For an intrasquad practice game that leads into summer which leads into preseason practices to get ready for actual games, the Utes found a way to inject some excitement into the annual Red-White spring game.
After walk-on quarterback Drew Lisk (133 passing yards, two touchdowns) led his team to a go-ahead touchdown on a 12-yard pass to Samson Nacua with 33 seconds remaining, the defending Lou Groza Award winner Matt Gay answered with 57-yard field goal as time expired to give the Red Team a 25-23 win in Rice-Eccles Stadium on Saturday afternoon.
As usual, the spring game featured almost as many potential starters on the sidelines in street clothes as suited up on the field. The looming specter of injury always limits participation and this year was no different with running back Zack Moss, linebackers Cody Barton, Chase Hansen, defensive end Bradlee Anae and left tackle Jackson Barton among those who didn’t play.
“The primary thing is seeing a lot of guys that haven’t played a lot of football for us get a chance in as game-like situation as we can create, and see what kind of response we get from them,” Utes coach Kyle Whittingham said. “It gives us a good idea of who may be ready to help us this fall and who’s not yet ready.”
• Matt Gay’s 57-yard field goal gives the Red Team a 25-23 win on the last play of the Utes Red-White spring game.
• Quarterback Tyler Huntley makes good decisions and looks sharp in wrapping up his first spring as the starter.
• Among the projected starters who did not play were running back Zack Moss, linebackers Chase Hansen and Cody Barton and left tackle Jackson Barton.
Quarterback Tyler Huntley, who’ll be a junior this coming season, finished the day having gone 6-of-12 for 72 yards and one touchdown pass for the Red Team. He limited his rushing attempts to three carries for just three yards. Huntley played three series and ended the day on a positive after an defensive back Javelin Guidry intercepted Jack Tuttle and set the Red Team up with a short field inside the 9-yard line.
Huntley capped the two-play drive with a 7-yard touchdown pass over the middle to Jameson Field. The Huntley-led Red Team’s previous possession stalled inside the red zone after the offense got stopped twice on fourth down — the second chance game as a result of a penalty.
Utah offensive coordinator Troy Taylor lauded Huntley’s progress this spring, describing his performance as “exceptional” coming off his first season as the starter.
Huntley finished his first season having completed 64 percent of his passes for 2,411 yards and 15 touchdowns with 10 interceptions. He accounted for nearly 300 yards of total offense per game, but he’s seemed more in control of the offense and himself as opposed to the “wild pony” Taylor once dubbed him last year.
“I think I did a good job of bettering myself and bettering this team,” Huntley said.
Tuttle, the highly-touted four-star quarterback from San Diego who should be preparing for his senior prom, wrapped up his first spring as a Ute by going 8-of-14 for 86 yards, a 49-yard touchdown pass to tight end Jake Jackson and two interceptions. Tuttle showed flashes of the tremendous talent that has the coaching staff so excited, but he’s also dealing with growing pains adjusting to the college level.
Tuttle and Jason Shelley will continue the battle for the spot as Huntley’s backup into preseason camp. Shelley completed 11-of-14 passes for 69 yards and one touchdown and also rushed five times for 22 yards.
Running back Armand Shyne, coming off a redshirt season after breaking his arm in preseason camp, rushed for 28 yards on seven carries in his first game-like action since 2016.
Utah players who were held out of Utah’s spring game
Jackson Barton, OL; Lo Falemaka, OL; Darrin Paulo, OL; Johnny Capra, OL; Paul Toala, OL; Rex Jordan, DL; Caleb Repp, DL; Bradlee Anae, DL; Bryan Thompson, WR; Tyquez Hampton, WR; Bronson Boyd, WR; Henry McIsaac, WR; Cody Barton, LB; Chase Hansen, LB; Donavan Thompson, LB; Sione Lund, LB; Zack Moss, RB; Devonta’e Henry-Cole, RB; Philip Afia, DB; Quinn Fabrizio, DB; Corrion Ballard, DB; Marquise Blair, DB; Jaylon Johnson, DB; Julian Blackmon, DB.