When the Stanford offense took the opening kickoff and briskly moved 75 yards for a touchdown, Utah's defense appeared overwhelmed.
Hardly anyone would have guessed the Cardinal would score only seven more offensive points the rest of the night, as Utah's defense helped deliver a 27-21 upset Saturday night at Rice-Eccles Stadium.
The Utes wore down in the fourth quarter, ultimately needing a defensive stand at their 6-yard line to preserve the victory. "At the end, we came through," said Trevor Reilly, who led Utah's defense with seven tackles and two fumble recoveries and said the final sequence "personified" his group's toughness.
In the middle two quarters, the Utes allowed only 107 total yards, while creating those two takeaways with Reilly and Nate Orchard forcing Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan to fumble three times in all. In a stretch of 47 minutes on the scoreboard, the Cardinal's only points came from a kickoff return for a touchdown midway through the first quarter.
Utah's pressure and some disguised blitzes caused Stanford trouble. And on the Cardinal's last two offensive plays of the game, with Stanford at the Utah 6-yard line and needing only 2 yards for a first down, the Utes' scheme of heavy blitzes with man-to-man coverage in the secondary kept Hogan from finding an open receiver.
The strategy was designed to "speed things up with pressure," said Ute coach Kyle Whittingham, and it worked.
A missed tackle on the outside and a miscommunication in the Ute secondary enabled Stanford to score on it opening drive. In the fourth quarter, holding a 27-14 lead, Utah allowed Stanford's Ty Montgomery to come open over the middle for a 45-yard reception, leading to a touchdown. Otherwise, the Utes were solid. They held the Cardinal to 13 first downs, 143 rushing yards and 389 total yards.