TUCSON, Ariz. (ABC4 Sports) – The 23rd-ranked Utah football team held on for a 30-24 win at Arizona, but it may have come at a steep price.
Starting quarterback Tyler Huntley injured his shoulder in the first half and did not return, but Troy Williams came in to lead the Utes to victory in the team’s Pac-12 opener.
Williams, who started all 13 games last year, completed 9 of 18 passes for 131 yards, and rushed for a 1-yard touchdown, as Utah improved to 4-0 for the third straight year.
“We’ll know a lot more tomorrow,” head coach Kyle Whittingham said about Huntley’s injury. “Obviously he wasn’t able to finish tonight, but we’ve got a bye next week and it comes at a good time. “We’re in a good place quarterback-wise. Obviously we want Tyler back as soon as possible, but Troy won nine games for us last year, and he was ready.”
“I prepare like I’m the starter every week,” Williams said. “I’m working hard every day. When my number is called I make sure I’m ready to go in. “I wanted to play smart football. I didn’t want to force anything.”
Huntley had completed 8 of 9 passes for 98 yards and a touchdown pass to Samson Nacua on Utah’s first possession, before suffering the injury on a sack by Arizona’s Tony Fields.
Arizona trimmed the score to 13-10 at the half when quarterback Brandon Dawkins scored on a 1-year touchdown run.
Utah’s defense forced five Arizona turnovers, the biggest one coming in the third quarter when Javelin Guidry intercepted Dawkins’ pass and returned it 14 yards to give Utah a 27-17 lead going into the fourth quarter.
Matt Gay connected on all three field goal attempts to stay perfect on the season. Gay has made 14 of 14 field goal attempts, and is 14 for 14 on extra points.
Casey Hughes forced two fumbles, while Chase Hansen and Corrian Ballard both added interceptions for the Utah defense.
Arizona did make it interesting in the end, cutting the Utah lead to six on a 30-yard touchdown pass from Dawkins to Tony Ellison with 2:44 left in the game.
After the Wildcats recovered an onside kick, Arizona was in position for a game-winning drive, but Hughes forced a Dawkins fumble that was recovered by Chris Hart on the very next play.
The Wildcats got one more chance, but Ballard picked off Dawkins with 1:19 left to seal the game.
“They hung in there,” Whittingham said. “It was a tough game. Anytime you play Arizona, particularly down here, it’s going to be physical and a tough game, but we had just enough in the tank.”
Zack Moss led the Utes in rushing with 73 yards on 14 carries. Devontae Henry-Cole added a career-high 43 yards on 11 carries.
Darren Carrington’s streak of 100-yard receiving games ended at three, as he caught four passes for 76 yards.
The Utes blocked two Arizona field goal attempts.
The Wildcats outgained the Utes 448 to 341, and Arizona racked up 200 yards rushing compared to 112 for Utah, but the five turnovers were the difference.
Starting defensive end Kylie Fitts suffered a leg injury and was on crutches at the end of the game.
Utah (4-0) now has a bye week before hosting Stanford on October 7th.