a would-be tackler on his way to the endzone.

A win is a win, fo course, and USC will take them any way they can. On Friday night in the Coliseum, they had to overcome an onslaught of bad penalties. USC was flagged 11 times for 117 yards. Utah had their share of laundry too with 16 penalties called for 120 yards. Both teams were guilty of personal foul penalties as the game was certainly chippy at times. But some of the penalties were questionable at best. Neither coach will walk away from this game feeling great about the discipline or the officiating, as there was plenty of blame to go around in this one.

Utah had their chances to come away with the win, but an inability to defend deep jump ball passes by Fink killed them too often. The Utes ran for 247 yards as a team but managed just one touchdown on the ground. Quarterback Tyler Huntley put his team on the back for much of the night with 210 passing yards and 60 rushing yards, but it was not enough as defenders were able to get to him and bring him under pressure.

In the end, it was just USC’s night, and it was one Clay Helton really needed. For now, USC can live in the moment and not have to worry about distractions about the future of Helton. USC is already 2-0 in conference play with wins against Stanford and Utah. The road is not going to get any easier, with a road game at Washington coming up next week, followed by a trip to South Bend, Indiana to play Notre Dame. But USC ha splayed themselves into a favorable spot in the Pac-12 by being 2-0 and owning a head-to-head tiebreaker with Utah. That gives USC a margin for error in conference play, and they look to be the best team within the Pac-12 South the rest of the season.

While we should be wise not to pencil USC into the Pac-12 championship game just yet (remember, third-string QB and they still have Washington and Oregon to play in a difficult crossover division rotation), but there have been some true signs of promise for the Trojans early on this season. And bouncing back from a hard-fought loss at BYU last week to knock off No. 10 Utah is quite a turnaround for USC.

As USC hits the road to challenge Washington next week, Utah will look to rebound at home in Salt Lake City against Washington State. As of the conclusion of the USC-Utah game, the Washington State Cougars were one of three undefeated teams in the Pac-12 left standing (Cal, Arizona State).

Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award watch list includes 2018 finalist Shea Patterson, Jalen Hurts, Justin Herbert

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And now for a quarterback award watch list that won’t include a certain starting quarterback form Clemson or Alabama. The Johnny Unitas Foundation has released the watch list for the Johnny Unitas Golden Arm Award, presented annually to college football’s top senior or fourth-year quarterback. This year’s watch list includes some recognizable names such as Oklahoma’s Jalen Hurts and Oregon’s Justin Herbert.

Former Washington State quarterback Gardner Minshew was named the winner of the award in 2018. Just one finalist for the 2018 award is on the watch list this season. Michigan’s Shea Patterson is that player (UCF’s McKenzie Milton was a finalist last year but is not expected to play this season despite still being at UCF as he recovers from his season-ending injury from late in 2018).

Other past winners include Deshaun Watson (2016), Marcus Mariota (2014), Andrew Luck (2011), Matt Ryan (2007), Eli Manning (2003), Carson Palmer (2002) and Peyton Manning (1997).

2019 Golden Arm Award Watch List Presented by A. O. Smith

  • Jack Abraham, Southern Mississippi
  • Blake Barnett, University of South Florida
  • Woody Barrett, Kent State
  • Jake Bentley, University of South Carolina
  • Anthony Brown, Boston College
  • Kelly Bryant, Missouri
  • Joe Burrow, LSU
  • Stephen Buckshot Calvert, Liberty
  • Marcus Childers, Northern Illinois
  • K.J. Costello, Stanford Unversity
  • Jacob Eason, Washington University
  • Caleb Evans, University of Louisiana Monroe
  • Mason Fine, North Texas
  • Feleipe Franks, University of Florida
  • Mitchell Guadagni, Toledo
  • Jarrett Guarantano, University of Tennessee
  • Gage Gubrud, Washington State University
  • Quentin Harris, Duke University
  • Justin Herbert, University of Oregon
  • Kelvin Hopkins, Jr., Army
  • Tyler Huntley, University of Utah
  • Jalen Hurts, University of Oklahoma
  • Josh Jackson, University of Maryland
  • D’Eriq King, Houston
  • Brian Lewerke, Michigan State University
  • Jordan Love, Utah State University
  • Jake Luton, Oregon State University
  • Cole McDonald, University of Hawaii
  • Justin McMillan, Tulane
  • Steven Montez, University of Colorado
  • James Morgan, FIU
  • Riley Neal, Vanderbilt University
  • Kato Nelson, Akron
  • Shea Patterson, University of Michigan
  • Bryce Perkins, University of Virginia
  • Malcolm Perry, Navy
  • Peyton Ramsey, Indiana University
  • Armani Rogers, UNLV
  • Nathan Rourke, Ohio
  • Anthony Russo, Temple University
  • J’Mar Smith, Louisiana Tech
  • Nate Stanley, University of Iowa
  • Dillon Sterling-Cole, Arizona State University
  • Khalil Tate, University of Arizona
  • Zac Thomas, Appalachian State University
  • Skylar Thompson, Kansas State
  • Brady White, University of Memphis
  • Ryan Willis, Virginia Tech
  • Brandon Wimbush, University of Central Florida

CFT Previews: San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl

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WHO: No. 17 Utah (9-4) vs. No. 22 Northwestern (8-5)
WHAT: The 41st San Diego County Credit Union Holiday Bowl
WHEN: 7:00 p.m. ET on FS1
WHERE: SDCCU Stadium, San Diego, CA
THE SKINNY: While the Rose Bowl gets the champions of the Big Ten and Pac-12 this season, it is the Holiday Bowl that gets the runners-up for a fun little matchup between Northwestern and Utah. Both schools are making their first trip to the long-standing bowl game.

The great unknown for Utah is the status of quarterback Tyler Huntley. Huntley was thought to be lost for the season due to a collarbone injury, but he has been available for practices and has not been ruled out for the Holiday Bowl. In fact, Kyle Whittingham has refused to name a starter, which suggests there is a chance that not only will Huntley play, but he could even get the starting nod for the Utes offense. If Huntley can be available, that would be a nice lift for a Utah offense as he is the more dependable option compared to backup Jason Shelley.

Northwestern will know they have Clayton Thorson leading their offense, but he can be streaky in good ways and bad. Against a steady Utah defense, that could be an ominous sign. Look for the Wildcats to try getting freshman running back Isaiah Bowser going, but Utah will be focused on stopping the Northwestern running game to force Thorson to try beating them through the air. That may be a risk they are willing to take.

THE LINE: Utah -7.0
THE PREDICTION: Utah 30, Northwestern 24

Utah’s surprise QB announcement tabs Tyler Huntley as starter

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Utah head coach Kyle Whittingham made one of the more surprising decisions on Monday. Instead of naming the senior captain as his starting quarterback, Whittingham chose sophomore Tyler Huntley to be the team’s starting quarterback in Week 1 against North Dakota.

The decision to go with Huntley means Troy Williams will be reduced to backup duty. Alabama transfer Cooper Bateman will also be sitting down on the depth chart, which is another mild surprise from Salt Lake City.

Williams was Utah’s quarterback last season when the Utes made a push for the Pac-12 South Division before falling just short of the Pac-12 championship game. Williams passed for 2,757 yards and 15 touchdowns. Williams also rushed for 235 yards and five touchdowns for the Utes.

As a freshman, Huntley appeared in six games and attempted just seven passes for 60 total yards. It would seem Huntley has done a lot to impress the coaches to earn the starting nod over an experienced starter and the transfer option. His improvement in the offseason and athleticism are said to be fueling his rise as a quarterback, so we’ll see how that pays off on the field once the games begin.

Utah offense looks to find more balance in 2016

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The strength of Utah the past couple of seasons has come on defense and in the running game. That recipe may not be too much different this fall, but the Utes are looking to balance things out offensively and get the passing game to pick up some of the slack. Following Utah’s spring game on Saturday, head coach Kyle Whittingham noted the offense could have a slightly different look this upcoming season.

“It’s not a 30-carry a game Devontae Booker situation,” Whittingham said, referring to the bulk of the offense placed in the hands of Utah’s leading rusher a year ago. “We’re going to spread the ball around a little bit more.”

Utah’s spring game showed more wrinkles from the passing game as the Utes look to replace Travis Wilson. Junior Brandon Cox, JUCO transfer Troy Williams (a former four-star recruit at Washington) and freshman Tyler Huntley continue to make their case for the starting nod, although Williams is believed to be the eventual pick. Williams has missed a big chunk of the spring due to injury, giving the others some extra snaps in the spring. Finding stability at the quarterback situation will be essential, at least until Utah finds a running back ready to step up and take on the leading role the way Booker previously did. For now, it appears Joe Williams may be the most likely to take on the bulk of the rushing attempts in the fall. He is certainly thinking and talking like the job is his to lose.

“Going into this spring ball, that was my mentality,” Williams said. “I’ve got the mentality that it’s my job and I’m not going to let anyone take it.”

Running backs coach Dennis Erickson said Williams and Troy McCormick will each see playing time in the fall, and both could be on the field at the same time.

Utah’s running game ranked fourth in the Pac-12 last season with 183 rushing yards per game and an average of 43.92 rushing attempts per game. Devontae Booker was responsible for 26.8 rushing attempts per game and 126.1 rushing yards per game. Quarterback Travis Wilson was the team’s second-leading rusher as well.