Utah already delivered the game-winning touchdown and the game-saving defensive play, and then the Utes needed the game-ending drive.
Armand Shyne took care of almost everything, covering all but the last 2 yards on the Rice-Eccles Stadium field and the final 15 seconds on the scoreboard clock Saturday. That closing effort was sufficient in a 32-25 victory over Oregon that kept Utah in the Pac-12 South race and showed there’s more to the offense than quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss, out with injuries.
“It felt pretty good,” Shyne said, “getting a chance to show what I could do.”
The performance re-established Shyne’s value to the program, which presumably will keep increasing in whatever’s ahead for the Utes this season — and beyond, with Moss likely to enter the NFL draft. The offense’s last sequence Saturday was one of those moments when the Utes wanted to run the ball and keep the clock moving with 4:39 to play, and Oregon clearly was aware of that strategy. The Ducks couldn’t do much about it.
NO. 21 UTAH AT COLORADO
When • Saturday, 11:30 a.m.
TV • Pac-12 Networks.
“I just had to have the mentality that nobody could stop me, that I had to do what I had to do, to keep the drive going,” Shyne said this week.
If anything, the yards almost came too easily. On the first five plays, Shyne covered 16, 6, 7, 4 and 20 yards as the Utes reached the Oregon 2, never even facing third down in a situation where more plays would have eaten more time. The drive stalled at that point, extending a theme of the day as Matt Gay kicked his school-record sixth field goal.
Shyne finished with 174 yards on 26 carries, although his none of his six runs on plays that started inside the Oregon 6 resulted in a touchdown.
That's the only element of unfinished business from a showing that was rewarding for Shyne, taking a lead role for the first time in more than two years. “The more I got into the game,” he said, “the more I started feeling like myself.”
The Armand of Old is the junior college transfer who emerged in the middle of the 2016 season, after Joe Williams left the team. Sharing the job with Moss, Shyne started against Arizona and rushed for 101 yards, only to injure his knee. He was sidelined for the rest of that season, with Williams returning to complete his own remarkable story.
Shyne then broke his arm in preseason camp in 2017, missing all of that season while Moss became a star. Outside of the program, observers figured a healthy Shyne would get his share of carries this season. The inside view was that Moss had grown to a level where he deserved to be featured, while issues with blocking in pass protection also kept Shyne off the field.
Coach Kyle Whittingham in September responded to questions about Shyne’s lack of playing time by saying, “You’ve got to practice the right way.”
Whittingham reiterated this week, “It’s never been any case of ability to carry the ball. He’s a natural; that’s something you don’t really coach, you either have it or you don’t. [Blocking] was the biggest emphasis, making sure when he doesn’t have the ball, he’s working hard."
Shyne understood, saying in September, “Once I improve myself in that category, I’ll be all right.”
He carried the ball only eight times in the first four games, then got 10 attempts (for 38 yards) in an October win at Stanford. Late in the following week’s game, Shyne ran for his first touchdown in almost exactly two years — also against Arizona. He remained in a limited role until the middle of last week, when Moss was sidelined (Utah formally said Monday that he’s out for the season with a knee injury) and Shyne was promoted.
Shyne did more against Oregon than anyone could have asked of him or any back under the circumstances, taking pressure off Jason Shelley in the quarterback's first start. Shelley said Shyne's presence in the backfield was comforting, after they had practiced together all season with the No. 2 offense.
Shyne made a lasting impression on the Oregon tackler who almost could have been called for targeting on a play when Shyne absorbed a helmet-to-helmet hit and kept running down the sideline for 41 yards in the first quarter. He added a 42-yard run in the third quarter, followed by the 16- and 20-yarders on the last drive.
Other yards came tougher for him; Shyne cited “making sure that I have my right reads in the running game” as an area of improvement this week at Colorado. The Utes also will have to do a better job of maximizing drives, having scored two touchdowns on six trips inside Oregon's 20-yard line.
That's all part of the Utes' theme of finishing their work, with an opportunity to win the program's first Pac-12 South title. It would happen Saturday, if they beat Colorado and get help from Oregon against Arizona State.
With Shyne in a featured role now, everything is lining up for him in 2019. That's getting ahead of the story, of course. “I'm just focused on finishing up this season,” he said, “getting this team where we need to go.”
Reaching the end zone at Colorado would be a good start.
BACK TO RUNNING
Armand Shyne’s Utah career game log:
Southern Utah – Eight carries, 19 yards.
San Jose State – 12 carries, 92 yards, one touchdown.
USC – 14 carries, 62 yards.
California – 25 carries, 99 yards, two touchdowns.
Arizona – 19 carries, 101 yards, one touchdown.
Weber State – two carries, 3 yards.
Northern lllinois – one carry, 6 yards.
Washington – two carries, 14 yards.
Washington State – three carries, 10 yards.
Stanford – 10 carries, 38 yards.
Arizona – eight carries, 53 yards, one touchdown.
USC – three carries, 7 yards.
UCLA – six carries, 22 yards, one touchdown.
Arizona State – two carries, 13 yards.
Oregon – 26 carries, 174 yards.