Utah halts West Virginia to claim another bowl win
DALLAS -- Tyler Huntley rushed for two touchdowns Tuesday afternoon, and the Utah Utes' defense stifled West Virginia and its backup quarterback en route to a 30-14 victory in the Zaxby's Heart of Dallas Bowl.
Running back Zack Moss added 150 yards and a score, a 58-yard sprint on Utah's fourth offensive play, while quarterback Huntley threw for 165 and rushed for 57 tough yards on a chilly, dreary day at the historic Cotton Bowl.
Sophomore cornerback Julian Blackmon intercepted two passes and was named the game's MVP.
"I'm very proud, especially with our front because it all starts there," Blackmon said. "I'm happy we played the way we did, especially when we got our seniors out the right way."
The Mountaineers, meanwhile, managed only 153 total yards behind QB Chris Chugunov, starting for the injured Will Grier. The Utes' D limited Chugunov to only 9-of-28 passing for 129 yards, 58 of those on a fourth-quarter scoring drive, and held West Virginia to 29 rushing yards on 21 carries.
The total yards were the fewest the Mountaineers had gained in a game since 2013.
"It was a pretty disappointing loss to end a pretty disappointing season," West Virginia coach Dana Holgorsen said. "You never hear me use an excuse. If you lose guys, you need guys to step in and play at a high level, and that is the bottom line. We needed guys to play better, and they didn't. When you lose your quarterback you need somebody to step in and play great, and he didn't."
Even when West Virginia had its two best chances for TDs while the game was still within reach, the Utes stopped them in the red zone. Down 7-0 in the second quarter, West Virginia reached the Utah 16-yard line but gained only five yards before settling for a 28-yard Evan Staley field goal.
They had to settle for three again in the third after punter Mitch Wishnowsky fumbled a snap at the Utes' 9. West Virginia, though, didn't move in three plays before Staley booted a 26-yarder and a 17-6 deficit.
West Virginia's defense showed well despite the final margin, sacking Huntley six times and allowing 362 total yards.
But the Mountaineers were hit early by Moss on a third-and-1 play and saw Huntley run in from 2 yards out in the second for a 14-3 lead. All-America kicker Matt Gay hit the first of his three field goals late in the first half for a 17-3 halftime lead.
Huntley added another 2-yard run early in the fourth quarter to make it 24-6 and effectively put the game out of reach.
"We came here with the attitude that we don't lose bowl games, and played hard," Blackmon said. "This means everything, especially to our senior class. Just to get to a bowl game and to win again is great for our program."