Kyle Whittingham would’ve bet his house against what eventually transpired Saturday night in Seattle.
And he would’ve lost.
Utah’s coach said so at his Monday news conference.
“I would’ve bet my house that they would not have gone the distance on our defense in that amount of time and maneuver into field-goal range,” Whittingham said, “but they did, so credit to them. We weren’t able to make a play.”
The timeout he called with 23 seconds left in the fourth quarter gave new life to the Huskies, who two plays later, completed a stunning comeback to douse Utah’s hopes of an upset, in the 33-30 win over the Utes Saturday at Husky Stadium.
Whittingham again explained his rationale Monday, saying it was a matter of field position, an aggressive coaching scheme — which already featured 3-for-3 on fourth downs, plus a successful fake punt and onside kick — betting on Utah’s defense and having the superior placekicker in Matt Gay.
After forcing the Utes to punt with 29 seconds remaining, the Huskies, who were out of timeouts, came out and ran the ball on first down, a two-yard gain by running back Myles Gaskin, which put Washington at its own 30-yard line. Whittingham, who had one more timeout in his pocket, called the timeout hoping for a second down incomplete pass or potentially a turnover, knowing that a likely third-down run call could be followed up by Utah’s last timeout and eventual punt.
“I was anxious to see how they came out, because if they came out and took a knee, there’s nothing we could do about it,” Whittingham said. “Only have two timeouts, they could just flush the rest of the game and go into overtime. When they ran the ball, it was [an indication] to me that they were going to be aggressive, so I thought, ‘Great,’ because I was betting on our defense to make a play and they had to go 60-something yards.”
Washington’s kicker Tristan Vizcaino had struggled mightily all year, going 9-of-16 before his game-winning 38-yarder split the uprights, and even missed an extra point earlier in the game against Utah.
But after the timeout, Washington quarterback Jake Browning hit wideout Dante Pettis for an 18-yard reception before Pettis ran out of bounds, stopping the clock. And on the next play, Browning delivered a 31-yard strike to Andre Baccellia, putting the Huskies immediately in field-goal range at Utah’s 21-yard line.
“Again, trying to win it in regulation,” Whittingham said. “Just because you go into overtime doesn’t mean your chances are any better than if you try to win it in regulation.”
Utah’s 30-23 lead with 1:05 remaining vanished in 65 seconds.
“I would do it again,” Whittingham said, “but knowing how it played out I wouldn’t, but going into it without any knowledge of how it was going to play out, I would’ve chosen the aggressive path again and bet our defense. I have a lot of confidence in those guys.”
“You can agree with it, disagree with it, that’s your choice,” Whittingham added, “but we were aggressive the entire night.”
Special team stars award finalists
Special Teams U once again is being noticed.
Utah kicker Matt Gay was named Monday as one of three finalists for the 2017 Lou Groza Award, which goes to the top field-goal kicker in the nation. The junior walk-on is a former soccer player at Utah Valley University. His 25 field goals this year, a new Utah single-season record, currently leads all of college football.
Gay has hit five field goals from 50 yards this year, also most in the country. Gay has hit two 56-yard field goals this season, which is the second-longest field-goal make in program history. He is also 33 of 33 on PATs this year. Utah State kicker Dominik Eberle also is one of the three finalists along with Auburn’s Daniel Carlson.
Utah punter Mitch Wishnowsky is a finalist for the 2017 Ray Guy Award and will attempt to keep the honor for college football’s top punter in Salt Lake City for a remarkable fourth straight year. The Aussie punter is the reigning Ray Guy Award winner from 2016 and followed two-time award winner Tom Hackett, a fellow Aussie.
Wishnowsky leads the Pac-12 in punting this year and is 10th in the country, averaging 45 yards per punt. Other Ray Guy finalists this year are Alabama’s JK Scott and Texas’ Michael Dickson.
Whittingham is hopeful that some of the injured players who missed the loss at Washington can return for the regular-season finale at home against Colorado.
“It’s still to be determined,” he said. “Last week we had about six or seven guys on the fence, this week’s probably three or four guys where we’re crossing our fingers and seeing if we can get them back for the last game.”
Utah was without safety Chase Hansen, defensive end Kylie Fitts and cornerback Casey Hughes. Linebacker Sunia Tauteoli and guard Jordan Agasiva returned after missing some time, as did wideout Darren Carrington II, although he was hobbled much of the night against the Huskies.
Falemaka looking for one more year
Despite being listed on the roster as a senior, starting center Lo Falemaka will not be one of the 22 seniors recognized during the pre-game ceremony Saturday night against Colorado. According to a release from Utah, Falemaka plans on applying for a medical hardship extension at the conclusion of the 2017 season.