Dallas • Utah sophomore Tyler Huntley easily was the best quarterback on the field Tuesday in the Heart of Dallas Bowl vs. West Virginia, but that’s not much of a compliment.
Huntley’s passing was inefficient and his intermittent running success that accounted for two touchdowns was offset by six sacks. Those losses usually were not his fault, and some dropped balls partly explained why he completed less than half of his passes.
The consolation? West Virginia fill-in quarterback Chris Chugunov performed much worse, throwing two interceptions in Utah’s 30-14 victory at the Cotton Bowl Stadium.
Huntley’s only turnover was a late-game fumble. He blamed the wet conditions for a botched handoff to Zack Moss. Huntley completed 12 of 26 passes for 165 yards. He gained 101 yards on 19 designed carries, but those six sacks gave him a net of 57 yards.
So a box score showing 25 total runs for Huntley compared with Moss’ 20 carries raised another round of questions about Utah’s read-option scheme. Huntley believed he was making the right reads on those plays, and he did pick up some important first downs in addition to his two TDs.
Huntley’s passing was more troublesome to coach Kyle Whittingham, who cited “some throws that were there that he usually does make that he missed on.”
Huntley was “a little off his game today throwing the football,” Whittingham added.
Utes receiver Demari Simpkins actually came the closest to throwing a touchdown pass Tuesday. On a trick play, Simpkins threw a perfect pass to tight end Harrison Handley, who stumbled as the ball went through his hands in the end zone in the fourth quarter.
That may have been the Utes offense’s most memorable play during a 362-yard day that will leave fans expecting more next season, even after Utah scored 30-plus points for a third straight game to end 2017. Huntley said the bowl win was important “just to start the [next] year off right.”
Moss promised the Utes would be “really scary” in 2018, when Utah’s schedule starts with Weber State, followed by Northern Illinois and Washington.
DIVISION OF LABOR
Utah’s breakdown of offensive plays in the Heart of Dallas Bowl:
First half • 38 plays – 17 passes, 12 runs by quarterback Tyler Huntley (counting three sacks), eight runs by Zack Moss, one run by Devonta’e Henry-Cole.
Second half • 42 plays – 10 passes, 13 runs by Huntley (counting three sacks), 12 runs by Moss, two runs by Jordan Howard, one run each by Henry-Cole, Demari Simpkins and Mitch Wishnowsky (botched punt attempt) and two team rushes.