SALT LAKE CITY (ABC4 Sports) – The Utes football team had its best season in the Pac-12 Conference, and they were rewarded with multiple postseason honors.
Kyle Whittingham was named the Pac-12 Coach of the Year, while running back Zack Moss earned Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year honors. In addition, eight Utes were named to the All-Pac-12 first team.
This is Whittingham’s first Pac-12 Coach of the Year selection and second conference coach of the year honor in his career after winning Mountain West Coach of the Year in 2008. Moss’ offensive player of the year award is his first and Utah’s first conference player of the year award since quarterback Brian Johnson won Mountain West honors in 2008.
The eight first team honors are most by any team in the conference for the second-straight year. Utah finished with 17 total all-conference selections between the first, second and honorable mention teams.
Utah’s 17 all-conference selections this season included 10 of Utah’s 11 defensive starters with five landing on the first-team. Of Utah’s 16 honorees, four were repeat first-team selections that are headlined by seniors Bradlee Anae, Leki Fotu and Jaylon Johnson.
Joining Moss as a first-team offensive all-conference selection are seniors Tyler Huntley and Darrin Paulo with Anae, Fotu, Francis Bernard, Julian Blackmon and Johnson all earning first-team defense honors. Sophomore Brant Kuithe and senior John Penisini were recognized on the second-team with Terrell Burgess, Javelin Guidry, Devin Lloyd, Simi Moala, Mika Tafua, Nick Ford and Orlando Umana all notching honorable mention status.
Whittingham, who also earned AFCA Region 5 Coach of the Year today for the second time in his career, guided Utah to its second consecutive South Division title and third overall in his tenure as head coach. Utah holds an 11-2 record this season, the fifth 10-win season under Whittingham and the most wins by the Utes since 2008 (13-0).
This season, the Utes jumped to as high as No. 5 in the College Football Playoff rankings, their highest ranking in CFP history, while also ranking No. 5 in the AP and Coaches polls. The Utes won eight consecutive Pac-12 games to finish 8-1 in Pac-12 play, their best record in nine seasons as a Pac-12 member.
Utah leads the FBS and the Pac-12 in rushing defense (70.3), holding 10 opponents to fewer than 70 rushing yards in a game this season, the most since the 2006 Michigan Wolverines. On the other side of the ball, Utah has scored 30 or more points 10 times this year, ranking third in the Pac-12 in scoring (34.0 ppg) and first in rushing offense (207.0).
Moss, who also earned Pac-12 All-Conference first-team after earning second-team honors as a junior, led the Pac-12 in rushing with 113.3 yards per game (6.2 ypc) and 15 rushing touchdowns. The Hialeah Gardens, Fla., native added a career-high 26 catches for 374 yards and two receiving touchdowns to give him a team-high 1,733 all-purpose yards and 17 total touchdowns.
This season, Moss ranks second in the Pac-12 and No. 19 in FBS football in rushing yards per carry (6.2), also ranking first in the league and No. 12 in the FBS in both rushing yards (1,359) and rushing yards per game (113.3). Moss rushed for 100 or more yards in eight of the 12 games he appeared in, including his second career 200-yard game against Arizona (203 yds, 26 carries, 1 TD).
With his 1,359 rushing yards this season, Moss became the first Ute to rush for 1,000 or more yards in three seasons, giving him 4,010 career rushing yards for the Utah record. Moss also set records this season in career carries (696), career rushing touchdowns (38), career 100-yard rushing games (19) and career touchdowns scored (41), also tying the school record for single-season rushing touchdowns (15).
Utah faces Texas in the Alamo Bowl December 31st.