Unbeaten no more: Utes fall to Love’s Stanford Cardinal

AP Photo

SALT LAKE CITY – The University of Utah football program fell to Stanford 23-20 on Saturday night, suffering its first Pac-12 loss (4-1 overall, 1-1 Pac-12).

utesTroy Williams said it best in the post-game press conference after Utah suffered the loss tonight, “you just have to take it on the chin and move on.” It was a hard-fought battle from start to finish, with lead changes, ties and close calls. Utah had a chance at the end of the game after cutting the Stanford lead to just three points, but the onside kick was unsuccessful, allowing Stanford to clinch the victory.

Williams finished the game 20-of-39 for 238 yards (1 TD, 2 INT). Darren Carrington II led the team in receiving with 99 yards on seven catches along with the late touchdown while Raelon Singleton added a season-high 62 yards on three catches (20.7 ypc). Zack Moss had a team-high 15 carries for a season-high 79 yards, also scoring his third touchdown of the season.

On defense, Sunia Tauteoli had a game-high 11 tackles, including 3.5 for loss. Kavika Luafatasaga and Chase Hansen also added seven tackles each.

But the Bryce Love highlight tour continued in Salt Lake City on Saturday with No. 20 Utah the latest to leave frustrated by the show.

Bryce Love

Love ran for 152 yards and a touchdown, and Stanford handed the Utes their first loss of the season.

Utah bottled up the nation’s leading rusher for most of the night, but the Cardinal (4-2, 3-1 Pac-12) faithfully continued to give their star the ball. On his 18th touch, the 5-foot-10, 196-pound speedster made two defenders miss in the hole and ran away for a 68-yarder that put the Cardinal up 23-13 with 12:02 remaining.

“You look at their personnel and it’s like an NFL defense,” Stanford coach David Shaw said. “Big guys all over the place. They can all hit. They can all tackle.

“We knew with enough opportunities, Bryce Love was going to break one or two of them out and he did that.”

After Stanford thought they had found the end zone in just the first minute of the game, the play was called back on an illegal motion penalty. The Utah defense was then able to put up a strong front to force the Cardinal to a 21-yard field goal at the end of the drive. The field goal gave Stanford a 3-0 lead with 11:19 left in the first quarter, ending a 71-yard drive that burned 3:41 off the clock.

Utah started its second offensive drive on the 50-yard-line, quickly getting down field with help from Moss. Moss contributed 28 of Utah’s 50 yards on the drive ending with a two-yard rushing score to give Utah a 7-3 lead with 6:00 left to play in the first quarter. It was just a five-play drive that took 2:34 off the clock.

Stanford regained the lead with 9:35 left to play in the second quarter when Keller Chryst scored on a seven-yard rush, making it 10-7. The touchdown was set up by a 39-yard rush from Bryce Love to the Utah seven-yard-line, allowing Chryst to finish off the five-play, 71-yard drive.

The Utes used up 6:35 on its next drive, but had to settle for a field goal after being stopped on the Stanford 12-yard-line. Matt Gay converted on a 30-yarder to tie the score 10-10 with 3:00 remaining in the second quarter, ending an 11-play drive for 63 yards.

The kicking game continued as Stanford knocked in a 46-yard field goal with just six seconds left to play in the second quarter, taking a 13-10 lead. The Cardinal drove down field 62 yards for 11 plays, taking 2:48 off the clock, scoring the last points of the first half.

After Utah fumbled on a punt to start the second half, Stanford took over possession on the Utah 15-yard-line with 13:02 on the clock in the third quarter. Despite the misfortune on Utah special teams, the Ute defense stepped up to the plate, holding Stanford to just three yards on the drive, forcing them to another field goal. Stanford was good from 29 yards, making it 16-10.

The Utes struggled to find the end zone in the third quarter, having to settle on a 30-yard field goal from Gay with 3:35 left to play. It was the conclusion of a 15-play, 62-yard drive that burned 7:51 off the clock, cutting Stanford’s lead to 16-13.

After being forced to punt in the opening offensive drive of the fourth quarter, Stanford took over and quickly found their way to the end zone on a 68-yard rushing touchdown from Bryce Love. It was just a two-play, 74-yard drive for 55 seconds, giving Stanford a 23-13 advantage with 12:02 left to play in the game.

With time running out, Williams connected with Carrington for an 18-yard pass for a touchdown, whittling away at the Stanford lead to make it 23-20 with just 44 seconds remaining in the game. After attempting an onside kick, Stanford was able to recover the ball, running out the clock to secure the win on the road.

Utah returns to action on Saturday, Oct. 14 when they travel to USC. The game is slated for a 6 p.m. start on ABC.

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