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Matt Piper and Kyle Goon
Matt Piper and Kyle Goon cover University of Utah sports teams for The Salt Lake Tribune. Matt Piper is on twitter at @matthew_piper, Kyle Goon is on twitter at @kylegoon

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Utes, fans stunned by Sun Bowl comeback

Utah linebacker Chaz Walker seemed to be in a bit of disbelief as he stood on the field shortly after the Utes beat Georgia Tech 30-27 to win the Sun Bowl Saturday.

"There are so many emotions," he said. "We were up and down and the next minute I don't know. That game could have gone either way."

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Walker certainly wasn't the only one stunned by Saturday's turn of events. Really, who wasn't?

That the Utes were able to battle back from that 24-10 deficit and win in overtime speaks to the fortitude the Utes had all season.

In a way, it makes their loss at home to Colorado that much more puzzling. How can a team fight so hard to win in overtime on a snowy field at Washington State and again Saturday, but lose at home to a team with a long road losing streak.

That will go down as the most puzzling game of the year for the Utes.

Utah coach Kyle Whittingham mentioned after Saturday's win there will be a little "shoulda, coulda, woulda," thanks to that loss to the Buffs that dashed Utah's hopes of reaching the Pac-12 title game, but at least the Utes have a bowl win to take into 2012.

"That is a big deal," Whittingham said. "There are a lot of people who have worked hard to make our bowl record what it is and we wanted to go out on a positive note and we certainly did that."

Whittingham said he debated going for two at the end of the game, but decided ultimately to put the game in the hands of the defense.

"We knew they are extremely effective in the red zone so the thinking was going into overtime with them would not be in your favor," Whittingham said.

The deciding factor for Whittingham was the 1:32 left on the clock.

"We thought we could stay the course on the defense," he said.

Georgia Tech nearly made the coach regret his decision, working the ball down to Utah's 31-yard line, but the 48-yard missed field goal gave the Utes new life going into overtime.

They had John White and they had the momentum.

"We wanted to put the ball in John's hands," lineman Tony Bergstrom said. "We know he is a fighter and we just had to give him the ball."

Bergstrom said he felt more relief than excitement over the win, noting tension to win the game has been building throughout December. There was some relief too that the Utes held their own in the Pac-12 and did what ASU, Cal and Washington couldn't do and finish with a bowl win.

To that note, receiver DeVonte Christopher felt Saturday's outcome was bigger for the players returning than even the seniors who left with a win.

"With so many players coming back, and good players, this gives us something to build on," he said. "We're going to have a good offense and this gives us momentum. It was big, real big."

— Lya Wodraska



Copyright 2014 The Salt Lake Tribune. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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