Getting beat out for the starting job hit Utes senior quarterback Troy Williams hard, but an unspectacular performance in the team’s first loss of the season on Saturday may have hit him harder.
Williams, a senior co-captain, threw a pair of interceptions on back-to-back attempts in the fourth quarter with Utah attempting to rally from a 10-point deficit. Ultimately, Williams added a last-minute touchdown pass in a 23-20 loss to Stanford, the first of the season for Utah (4-1, 1-1 Pac-12).
The Utes offense turned in its second-lowest scoring game of the season and did not display enough life at key moments to overcome Stanford and Bryce Love’s budding Heisman Trophy campaign. Following the game, Utes coach Kyle Whittingham left the door open for third-string quarterback Cooper Bateman to take playing time away from Williams next weekend’s at USC if sophomore Tyler Huntley is still out with a shoulder injury.
“We’ll see who practices better,” Whittingham said. “We’ll see. Cooper Bateman is getting better. He had very few reps the first four weeks of the season because he was number three. Now that he is number two, he’s getting a lot of reps. We’ll see how he progresses this week.”
Bateman joined the program this spring as a graduate transfer from the University of Alabama. A Cottonwood High School graduate, he made one start in 2015 and appeared in 13 games during his time with the Crimson Tide.
Williams, who led the Utes to nine wins last season, completed 20 of 39 passes for 238 yards with one touchdown pass and two interceptions. The TD pass late in the game to Darren Carrington II capped a 95-yard drive following back-to-back interceptions from Williams, one of which happened at the Stanford 14-yard line.
“Probably all of Ute nation, our fans, whoever was rooting for us tonight, you know, I’m probably not the guy everybody wants to see right now,” Williams said. “I’ve just got to play better. It’s a part of the game. They love you one minute, they hate you the next.”
Stanford’s defense succeeded in shutting down Carrington, who came into the weekend as the Pac-12′s leading receiver, in the first half. He had one pass thrown his way in the first half, and that fell incomplete at his feet. Carrington had 99 receiving yards in the second half.
“They were rolling the safety over the top, which I would do it too,” Whittingham said of Stanford’s coverage of Carrington. “If I was defensive coordinator, I’m not going to single-cover that guy. I’m going to bump him at the line, roll a safety over the top, make sure I have help. They did a good job taking him away. We started running him off some more crossing routes and stuff in the second half which opened him up a little bit.”
Twice — once in the second quarter and once in the third — the Utes offense stalled inside Stanford’s 5-yard line and settled for field goals. The Utes’ first touchdown, a 2-yard run up the middle by running back Zack Moss, was set up by a pass interference penalty.
“It’s on us tonight,” said Moss, who rushed for a team-high 79 yards on 15 carries. “We didn’t score enough points when we needed to to put them away, so that’s on us as an offense.”
Herriman High School players Jaren Kump, a 6-foot-5, 261-pound offensive lineman, and 6-foot-6, 280-pound tight end David Fotu announced via Twitter on Sunday that they’d each switched their commitments to Utah after having previously committed to BYU.
247Sports rates both Kump and Fotu as three-star prospects, while ESPN.com ranks Kump the eighth-best prospect in Utah. Fotu is the brother of Utah defensive lineman Leki Fotu, who made his first start on Saturday night against Stanford.