Red All Over: My most memorable games and subjects from 17 months on the Ute athletics beat

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) University of Utah football player Francis Bernard, right, with his wife, Alexis, and their son, Lennox.

Red All Over is a weekly newsletter covering University of Utah athletics. Subscribe here.

This will be my final edition of Red All Over, as I’m moving out of the daily newspaper business after 40-plus years, including 29 years with The Salt Lake Tribune, with the Alamo Bowl as my last event.

These past 17 months of covering Ute athletics on a daily basis have been fun and rewarding, so I’d like to devote part of this newsletter to sharing my favorite moments and stories. First, though, here’s the traditional report of recent stories from myself and Josh Newman, who has joined us this month and fully will take over the beat Jan. 2.

Football recruiting news was at the forefront last week, with the addition of cornerback Clark Phillips III as the highest-rated signee in school history coming as the Utes celebrated defensive end Bradlee Anae’s consensus All-America status.

Coach Kyle Whittingham is thankful that other healthy seniors will play in the Alamo Bowl vs. Texas.

As the calendar turns to 2020, Newman will be covering a quarterback battle, and he sets the stage for Jake Bentley vs. Cameron Rising.

He also checked in with Ute fans regarding their Alamo Bowl plans, with some barriers of distance and expense in going to San Antonio, compared with San Diego last December.

Here’s my look at offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig’s first season back in the program, and his outlook for 2020.

Newman looked back at the Utes’ upset of then-No. 6 Kentucky, with that highlight followed by a convincing loss to San Diego State in Los Angeles.

I caught Ute women’s basketball coach Lynne Roberts’ 300th career victory. Her team has been as enjoyable for me to watch as any program in the athletic department, which brings me to my list of favorite stories since I was assigned to the Ute beat in July 2018:

• Under the circumstances of Jason Shelley and Armand Shyne filling in for Tyler Huntley and Zack Moss in November 2018, the Utes’ victory over Oregon ranks as the most compelling football game.

• For pure drama, in a game the Utes never led until the scoreboard showed 0:00, nothing could match the basketball team’s February win at UCLA, thanks to Parker Van Dyke’s 3-pointer.

• After the football team’s struggles vs. Washington in recent years, with the potential opportunity to overtake USC in the Pac-12 South standings that day, the Utes’ win in Seattle on a classic afternoon last month was unforgettable.

• Shelley beat BYU last season with a second-half comeback; that may stand as his last win as a starting quarterback.

• And the way Utah dominated USC in 2018 remains remarkable.

As for feature stories, these subjects will resonate with me:

• Utah linebacker Francis Bernard, reliving the difficult pregnancy of his fiancee (and now wife), Alexis, and the challenging first few months for their son, Lennox.

• Ute soccer goalkeeper Carly Nelson, discussing her coming out and how she views herself now.

• Former softball player Ally Dickman, and how she immersed herself in the full student-athlete experience at Utah.

• The male practice players who are part of Roberts’ program, and how they help the Utes prepare for the rigors of the Pac-12.

Ute tight end Brant Kuithe, with his success juxtaposed against the injuries that kept his twin brother, Blake, off the field last year (and again this season).

Other voices

The Hook ‘Em Fansided site analyzes three big matchups in the Alamo Bowl from Texas’ perspective (HOOK).

Pac-12 expert Jon Wilner names his All-Decade basketball team (MERC).

Dirk Facer of the Deseret News looks at Huntley’s career (DNEWS).

College Football News provides three reasons the Alamo Bowl will be worth watching (CFN).

Around campus

• The Utah women’s basketball team will begin Pac-12 play Sunday (2 p.m.), hosting Colorado at the Huntsman Center. The Utes went 7-4 in nonconference play. Colorado is one of four Pac-12 teams with 11-0 marks, and powerful Oregon and Stanford are 10-1.

• The Ute athletic department lists 45 student-athletes on the Pac-12 Conference’s Fall Academic Honor Roll, requiring 3.3 grade-point average and a year’s residence at the school. On the field, Utah joined Washington as the only schools that qualified for a football bowl game and NCAA postseason competition in women’s soccer, cross country and volleyball.

• The soccer team’s academic work was especially impressive, with 14 honorees.

• The Ute volleyball team earned a No. 9 final ranking in the AVCA poll, in essence acknowledging the Utes as the best team that lost in the NCAA Tournament’s Sweet 16. Utah will be a national contender in 2020, with first-team All-American Dani Drews and second-team selection Kenzie Koerber leading the way.