Utah football: Defense does its part in fourth quarter
El Paso, Texas • Utah's defensive players understood that allowing a bunch of yards in the Sun Bowl was pretty much inevitable. The best they could hope to do was limit Georgia Tech's scoring, and that's exactly what they did.
The defense especially came through in the fourth quarter, giving the offense a chance to rally and force overtime in a 30-27 victory Saturday.
Subtracting a touchdown via an interception return, the Utes allowed only 17 points in regulation. That makes Georgia Tech's 312 rushing yards and 449 total yards almost exactly the Yellow Jackets' season averages highly forgivable.
"We gave up a lot of rushing yards, but we came away unscathed," said coach Kyle Whittingham.
This game was easily framed as Georgia Tech's efficient, triple-option offense versus Utah's aggressive, run-stopping defense. The matchup made for long stretches of methodical, uneventful football, but that's all part of the fascination.
Tech rushed for 225 yards in the first half, but two missed field goals and a fumble left the Yellow Jackets trailing 10-7.
"Our defense came through," said Ute lineman Star Lotulelei. "We had to be mentally tough and stay in our assignments, and I think we did our job."
Holding a 24-10 lead, the Yellow Jackets went three-plays-and-out on three consecutive possessions.
That included a series in which Georgia Tech could have iced the game with a 24-17 edge and the Utes having to use all of their timeouts, but the country's No. 3 rushing offense was stymied again.
That stand justified Whittingham's decision to punt from the Ute 25-yard line with less than three minutes remaining, trusting his defense to get the ball back.
Tech drove into Ute territory with the game tied in regulation, but missed a long field-goal try. The Utes then made Tech settle for a field goal in overtime and won the game with John White's touchdown on their possession.
Utes swarm Yellow Jackets in second half
Georgia Tech rush yards
First half 225
Second half 87