Utah football: Finals result spoils defense's effort (with video)
On one hand, Utah's defense did surrender two fourth-quarter touchdown drives that allowed Arizona State to sneak away with a 20-19 win over the Utes on Saturday afternoon.
On the other hand? How many of the 45,183 in attendance left Rice-Eccles Stadium thinking that Utah's defense was to blame for a final 15 minutes gone wrong?
The defense, simply put, was spectacular in large stretches against an ASU team that had been ripping the rest of the Pac-12 to shreds with a high-powered offense.
The Sun Devils produced about half of their normal output.
They struggled to protect Taylor Kelly.
And for as much as Marion Grice produced, the defense still did a good job on one of the best running backs in the conference.
"To play the type of defense that we did was encouraging," Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. "I thought the secondary did a terrific job. They played their hearts out, but you've got to protect a 12-point lead, so it was a team effort today."
Even with that being the case, the defense put Utah in prime position for a huge win. The unit produced six sacks, with five players accounting for them.
Linebacker Jason Whittingham came up with 14 tackles, while Trevor Reilly had nine.
The defense bottled Kelly up. Normally one of the best quarterbacks in the league, Kelly threw for 144 yards. He usually does damage with his legs, but on Saturday the Utes rarely let him out of the pocket.
When Utah needed stops, it usually came up with one. When the Utes were faced with defending a short field, they met the challenge several times and turned ASU back.
"You have to give Utah credit," Sun Devils coach Todd Graham said. "I've watched a lot of film. Very few times does our team go out there on the field and the other team does things you haven't seen before. That happened for the first time tonight."
Utes' defense shines â¦ until late
• Utah's defense holds Arizona State to seven points through three quarters.
• Utah sacks Taylor Kelly six times.
• Linebacker Jason Whittingham produces 14 tackles.