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Utah Football: Lotulelei leads second-half defensive effort

Published December 31, 2011 6:05 pm

College Football • Utes' defensive stalwart more than makes up for offsides penalty
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2011, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

El Paso, Texas • Still lamenting on offsides penalty that allowed Georgia Tech to pick up a first down without really trying, Utah defensive lineman Star Lotulelei didn't especially like the way he played in the first half of the Sun Bowl on Saturday afternoon.

He more than made up for it in the second half, however.

Keying a Utah defense that bottled up Georgia Tech's vaunted running attack in the second half, Lotulelei earned most valuable lineman honors after the Utes' 30-27 overtime victory over the Yellow Jackets.

"It feels great," said Lotulelei, a junior who has announced he will return to Utah for his senior season. "We had to bounce back from last year when we broke our bowl streak with a loss. After losing that streak of nine straight, it feels good to come back and get this one."

Utah is now 13-4 in bowl games.

The Jackets had 226 rushing yards in the first half, but finished with just 312 on the ground. Georgia Tech entered as the No. 3 rushing offense in the country.

"We figured them out," Lotulelei said.

And he was in the middle of it all, along with Tevita Finau and middle linebacker Chaz Walker, who finished with a game-high 15 tackles.

"Our defense got it done when it had to," said bowl MVP John White, the running back.

Lotulelei, a Bingham High product, said the turnaround was a matter of discipline.

"Guys started doing their jobs," he said. "It was more about us figuring out what was going on. Then we stopped it."

And ended Utah's bowl-game losing skid at just one.