Coach Kyle Whittingham said only that none of Utah’s injuries sustained in a 21-3 win over Arizona State is season-ending, taking the program’s usual stance Monday by not addressing quarterback Tyler Huntley’s status for Saturday’s game vs. California.
Huntley and left tackle Darrin Paulo, No. 12 Utah’s best offensive lineman, didn’t finish the game vs. ASU, due to apparent leg injuries. Interviewed after Monday’s weightlifting session, Huntley said, “I’m playing.”
Drew Lisk and Jason Shelley, Huntley’s backups (in some order), know they need to stay as ready ever, though. “Tyler’s a little banged up,” Shelley said, “and it might be [a case] where Drew or me has to come in.”
Huntley has started every game this season for Utah (6-1, 3-1 Pac-12) and is No. 5 in ESPN’s Total Quarterback Rating, a calculation that Whittingham values. Huntley played in a win over Washington State in late September amid concerns about a possible foot injury, after he was limping at the end of a loss at USC the previous week.
Shelley had an intermittent role against Washington State in a run-oriented package designed to keep Huntley from running or being hit as much as usual. He said he’s preparing for that possibility Saturday.
California also has quarterback health issues, with third-stringer Spencer Brasch possibly making his first start as a freshman. The Utes, 18-point favorites, likely could get by without Huntley in that game. But he would be vital to their hopes of winning Nov. 2 at Washington.
If Huntley is unavailable vs. Cal, Utah’s coaches will choose between Lisk and Shelley, who have staged an ongoing competition this season for the No. 2 spot behind Huntley. Shelley started the last five games of the 2018 season when Huntley was sidelined with a broken collarbone.
“Drew has really progressed,” Whittingham said. “It's a week-to-week thing. They've jockeyed back and forth.”
Offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig picked Lisk as the primary backup vs. Arizona State, and Lisk appeared in the second quarter when Huntley initially was hurt. Shelley then replaced Huntley in the fourth quarter because of his running ability, Whittingham said, with Utah protecting a 14-3 lead.
Lisk played as the No. 2 QB against Idaho State in mid-September and went 6 for 6 for 38 yards. His first pass vs. ASU was a 14-yard completion to Moss (plus the targeting penalty) on third and 14, extending a touchdown drive that Huntley finished. Lisk's other two attempts were incomplete; one errant throw stemmed from a receiver's running the wrong route, Whittingham said.
Shelley quarterbacked the Utes on four possessions in the fourth quarter, resulting in two punts, followed by Moss' touchdown on the first play after Utah's fumble recovery and a clock-killing sequence at the end. He ran for 8 yards on one play, but finished with minus-4 yards on four attempts, being sacked twice. Shelley's only completion in two passes went for a 6-yard gain on fourth and 10.
Paulo’s injury occurred in the third quarter on ASU’s return of the first interception that Huntley had thrown this season. His absence caused some shuffling along the offensive line. Freshman guard Johnny Maea has returned from an injury to play in the past two games, adding to Utah’s depth.
If Paulo is out, Utah may activate Bamidele Olaseni, a junior college transfer who was cleared to play by the NCAA in late September. Olaseni has only one year of Division I eligibility, so Utah’s coaches intend to play him in up to four games this season, while preserving his redshirt status.
During his weekly news conference, Whittingham applauded ASU coach Herm Edwards for apologizing to him about the Sun Devils’ overly aggressive tactics, calling it “a class move.” ASU was penalized 12 times for 122 yards after previously being one of the country’s most disciplined teams. The only clear correlation between those plays and Utah’s injuries came when running back Zack Moss underwent concussion protocol on the sideline after an ASU targeting penalty and soon returned to the game. Moss later became Utah’s all-time leading rusher with his 32-yard burst for a clinching touchdown.
Ute receiver Solomon Enis was hurt when he was immediately blocked during a play on kickoff coverage that was not flagged. Edwards said he told Whittingham at midfield after the game that he was “embarrassed” about ASU’s performance.
“We lost our composure and I don’t believe in doing that kind of stuff. I’ve never been involved in a game where a team had 12 [penalties]. For some reason we just lost our composure,” Edwards said. “That’s not the way we play and I apologized to him.”
Other than appreciating Edwards’ apology, Whittingham said, “I’ve got no take on the rest of the stuff. … I’m not going to whine about anything or complain about anything. It was just a good, physical game.”