No matter how this Utah football season ends, it will be remembered for how the Utes responded to losing two of their best players in a four-day period in early November.
The injuries to quarterback Tyler Huntley and running back Zack Moss struck the team on many levels, as vital players and popular teammates. They were part of the Hallandale Trio with receiver Demari Simpkins, as Florida high school teammates who wanted to do things that Utah never had done. That still can happen, after Huntley and Moss helped Utah contend for the Pac-12 South title with a 4-0 October, with Simpkins contributing to the team’s closing run. Saturday’s game at Colorado concludes Utah’s conference schedule.
The Trio is singular now. “I’m the only one,” Simpkins said, “so I need to do my job and make those two guys proud and everybody else proud back home.”
On to our stories of the past week:
The hallmark of quarterback Jason Shelley’s first start was Utah’s strong finish. (TRIB)
Ute cornerback Jaylon Johnson did a nice Eric Weddle impression vs. Oregon. (TRIB)
Columnist Gordon Monson analyzed the Shelley-Armand Shyne convergence. (TRIB)
Ute fans have waited seven years for another breakthrough opportunity vs. Colorado. It is here. (TRIB)
Shyne’s performance meant a lot to him, two-plus years after his last start. (TRIB)
Ute kicker Matt Gay’s work was less noticeable this season, until last Saturday. (TRIB)
Ute basketball gets some fresh faces on signing day. (TRIB)
It’s already tempting to look ahead to 2019 for Utah’s football program. The Utes will lose nine seniors including Chase Hansen. (TRIB)
Here’s a Washington State-based view that Utah is the Pac-12′s biggest story of the week. (SBN)
Bowl projections, including Jon Wilner’s, are becoming timely. Right now, he has the Utes in the Holiday Bowl. (MARIN)
Linebacker Francis Bernard is playing his way into a steady, reserve role in Utah’s defense. (DNEWS)
Athletic department updates
-Utah Athletics reported a 95-percent graduation rate for student-athletes within six years of enrollment, in the NCAA Graduate Success Rate report. That’s an all-time high and ranks No. 2 in the Pac-12. The Ute men’s basketball, golf, gymnastics, volleyball, men’s and women’s skiing and men’s and women’s tennis teams were credited with 100-percent rates.
In addition, 68 percent of student-athletes are graduating within four years, compared with 61 percent of the student body.
-The Utah women's volleyball team defeated Arizona and Arizona State at the Huntsman Center last weekend, but the reality of life in the Pac-12 hit the Utes again Wednesday. No. 16 Oregon topped the Utes in three sets in Eugene: 25-22, 25-21, 25-20. The Utes (15-13, 7-10 Pac-12) will visit Oregon State on Friday.
-Ute junior Mitchell Schow, from Park City High School, was named the Utah Golf Association's men's player of the year. Schow won the Richard C. Kramer Salt Lake City Amateur at Bonneville Golf Course, a major event on the UGA schedule.
-The Ute women's softball team signed four players this week: Mary Feldman, a pitcher from Lithia, Fla.; Madison Jacobus, a second baseman/outfielder from Torrance, Calif.; Halle Morris, a pitcher/utility player from Tucson, Ariz.; and Julia Scardina, a catcher/first baseman from Kentfield, Calif.
“This class has a little bit of everything,” coach Amy Hogue said.