Sophomore quarterback Tyler Huntley missed the Utes final regular-season game with an undisclosed injury. With about a week and a half still to go before the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl, the Utes expect Huntley to be ready to start against West Virginia.
Utah senior quarterback Troy Williams led the Utes to a 34-13 victory over Colorado in Rice-Eccles Stadium to clinch bowl eligibility with Huntley sidelined. Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said that the injury is not the same shoulder injury which Huntley suffered in the Pac-12 Conference opener against Arizona.
“If Tyler can play and he’s ready to go, he’s our quarterback,” Utes offensive coordinator Troy Taylor said following Thursday’s practice.
Williams, the Utes’ starter for every game of the 2016 season, went 1-2 as a starter this season and was 60 of 110 for 812 yards with two touchdowns and four interceptions in seven games.
Huntley, who went 5-4 as a starter this season, ranked 15th in NCAA Division I in total offense (302.9 yards per game). He completed 187 of 286 passes for 2,246 yards with 15 touchdowns, 10 interceptions and three 300-yard passing games. He also averaged 53.3 rushing yards per game.
Asked how confident he was that Huntley would be ready to play in the bowl game, Whittingham simply replied. “Very confident.”
The Utes have one fewer option at quarterback going into the bowl game than when they started the season. Whittingham said on Thursday that Cooper Bateman, a Murray native and graduate transfer from Alabama, had “hung it up” and left the program. Bateman did not play in a game this season.
Gay in elite company
Utes kicker Matt Gay officially became a consensus All-American on Thursday, the seventh in the history of the program. He joined defensive lineman Luther Elliss (1994), offensive lineman Jordan Gross (2002), defensive back Eric Weddle (2006), kicker Louie Sakoda (2008) and punters Tom Hackett (2014 and 2015) and Mitch Wishnowsky (2016) as Utes to garner that honor.
The Lou Groza Award winner as the nation’s top kicker, Gay was one of five consensus All-Americans in the Pac-12 Conference this season along with Stanford running back Bryce Love, Washington State offensive lineman Cody O’Connell, Washington State defensive lineman Hercules Mata’afa and Washington kick returner/all-purpose player Dante Pettis.
Odds and ends
West Virginia announced that senior running back Justin Crawford will not play in the Zaxby’s Heart of Dallas Bowl in order to focus on NFL draft preparation. Crawford, a second-team All-Big 12 selection, rushed for 1,061 yards and seven touchdowns this season. He became the first West Virginia running back with back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons since Noel Devine in 2008 and 2009. … Utes football director of strength and conditioning Doug Elisaia and West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen were college roommates at Iowa Wesleyan in the early 1990s. Elisaia played defensive tackle from 1991-1995, while Holgorsen played wide receiver and graduated in 1993. Current Washington State coach Mike Leach served as the school’s offensive coordinator and offensive line coach from 1989 to 1991.“I could never beat him up,” Holgorsen quipped about Elisaia during a conference call last week. “Doug Elsaia was approximately 6-foot-1 and 290 pounds and was really a bad dude. I never tested him. He protected me most of the time. I’m not going to test him in pregame.”